It is pretty refreshing to read about someone who is more concerned about what the God of the Universe thinks than his fellow man. https://lightenload.wordpress.com/2018/03/04/an-audience-of-one/
It is pretty refreshing to read about someone who is more concerned about what the God of the Universe thinks than his fellow man. https://lightenload.wordpress.com/2018/03/04/an-audience-of-one/
We hear the words when someone is explaining a complex problem that we are having trouble understanding. In the step by step process the instructor might see a confused look on our face. That is the time that they will ask “Are you still with me?” It’s a helpful question. If we are confused it isn’t a good idea to keep going on. It is better to go back to the place where the connection was lost. Perhaps it was step three where it became foggy and the instructor has already completed step four. If step three was foggy step four probably found us in the dark. Sometimes it becomes clear that we are still with them by our actions. Perhaps we are following along and the instructor knows that we get it. It’s when that blank stare occurs or we get very quiet that the instructor knows something is wrong and the “Are you still with me?” question comes.
My mom, dad, and sister were in the car making the trip from Michigan to Alabama or Alabama to Michigan. I’m not sure if they were coming or going. My sister was just a toddler and I wasn’t around yet. Up ahead on the side of the road was a hitchhiker. I don’t know why but my dad had a soft heart for hitchhikers. I remember many times he picked them up when we were on our long trip. My dad was from Alabama and at least once a year and possibly two times we were on the road either going to or departing from his beloved hometown. He picked up hitchhikers often but this one episode before my time stood out. Even though I wasn’t there I heard about it many times. They picked the hitchhiker up and resumed their journey. He was a young man and was glad to get a ride. It wasn’t very long afterwards that something happened that put their lives in danger. Without warning as dad was driving to his alarm the gas pedal got stuck. The car raced upwards of 100 miles an hour and as you can imagine fear was everywhere. Without warning not only was my family at risk but also the stranger hitchhiker who was just along for the ride.
It’s interesting how so many are just along for the ride. Moses discovered this when he was trying to lead the Israelite’s to the promised land. It just so happened that many of the group were not the original group. They were just followers who were going along for the ride. These were the ones that first started to complain. It can be dangerous the bigger the following is. The danger comes in the new group who doesn’t have a real stake in the original mission. They just saw something happening and thought that they liked being in the middle of the action. When things don’t go as they expect however, these are the people that let it be known they are unhappy. This unhappiness resulted in poison for the rest of the group. A rebellion was started and it wasn’t only the new people that were complaining. Although they started it many of the originals joined them. As Moses was hearing their complaints he asked the question “Who is with me?” He wanted to know who had the courage to march on through difficulties and who was only there to discourage and rebel?
This whole Moses scenario is an example of why we need to choose our friends wisely. If you think about it many of our friends are friends in thick and thin while many others may be just along for the ride. When times go bad and you really want to count on them they cannot be found or will make excuses not to get involved. Those are the people that sign up for the benefits but not for the bad things that invariably will come. It is like taking the wedding vow “for better or for worse” and changing it to “for better but not for worse.”
Truth be known all of us at one point or another are along for the ride. We may become Christians with the idea that “I’ve tried everything else, I might as well give this a try.” That is fine and good until troubles come our way. Sooner or later they will and that is when people start blaming God. Just like the Israelite’s we can get pulled in the other direction and it is a reason that people get off of the heaven train. Discouragement can come when expectations are not seemingly met and we have “friends” pulling us in the wrong direction. It is in these hard times that God will ask us just like Moses asked “Are you still with me?”
The way that we can tell if we are with God is not in our words but our actions. Our actions are why God is asking us the question in the first place. You see it is not natural for Christians to stop growing any more than it is not natural for a baby to stop growing. When the baby is healthy then it is expected that it will grow big and strong. When this is not happening parents are concerned and a doctor visit is soon arranged. God knows why there can be a stunt in our growth. Jesus said that he is the way, the truth and the life. Nobody can get to Heaven without him. Many though are just along for the ride without any commitment or appearance of taking a side. God shouldn’t have to ask us “Are you still with me?” If we are truly committed our actions will speak much louder than our words!
The car was speeding upwards of 100 miles an hour. Dad was yelling in horror and mom was trying to pull the gas pedal free to no avail. Suddenly without warning the hitchhiker in the back dove over the seat head first almost knocking mom out of the way. He pulled with all of his strength and was able to free the gas pedal up from it’s stuck position. I’m sure there were many thank yous as that hitchhiker who was just along for the ride became a hero. I’m sure it wasn’t that long before the hitchhiker was dropped off to find another ride. Somewhere along the way their destinations came into conflict. Yet in spite of the short time he was with them his heroics were told over and over. His act became legendary to them. He was with them not only in body but also in his heroic actions. His quick actions are the reason you are reading this today because without his efforts there would not be me. His story illustrated exactly what God wants us to be. Not only along for the ride but making a difference in the time we are here!
