Imagine the disciples were a lot like we are, struggling through life, facing hardships, broken dreams, disappointments, failings of those who fail to.meet our expectations, failures of ourselves to be who we hoped we would be.
We are fighting our way through a life that is, at best, tolerable, at worst, cruel and unfair.
One step forward, seven steps back.
One day, some guy comes along, looks at me, and says, “Come. Follow me.”
You had just watched him speak a few words to someone’s hopeless situation, and watch as a life completely changes before your eyes.
He looks at you, speaks those challenging words, and you leave what you know and follow him.
There are others, a few, that have also responded to the challenge to follow, all coming from different backgrounds, responding to the new life they are entering much as they have responded to trials before.
But, now, they are following a man who, when facing a trial, a challenge, a disappointment, somehow rises to a different plain in his response.
The circumstances don’t control him. He doesn’t react…he responds.
He seems to understand “the why” behind the trial.
And he gently instructs, with a knowing encouraging nudge, pushing you toward a different response in a way that makes you want to be there.
You think, “How am I supposed to do that?”
He looks at you as if he hears your thoughts and whispers, ” You can do this.”
You struggle, you trip, you fall.
He reaches out a hand to help you back to your feet. “You’ll get there. Just follow me.”
You reach a point where you tell people, “Come and see.”
You can sense that he is changing you from within, and you want to be more like him.
I think it was the fourth grade when we were required to bring an ink pen to school. What a big step that was! The writing drills, spelling tests had all been for a greater purpose.
So we could write with something that you could not erase. I was now required to think before writing.
Into my fourth grade cigar box of school supplies I proudly placed my new Sheaffer ball point pen.
I learned that an “ink eraser” didn’t really erase the mistakes.
Drawing a line through the mistake was frowned upon by the teacher.
Balls of wadded up paper were hurled at trash cans in the corner countless times.
The teacher also frowned on this practice.
When BIC came out with a 15 cent pen, well, now anyone can have a pen, can’t they? No more shelling out for those fine 1.29 Sheaffers or Parkers. And, if you lose a 15 cent pen, it’s not a big deal.
So, because I grew up with a BIC pen, I doubt that I ever paid more than five or six dollars for a nicer version. Someone gave me a Cross pen and pencil set for my high school graduation. I don’t know what it cost, but it was nice. Smooth.
All this is to tell you about my latest heartbreak.
On August 27th, Wendy took me into an antique shop in Mineola, Texas. This particular shop carried thes kind of stencil things that she is using in one of her craft deals. ( That is enough technical talk)
A man can only look at so many clear plastic stencils. “Which one of these four do you think are the best?” she would ask me.
They were all clear, no color, and my imagination just could not see the final product. “The sunflowers,” I said. “Or the lemons.”
I sneaked to the front of the store, pretending to be interested in something.
And then, I saw it!
The manliest pen I had ever seen. There, on the counter was a pen made from a 50 caliber shell.
“Now, that is a pen I would like to have,” I thought.
Then I saw the thirty dollar tag. The old, BIC owning fellow inside me put it down.
Wendy saw me looking at it. She could see my longing. “You should buy that,” she said.
And I did.
All week long, every invoice for work, every check, every deposit slip was written with this brave pen who had tasted the real life war time battle.
I showed him to everyone.
I loved this pen.
One week and one day later, my brother, Jeff came into town and we went to the cafe for lunch. When I signed the bill for lunch, I showed him my treasure.
“Man, don’t take that into an airport, they’ll throw you in jail,” he laughed.
I was so proud.
I put him back into my pocket, and Jeff drove me home.
The next day, I was getting dressed, and I couldn’t find my pen. WHERE IS MY PEN?
I texted Jeff and asked him if it had fallen out of my pocket into his truck.
I retraced all my steps from the day before.
It was gone.
My sadness was real. My heart was crying a little bit. It was gone.
Seven days later, Wendy said, “ You lost it? You should have let me engrave your name it!” (She had suggested that.) “Have you looked everywhere?” (Obviously, I hadn’t looked everywhere , or I would have it.) “Why don’t you call the cafe?”
I called the cafe.
The guy said, “Yes, it is in my desk drawer.”
“I will be there in five minutes!”
He brought the pen out to me. I gave him 10.00. “Give this to the one who found it and turned it in.” Now I had a 40 dollar pen.
I had him back. The world was good, and everything was fine now.
Wendy engraved my name and phone number one it. “ You should have let me do this when I suggested it in the first place.” (You’re right, Honey.)
The next morning I stuck him in my pocket to go to church.
