A SERIES OF NOT SO UNFORTUNATE EVENTS

(I wrote this four years ago, but when I read it today, I was reminded of the vast

importance of sharing this second life and the working of God in this life with as many as we can. While we still can.)

Wednesday of last week I fell from a ladder, and, miraculously, only suffered, at worst, a cracked rib, or two. Discomfort of my injury reminds me how blessed I am to not have suffered worse.

While delivering eggs to the Hendricks, I was touched by stories Ralph told me of believers who were so filled with love for their savior, that they openly shared it with those they met. I, thought, “We need more of this.”

On Thursday, I reluctantly agreed to clean four chimneys at this ranch outside of Hawkins, ( reluctant because of the twisting and contorting involved in the process) and was touched deeply by the Spirit of God in the contractor who hired me. We shared stories and life as if we had known each other for a lifetime.

What does all this have to do with anything?

Here is the thing.
I am reminded that we don’t obey God because we know the rules (His Commandments), we obey Him because His nature, in us, is displayed through these commandments.

Likewise, His nature is displayed in each one of us who has been given this “new heart” through “being born again.”

Unfortunately, I have too much of old Randy, to adequately display God’s nature, but I, sometimes, shine a little.
Ralph Hendricks shines with it, and the same spirit that lives in me is drawn to that spirit in him.
Todd Pruett shines with it, and the fellowship (koinonia) that results when the pieces we carry of God’s infinite ability come together, the result is a deep connection that can be explained in no other way.

My Point.

As a body of believers, we have to be aggressively showing and telling each other how this life, this unexplainably, complex, and unnatural life is navigating its presence through our days.

My eyes have to be open, to see the constant, invisible, active presence and involvement of the Creator of the Universe, in my tiny, yet, very important life in this world.

My heart has to be asking the Joy of my heart, what can I do today?

Everything I do, everything that happens to me, every “accident”, every joy has a Purpose.

When I see it, how can I not share it?

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NOT FOR THE RELIGIOUS, THE ATHEIST, OR THE FAINT OF HEART

May 31, 2015
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”

The guy who first realized that Jesus was the savior, the son of God.

The guy who also, in obedience stepped out of the boat and walked on water.

The guy who said he would fight for Jesus and die with him.

The guy who took up a sword to defend him and cut off an attacker’s ear.

The guy who fled into the night.

The guy who denied him three times in fear.

The guy who decided to go back to his old job.

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I am not good because of things I do.

Most things I do are because I love me.

Jesus did not die to make me better, or to make me find happiness.

Jesus died to make me alive.

To follow him means to trust him.

He will sometimes terrify me.

Sometimes I will feel completely alone.

He will lead me to places I don’t think I want to go, to do things I don’t think I am capable of doing.

He will ask me to give up my pursuit of happiness, and to learn what it means to really love somebody.

To learn what it means to really live.

He will give me joy.

“Randy, do you love me more than these?”

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CHOOSING SIDES

May 31, 2018

We would have two guys standing in front of us, taking turns. One would pick, then the other. Back and forth.
I usually wasn’t the first, but, thankfully I was usually not the last.
That next to the last person…you could always see a visible sigh of relief…he wasn’t chosen last.
The last guy, head down, joins the team that chose him by default.
The games begin, two enemy teams warring against each other, playing by the rules.
We didn’t need umpires or referees.
It was just more fun to play fair.
Who wants to win with the cry, “You cheated!” echoing through the air?
The game would end.
One side wins, the other side loses.
No one remembers who was chosen last.
They all head home.
Friends.

Now we choose sides.
We know we are right, so we choose the ones that agree with us.
We battle against the enemy on the other side, this time with words instead of rules of play.
We can ignore our own little “sins” because we see the “shortcomings” in everybody else.
Somehow, that makes us better…that, at least, we are not like them.
Or, are we.
Sometimes, we walk away as friends.
Usually not.

I realize as I write this that there are really just two sides, though, when you think about it.

Born once crowd.
Born twice crowd.

C.S. Lewis once said, “Christianity is like the sun. By it, I can see everything else.”

When you have that second Life inside of you, the Eternal One, your viewpoint changes.

I wonder which side you are on.

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TRASH TALK

From a simpler time, when the cans were metal, and garbage bags were nonexistent….

Two stories.