There was no freedom. All of that had been taken away. It really seemed there was no hope. Locked in a tiny prison cell all he could think about was what went wrong. I didn’t know Dane very well growing up. Kevin his brother who was my friend in our high school years told me that it was hard getting close to Dane because he was never around. Dane had run away from home a few times. Each time he was found and returned. Why did this happen I wondered? Dane explained that he was one of six kids and always felt like he was the black sheep. He was a free spirit and felt confined at home. This was my conclusion from trying to piece his story together.
One night while Dane was drunk and strung out on drugs an army buddy called. There was a house he knew of that was ripe for the picking. It was open and nobody was home. It would be easy to enter and take whatever they needed or wanted. When Dane arrived he found the house just as described. Him and his buddy ransacked the house as Dane took an expensive stereo system and a nice guitar. Somehow they must have made mistakes in what they thought was a perfect crime. Dane had taken the stolen merchandise back to his friends apartment and fell asleep. He was awoken by the sounds of sirens from police cars. Busting into the place they found and arrested Dane. He was too out of it to even care. So that was the beginning of what Dane thought was his pain. In truth his pain had been going on for a long time. Before he was in prison he lived in an invisible prison. Yes he could come and go as he pleased but inside he was in bondage but didn’t know it.
It was obvious as he sat in that little cell day after day that this was the real thing. Day after day he had nothing but time. Time to think, time to regret, time to worry, and time to go crazy. He had a picture of the sun rising that he had in his cell. That picture kept him going when he knew he wouldn’t see the actual sun. There were times that Dane was put in a cell with as many as thirty other inmates. Other times he was in a cell by himself. Then there were times that he got into trouble and they put him in what they called “the hole.” This was a place where he was alone with absolutely nobody around. This was the punishment for mouthing off or doing some other act that caused extra punishment. Dane wondered if he could keep his sanity and many times he was sure he couldn’t. He mentioned that he preferred a cell without cell mates. Unlike the hole these cells at least had noise and action going on around him. The scariest cells were the ones shared by many other inmates. Dane feared that another inmate might attack him and he was always uncomfortable and on full alert when he was forced to live in this situation.
His mind drifted to when he arrived at this Portland Oregon Prison. It was called Rocky Butte and it was built in the rocks right off of the highway. A whole bus load of prisoners were dropped off including Dane. They were all strip searched and given prison uniforms. That was the beginning of Dane’s hell. So much time to think about things in his life. So much time to analyze his mistakes. He was at his lowest point many times. He stated that it was a case of keeping sane in a place where sanity was hard to hold onto. Just when things were at their darkest a small light entered Dane’s life. It came in the form of a pastor who cared. Dane was to the point where he thought nobody cared. He had received mail when he first arrived and eagerly looked forward to getting more. Slowly the mail stopped coming in. He was a dying man reaching for a saving rope and little did he know this pastor was throwing one to him.
Dane listened intently at the message the pastor was delivering. One thing about prison that is very clear is the words in the Bible that all have sinned. Seeing the dark side of life helped Dane recognize the light. It was like he was in total darkness and someone had pulled the curtain up where a little light shined. Naturally Dane gravitated to that light. He had heard about Jesus and wanted a way out of his darkness. You see not only was Dane in a dark place physically but he was empty on the inside. The pastor made it clear that he needed Jesus and he accepted Jesus into his life. The pastor gave Dane a Bible and Dane got busy reading. Jesus became real in his life and from that time on he had peace in the midst of his prison surroundings. From that day many years ago until now Dane has lived with a peace that only God can give. He was released from prison years ago but the pain that he felt is still remembered.
It’s Memorial Day Weekend and obviously it is a time to remember our fallen heroes from the Military. Dane would like us to remember other people also. They are prisoners who are living their lives in bondage. Pray that someone comes along like the pastor did for him and gives them an opportunity to receive Jesus. Pray that they will not give up hope and not give up on life. We have a tendency to forget the people who are in jail because they are not walking among us. Sometimes we say to ourselves “they made their bed now they have to sleep in it.” Dane recognizes from experience that there are many lonely hurting people that made mistakes and are paying for them. In Luke chapter 7 verses 41-43 Jesus tells this story.
41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,[a] and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
Pray that those who had sinned much receive forgiveness. These are people like the Apostle Paul who were going 100% in the wrong direction. Paul was determined to kill as many Christians as he could and felt he was doing the world a favor by doing it! That was until he had an encounter with Jesus on his way to Damascus. Many times people like Paul when salvation comes their way are the ones who turn completely around and go 100% the right way. The world needs their testimony because they are people that Jesus can use because their testimony is so drastic! In a dark cell tonight there is a person like Dane who will have a story to tell. They may feel lost and lonely tonight but someday there will be freedom and peace. Pray for and contribute to prison ministries for when you do you may be adding a crusader to the kingdom! To this day Dane has and reads the Bible that pastor gave him. It’s a nice reminder of someone who cared enough to come into his dark world to share a beautiful light of love!
