If it doesn't count for Christ, it doesn't count.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Harvester's Christmas, a Troubled Fields vignette

(This post may not mean much to you if you haven't read my novel, "Troubled Fields". Well, it may not mean much to you if you have! But, here is a brief glimpse into Ray Bennett's day a couple of weeks before Christmas this year. This takes place some twenty-eight years after "Troubled Fields". When I started this I had no idea of where it was going. I hope you enjoy catching up just a little bit.)

The Harvester's Christmas, a Troubled Fields vignette, by Dennis Manor

We all have those places. Memories so firmly attached to a piece of real estate that, no matter how much has changed, we see it as it was before we see it as it is. Every day, every few years, or rarely, what was is what we see though it may be long gone . . . a thing of the past. Over the course of his day, sometimes several times a day, Ray Bennett drives past the lot that once housed his dream, the tractor shed from which Bennett Harvesters was to rise and provide for so much more than a living. It was to be a way of life. He always sees the old shed there, a long "L" shaped building, the oldest part held together by wooden pegs. The "new" part was a good forty years old when the fire took it all down. Beyond the old shed he saw the big house that once stood on the hill, imposing itself  on everyone and everything within sight.

The vision always lasted for only a moment to be replaced by reality. The lot, now empty of any structure, opened to the pasture in back. Cows grazed nonchalantly where men once worked to bring a dormant business to life. A place where, some forty years before that, men bet on a horse race that changed ownership of the small lot and set events in motion that would leave four men dead, families split and destroyed, and new hope born of old, violent grudges. All that took place over a good fifty years, but life was now good, for the most part.

Two chimneys, one crumbling, were all that remained of the great house where Carl Sullivan ruled his empire with an iron fist. It was the house where Miss Emily had tried her best to make a home for Laura and Lori. Her own tormented life often getting in the way.

Laura and Lori.  . . . sisters who were as different as their names were alike. Back in the summer of '72, Ray had envisioned a life with Laura. After all, they were having a baby together. They seemed to be in love . . . thought they were. But, that was before the fight with Carl, and fifteen years of prison, and Laura's marriage to Clint. It was before Lori.

Lori. Ray was amazed at the peace she brought to his life. In spite of the turmoil she had known at the hands of her father, Lori was a refuge for Ray.  These past twenty-seven years had not brought the life he had dreamed of and planned for laying on his cot in Parchman Penitentiary. Unexpected things, unplanned events happened, some good some bad. Lori, was the best of these. Looking back now, he would take this unexpected life with Lori over his well planned life in a heart beat. . . . a heart beat. That's Lori.

Ray parked his truck in the drive to the lot and climbed over the gate. Bob ran after him, scooting under the barbed wired fence, bobwire, as it was called. The fence, of course, wasn't named for the dog. The dog wasn't named for the fence. Bob Riley's death had left such a whole in Ray's life that he was compelled to fill it with something. Dogs did a poor job of it, but here he was with his second dog named Bob. Ray could clearly hear Mr Bob say something like, "I knew I was goin' to the dogs when I came to work for you" without cracking so much as a grin. Of all the people he missed, Mr Bob ranked among the top few.

Bob followed Ray to the far corner of the lot and immediately caught on to Ray's intention. They had been working together like this for a good thirteen years. Not as spry as he had once been, Bob could still work cattle. The enthusiasm was still there if not the speed and agility. Of course, Ray had to admit that at sixty-one years old he was not what he once was either. A touch of regret came over him . . . again.

Twenty-eight years. To Ray, that was the entire expanse of his life. Fifteen years in prison, turning nineteen in Parchman Penitentiary, left his childhood and teen years filed away in his mind with things that never happened. And yet events that occurred in his eighteenth summer shaped his life to this day. He returned home on parole at the age of thirty-three. Those first few months, though, tried him in ways his time in prison never could. Less than two months after his parole, less than two months of working his grandfather's old business and beginning the life he had dreamed of since childhood, it all quite literally went up in smoke. And once again Ray's life changed dramatically.

Still, it was a good life. He loved Lori's children as his own. He considered the three of them to be his own, though he had only been able to adopt two. One of the so-called fathers refused to cooperate. It made no sense because he also refused to see his child. Ray was her daddy, though. Neither of them would have it any other way. He and Lori had long regretted that they were never able to adopt Matt and Billie Rose. Matt was all for it, but he wouldn't go if Billie Rose didn't. The story behind that was yet another trial endured by Ray as well as those around him. He hated the fact that his problems always seemed to affect those he loved most. He was not a dangerous man, but danger did cross his path on occasion.