1. My little brother, Jeff had the chore this week of taking the trash cans to the end of the driveway for the garbage truck that day.

My dad would put the grass clippings in one of these metal cans. Jeff saw the full can, carried it to the curb, filled it with water, then hid to watch the two men struggle mightily to lift this 400 pound can of “grass clippings”. Back in the day where a trash man had mighty arms, when there were no hydraulic can hoists to dump the can into the truck, they were unable to lift the can.

I believe my mom punished him for this.

2. Once, when I was 9 or 10, it was my day to gather the trash from the house, take it out to the big cans, then take them out to the curb.

Remember, no garbage bags.

Every waste basket had to be carried out, emptied into the cans, brought back in.

You know me. I do everything fast.

After the trash was picked up, my mom discovered trash left on the floor in the bathroom beside where the can was.

To help me remember, she told me to write 100 times, “I will remember to pick up all the trash.”

My dad was a salesman for Nabisco, so he always had large forms that had all his products listed on one side for his orders. The other side was blank, and we would always use that for writing, drawing, etc., so Mom gave me a sheet to get me started.

I dutifully wrote, “I will remember to pick up all the trash” across the first line.
Then thinking highly of my clever resourcefulness, I spent about 30 minutes putting ditto marks (“) under every word, for 99 more lines.
It wasn’t that quick.

She didn’t accept my cleverness.

She handed me another sheet of paper, and I wrote, 100 lines, “I will remember to pick up all the trash.”

Fifty five years later, I still remember to pick up all the trash.

Oh, and I never duplicated my little brother’s prank, either.

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HEADLINES

Susan stood in front of the mirror. She was barely one year out of journalism school, and was beginning to grow weary of the fluff pieces she was assigned by the small market tv station where she was an evening news reporter.

She stood straight, looked directly into the mirror, and said, “This is Susan Quinones reporting for CNN.”

“One day…” she murmured as she walked to her car.

Peter Flores was handing out masks. He was glad that he was able to get his tour bus back on the road. The past two and a half months had taken all his savings just to keep from closing his business all together.

“The mayor says we all have to wear a mask…sorry…but you will really enjoy the trip…beautiful day, huh?”

Thirty seven people, he thought, angrily. A third of the bus capacity. That’s all they will let me carry. We haven’t seen one single case. Not one single case. Ridiculous.

With everyone on board, families together, groups spaced apart as per the regulations, Peter pulled onto the road. The mask was causing his glasses to fog.

“Stupid mask,” and he pulled it slightly below his nose. He swatted at a fly buzzing around his head.

A little boy sat in the first row next to his mother. “Mama, I’ve never been on a bus before. I like this bus. This is fun!”

Peter saw his mother in the mirror as she smiled and patted his leg.

He swatted at the fly.

“Mama, did you see that bee? It’s a bee!”

It landed on Peter’s cheek, crawled under his mask. Allergy, he thought, as he jerked the mask off his face. The ear loops threw his glasses to the floor. He tried to grab them, felt the lurching of the bus.

He couldn’t regain control.

“Hey, Susie Q, boss wants you in his office,” said Jake, the weatherman from his desk.

She hated that name. It seemed like all the old people had some problem with pronouncing Quinones. “It’s Susan,” she replied.

He shook his head, grinned, and pointed to the office.

“Quinones, I’ve got a big story for you; bus crash out on Highway 19. Take Adam to film it. We need to get this on the evening news.”

“On it.”

She spied Adam at the coffee pot, and hurried toward him.

“Hey, Susie Q, what’s up?”

“Not you, too. It’s Susan. Big story. Grab your camera.”

Susan was walking toward the flashing lights, saw the paramedic tending to the survivors.

“Well, look who’s here folks…it’s Susie Q.”

“Susan Quinones. Is it all right if I talk to someone? Ask a few questions?”

“Go for it. These guys were the lucky ones.”

She saw the bus lying on its side.

“Can anyone tell me what happened?” She asked the group.

A little boy jumped up, “It was a bee!”

“What?” Susan asked, “ a bee? What was a bee?”

“ A bee was flying around, and it landed on the bus man’s face, and crawled under his mask….”

“His mask? He was wearing a mask?”

“We all were!” said the boy. “You know, because of the virus.”

“The virus,” she whispered. “The virus.”