“What the he_ _ were you thinking?” It was the man who had just hit my car in the passenger door. There were two other people in his car that were unhurt. He had bounded out of his car quickly to give me his message. “You are in big trouble!”, he stated. I tried to apologize but he was hearing none of it. “You are in big trouble!”, he repeated. I tried to approach him but one of his passengers told me I had better just stay where I was. It was an unspoken threat that the driver had a temper and might attack me if I came closer. All of a sudden the driver as if on Que grabbed his neck. “Oh my neck”, he hollered for everyone there to hear.
I was so shook up I couldn’t hardly think. The glaring question he had asked was still ringing in my head. “What the He_ _ was I thinking?” Then the answer came to me. I was thinking the road was clear. I was not able to see. I had made the best decision I could under the circumstances. I was not a complete moron trying to kill myself like the driver obviously believed.
It was a normal morning in every way that day. I got up and did all my normal morning routines before work. Even the beginning drive was perfectly normal. The only thing different was the bright sunshine. I questioned in my mind going back to get sunglasses but dismissed the thought as time consuming. Pulling onto the main road the sun was so blinding it was hard to see. Normally I just travel a little ways on the main road and then cut through a neighborhood to the left as a short cut. This day’s plan would follow the same logic. The sun was still blinding me as I eased into the turning lane. It was so bright that I could hardly see in front of me. Looking back I wish I would have thought twice about taking the short cut. Blindly I eased into the turn lane.
Like I had done thousands of times before I looked to see the on coming traffic. With the blinding light in my eyes I made the decision that the way was clear. I started my turn and right away I knew it was a mistake. A horn sounded and squealing brakes let me know I wasn’t safe. Then I heard the crash. It was a loud thud and I found myself getting thrown to the other side of the car. Even with my seat belt on it was quite a jar. The first thing I noticed was the wind shield shattering and glass from the passenger side window flying at me. I also was pushed unmercifully into the steering wheel. My car which was hit in the intersection ended up on the other side of the road I was turning on against the curb. A quick assessment of my body told me that I was shook up but not seriously hurt.
As I was waiting there beside my car I heard sirens as emergency vehicles were heading our way. Someone walked up beside me and tapped me on the shoulder. It was my neighbor from across the street who had mercifully stopped to see if I was alright. He offered his phone for my use and I took hm up on it since my phone was not recharged. I called my work and my wife and then talked to the policeman who showed up. The ambulance driver wanted to know if I needed attention. I thought I was OK but had him check my ribs since they were a little sore from the impact into the steering wheel. It was determined that there was nothing broken. The tow truck came and took my car away. The ambulance took the other driver to the hospital as he was quick to jump on the cot. The policeman gave me the ticket and explained what I could do if I wanted to dispute it. He took control of the situation and was very professional and friendly.
My wife picked me up and took me home. There was glass inside my shoes, in my pants, in my shirt, everywhere there was little pieces of glass. I called my pastor and told him what happened. He asked me if I had forgiven myself? I told him with tears in my eyes that I did. He prayed for me and the situation. I am so thankful that there are people that really care about me. He told me that this morning when he woke up he felt in his spirit that something just wasn’t quite right. Just the night before in our Bible study on 1- John we talked about forgiving ourselves. We know that God will forgive if we ask but the hardest thing it seems is to forgive ourselves. I can truly tell you that the more we re-live moments in our lives the more we are apt to put the blame on ourselves. My message to you is not to do this. It is the work of the enemy to bring you down so don’t let him. It was comforting talking to my pastor and feeling a peace about the whole situation that everything would be alright.
My son came by and the three of us went to where my car was. It was decided that my car was beyond repair and our job was to clear everything out of it. The fact that I had accumulated many things in the trunk made it a harder job, but with the three of us we recovered what we could and threw the rest away. Re-visiting the car was a sad and glad experience. Seeing it in such a bad condition hurt me but also made me realize how lucky I was. That car was a symbol of Jesus to me. It didn’t deserve to be broken but through that brokenness it had protected me. Now I am alive because it took the punishment instead of me.
The next few days would be filled with trying to find another car and salvaging the old car. We went to a car dealer and they could sense that we wanted to buy something quickly. They asked for our price range and naturally gravitated to the upper end of what we were willing to pay. We test drove one of their cars and when we brought it back the squeeze play was on. The original lady had introduced us to her manager and now they were working as a team. We just didn’t feel right about the car and wanted to see more. Unfortunately the one we were shown was the only one in our price range and they were determined to see us buy it. The more they put the pressure on the more it just didn’t feel like the car that we were supposed to buy. I have learned that in everything it is a good idea to pray. Pray that we are doing what is best in God’s eyes. When we live by faith we’ve found that the right decisions are made because we are not leaning on our own understanding. Proverbs 3:5-6 states to “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.”