Emmy had long ago settled in to calling him "Pop". She was comfortable with it so he was. They had grown very close, the strain and awkwardness of their relationship having melted slowly over the years following the fire. She bore scars from the fire on her left arm and to a lesser degree near her jawline. She didn't worry so much about covering that one with her hair these days. Like most of them, she kept the emotional scars to herself. But, she was happy now.

Between Emmy, and Susannah, Davey, and Priscilla Marie, Ray and Lori had eleven grandchildren. Billie Rose had a daughter who was as much a grandchild to Ray and Lori as Billie was a daughter.  

In parenting as well as grandparenting, there was no competition between Ray and Clint, the man Emmy thought was her father for the first fifteen years of her life. Clint never fully recovered from his involvement in the fire. He was a broken man, but that's what Carl Sullivan did for most of his life . . . he broke people. The lives wrecked and ruined in his attempt to break Ray often weighed on Ray. Maybe he should have just bent to Carl's will, signed over the lot and left Winstead County. Would things have been so bad for everyone else involved?

One thing Ray knew,  he couldn't have made it through any of his trials alone. Sure he had Lori and his family. He had Mr Bob, Thomas, and Matt. He had Emmy. He had his "new" friend of twenty seven years, Glen Melton, an old competitor in the harvesting business. He had acquired the title of Harvester when he took on his grandfather's business. But, it took something much bigger than all of these people he loved so to carry him along and give him reason for another shove at life. The older he grew, the more he understood that all of his hopes were wrapped up in one great Hope. And this Hope is a sure thing, steady, confident, and ever present.

And so it was that Ray honored that Hope in a special way each year. He had never seen fit to rebuild on this lot. He just couldn't bring himself to do it. To most who passed by it was only a patch of dirt and grass. To Ray it had been the land of his hope. Once a year it became a simple reminder of what had gone before. . . . as recently as twenty-eight years before, and as long as a couple thousand years before.

Having cleared the lot of cattle, Ray took the lumber from his truck and went to work. It didn't take long; he had been doing this for well over two decades. It was cold all around him, but he quickly warmed as he moved about intentionally. When he finished, "Come on!" brought Bob trotting back from his visit with the cows. Backing out of the lot with Bob in the seat beside him, Ray took another look at his handiwork. Where the north end of the tractor shed had stood, where the oldest part was and where it had all begun now stood a ramshackle stable with a manger visible in the center of it. On the south end, where the "newer" part of the shed had stood, where work on this great dream had been completed, stood a cross.

The stable and the manger as well as the cross were constructed of wood that Ray long ago salvaged from the ruins of the tractor shed. Though it was charred in places and weathered from many decades of service, Ray figured that old wood now served a greater purpose than it ever did back when it protected farm equipment and implements from the elements. Spotlights he rigged on the power pole would separately illuminate the stable and the cross once the darkness of night set in.

Ray was often asked about the display. It was kind of like farming. Sometimes he planted the seed. Sometimes he cultivated. And sometimes he got to be in on the harvest. 'Like a Harvester', he thought to himself. People liked the structure and the light. They didn't understand why it was all empty. "It would really be neat if you had some shepherds and some wise men", folk's would say. And this gave Ray his opportunity to tell the story.

He would first tell of the land, what was once there and the hope and dreams it held for generations even before his own. Then he would say that he wanted it now to speak of a different hope. He told of the baby, the Savior, that had slept in the manger, but who was there no more. He had grown up and walked this earth as a man and had set in motion a plan for eternity. He told of the cross, where the Savior's work on earth was finished; His finished work to be brought into and carried and lived in the hearts of mankind. He told of how Jesus lives beyond the cross. "That covers the light on the stable and the light on the cross," they would invariably say, "but, what about that light that shines on the empty spot further down from the cross? I understand that Jesus is not in the manger and He's not on the cross, but shouldn't he be there beyond the cross like you said?"

Ray would grin. "Well, the manger and the cross are symbols of places where Jesus has been. The other spot is a little different. You're right. It's where Jesus should be. It's a symbol of the ultimate reason for the stable and the cross. The question is, are you standing in that light?"    

Ray reached over and scratched Bob behind the ear as he drove away. They would be back with nightfall, as would his family and other volunteers from the church. They all respected his wish to do the construction work alone. Over the years, the display had become an attraction of sorts. Mary, aging now but not frail, served coffee and hot chocolate from Ray's ancient camper while Christmas carols played on a cd player.  People would come from miles around, from farther away than Jackson even! The story of what had happened here was something of a legend and that contributed to the draw. They would stop and walk from the manger to the cross. Someone would be with them telling the story. Children ran to bask in the third light, some understanding, some not quite, but that was alright. Adults would at first stop short of the brightly illuminated circle on the cold brown earth.  Some who came year after year, this being a tradition for them now, would walk reverently, thoughtfully into the light. They would stand there for a moment looking skyward. There were those who would raise their hands joyfully.

