From the Bottom of the Pile

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”  She turned to Him and cried out, “Teacher”  John 20:16

When I was a boy we played a lot of sandlot ball and no matter what the sport we always started the same way; we let two guys choose sides. Once we had decided who had first choice the rest was always the same, the best players were picked first and then when we were down to the last two or three someone would say, “You over there and you over there.”  They had to know that no one expected anything from them, in fact it didn’t really matter if they played or not. I suppose you would call it being bottom of the pile, last choice, and really not wanted. I think Mary must have been a nobody, at least until she met Jesus. When she first met Him and worshiped him the others wanted her out of the room, run off, she was nobody. True she probably had a bad reputation, maybe she was everything people have said she was, and she was at the bottom of the pile. But that first Easter at the tomb of Jesus He called her name. He knew her, she was important to Him. Maybe you have never been at the bottom of the pile, I have and I know what it is like to have Him call my name.  Just think when Jesus spoke to her, when Jesus called her name it was like darkness had turned to light, the sand became water, and despair became hope. Listen He is calling your name.

Published in: on March 28, 2013 at 12:04 am  Leave a Comment  

Marys Tears

Across the street from our home on Lindsey Street and about four houses north there was a large vacant lot in the shape of an L which opened onto Lexington Street where there was a nicer than average home. The couple who lived in the house had a maid and her son who lived with them.  The maid did all kinds of work including taking care of the ten or twelve goats that lived in the vacant lot. Since that was all that the kids saw her do we called her the goat lady we meant no harm, we just didnt know how to be correct. I always thought the family she lived with took advantage of her and worked her much too hard. I asked my mother why she lived like she did and why she had to work with the goats and live with those people.  Mother told me that she was not married when her son was born and her family threw her out of her home and these were the only people who would give her a place to live. Now times have changed and we look with a different view on such matters but can you imagine how much Mary must have suffered to be found with child before she and Joseph were married. Just think of the talk in her circle.  Even family and close friend would not believe a story like Virgin birth. She must have spent a lot of weeping nights after hearing what people were saying about she and Joseph. I think we sometimes forget that it often costs to serve our Lord.  It is not just a free ride. Salvation is free by His purchase, but our lives should be different than the worlds and that has a price.

Published in: on March 27, 2013 at 12:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Friendship

A friend loves at all times. Proverbs 17:17

He heard the Foreman read the verdict, guilty. He walked over to the guilty man put his arms around him and with a great hug said, “I still love you, my friend.”  Carlton parked at the curb, checked in the mirror to see how his face looked then got out of the car and went into his home.  His wife met him at the door and asked, What happened? Guilty, he said, guilty on all charges. She hugged him and mixed her tears with his. She knew that he had known Steven for all of their 35 years and she knew that this was heartbreaking for him. Quietly she asked, What now? His response had been soft, I guess I will be going to the prison for a lot of visits over the next thirty years. Carlton did visit the prison, no less than once a month and sometimes more for the next twenty plus years.  When he learned that Steven was dying of cancer and being released to spend his final days outside of prison he brought him to his home and over the next five months took care of him like he was a baby. She watched her husband stand at Stevens grave, one of less than nine people there, he was the last to turn and walk back to the car. Sometimes friendship runs very deep and through great valleys of darkness. But true friendship still runs.

Published in: on March 26, 2013 at 12:05 am  Comments (1)  

Who Failed Leadership 101?

Do you sometimes wonder what happened to leadership? Where did the men and women who understood the importance of moving in the right direction go? What happened to the person who could take a stand that we did not agree with and still at the end of the conversation we would remain friends. When did leadership demand dictatorship?

I remember when I was young and we would go out to the sandlot and get up a ball game that even when we disagreed with something the other person proposed we reached a compromise and we played the game. Today’s leadership has stopped building friends on all sides of the choices, we have determined to be right even if it means leaving the sandlot silent with no shouts of young voices having a great time. I believe it is time to listen, hear the hearts of others, share out own concerns with love, conviction, and reason.

I understand that there are times when we draw a line in the sand, but not over ever issue, not every wish has to be filled and not all the wants have to be put in my bag.