A few days later we drove out of town to look at a car that was similar to my last one. Although the mileage was great the car’s body was a disappointment. Finally we test drove another car and it just felt right! We had prayed for God’s guidance and he seemed to be giving it to us! We liked everything about the car and ended up buying it! Step one was complete and now we turned our attention to step two. That would be salvaging the old car.
I spent a lot of time calling different junk yards and the like. I was very disappointed in the offers I was getting. Finally I got a hold of one that was a national company. Their price far exceeded anything I was offered and I agreed to sell it to them. We set a date and time that they would meet me and complete the deal. The man showed up with his tow truck to take the car away. We started a friendly conversation and I asked him a question that I never would have asked had it not been for the Soul Winning class we had recently went through. The man was named Kevin and I asked him if he had ever considered becoming a Christian. He dismissed it right off the bat although he mentioned that a good friend had been talking to him about it. I asked him if he would mind if I prayed with him and he seemed doubtful. A minute later he turned to me and said “OK, after I get this car loaded I will pray with you!” The three of us held hands and I had him repeat the sinners prayer after me. It was an amazing thing standing in a parking lot sharing the Lord and realizing that God was entering into another life!
Going back to our car I had a tremendous feeling of peace. I was amazed at what had just happened. I shook my head in amazement and thought a wonderful thought. “Lord there you go again! You’ve used something that seemed bad and made it into something very good! You have brought someone that I never would have met into my life and into your kingdom! This whole experience reinforced something that is so real to me. If we let go and let God he will do amazing things in our lives. He will take whatever the situation we are going through and use it for his glory! I am reminded of that scripture in I Thessalonians 5:18. It states “Be thankful in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Another scripture that comes to mind is Romans 8:28. 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. Lord, thank you for my accident. Thank you that Kevin came to know you as his personal savior! I am humbled by your perfect plan for our lives even when our world seems to be crashing. Thank you for always loving me!
There is a footnote to this story. Recently I did go before a judge like the policeman offered. I was hoping that he would show compassion on me in light of the situation. It was kind of intimidating standing there telling my side of the story. I can humbly tell you that he did show compassion. It reminded me of how our loving God has mercy for all of us. We have all made mistakes and God is quick to forgive if we just ask. So let me offer this prayer on your behalf. Lord, whatever my reader is going through in their life let them know that you are with them. You are there to protect them and make everything work out for good. Let them know that after their world seems to be crashing all around them there is hope, love, and compassion because you love them. Give them peace and victory because you offer them accident forgiveness.
Nikki was a tall skinny old dog on that fateful day. He was an eleven year old Siberian Husky who had a pretty easy life. It consisted of going from his pen to the house, sleeping a lot, eating, catching his ring or ball, and like most dogs begging for food. He would sit there if I was eating something he wanted, (which was everything) and attempt to do his favorite trick. That trick was shaking hands. So Nikki would attempt the paw shake even if it wasn’t asked for to try to please and get the treat. Once in awhile we would take Nikki for a walk. He got all excited and started barking and whining uncontrollably at the very sight of his leash in our hands. It could not be argued what a good life he had through the years, but one day Nikki wandered away.
At first we didn’t realize that Nikki was gone. He spent a lot of time in his pen outside. If he wanted to come in he would whine at the door after walking through the garage that the pen was connected to. I don’t remember how he got out. Perhaps the garage door was accidentally left open. Perhaps his gate door was ajar. However it happened Nikki was gone. It was a Sunday in the middle of the summer that we discovered him missing. I’m sure he enjoyed his freedom. Even on the walks we took him on he was confined by that leash. Now he could wander wherever he wanted with nobody pulling on his neck to come back. I’m sure it was fun for awhile. Going to places he only dreamed about and all of the scents that dogs invariably smell. Perhaps other dogs barked as they realized that this big dog was free and they were trapped in their house or yard. That’s the envy of the other dogs looking out I’m sure. Barking to threaten the straying dog to get out of their territory, yet realizing that there is nothing they can do about it.
The hours passed and still no Nikki. This had never happened before and we didn’t know what to do. We drove around and looked. With the window down we called out his name “Nikki, Nikki’, but there was no response. It was getting dark and we were worried. Our street is not a busy one but the road connected to it is. If he had wandered into that busy road he could have been hit. There were many directions he could have gone. He could have headed west which would have him walking along the busy street. He could have crossed the busy street and found his way to Parkview Hills which is a Condominium Community. He could have wandered east and either kept going on the busy road or cut off north into the Winchell neighborhood. Not knowing where to look we drove all over and kept an eye on the side of the road in case the ultimate tragedy had occurred.