Occasionally, one of the volunteers would ring the bell that had been moved into place for just this purpose. The crowd would instinctively hush. Mary would silence the cd. "Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, brother and sisters," the volunteer would shout. They would say the name of the person standing beside them, who was often in tears or grinning ear to ear, and continue ". . . is now walking in the light of the Lord!"

Ray knew angels in Heaven were rejoicing over this new soul saved through faith in Jesus by the grace of God, but he thought it would be a bit cheesy to strike up "The Hallelujah Chorus" on the cd player about now. Besides, though some in attendance were bewildered by the celebration, claps and cheers and hugs among the jubilant believers in attendance marked the occasion quite well. And more opportunities to explain what this was all about naturally arose as new believers took their first steps, literally and figuratively, in the light.

This went on for two weeks before Christmas. Always, before and after, Ray's brief memories of all that had once brought hope and sorrow to this small piece of ground, lives that had been changed by greed and hate and vengeance, were replaced by nothing less than visitations of hope and joy and lives changed by the power and love of Jesus that now took place on this land.

When Ray was thirty-three years old he thought nothing would satisfy him more than working his own business from his own place, this place. That was his idea of thinking big. Now at sixty-one, he was amazed at his own small mindedness. He had been told, even in prison, that God could do greater things through him than he could ever imagine. And now from a place where hope, and dreams, and even lives, had been lost, God was bringing new hope, new dreams, and new life. It wasn't Ray's place anymore. And it was not his own interest that he pursued. He realized that he had so little to do with what went on here. And from that came far greater peace and satisfaction than Ray could ever have hoped to find anywhere in his own dreams. Oh, he still loved the work he did. It was the new purpose in it all that had replaced his dream with the one God gave him.           

Making it a point to greet every person that walked onto the property, Ray offered each one a heartfelt "Merry Christmas" and often found himself speaking words of encouragement that could only have been for the man or woman, or couple, or child that he was facing. And as he turned to greet yet another, he would glance toward the stars and whisper a quiet "Thank you, Lord".

Merry Christmas

PS You might like this song:

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Maybe Next Year, the vignette and the Poem

Time was, there were two days each year that were always good just because.  The season was great, but nothing bad could penetrate the inherent goodness, the sheer magic of these two days.  It was as if the days themselves were protected from even the faintest shadow of darkness or discouragement.  And it was all just because.

Just because it was Christmas Eve, the day was defined by near unbearable anticipation of what Christmas Day itself would bring.  There was that tangible feeling, the smells and sounds of the day.  Christmas Eve   . . . Everything came together on that day to create an atmosphere thick with excitement.  He didn't walk through Christmas Eve, he swam in it.  Christmas  Eve . . . it was the exciting day.

It was fun just because it was Christmas Day.  This is when it all happened.  And it all always happened.  It began by waking early from a sleep that was near impossible to find in the first place, followed by hurriedly dressing in the cold room.  The little space heater had not yet done its work, but there was no complaining about the temperature this morning, no hiding beneath the covers until the room was warm today!  Then, the kids waited for Mama and Daddy to open the hall door which resulted in a stampede to the living room and a mass dive under the far-reaching branches of the Christmas Tree.

Time seemed to move slowly amid  the "look what I got"'s, the "How does this work"'s, and the "Daddy, can you put this together?"'s.  After the socks they used for stockings were emptied to see what all Santa Claus had stuffed in there it was time to open the presents from each to all.  Ribbon, paper, and bows, flew in all directions!  There was no order to the event and it was over and done well within five minutes.

Next came the visits.  Up the road to visit aunts and uncles and cousins.  A little further up the road to visit the grandparents. It was a grand time . . . a favorite part of the day.  Even outdoors the day had a certain feel to it.  It was the way Christmas "seems".  And all just because it was Christmas.  It was only natural that they had to head back down the road to get home.  After all, the same people they had just visited were now due to visit them!  More hugs and jokes and "my, my, look at that"'s.  Lots of laughter.  And, just in time, everyone went home because it was a little past noon and Christmas Dinner had to be served.  Then came all the food and deserts that you eat just because it's Christmas.

After a "quiet" afternoon playing, a meal of cherished leftovers, and maybe another family get-together, the day he didn't want to end ended.  That was the fun day, and that's the way it always happened.

Years passed. Christmas changed.  Well, the way he celebrated changed.  He wonders if he should have held tighter to that magic during his teen years.  Maybe that's when he lost it.  He always wanted it to be the same, but, it changed and it never went back.  Now, decades later, he longs for the Christmas he knew as a child.  The coming of Christmas still arouses that child within him. He wants his family to know Christmas as he knew it.  Everything that used to be just because it was Christmas is no longer just because. It doesn't just happen.  He seeks it, and if he doesn't find it he makes it, he forces it.  All because it should be.  It should "just be".  And he feels like such a phony.