She spent a few more minutes asking details from the others, then walked past Adam as he turned the camera off.

“Turn it back on, Adam, we need to film the tease.”

“You want the bus in the background?”

“No, the town. Get the town in the background.”

“You sure, Susie Q?”

“Susan. Yes. I’m sure.”

“Okay. In three, two, one…”

“A town completely untouched by the pandemic through the entire lockdown, suffers twenty two COVID 19 related deaths in one day, just three days after the lockdown ends. Details at six. This is Susan Quinones, KRTV Evening News.”

Adam’s mouth was open, stunned, as he turned off the camera.

“That’ll bring the eyes. I’ll fix it at six. CNN, here I come.”

As she walked past Adam, he began to sing, “Oh Susie Q, Oh Susie Q….”

She stopped. “Why do you…wait…Is that a song? Is that a real song?”

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NEW IMPORTANT FACTS

Well, this has been an eye opening weekend.

I finally am starting to understand how this virus works.

Sneezing: thousands of droplets being shot into the air, virus missiles, remaining in the air for hours, or long minutes.

Singing: droplets catapulting virus on the melodic strains.

Talking: hundreds of virus carrying droplets hanging on every word.

Loud talking(Randy, use your inside voice): even more droplets, holding their ears, still hanging onto every word.

So, here are the rules.
Mask your face so no one can see you smile. They will think you are as scared as they are.

Whisper so that any virus that does squeeze through the openings in the mask at least won’t have that water slide “wheeee”.

If you go to church and keep the distance rule, DO NOT SING OUT LOUD, DO NOT SHOUT FOR JOY TO THE LORD, DO NOT PRAISE HIM WITH UPLIFTED VOICE, AND MAKE SURE THE PREACHER SPEAKS IN A QUIET WHISPER!
WEAR A MASK AND DO NOT TOUCH!
AND IF YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE TO SING, well, humming may be okay…quietly, mouth closed.
And silent prayer will be okay.
But, don’t ask, and don’t touch.

“He who strives to save his life will lose it. He who loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16: 25

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HOW PERFECT DO I NEED TO BE?

“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:48‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This has always been one of those scriptures that I wanted to believe…but I kept getting in the way with all my imperfections.

My brother, Jeff, brought it up the other day, and it felt like inspiration to me…you know, one of those things that can happen in a day, and I say, “I’ve got to write about this.”

Jeff told me that when Jesus told Peter, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me. Three times!”

Jesus could have said, “Hey, Peter, this is gonna be a tough day for you. You’re gonna have to be really strong and remember everything I’ve told you, and, no matter what, DO NOT DENY ME!”

Peter, of all the disciples, would have tried really hard to do good, to be the best of all the disciples, the bravest, the strongest.

But Jesus just told him what would happen,
No judgment.
No advice.
Just the facts.
And it happened just the way he said.

Peter crashed and burned.

Jesus died.

Three days later…well you know that part.

But, Peter, knowing how he had really messed up, went back to fishing.
He figured that was something he could do right.

Jesus didn’t have to tell him anything.
“He just asked him, “Peter, do you love me?”
Three times.
He told him that he was still useful, he still had something to do.
Something big.

Jesus was being perfect, as was his Father, showing love to one who felt unworthy of love. A perfect, complete, forgiving, unselfish kind of love that mankind, to this point, hadn’t comprehended.

And he had said, sometime earlier that they (and we) were to be this same way.

Now, it sounded at the time like we would have to try, really buckle down and try to be perfect.

But it wasn’t that.

Being perfect meant being complete. Having everything you need to be what he tells you to be.

It’s all a part of the Gift.
You must be born again, receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, accept the very Life into yourself that Jesus carried with him.

Being perfect is not something you can do.
It’s who you are.

If you have been made new.

After Peter was born the second time (see Acts 2) he changed.
A lot.

He even wrote a letter later on telling other believers (those that had received this new life) that they already had EVERYTHING they needed to become “partakers of the divine nature.”

Being perfect means loving Jesus. Loving Jesus means trusting him and his providence no matter what the circumstances are.

But, here’s the thing, you can’t even do that unless you receive the gift that is offered to you.
A free gift.
A gift that gives you the presence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

And then, you can find out how to be perfect, as the Heavenly Father is perfect.

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