Reluctantly we gave up the search for the night. It was dark and we had traveled down all of the paths we could think of. Once again we were devastated when he wasn’t home to greet us when we got back. We couldn’t think of anything else to do but wait. Maybe he would show up during the night. The fear thoughts kept entering our minds. Maybe he was lying by the side of the road hurt and couldn’t make it home. Maybe Nikki would never come home again. Sadly we were trying to prepare for the worst.
I remember back in elementary school. When something got lost they had a lost and found in the principal’s office. There were times I came home without a glove or something. My mom would encourage me to go to the lost and found. In the office was a big box. It seemed like hundreds of gloves, hats, and scarves were there. Also in the mix was my lost glove. It would have been nice if it were that easy to get Nikki back. I do remember as a kid we had a dog named Happy. Happy found himself in the dog pound many times after getting caught wandering away from our house by the dog catcher. My sister would be crying and dad reluctantly would go and pay the fine to get him back. Dad always said “I should have just left him in there”, but deep down I know he wanted him back too.
There is a story in the Bible that resembles Nikki’s situation. It is the story of the prodigal son. One day the younger son decided that he wanted to see what life was like without being under his father’s rule. He would taste the fun stuff that he wasn’t allowed to experience. He asked and was granted his inheritance which allowed him to go out on his own and eat, drink, and be merry. All went well for the prodigal son until his money ran out. Suddenly he found that when the money was gone so were his so called friends. He was left to make his own way working in a field with someone’s pigs. At that point he came to his senses and made his way home. He would tell his father he was not worthy to be his son anymore and ask for a job in his field. His father had other ideas when he saw him coming. He was restored as his son and his father held a big party for him! Unfortunately Nikki didn’t wander home that night. If he did like the prodigal son we would have celebrated. Perhaps we would have bought him a special treat! Those thoughts seemed like only dreams as the hours passed.
The next morning I didn’t go to work. I called and told them that I was going to be late. I mentioned that our dog was missing and I would be in if and when I found him. Driving around in my Camaro with the window down I kept yelling for Nikki. Once again there was no response. I did happen to pass people on the way who were out walking. With everyone I passed I described our missing dog and left our phone number. That morning I drove all over leaving our number to anyone that I saw. It was extremely hot as the temperatures that day hovered between 90 and 100 degrees. If Nikki were alive the heat alone might be enough to be his end. Totally dejected and very hot myself I went back home to rest and consider my next move.
Perhaps you are in a place right now like Nikki and the prodigal son were. Perhaps the grass looked greener on the other side and you left God to find those greener pastures. Maybe you found out like they did that the world is a harsh place. Maybe the curiosity has gotten old and you have discovered like they did that what you ran away from was love. Sometimes when we reach our lowest point we discover things about who we are and what we need to do. Know that God loves you and is calling you to come home much like we were calling for Nikki.
As I was resting at home from the torturous heat the phone rang. The lady on the other end told me that she thought she found my dog. She gave me directions in the Winchell Neighborhood where she had seen a dog that matched my description. Hurriedly I jumped in the car and took off to the destination about a mile away. From a distance I saw him in the front yard of a house. A lady was out there with him and she had provided him with a big bowl of water. As I think about her kind deed it was like the Bible verses in Matthew Chapter 25 within the verses of 35-40. “When I was hungry you fed me and when I was thirsty you gave me something to drink. Later the righteous ones asked when they did those things and he answered “when you did it to the least of these you did it onto me.”
Nikki didn’t see me at first. He had his head in that bowl and he was drinking like there was no tomorrow. I pulled up, jumped out of my car and called his name. He took his head out of the water dish long enough to look at me. He looked ragged and confused. I could tell from his look that he hardly recognized me. The lady wondered if this was my dog and I told her yes and briefly explained what happened. Nikki still seemed in a daze but I coaxed him into the back of my car.
It took a few days to recover but Nikki slowly came back to himself. There was a day a short time later that we accidentally left the garage door opened. Fearfully we looked in his pen only to find Nikki laying on the cold cement content with life and with no desire to wander away. Nikki lived for three more years and never ran away again.
He was an angry man. Had he won that fight he would have forced Mohammad Ali to fight him again and he could get his title back. George Foreman didn’t call it the Heavyweight Title, he called it his title. The year was 1977 and George Foreman had been on the comeback trail. He had won five consecutive fights and that night he fought a man named Jimmy Young. George had a devastating punch. Usually his fights would end with his opponent on the canvas. This fight would be different. Jimmy Young lasted the whole fight. When the decision was read it was Young who had his glove raised. George was crushed as he walked around in the steamy hot dressing room. He had heard that after a match you should never sit down. He paced back and forth and felt weakness in his legs. “I feel like I’m going to”, and before he could say die he passed out.
George Foreman at a joyless time in his life.