Christmas, which once brought such excitement and anticipation just because it was Christmas, now serves as an annual reminder of just what a failure he is.  Oh, he gets little notices all through the year, but Christmas really brings it home. 

He will readily admit that his failings are largely material.  Money is always tight. Always.  But, for a man who wants to do so much and yet can do so little for his family throughout the year, Christmas, with all of its grace and goodness, continues to taunt him with his own deficiencies.  Every year, he finds himself saying, "Maybe next year".  He embarrasses himself repeating it yet again.  It has become a joke.  He laughs when he says it.  . . . he hurts when he says it.

He doesn't really care about getting anything.  It's the radiant joy on the face of the giver that blesses him. To receive from someone who enjoys giving is a gift in itself.  It's not what he receives that matters nearly so much as how it is given.  He is never disappointed in the gifts he receives.  A book, a cd, a dvd, a pair of bedroom shoes offered with the joy of giving means just as much as a wide screen tv, a high performance sound system, or a whole new suit of clothes.

He can't seem to reconcile himself to that on the giving end though.  He has never been able to give "the nicer things in life" to those he loves.  "Maybe next year I can buy the real jewelry", he tells himself.  "Maybe next year I can buy the nice clothes and send my wife out looking like a million dollars!"  When the kids were little, it was the nicer toys, the things little children really wanted that eluded him. "Maybe next year," he said until enough next years had passed that they had outgrown toys.  Then it became the clothes, the shoes, the cd players, . . .  all the stuff that made for a teenager's "in" lifestyle.  "Maybe next year" until they were grown and gone and it still hasn't changed.  Every year . . . every "next year" seemed to stamp "failure" on his passport from one year to the next.      

The thing is, no one else shares his disappointment.  It's mostly internal.  He loves them all too much to let the outside know what is really going on inside.  If any of them knew the burden of the load he carries, the totality of their disappointment would be for him, not in him.  They love him very much. He knows this. And they love how he "keeps Christmas".  Disappointment in himself takes a back seat to the joy of the season. If he can't give the gifts, he can give the experience.  He can keep Christmas, and they can keep it with him.  And it is in this love, the love they share, that he continues to make the most of each Christmas that passes.  It's how he keeps Christmas.

It's about the love anyway.  The love of God who gave His Son.  The love of the Son who gave Himself.  The love that comes with knowing the Son. Love that wants to give and then give more.  Love that doesn't care what or how much or if it gets. Love that is its own best gift.

It's here that he ultimately finds himself . . . every year. Loving . . . loved.  . . . and keeping the Day . . . just because it's Christmas.  Because that's the way it should be, and that's the way it has always been, and that's the way it is.  After all . . . there's always next year! 

the end 

Maybe Next Year
by Dennis Manor, 12/91

Christmas time is coming soon.
It's my favorite time of year.
But, there's no joy, no celebration, 
no Christmas cheer around here.
Things got hard. And they just get harder.
And there's no end in sight.
There's not much to look forward to
on Christmas Eve tonight.

The little ones are snug in bed.
They'll find it hard to sleep.
While me and Mama on opposite sides
just find it hard to speak.
We're not mad. We're not out of love.
We just don't know what to say.
We never thought we'd be spending
Christmas Eve this way.

But maybe next year things'll be better'
We'll be alright, you'll see.
There'll be places to go,
maybe some snow,
and there'll be presents there under that tree.
Maybe next year I'll be workin'
and we'll be doin' fine.
Then we'll have a real good Christmas time.

Yes, I know, there's so much more to the Day
than toys, and turkey, and gifts.
It's all for the Son of God who was born
to die so that we might live.
But, just like our father who reigns above
a man wants to do for the ones he loves.

So maybe next year things'll be better.
We'll be alright. You'll see.
There'll be places to go, maybe some snow,
and there will be presents there under that tree.
Maybe next year I'll be workin'
and we'll be doin' just fine.
Then we'll have a real good Christmas time.
Then we'll have a real good Christmas time.

So . . . until then
let's have a real good Christmas time.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Golden Horses in Black and White

For Thanksgiving, I thought I would bring back this post from 4 years ago. (And, yes, I'm still in the gaudy Christmas blog color scheme mode) We are entering a season of many things to many people. For all, it is a season of memories. For some, wonderful and pleasing, for some, times better forgotten, but unforgettable and impossible to avoid.