Maybe it is time for our leaders to go to a ball game together, eat a ‘Big Mac’, take their  families to Washington and let the wives help build a family of Americans. Maybe a few afternoon of sandlot ball with equal parts of both parties being on the teams would help us realize that we are still one Nation, one People, with the greatest ability in all the world and we are just about ready to throw it all away because of our selfish attitudes.

I know that there is a group of men in both houses of both parties that meet each week for prayer, let it be our prayer that their numbers will grow and their tribe increase. Turn off the 24 Seven news and spend some time praying for our leaders to pass Leadership 101.

Ivan

Published in: on March 25, 2013 at 12:12 am  Comments (1)  

Don’t Waste It

My Commanding Officer, a Navy Captain, knowing that I was pastoring a civilian church, ask me if I would go by the Navy Hospital and visit with a long time friend of his, a retired Chief Corpsman. Of course I was honored and went at my first opportunity. It was then that I learned that the Chief had been retired since 1946 and had known our Commanding Officer through a family relationship. I also learned on that visit that the Chief had only a few weeks to live his body finally giving up to the disease and treatment of his journey on the Bataan March and three years in a Japanese prison camp. You will remember that more than 5,000 Americans died in that ordeal and those Japanese officers held responsible were found guilty of war crimes and executed after the war. He talked very little of that time, he said the horror of that event had left him and his memory too marked to dig into that long ago nightmare. Instead he talked of his grandchildren and children, his years spent in the South Carolina low country, fishing, playing golf when his body would let him and visiting old friends who like him had retired in the Beaufort area. I was too young, too inexperienced, and to sheltered in my life to appreciate all that he shared with me, but I was wise enough to understand that I received far more from the visits from him than he received from me. On our last visit he said as he always did, ‘Son don’t waste your time.’ But this time he said it with tears and a shake in his voice, this time it came almost as an order.  He was right you know, the time is too short for us to waste, to precious, to irreplaceable, we must not waste this time. Spend it, every moment, spend it all.

Ivan

Published in: on March 18, 2013 at 11:20 pm  Comments (1)  

Happy Birthday Vann

Today, Thursday March 14, is my son Vann’s birthday. I not only wish him a ‘Happy Birthday’ but I also thank my Lord for giving him to me.

Vann is a great son, father, and husband. His loyalty is to our Lord, his family, and his family in Christ.  If God had given me the money and told me to purchase a son, if I had any intelligence at all I would have chosen Vann. He is all and more than a father could expect. I can still remember the Wednesday night that he entered this world; it was an eventful night not only for his mother and me, but also for our country and his wonderful family.

Thanks Vann for the ten years you served your country, thanks for the faithfulness you have to the Lord and your family, and thanks for the privilege that I have to call you my name sake and son.

Dad

Published in: on March 13, 2013 at 11:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

Something Left

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven . . .  for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21 A very wealthy man in our small county of Jasper, South Carolina died and everyone was asking the question; “I wonder how much money he left?”  A deacon in my church said, “He left it all.” However, some people seem to leave much beside wealth behind: the private who saved the lives of six of his friends; he left behind an extended family of twelve adults, 32 children and numbers too high for all the others. Ms Johnson, a member of my church in another city left $50.00 a week to be given to our church for as long as the church remains in the service of the King, rather nice way to do it, I went back for a revival and there was her gift the Sunday that I visited, more than twenty years after her death. You can name famous people who have left “Trust” that still give of their vast wealth now generations after they are gone. I read last week that a man left behind a faithful dog that returns each night to the cemetery and has for six years to sleep on his grave. The man in Japan who went to work one morning and died left his dog who remained each evening at the train station to meet the returning train for more than nine years and his homecoming master.

Some have left great universities, discoveries that have benefited millions, and libraries where people still read books long after their deaths.

Most who read this will not have these chest of treasures to leave but we can be sure that those who knew us will remember our joy which we discovered in Jesus, our care for others, our love, kindness, good deeds and faithful to the end living. Not bad, not bad at all to leave such a vast wealth of goodness. What greater gift could you leave than the gift of your love for Jesus. No device can measure it, no telescope can see beyond it, and no power can destroy it, not even death.