Monday, I could not find him.
It’s been a week, now. I still feel an inner sadness.
But, to be fair, when he saw me approach him at the antique shop, a 5’6 1/2” white beard old man, he probably thought, “no, not him. I’ve seen war, carnage, fire, smoke.
He will probably just stick me in his pocket and show me to all his friends.”
And he escaped. Twice.
He didn’t realize that I, too, am fighting a battle, waging a war of faith and words, doing battle against an enemy that only wants to steal from me, kill and destroy me.
Someone once said, “The pen is mightier than the sword.”
An atheist that I follow wrote a piece about how, to him, all religions look basically the same…blindly accepting their beliefs without any proof whatsoever. He said he just wants proof.
I began to read the comments. I was the only one responding that wasn’t in agreement with him.
Here is part of that exchange
Thespartanatheist: I keep hoping somewhere there is someone that reads my blog and goes “gee, I guess this thing I super believe in is just another fake religion in a sea of fake religions.
Nan: Don’t hold your breath…
Me: So, according to your comment, you really aren’t seeking the one true religion, you are just hoping to convince me that mine is fake.
Thespartanatheist: No, Randy. I keep hoping a religious person thinks.
Me: Then I guess I am not religious.
Thespartanatheist : Oh? You don’t have any beliefs in any god’s?
You may have a bit of a point that I will concede.
I was brought up to believe in God.
Sunday School and church every Sunday. Every Sunday.
From the time I was in the fourth grader until after I graduated high school, I went to a week long church camp every summer. Every summer.
I was baptized in the fourth grade and became an actual member of the church.
And yet, with all this indoctrination, when I went to school, as I was taught the theory of evolution, the gradual processes of change stretched out over billions of years, I believed it, accepted it as fact, no questions asked.
I never once asked myself how this could be possible even though it completely contradicted everything the Bible taught.
Probably, because, I really didn’t know what the Bible taught.
When. I was twenty six, I had an experience that I call “an encounter with God.” (I know you don’t accept this as evidence, and that is fine. I’m not trying to convince you now. Just telling my story.)
In that moment, I began to believe God. Before, I believed he existed, but, since I had no stake in the claim, that was it.
I had believed what I was taught in school because the schoolbooks had the pictures, the theories, the examples right there in full color to “prove” the theory.
So, in that phase of my religious life, I did not think.
But, after my “encounter”, I began to desire more interactions with the God who had “intervened into my life.”
You might say that, when I was religious (believing in God) I wasn’t really thinking.
WhenI began to believe God, I began to think.
You think about things with the premise that there is no god.
At that point in my life, I began to think with the understanding that since God is real, how does the stuff I learned fit in with that?
The complexity of life, from the tiny cell to the interactivity of the entire universe screams about the Creator. I can’t deny it.
If a tiny cell is as complex as the electron microscope shows it to be, and each one of us is “knit together” with billions of such cells to become a sort of “universe of interactivity between all the different parts of our body”, how could anyone then say that chance and time was all it took to make all this happen.
I keep hoping that maybe I can get an “atheist person” to think.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
I was at my first job of the day, cleaning windows. I was nearly finished when I came to a window with three red wasps on the bricks beside it.
I emptied the can of wasp spray that I had in my belt. I saw the hole in the bricks that was birthing three more wasps.
I ran back to my truck for another can.
I emptied the can at the new three and into the hole. A few crawled through the foam and died.
I went back for another can.
Three more were flying around the window refusing to land. They seemed angry.
Trying to conserve the spray, I shot short bursts, but they evaded my blasts. As they briefly left the area, I would shoot more into the hole. Four more lost the battle. Three more emerged.
I saw a man picking up sticks in the yard next door. I waved, shouting, “I’m doing battle against the demon hordes.”
“I can see that!” He replied. He had an African accent.
Fighting the hordes cost me a bit of time, but I finished the job, unstung.
End of story?
Three and a half hours earlier:
Our Thursday men’s group was small this morning. Six men. But the time is always powerful.
When we wrapped up, Mike leaned over and said, ” I want you to know, this morning I woke up at four, and I couldn’t go back to sleep. I was impressed to pray for you. You work sooo hard. And in this heat?”
I’m always glad when someone tells me that they have prayed for me. I thanked him for following through and for telling me.
Wendy called as I was driving to my first job, and I told her about Mike’s prayer.
“Oh, no! Please be careful! ” I knew she would say this. Three years ago, I received a text from a brother in the Lord, also named Mike, telling me that he had been impressed to pray for me that morning. If you like, you can read about that here. BEHIND THE SCENES
So I went to the job, and, about an hour and a half into it began the battle against the devil’s air force.