This year our anniversary, our 39th, falls on the day after Thanksgiving. If we had thought about how much trouble it would be to celebrate with a night out for dinner and a movie on Black Friday, we might have planned our nuptials for another day.

Every year I search YouTube in hopes that I can find a video of Captain Kangaroo's Thanksgiving show closing. I suppose it doesn't exist. He did what would not be done in this day and time. The show ended with the Captain, Mr Greenjeans, Bunny Rabbit, Dancing Bear, Mr Moose, and whomever happened to visit the Treasure House that day sitting down to a table set for a fine Thanksgiving meal. They all bowed their heads and prayed while a recording of "We Gather Together", sung by Perry Como, I think, played until the picture faded away and the parade started. Again, I'm sorry I can't find a video of that. I did add, though, Perry Como singing the song at the bottom of this post. You might like that blast from the past.  

So, here is my Thanksgiving post as it was originally and amended.:

I wrote this post a couple of years ago. As of today Sharon and I have been married for 37 years, instead of 35 when this was first written. Also, as I am writing this, it's pretty cold out, which really helps bring back those days when we sat on the floor, which was pretty cold itself, and watched Palominos parade through the crowd in front of Macy's. We didn't see them in color, but they were pretty just the same.


This is a big weekend.  Always has been, but the older I get  the bigger it gets.  I've never really thought about it in this way, but Thanksgiving is my 2nd favorite holiday.

I remember Thanksgiving as being a much colder day back when I was growing up.  Our grandparents lived just up the road, so every Thanksgiving dinner was eaten either at their house or ours. Most of them were at our house.  We didn't have hot water, except for what could be heated on the stove, but we did have a bathroom inside the house.  I didn't mind the out house, but a cold breeze made for a particularly chilly experience.  I even remember my first asparagus casserole.  It became an instant favorite of mine, but I have had none in years.  Before dinner, which is the meal you eat at noon, not the one you eat at night, as I constantly try to re-enlighten my sophisticated city-grown daughters, we would sit on the floor and watch the parades on our black and white tv.  The floats were good, but I eagerly awaited the arrival of the horses on the scene.  Horses were all around us as we were growing up, but they still were my favorite part of the parade.  Those palominos decked out in their finest tack were something to see even if it was in black and white. Still are, 'cept now there's color.

Thanksgiving has changed a lot. It is warmer than it used to seem. Nobody makes asparagus casserole anymore.  We still have Thanksgiving dinner at my Mama's house.  The bathroom is warm and now there is always hot running water.  My grandparents are long gone.  Pop, my daddy, has been gone for years now, and we don't get both daughters at home for the weekend.  God continues to give us much to be thankful for throughout the year and the day remains one on which we can emphasize our thankfulness for His mercy and grace and provision.  And I grow more thankful each year for the memories of Thanksgivings past.  I'm aware that a lot of people don't have pleasant, much less great, memories of their Thanksgivings.  I pray for a good one for them this year.

Another reason that this is a big weekend is that Sharon and I will celebrate 35 years of marriage on the 27th!  Our life together has not been one that I would have written, if it could have been scripted.  Of course, as boring as reality seems, my written version would have been far more boring.  I could not make up some of the things we've been through.  But we have been through, and we are going through, and that is the important part.  God reigns, God leads, and God provides.  And I am excited about where He is taking us.  So, to my wife, Sharon, I love you. Hang on! The ride continues!

And, last but not least, on the same day that we celebrate our wedding anniversary, I mark my 4th birthday.  For 53 years, I was dying.  I lived a life that was leading to death, not only physical death, but spiritual death.  As some of you know, I was born and raised in the church, I was active in the church, a deacon, and a men's ministry leader.  There were those who looked up to me and thought that I was something that I was not.  I was a leader of sorts in my church, and anyone who would have followed me and walked the path that I was walking would have followed me into death, Hell, and eternal separation from God.  God has forgiven me for that.  Well . . . that makes one of us.

Along about 12:20 or so the night of November 27, 2007, technically November 28, God sat me down and finally convinced me that I was lost. I'm sure He had been trying to tell me ever since my false assumption of salvation some 44 years earlier. He sure does love me and you!  As I've said before, I experienced the absolute worst and the absolute best moments of my life there within seconds of one another.  To be honest, I had doubted my salvation many times over those years.  I can now honestly and joyfully say that I have not doubted it since that night.

I carry a lot of regret for those lost years.  I wonder how much difference it would have made to those first 31 years of marriage if I had been the man I professed to be, if the Holy Spirit had been leading my family rather than this deceived and lost man.  I think about that from time to time, but I cannot dwell on it.  To do so would not honor what Jesus has done for me and what he is doing in me now.  So, I am indescribably thankful for the great gift of salvation and the life that goes with it.  I was born on that night because that is when Jesus gave me life eternal!  I don't have to worry about dying.  Thanks to Jesus, I'm gonna live forever now!

