“What happened?”

I picked myself up off the ground. Everything seemed to still work but how on earth did I wind up face down, arm bleeding? My brother Marvin told me that after I had given Apache his carrot, while I was walking back to the gate, he just turned and ran over me. I never saw it coming.

Apache was the biggest horse I ever had. He was 16 ½ hands tall and easily weighed 1200 pounds. I was 13 years old and a runt.

The day after he ran over me I sat on the fence watching Apache. I had a lead in my hand and I knew what I had to do. I had to walk out there, put a lead on Apache and bring him in so I could ride him. What good is a horse if you can’t ride him?

But I wondered, what if he ran at me again and tried to kill me. What would I do?

I must have sat there a half hour, my heart in my throat. Finally, slowly at first, then with firmer steps I walked toward Apache with a peace offering, a ripe red apple in my outstretched left hand. In my right hand, behind my back I firmly held a baseball bat. I had decided that while I hoped for the best I had to be prepared for the worst. The worst never happened.

Fear. What will happen if the government shuts down, my 401k tanks, I lose my job, I get sick… We all know this scenario. “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” (Matthew 6:34)

My greatest fear at thirteen, being run over by that huge horse, never came about. Today our world seems to run on fear. Fear of the shutdown, fear of war, fear of a lack of something or of someone. Everyone is afraid of something.

I didn’t know God well back when Apache ran over me but God was surely with me. Perhaps you don’t feel particularly close to God right now. But God knows you and God loves you just as you are. What are you afraid of? God knows just what you need. Ask Him. Thank Him.



stop-bully-logoRandy Jones (not his real name) was a bully. I was scared. I was too young to remember what he said. I can’t see him in my mind but I remember my fear and it was real. I was not very close to my big brothers who were six and seven years older than me. I remember that when I came home I was afraid and crying. They asked what was wrong and I told them. They smiled and said, “We’ll take care of Randy Jones. Don’t you worry little brother.” I never saw Randy Jones again. I never felt afraid again when I walked by Randy’s house.
My brothers had loved me but until that moment I don’t think I knew it.
The One who made us, the One who created this beautiful world for us, the One who paid the ultimate penalty in our place loves us, loves us beyond words. Few of us, on a daily basis walk around letting that knowledge effect us in a way that makes a real difference in our lives.
I know bullies are a problem today. As an adult I have been bullied by those who had power over me. When I asked others for help it didn’t come.
I think at some time in our lives everyone gets bullied or manipulated by someone who has power over them. Being bullied can leave you feeling helpless and alone, uncared for, unloved, unwanted. I know. As an adult the bullying behavior toward me continued for more than a year. During that time life lost some of its luster for me. But because of that bully, I spent more and more time on my knees before God. Time and again I found reassurance in Scripture. The book of Psalms was particularly helpful.
“God stands up for his people, God holds the hands of his people.” (Psalm 135:14)
Psalm 18, 37, and 91 are three of my favorites. “God, you’re my refuge, I trust in you and I’m safe!” (Psalm 91:2)
During my year of being bullied I often wondered why it was continuing. What I failed to notice was that little by little, prayer by prayer, trusting God, I was getting closer to God and stronger in faith. The one who bullied me is gone. Like Randy Jones, I have no idea where he is. My Father loves me and He took care of it. He did it even better than my brothers because He left me stronger and better.
God loves you. He waits for you to come to Him.

Grand Master

IMG_20130626_170600“In 40 years of teaching art, you are my only failure!”  My own mother said this to me.  “You can draw your breath and flies, and that is all you can draw!”  This might seem pretty harsh but she meant it.  It was true– sad, but true.
      Hanging on the wall in my office at church in a most prominent place is my only effort at painting.  It is a picture of “The Spirit of St. Lewis”, flying low over an ocean buoy during Charles Lindbergh’s historic flight across the Atlantic Ocean.
        I was about 10 or 12 years old and I was in tears, looking at the mess I had made of that painting.
       “Joe, what’s wrong?”
       “Ohhh Mom!  I can’t do anything right!”
        “It’s not so bad.  Let me have your brush.”
        In her aged, skilled hands my splotchy attempt at sunrise BECAME sunrise!  The blob of orange paint I had carelessly dropped became a buoy bobbing in the endless expanse.”     I looked in disbelief at what had just happened and exclaimed, “Mom, I guess I AM an artist!”
        Now, years later, when I realize I have messed up or when someone comes into my office fretting over an error in judgement, I look at that painting and think of the greatest Master.
       God is a wonderful and talented Artist.  He is so great that nothing I do can ruin the painting that is my life.  But I must do these things:

     1.  I must be serious about the painting that is my life.
     2.  I must be honest and admit that I have messed it up.
     3.  I must hand my brush to the Grand Master.
     4.   I must be patient and trusting as before my eyes He transforms my mess into a true work of art.

      When I did that long ago, my painting ceased to be mine alone.  It became Mom’s and mine.
       Today when I do this with my life, it ceases to be mine alone.  My life becomes a portrait of God in me.

Wanted: A car with a 400 gallon gas tank.

Want Ad: In search of a car with a 400 gallon gas tank. Call me quick!Image

  I can’t find a car with a 400 gallon gas tank!  If I wished to travel from Dunn, NC to Barstow, CA, the western end of I40, I would need that much gas.  Traveling I40 it would take 196 gallons of gas (assuming 25 mpg) to travel the 2,465 miles.  However, calculating the weight of 196 gallons of gas at 6 pounds per gallon, that adds 1,182 pounds of weight to carry.  I figure that will reduce the mileage so that an extra 200 gallons will be necessary for the round trip.  But I can’t find a car with a 400 gallon gas tank anywhere!
   Betsy, my wife suggested (stiffing laughter) that I would be much better off assuming that I could stop along the way as my tank neared empty and fill up with gas.   What a brilliant idea!  
    By now you must think I am the dumbest traveler in the world.  Doesn’t everyone understand that cars are built assuming a nationwide network of gas stations to refill the tank?

   We understand that no destination of great distance on the American road can be reached without stopping to refill our tank.  In the same way our wise heavenly Father knows every need in each new day.  He understands our need for rest, nourishment, shelter, companionship and love.
   Jesus tells us, “Look at the birds.  They don’t need to plant or harvest or put food in barns because your heavenly Father feeds them.  And you are far more valuable to Him than they are.”  (Matthew 6:26-27)
   As surely as we don’t need to wear our cars out hauling around a ton of gasoline, we don’t need to wear ourselves out hauling around a ton of tomorrow’s worries!