I know we don’t battle against flesh and blood, but these rascals can really get to my flesh.
And, they make my blood boil.
When I didn’t get stung, and I finished the job, I began to think about Mike’s prayer, and the way the wasps would circle but not attack.
I began to think back to Mike’s prayer. It wasn’t random, was it?
That still small voice of the Almighty whispered in his ear, “Tell him about your prayer.” He obeyed.
When Wendy called, that still small voice of the Almighty whispered in my ear, “Tell her about Mike’s prayer.” I did.
Listening to that Voice and following it opens our “eyes of understanding” to see the invisible world surrounding the one we see with our eyes.
I realized that I have been leaning on Psalm 91 for the last year and a half. When fear came on me in the early days of the pandemic, I read it. And I have read it again and again and again. I have told Wendy over and over that I believe that these words are intended for us, and with all the lies we have been told throughout the last few years, this book is telling us the truth.
Who you gonna believe?
Are you gonna be afraid for the rest of your life?
As for me and my house, we will continue to dwell in the secret place of the Most High God, and rest under the Shadow of the Almighty.
“This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.
For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day.
Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday.”
The disease was spreading fast around the world. News reports told of the vast and growing number of deaths every day.
“Stay home for 15 days to help slow the spread. If you have to go somewhere, wear a mask, keep your distance, 6 feet. Wash your hands often. Don’t touch anything or anyone.”
So, Jimmy Don did what he was told.
Fifteen days wasn’t enough. Jimmy Don started questioning the orders. The news reports kept ticking off more and more deaths and infections. “Why is this thing growing if we are wearing masks, keeping distances?” He wondered. “And, isn’t this virus small enough to go right through the mask?”
Jimmy Don, came across a scripture in his bible, Psalm 91, that talked about not fearing the pestilence and other dangers, but trusting his creator would keep him from harm. Jimmy Don believed these words. Jimmy Don stopped being afraid. He stopped wearing the mask.
People were continually yelling at him, rebuking him, shaking their heads in disgust, trying and trying and trying to convince him how uncaring he was to not care if he was making others sick. “I am not sick. I haven’t had even a runny nose since all this started,” he would respond.
“It doesn’t matter,” they would argue, ” you can spread it even if you don’t show any symptoms. Just wear a mask. Think of others.”
Jimmy Don would reread Psalm 91. He believed Psalm 91. He was not afraid.
He didn’t believe the others were telling him the truth.
January, 2021 VACCINE
Finally, a vaccine became available, and people were lining up to get the first of their two shots, so the world could get back to normal.
Jimmy Don began to wonder if that would still be trusting in the words of God in Psalm 91. The same voices that he couldn’t believe were telling him, “You don’t want to wear a mask? Just take the vaccine. Then you won’t have to wear a mask. TAKE THE VACCINE!”
The same voices that he didn’t believe before, he couldn’t believe now.
So Jimmy Don didn’t get into line for the vaccine.
One day, a doctor was giving Jimmy Don a checkup. He had been forced to wear a mask to enter the hospital, so, when the doctor came in, Jimmy Don asked if he could remove his mask.
“Have you been vaccinated?” the doctor asked. When Jimmy Don said no, the doctor said to keep his mask on. “Why have you not been vaccinated?”
“Long story,” Jimmy Don said.
“Give me the short version.”
So Jimmy Don told him about all the stories that had been told and all the stories that had been hidden and all the questions that weren’t allowed to be asked, and how he didn’t think the masks did any good.
The doctor said this should never have become political, but the vaccine was very effective. When he finished the visit, as he was walking away, he said, “Take the vaccine!”
Jimmy Don never told him about Psalm 91.
A friend said, “ Jimmy Don, if you get the vaccine, you wont even need to wear a mask anymore. It’s such a simple fix. It doesn’t even hurt.”
Jimmy Don was never afraid of the needle.
But, he trusted the doctor.
He forgot about Psalm 91.
Jimmy Don got vaccinated.
“Even vaccinated people need to wear masks when indoors, because an unvaccinated person can give them the virus, and even if they don’t get sick they could pass it on to another unvaccinated person. We need to get everyone vaccinated, so we can finally defeat this disease.”
Jimmy Don let out a moan.
“We have no way of knowing if someone has really been vaccinated, so download this App on your phone, and you can easily prove that you have been vaccinated.”
Jimmy Don downloaded the App.