We all have a past. And, if you are reading this, you have a future.  We can't do anything about our past, but our future, our very next moment, is a different story. You have a moment coming up. What are you going to do with it?

Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!
         For His mercy endures forever.  Psalm 107:1

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thankfully connected,

Here's a pretty song you might  not have heard before.  I heard it for the first time today myself.

Monday, November 09, 2015

So, does this mean I can't take red Solo cups to the Christmas party?

I thought I would apply a gaudy Christmasy look to my blog for the season. It's not so much that I hope you like it, I just hope you can tolerate it for a couple of months.

So Starbucks doesn't have decent Christmas cups this year. Well . . . I don't think they call them Christmas cups anyway. And some folks are in an uproar. If I owned a coffee shop and I thought all this cup stuff mattered I would put a banner out front and do as much marketing as I could on the theme "Christmas Coffee in Christmas Cups" - something like that anyway. And you know what I'd be doing? I'd be doing my best to sell as much coffee and expand my customer base over the next 2 months as I could. That is what I should do as a merchant, but that is ALL I would be doing . . . selling coffee . . . because Christmas customers want Christmas marketing during Christmas.

Of course Christians want to keep Christ in Christmas! Christ is what Christmas is all about. And, yes, I kind of resent it when every retailer around here wants me to do my Christmas shopping with them but they won't do me the courtesy of allowing their employees to greet me or reply to my "Merry Christmas" with a "Merry Christmas" of their own. Instead of allowing them to say it, they force them not to say it.

BUT, that resentment should not translate into a resentment that everyone I come into contact with is not a Christian. I wish they were. God would be so happy and pleased if they were. But they're not. And I'm not assuming that everyone who doesn't shout "Merry Christmas" and put my coffee in an "appropriate-for-the-season" cup is not one of my brothers or sisters.

But, for those who aren't, how are they to become Christian?

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast." Ephesians 2:8-9

And how is this to happen?

"But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” Romans 10:14-15

Christmas Time, this season, is a happy joyful time for many. We look forward to it and anticipate all that comes with it. It also is a hard, sad, tearful, hurtful time for many. They dread it. 

So what do we do? "We" being Christians? Do we act mad and resentful because not everyone celebrates Christmas the way we do? We celebrate the way we do because of what we  have. How are "they" going to celebrate something that they don't have? Do we act ugly because someone hands us a red and green non-snowflaked cup? (the nerve!!!) Do we scowl at the lady checking us out who would so much more enjoy the season if she weren't afraid that she would lose her job for saying "Merry Christmas"? I'm sure as many miss saying it as we do hearing it.

As Christians we are to spread the joy of Christ, not anger and resentment over those who are where we were! All of us out there buying and selling all that stuff no one really needs need the same thing. Don't bow up at people who don't share what they don't have. It's "them" who should bow up at "us" for not sharing what we do have! (Can you imagine how mad they would be if they knew what we didn't tell them?)

So it chaps your hide. It does mine. Take care of that in private, get over it, and get out and show people what Christ is all about in your life. Don't show your mad face. (I found out yesterday, in a restaurant, that I have a "I'm-ready-to-go" face.) Let Christ, who is in your heart, show on your face, and in your words and actions. Love everybody. If you can't do that you might need someone to be doing more for you than wishing you a Merry Christmas!

So . . . Merry Christmas!!!   And you have to watch the video. I can't believe I found this today of all days!!


Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow . . . that can be a good thing!

All healing is from God. There is medicine, which He has given us. There are doctors and nurses gifted by God to find, learn, think, and perform treatments and procedures that repair and/or heal. There is technology developed, changed, and improved over time that is used by those whom God has gifted with medical knowledge and abilities. There is God's miraculous healing, which we somehow see as more of a miracle than His use of men and women in the healing process, which, when you think about it, is quite miraculous in a very obvious way.

Do that. Think about that. How often does God's glory take a back seat to mankind's "ability" when it comes to matters of our life here no matter how important or insignificant they may be?

I have experienced this very thing over the past two days. A God-gifted person using God given technology told me yesterday afternoon that a serious issue was taking place in my one "good" eye. The "fix" was fairly easy, somewhat routine, but had to take place right away. So, an appointment was made with a retina specialist to zap me with a laser this morning and repair the tear that she saw in my eye.

This morning Sharon and I show up just a few minutes early to the specialist, the same one who had operated on my other eye three times for three torn retinas some twenty years ago. Due to some other complications, that eye has been no good to me in all these years. I've learned to live with it, but we've been praying for a healing.