George Foreman was born in Marshall Texas in 1949 and grew up in Houston’s rough Fifth Ward District. Looking back he called himself a thug as he dropped out of school in the ninth grade, and ran the streets. In 1965 he joined the Jobs Corps and that decision changed the direction of his life. At the age of 16 the Jobs Corps provided him with a connection to the boxing world. It was in a trainer named Doc Broaddus. Doc encouraged George to apply his fighting skills to the ring instead of the streets.
Corporal Robert Thrailkill, Jr. should not be alive today. Six years ago at the young age of 19 Robert was deployed in Afghanistan clearing improvised explosive devices from a secured compound when the accident occurred. Stepping on an IED that was hidden in a mound of dirt Robert was thrown backwards and found himself on his back. He knew it was serious when he was unable to move his legs. The first miracle was the fact that Robert could analyze the situation at all. You see Robert had an array of explosives on his person and they should have went off from the explosion. Later the conclusion was made that Robert’s last step to his left instead of his right made the difference. Had he stepped to his right Robert would have been in eternity without God. It was years later when he saw the light, but God already was saving him for the future.
After the explosion Robert was flown to a hospital where he stayed for a month. His legs were amputated from the knees down and he was transported to a rehab hospital where he would stay the next two years. Robert was given the purple heart for his sacrifice for his country. He worked hard at his rehab and at long last it was time for him to go home and enter the every day world he had left when he was whole.
When Robert got back to civilian life things were not the same. Living in Caledonia Michigan in an apartment he not only had to get used to his prosthetic legs, but he had to deal with every day things such as showering or getting around his apartment. It was difficult for Robert to just do the simple things. Fortunately a group called Homes for Our Troops stepped in. A home was built for Robert which has wider doorways, pull down shelves, roll in showers, and other adjustments that fit Robert’s needs. “When I was injured”, Robert expressed at the site of his future home, “I told my family that I was not going to let my injuries define me as a person.” “But some things made it harder.” The new house made things so much better for Robert to live normally in but there was still something missing in his life.
Alexis his new wife is a Christian and was able to lead Robert to a place of repentance and acceptance of Jesus into his life! From that time on Robert was content. It was like God dismantled his old thought process and gave him real meaning in life. He was happy with his growing family and the things that he had. He was grateful for the love that others had shown for him. There was one thing that he never asked for but he and his wife had agreed would make things much easier. You see Robert had an electric wheelchair while he was rehabbing but there was no way for him to get it from Washington DC to his home. Even if he had a way, that benefit had been taken away due to budget cuts.
I’ve often told people that I let God direct where these stories come from. They come in all different ways and I never have to worry about what to write about. That was the case of the story you are reading. Two weeks ago I was standing in a long line to an event. I happened to be behind a lady named Nancy and we started talking. I told Nancy that I write Christian stories and gave her my website card. Later when I was in conversation with a friend of hers, Nancy told her side of this story to my family. My wife mentioned to me that I should hear the story and I had Nancy write her number down on the back of one of my cards so I could call her and get the details. By mistake I accidentally gave the card to someone who was interested in reading my stories. Amazingly Nancy found my number and contacted me. She had felt that our meeting was no coincidence. When I heard her story I had to agree.
Nancy had a friend that had an electric wheelchair. It was originally bought for her husband but he wasn’t using it. Her friend asked Nancy if there was someone she knew who would buy it for $600? The chair was worth far more than this amount but her friend just wanted it to be a blessing to someone in need. When Nancy was hesitant her friend asked her if she knew anyone that would pay $300 for the chair? Nancy didn’t hesitate “I’ll buy it from you for $300”, she exclaimed. Nancy had to take the money out of her retirement but she felt in her heart that it was the right thing to do. Although Nancy had two successful knee replacement surgeries she told me she only used the chair once. She had to go to an event and at the time she needed the chair to get around. After that the chair sat at her house untouched. Nancy’s knees were getting stronger and she was able to walk so she didn’t need a wheelchair. Still in her heart she felt something deep within. She felt that someone could and should be using that wheelchair but who?
Nancy was eating at a restaurant one morning when she bit into a metal object. She was in enormous pain as her tooth was severely damaged. She needed a dentist appointment right away and frantically started calling offices that were listed in the phone book. Fortunately she found a dentist with an opening but she would have to wait until the early afternoon. Nancy was disappointed that she couldn’t get in earlier because of her pain. She suffered through the morning and finally her appointment time came.
When Nancy walked into the dentist office sitting in the waiting room was none other than Robert and Alexis. Right away Nancy noticed Robert’s manual wheel chair with the purple heart emblem on it. Nancy asked Robert (who had a dentist appointment too that day) why he didn’t have an electric wheelchair? Finding out that they couldn’t have one because of the new rules and their lack of ability to bring one home, Nancy gave Robert and Alexis her number. Days passed and Nancy hadn’t heard from Robert and Alexis. One day she got a call and it was them. “Do you still have that wheelchair and is it still for sale?”, they wanted to know. “Yes it is still available”, Nancy said and I’m selling it for $300 which is the amount I paid for it. They bought that wheelchair from Nancy and she delivered it to their house in Belding, Michigan. The reason they had not called sooner was explained. Robert and Alexis were involved in an automobile accident and Robert had injured one of his partial legs. The injury made it more of a reason to secure the electric wheelchair. When I asked Alexis if they had prayed for an electric wheelchair her answer surprised me. “No”, she said, “We were content with what we had.” She admitted that they thought that it would be nice for Robert to be able to get around more with his growing family. Still they didn’t consider it a necessity.