“If you cannot show proof of vaccination, you will no longer be allowed in restaurants, gyms, airplanes, and you must wear a mask whenever you leave your house. If you refuse, you will be fined. You may be arrested. Come on, folks, let’s all work together and beat this thing.”
Jimmy Don started trying to convince his unvaccinated friends to just go ahead and get vaccinated.
“ It seems that the phone App has been hacked, and people are able to counterfeit it, and claim to be vaccinated when they are not. To be sure, you will now be required to carry a certified card showing your vaccination status. Failure to carry this card is a very serious offense.
Jimmy Don picked up his card.
“It seems that The Unvaccinated Rebels, TUR, have found ways to counterfeit the card. We will be issuing a mandatory tattoo that you may have on your hand or forehead . You will no longer have to stand in line. We will have scanners distributed throughout the world that will read the tattoo as you walk by. Life will finally be back to normal.”
Jimmy Don got his tattoo in August of 2023. It was very subtle, and he wondered why it had taken them this long to think of this.
“ The Upsilon Variant has begun to spread, and everyone needs to now wear these government issued masks. When we get the next vaccine, all you have to do is have your mark scanned, and all your information will be updated.”
Jimmy Don thought, “Good, so simple.”
Jimmy Don wondered whatever happened to all of his unvaccinated friends as he picked up his government issued masks.
“He required everyone—small and great, rich and poor, free and slave—to be given a mark on the right hand or on the forehead. And no one could buy or sell anything without that mark, which was either the name of the beast or the number representing his name. Wisdom is needed here. Let the one with understanding solve the meaning of the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. His number is 666.”
“Then enjoy it, Randy just keep it to yourself.” (Facebook friend on sharing my faith)
Those of you who know my wife, Wendy, know what an incredible cook she is.
Yesterday she saw something about homemade curly fries on Facebook, she tried it out, and she built an entire meal around curly fries. Fried chicken (John Bush recipe with tobasco honey), fresh corn on the cob, salad, fresh watermelon, and, yes, homemade curly fries.
I wish you could have tasted it.
I don’t think I am better than you, I just wish you could taste it.
When I was in school, one time a math teacher was doing a long, involved problem on the board. Early on I saw that she had forgotten to carry a 2, and I raised my hand to tell her. She couldn’t see me, because she was facing the board. So, I blurted out, “You forgot to carry the two.” She stopped, looked, corrected the error, and said, “Thank you.”
If she hadn’t changed it, everything from that point on would have been an error.
I didn’t think I was smarter, or better than my teacher.
I just happened to see her one mistake.
On May 8, 1978 when I discovered that God, in fact, was real, and not some vague concept that I only irregularly entertained in my thoughts, my life went from a two dimensional black and white silent movie in the fog to a multidimensional HD color movie with surround sound. I found a love for the One I now knew as my Father, and discovered a love for the words I began to see with new eyes and understanding in the Bible.
My life became so rich, I began to see the mistakes I had been making, causing me to completely miss the path I had just discovered.
New sights, sounds, thoughts that thrilled me every day.
I just wanted people to taste it.
It didn’t make me better than them.
I just wanted them to see the one mistake that may be keeping them from this amazing path of life.
Because I wanted good for them.
Now I know, tastes are different, and some people don’t like to be told that they may have made a mistake.
But I won’t know that about you until you tell me.
Well, maybe not all over, but everyone is beautiful when they smile.
Don’t you think so?
One of the most difficult results of this COVID-19 “pandemic” has been the division caused between friends and family about the refusal by some to wear the mask.
The mask that covers the face, covers the expression, covers the smile.
I have had a couple of encounters where I was rebuked fairly soundly for being so selfish. When asked why I wouldn’t comply, my response was, “I just believe it is wrong!”
We all can see what a political hotbed this pandemic has become.
I have observed many, many, many lies being told.
When found to be false, many just moved on to a different set of lies.
My question is: What are the reasons for telling a lie?
To protect myself from some painful or emotionally draining consequence of something I have (or have not) done.
To give information to make myself appear better in someone else’s eyes.
To deceive in order to gain power.
To manipulate someone into complying with my desires.
To keep from hurting someone’s feelings. ( Although, deep introspection may make this a subset of one of the other four.)
So, if I find that I have made major changes in my life because I have believed a lie, what do I do now?
Do I continue to act as I acted before, if for no other reason than, to curry the favor of those who continue to believe the lies they have been told?
Or, do I leave the lie and pursue the truth…at all costs?
So, how could I determine who was telling me the truth?
The Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Forty three years ago, I met, for real, the One who said I must be born again to be able to even see the kingdom of God.