Well, the SAME technology that was used by another doctor to find the tear in the first place was used by this doctor to find no such problem in my eye. The tear that was there yesterday was gone today! There is evidence of something else that happened, but no tear. And what did happen is pretty normal for someone my age with the eyes that I have. But, there was no tear! . . . Did I say that there was no tear?

I had not put this information out in a big way last night, but I did ask some people to pray about this. You can draw whatever conclusions you want. I even went to the notion of a misdiagnosis yesterday. Makes sense, doesn't it? But, if I am so ready to explain away the way God obviously worked in this, why would I have even asked for prayer in the first place? The logical answer here is misdiagnosis, but that takes some explaining. It calls for a conclusion that what one doctor said was there actually wasn't there. But, one doctor doesn't send you to another doctor for laser treatment on a whim, or a good guess. They do that on evidence.

The easy answer is that I experienced a healing directly from God. All of the evidence in this situation says that this is exactly what happened.

So why, again, would I want to explain away God's miraculously obvious touch on my life in this way? Well . . . I don't. I've had a miracle healing! And it's not yea for me. It's YEA FOR GOD!

Everything he brings or allows into our lives is for His glory, His purpose, and our perfection, which is for His glory.

The condition of my eye leaves it susceptible to tears and other problems. It could happen at any time. God could keep it from happening. I hope He does. But, whatever he does I hope I can allow His will to be done in a way that His glory shines.

Also, about my "bad" eye. My retina specialist thinks he can give me enough vision in that eye to help with balance and equilibrium and such. He's making no promises, but there is hope. Is this what all that was really about? Prayers to be answered soon? . . . Yep. One way or the other, and that to His glory.

If we are going to pray, and ask for prayer, we have to be ready for God to act and to recognize what He has done. It won't always happen the way it happened to me in this instance, but He will always answer a prayer of faith. And whether or not this was the kind of miracle I believe it was or not, last night I went to bed thinking about a problem developing in my eye and whether this was the start of something that might eventually lead to a loss of sight. Tonight I'm praising God that I'm OK for now and that, whatever He sends m way in the future, He loves me . He loves you, too.

I've been wanting a deeper prayer life. He has certainly taken me to another level over the past nineteen or twenty hours.

We may not always recogize them. They are not always obvious. God IS still in the miracle business!



Thursday, October 01, 2015

If I Knew That He Knew What I Knew He Knew . . .

If you were in my Sunday School class the other day . . .

BTW, I don't like calling it "my class". I wish we had a name for it so it can be referred to as "the so-and-so class". I'm just not comfortable with "Dennis Manor's class" or "my" class, but they usually are referred to by the teacher's name so I'll go with it for simplicity's sake.

After preparing for the "lesson" (another term that I don't particularly like, but I won't go into that right now) over a 6 day period, I was hit with something that caught me as rather profound. If you were in the class you know that this happened at 1:45 Sunday morning. When I brought it up it came out as something more confounded than profound. I struggled to even pose the question. So, here it is, hopefully, presented in a way that will make some sense.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me  just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep." John 10:14-15

When Jesus talks here about knowing His sheep, He speaks of a deep, intimate knowledge. He knows everything about us. He knows us better than we know ourselves and better than anyone who knows us can know us. The term "better" here doesn't even apply. "Better" indicates that there may be even more to know. Simply and absolutely stated, just as "I Am That I Am" applies to God, "I know" applies to Jesus' statement here.

Some of us take our limitless God and we place Him within the limited thinking of our minds and we interact with Him on that limited basis. He wants to give us so much more of Himself than our own thinking allows. Approaching Him with something as if it is news to Him, I think, limits our expectations of Him. 

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us," (Ephesians 3:20) calls for us to open our minds to a God who is greater than our minds can possibly conceive, rather than to try to bring Him down to an understandable dimension. 

At 1:45 in the morning, it came to me. As many times as I have acknowledged God's total knowledge of me, my life, my past, present, and future, my wants and needs, my dreams, my hurts . . . everything about me, I approach Him in prayer as if I'm informing Him of these things. The worse the problem or the hurt, the greater my own lack of knowledge or understanding, the more "informative" I am.  I don't know about you but, in a one-on-one or small group conversation, I don't like to be told something I already know as if I didn't know. This doesn't apply in teaching situations, only conversation. I'm not implying that God is like me in this, but why do we approach our all-knowing God as if He doesn't know?

My question to the class was something like, "Would it affect our prayer life if we approached God in the assurance that He already knows? He simply and completely knows." I'm not sure that my question as stated was even that coherent.