This past Sunday I heard a sermon that seemed to fit Robert and Alexis situation. The theme that I remember most about the sermon is the fact that God is on our side! He is our helper! I’m reminded of the fact that God knows our needs before we do. Romans 8:28 states that “All things work together for good for those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” I am convinced that because Robert and Alexis were content and happy with what they had and their love for God he interceded. Because he knows our needs we don’t have to be begging God for things. He knows the desires of our heart and he blesses us when we seek him first.
I found it ironic that Nancy said I would probably talk to Alexis when I called. Robert has been out hunting. Yes, he is putting that new electric wheelchair to good use doing something that he loves and enjoying the blessings that God has bestowed upon him. In this Thanksgiving season we should always remember that God loves us very much! He desires to bless his children who put him first in their lives. I’m reminded by this story that God wants to meet our needs and will use other people in wonderful ways to accomplish his desire! He creates circumstances that lead to his blessing coming to pass in our lives! Nancy told me she was just happy to have a part in the story, Robert and Alexis are thrilled with their new electric wheelchair, and I am thankful this Thanksgiving that God had a plan to use me to share this story with you!
Yogi Berra was quoted as saying “If you come to the fork in the road take it.” Actually this made perfect sense as Yogi was giving directions to his house in New Jersey. The road to his house was interrupted by a blockage and two different roads seemingly going in different directions. Each road however circled back to Yogi’s house so if you got to the fork you couldn’t go wrong. Unfortunately the forks in our life roads go in opposite directions and the destinations are completely different.
It was just a few short weeks ago. Earl Robinette was contacted by the Detroit Tigers. They wanted him to come in and sign a contract. His son had contacted the Tigers office and told them the story that Earl had been living with for years. You see Earl is 80 years old. The contract that he was given to sign was a nice gesture by the Tigers. It was a one day contract to symbolically relive a time in his life years ago. It was a fork in his road that appeared in 1954 and he has lived with the decision all of these years. “What would have happened if I had signed that contract?”, he must have asked himself over and over. “How would that decision have affected my life and where would I be now?”
In 1954 Earl Robinette was 19 years old. He was the oldest of 6 children and he had responsibilities. That day he was out about a quarter of a mile from his farm house using a horse to cultivate a cornfield. It had rained and he wasn’t able to get the tractor in the area. He saw his father frantically waiving a white towel for him to come to the house. Earl rode the horse in and his brothers gave him a clean shirt and hosed him down because he was filthy. When he entered the house to his surprise there were 3 Detroit Tigers executives there to meet him. They had discovered Earl at a tryout camp in Mount Pleasant, Michigan which is just south of his hometown of Clare County. Earl was a switch hitting outfielder with a strong arm and apparently the Tigers felt he had a great baseball future! According to Earl there was a contract laid out in front of him which included a $28,000 signing bonus. Earl was pleased to know that these executive experts had considered him worthy of such a contract and was ready to sign the deal. He looked to his parents for final approval before he took the leap but they just sat there. He never could figure out why they didn’t respond. Maybe they thought they were looking out for Earl’s best interest. Maybe they didn’t think much of the life of a baseball player. Whatever the reason they just sat there until the executives decided that it wasn’t going to happen and picked up their contract and left.
So Earl now 80 walked down the long hall way at Comerica Park. The walls were covered with Tiger players from the past. Maybe if things had worked out differently Earl’s picture would be right there with them. Of course it wasn’t and there was nothing he could do about that now. Earl was seated at a table that signings regularly took place. Most of the big names on the team had signed their contracts right on that same table. This contract was specially made for Earl and he didn’t hesitate to sign it! He was given a Tiger jersey and a hat. It was a time of reflection Had he signed, Earl summed up that he never would have met his wife and had the happy family that he ended up with. Had the signing taken place it is anyone’s guess where he would have ended up. It’s one of life’s mysteries that we all go through in one way or another based on decisions that we make.
Jesus too has a contract waiting for us to sign. There isn’t a mystery as far as where the decision to follow Christ takes us. It leads to a heavenly home and eternal life with him! There won’t be a man made hall with pictures to remember. In God’s hall of fame faces shine forever and ever and never grow old! Unlike the contract from the Tigers Jesus keeps his contract on the table. You may be older now and regret the fact that you haven’t signed his contract yet. Know that it isn’t too late. Jesus is still waiting with his pen in hand. Like the directions to Yogi’s house whether you are 19 or 80 the destination after taking God’s road ends at the same place!
by Lewis Hamilton
from the book “The Gardener and My Garden” c1997
I’ve got a contract with the Lord
that with his blood he signed
He offered it to all of us
yet it’s one of a kind
I examined it with a fine toothed comb
A lot of time was spent
to try to find restrictions
Where was all the fine print?