He began to open my eyes, to teach me Truth, principles that would carry me through any and every decision that I ever had to make.
“Do not fear, for I am with you.” He began to teach me the crippling effects of fear.
“I will send the Comforter (the Holy Spirit) and He will guide you into all truth.” He started opening my ears to the “sound of His voice”, to discern between His voice and the voices of His enemies.
“Trust in Me with all your heart, and don’t rely on your own human understanding.” Trust was a difficult learning path, because the answer wasn’t always immediately available. But the act of trusting when I couldn’t see the outcome brought a genuine peace that I hadn’t had before.
I see, now, that there is a worldview that pulls me away from God.
“There is a way that seems right to a man. But that way leads to death.”
The lies have multiplied, the ones spreading the lies move from one lie to another, with never a single admission of error.
“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
I remember, as a young eighth grader, talking my best friend, David H., into trying out for the eighth grade basketball team with me.
For the previous few months, we had walked home from school together to his house, where I helped him fold and deliver papers on his Garland Daily News paper route. I worked for no pay, because it didn’t seem like work, I was just spending time with my friend.
Afterward, we would play basketball in his driveway until I would have to get home for dinner.
David had never played on an organized team, so I talked him into trying out.
We went to practice each day, then went home to deliver his papers.
A few days later, “the list” was posted. It only contained the names of those who made the team. David did. I did not.
I think I shed some tears of disappointment.
I remember thinking, “I probably would have made it, if only I had been a bit taller.”
David’s mother asked me if I would take over David’s paper route until the season was over.
I learned to enjoy work, and the financial benefits of doing a job well.
I rooted for David from the stands.
In the ninth grade, I got my own paper route, this time the Dallas Morning News. I would wake up to a clock radio at 4:00 am, ride my bike a mile or so to the shopping center to get my papers. EVERY MORNING. 7 DAYS A WEEK. During this time, making seventy to one hundred dollars a month, I always had money at hand. I would often loan my parents five or ten dollars when they asked. When I delivered papers, I got pretty good at the sidearm throw, usually hitting the front porch. When I missed, I would get off my bike and place the paper on the porch.
In 10th grade, I tried out for the South Garland basketball b-team. I tried so hard. I wanted it so much. I did not make the team. “If only I was taller,” I thought.
Looking back, while I had decent speed and quickness, and good hand-eye coordination, I was never disciplined enough to put myself through the necessary repetitive drills to become skilled with ball handling and shooting.
A short time later, I got my first hourly job with Safeway. My boss’s name was Perry Stan Butts. He smoked those little Camel cigarettes. I was scared to death of him.
My first day, I was scheduled to work 4:30-9:30. It was a Friday. It was busy. They taught me how to bag the groceries, take them to the cars and load them. I worked nonstop until around 8:30. Bagging, bagging, bagging. I never stopped for water. Never took a bathroom break. I was a bit overwhelmed.
When it slowed down a bit, one of the older package boys took me to the back room.
The bottle room.
(For you younger readers, in the old days, when you bought a soft drink, you paid a nickel a bottle deposit on every single bottle. But, you would get your money back when you brought all your bottles back to the store. But, someone had to take all those bottles, separate them according to company, Coke, Dr Pepper, RC Cola, Seven-Up, and put them in proper cartons, then proper wooden cases, then stack them according to company in the back room. I was that someone, 16 year old 5’7” sophomore.)
So, that first night, I entered the bottle room. There had to be 20 or 25 grocery carts FULL of bottles, and Bob Hendershot showed me how to do all the separation and stacking. Then he left me there, to finish by myself. I was over whelmed, but I finished.
That night, after going to bed, I sacked groceries and “racked bottles” all night long.
The next day, I learned that I was required to take a 15 minute break (union rules). Someone could have told me.
A week later, I received my first paycheck, 13.67 after taxes.
This made it all worthwhile. Fridays were great.
Why am I telling you all this?
Now, I am 69 years old, working for myself as a chimney sweep and window cleaner.
I love to work.
I learned the joys of hard work because I wasn’t good enough at playing a game to be chosen for a school team.
But, when I went to Rice University, I walked on as a hopeful for the Rice soccer team. I had never played soccer.
But I could run.
I made the team, eventually became a starter, scored one goal in three years, and worked evenings for Safeway.
I didn’t became a follower of Jesus until 7 years later.
But, I can now look back and see the Hand that had guided my circumstances, guided my steps before I knew Him.
And He begins, even before we love him.
“And we know that in all God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” Romans 8:28-29