Ivan

Published in: on March 11, 2013 at 11:20 pm  Comments (2)  

A Big Chocolate Cake

Judy was one of those ladies that was always involved but never noticed. If there was work to be done at church she was involved in doing it.  Prayers to be prayed, visits to be made, and cakes to cook; Judy was your lady.

Only a few times did anyone ever say anything about her work.  Most of the time it went unannounced and for the most part it seemed to be unnoticed.

In time Judy went to be with the Lord and she was not in her regular place, not doing all of the work, and not baking the cakes.

At the very first social a young nine year old child came running to his mother from the food line and asked her “Where is the big beautiful chocolate cake?”  It was then that everyone remembered; it was Judy who had made those wonderful cakes and now Judy was gone and so were her cakes.  Maybe the preacher did not notice, maybe even some of the ladies, but a teary eyed nine year old boy sure did notice that her work was not there.

Most good people never receive the good things that should be theirs in this world.  But be sure God noticed. He likes Big Chocolate Cakes.

Ivan

Published in: on March 10, 2013 at 10:10 pm  Comments (2)  

I Find It Sad

(I wrote this in July 2010 about six months before my friend Jim Allen went to be with the Lord. You need to know to understand this, that Jim spent his life serving the Lord, sharing the good news, and helping others discover the truth of life. What I wrote was not wisdom, not even helpful to anyone except me; for me it was my repentance to the Lord for the feelings I had about the close of Jim’s life. I should be better than this, but I was not on that July day of 2010 in a Nursing Home in McAllen, Texas.)

I Find It Sad

I find it sad that a man who walked so many miles telling others of Jesus cannot walk by himself to the bathroom.

That he spends his days sometimes wondering where he is and why and then in moments of complete change he remember everything. Sad that so many of those whose lives he touch, whose hearts he change, and who will always be made whole because of him do not know.

I am Sad that he, this faithful servant of the Lord, lives on just $60 dollars a month.  How do you pay for a little insurance to bury you, maybe a phone to call an old friend and a few, very few cokes each month.  Jim always did love cokes. They really can’t do any harm now, I will leave him money for one each day.

I wish I had someone to blame, somewhere to lay the charge and believe that all is ok.

Now I know that I should be better than this, stronger than this, after all I am a Christian and a preacher. But there is no real wisdom there even knowing better it is hard for my heart to feel better.

I remember those moments fifty seven years ago, the prayer, the promise, and now I wish I had done more for my friend.  Better advice, given wisdom, made him prepare for this time, but I did not and time cannot be changed.

I will do my best today and weep for yesterday.

Ivan

Published in: on March 7, 2013 at 11:55 pm  Comments (1)  

Will They Say – “The Nation That Was”

My dad was a young boy when the first car came to Dyersburg, in a couple of years he saw an Airplane land in a farm field just south of town, a few years later he would listen to the radio each night, getting the news about the weather, later our nation spent many hours around the radio listing to President Roosevelt tell us that we were going to be victorious, that we must not let fear bind us and control us. Some years later dad purchased his first TV and when I was a young man he watched men from America walk on the moon. From that first car in Dyersburg to men planting our flag on the Moon, dad saw so many changes, felt so many feelings, saw life change so much and found victory over so many battles. I was thinking yesterday as I drove back to Byrdstown from Nashville, what dad would think about our phone system of today, our computers, and our broken nation. Things have jumped forward in great leaps, but our nation, our nation is in trouble.

I think in most things he would be thrilled, but with his country, the land that he loved, I believe dad would weep, and be fearful once again.

It is time that you and I the average guy take a hard look at what it has cost us to be careless, to stop watching, to allow our values to fall, and our morals to fold. Without a change, not of our wealth, but of our hearts, we are going to face days that will make World War II, the depression, and all the rest of our history, pale before the dark horse that will ride into our midst. Only a return to God can save us now, nothing else has any real value.

Ivan

Published in: on March 6, 2013 at 9:22 pm  Comments (1)