It promised me eternal life,
a heavenly home I’d win
if I just opened up my heart
and let the Savior in
Now logically I’ve been told
I’d have to earn my way
No one in their right mind
would give it all away
Yet the contract says, whosoever will,
that has to include me
It says it is a gift from God
and it’s absolutely free
Now I’ve accepted his free gift
and my life has changed, no doubt
I cannot work salvation in
but I certainly can work it out
There’s someone who is at your door
with his contract for you today
Will you accept his free gift
or send him on his way?
But God found fault with the
people and said: “The time is
coming, declares the Lord, when
I will make a new covenant with
the house of Israel and with the
house of Judah.
Very rarely does someone knock on our door anymore. Back in the day especially growing up when someone knocked on the door it was with excitement that we answered it. Who could it be? Opening the door we were surprised to see my Aunt Ethel, Aunt Lucy, or our old friend Margaret (who was in her 80’s but got around like a 20 year old.) Their visits were always fun and made our day a little better! Of course it was like the old TV show “Let’s Make A Deal” too. The person behind the door wasn’t always a loved one. Sometimes the Jehovah’s Witnesses or the Fuller Brush Man would be there. In other words sometimes we got zonked when we opened the door. A zonk on Let’s Make a Deal was when the curtain or door was opened and behind it was something nobody could want. Still we took our chances with the door in hopes that behind it was a nice surprising visitor!
These days when someone is knocking at the door it is almost always a zonk. If they suspect that someone is home they start pounding louder if there is no reaction to their initial knock. When I do answer the door I find myself barely having my head sticking through the opened door as the rest of me hides behind it. I use the door as kind of a shield. It protects me from the person trying to sell me something I don’t want. The person tries to get me more comfortable with them but that door block is hard to negotiate around. I try to be polite as they make their sales pitch. The knocking is an interruption to my life. I don’t think I have ever made a major purchase from someone going door to door. Occasionally I will take their card as they tell me to call them if I am interested. It is a polite way to end the visit without seeming rude. Finally I close the door on the product that I can’t live without.
I guess that is the problem with door to door sales in my view. Before opening the door I have already made up my mind that I’m not interested. Having to overcome that is almost always too heavy of a burden for them. Getting past that trust factor and into my pocketbook is a monumental task. If they really have a product that I just can’t live without, how have I been able to live without it all of these years? If I truly wanted to fix a problem I’m more apt to buy a product from a local store where I could always take it back.
I have a very basic cell phone where I can make and receive calls and text messages. Lately I have been seeing an ad on TV about buying an application for a smart phone. If I had a smart phone I don’t think I’d be interested in this app. It is a doorbell app that lets you answer your front door wherever you are. You could be on vacation in Hawaii and answer your front door. You actually see the person at the door from your phone and you can talk and listen to them. Of course in the commercial it is guys up to no good thinking that you are not home. The commercial ends with the two would be burglars running from the front door after the brief conversation. This product is trying to take advantage of the defensive attitude we have today when someone knocks at our door. I have never had someone try to get into my house while I was pretending nobody was home. If this product is so necessary, why hasn’t that happened before? I guess it is like an extra insurance policy that makes us less fearful and more at ease.
We don’t get surprises from our telephone these days either. They used to have a radio station back in the day that would make phone calls for prizes. You had to answer the phone saying “I listen to WYYY”, to win. It was a genius way to advertise! I used to laugh when I called my best friend only to have his mom answer the phone with that statement instead of the traditional hello. I’m sure she never won any prizes but she should have been paid for all of the advertising she did for the station! Now days that marketing scheme would never work as we pick and choose who we want to talk to by using Caller ID. Come to think about it we used to receive more calls from friends back in the day. With the advent of Facebook and the use of email friends don’t call much anymore. It is almost a dreaded sound when the phone rings these days It seems to ring a lot but very rarely is it anyone that knows us. These calls go to the answering machine and it is very likely that no message will be left.
The point I’m making is that we are not easily surprised anymore. There is not a feeling of excitement like there used to be. We are not willing to take the chance of going to the door or answering the phone because we already know who it is. Instead of quickly opening the door we tend to peek unsuspectingly out another window of the house to see who it is. Usually by the time we find out that the person at the door is a loved one we have to race to the door and catch them before they have driven off. If Jesus is knocking on your heart’s door don’t be defensive. He is like a surprising visit from a long lost friend. Run and catch him before he leaves. Invite him in and fellowship with him. His offer is eternal life and you don’t want to shut the door on that!