It reminds me of Job in a way. Job knew of God's greatness and he was faithful and true to God in his trial. AND he still had much to learn about God. God's knowledge is unlimited. His power is immeasurable. Nothing surprises Him. He knows what He is doing and He has a plan. He tells us to bring all of our cares and concerns to Him . . . everything. But, this is not so we can tell Him all about it so He can then figure out what to do. It's so we can acknowledge Him in all things. It opens us up to seeking Him in the midst of our trials and troubles as well as our thanks and praises great and small.

We go to God because He knows. We should remember that when we talk to Him about what's going on. He is more than just a sounding board or a shoulder to cry on. Approaching Him as the ONE who knows, who simply and completely knows, should place us in a much better posture to receive the peace that we crave.

"The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philipians 4:5b-7

And with that, I realize that I still cannot fully express my thoughts on this. Maybe it's as simple as He knows. Just remember that. You know?


PS:  Maybe I should just go to bed earlier.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Miss Something?

I had a talk with my girls the other night. I just wanted them to know how proud of them I am. And how glad I am that they took their own paths in life. Much of it went something like this: (and I only post this because it might be helpful to someone)

"You missed your calling." I get this a lot. Lots of people do. Sometimes it's just a funny thing to say about a certain situation. Sometimes there is truth behind it. I suppose a lot goes into missing a calling. There's not paying attention, actually missing (not hearing) it. Then there are the things you put before your calling and all the various reasons and excuses you can come up with for living a different life than the one you were intended for. There's that "silly dream" thing. Always, there are those pesky obligations that we put before the obligation to live "the" life. 

I'm not qualified to say, but I would think there is a peace, a certain satisfaction that comes with living out your God given "calling". If that's you, I applaud you. I don't resent you. I admire you.

Me? I didn't "miss"  any calling. I just didn't have it in me to follow it . . . the guts, the brains, the confidence, the trust ... the faith. I daydreamed. I've spent many a lonely, depressed, self-deprecating, kicking myself in the tail kinds of nights. I've also done a lot of brain-storming. I thought "someday" until I realized that someday seems to have come and gone.

There comes a day when everyone of us wakes up . . . actually, it's probably that night, lying in bed staring into the darkness, thinking, and we realize that there are things that will never be, things we will never do that we should have done. Those opportunities and abilities are in our past.

I'm sure everybody has or will have such a list.

I'll tell you what I told my girls:  "Missing your calling, failing to follow the heart God gave you, should never be on that list." I hope it's not now and never shows up on their list.

As I have watched them, I realize that God's path for you is not always smooth and easy. It can be tough. There are times when it seems impossible, or impassible. It's the right path, though.

"Life happens". It does. And we so easily become distracted by those things that we think we can or should try to control. But, when God tells us to seek Him with all our heart, it is only because in Him will we find EVERYTHING we should want and need. Direction. Your career, your spouse, your joy, your ministry, your life ... your dream.

Your life, your time, is in God's hands. As long as you are here, He has something for you to do. If it's left undone, it's not because of Him.

So follow your God-given heart. If you've forgotten that you ever had a dream, much less what it was, ask Him to reveal and renew His dream within you. Encourage everyone you know to do the same. And, if you are like me, with more life (years) behind you than ahead of you, quit looking back at all the things that didn't happen, all the things that are not back there. There is more life ahead than we can possibly know. Do what God says and look forward. Look to Him. He has something for you ... something uniquely for you from Him. Stop looking for unseen things behind you and look forward toward those as yet unseen things ahead of you.

It bears saying again: Following the heart God gave you should never be on your list of things that didn't happen.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015


I was looking for something among my older facebook posts and ran across this. Since I haven't posted a blog in a while I thought I would edit it a little and bring this back by way of CrossConnected.  

It bothers me when I see things spread around like "We wonder why God doesn't stop all these bad things from happening in our schools. How can He stop them? We kicked Him out of our schools." Well intentioned, perhaps, but so wrong. Such attempts to make a point totally miss THE point. This kind of thing denies the sovereignty of God.

God is not absent from our schools, our universities, or even the halls of government. He is absent from the hearts of those who reject Him, and His presence is diminished in the hearts and minds of those who trade devotion and obedience to Him for self-indulgence in whatever form self-indulgence takes. Following one's own desires from overwhelming to mildly amusing to the thoughtless and even bending to the will of another human being no matter how overbearing or persuasive, forceful or compelling they may be are all forms of self-indulgence.

Darkness is the absence of light. Where light does not exist, there is darkness. Evil is the absence of good. Where good does not rule, evil grows. God is good and where the goodness of God does not rule a person’s heart, evil takes hold.

Satan’s work is to kill, steal, and destroy. Jesus came to destroy the work of Satan. The work of each begins in the hearts of mankind. A person is either being destroyed, dying, by what is in their heart, or living by what is in their heart. I'm not talking about pursuing some form of perfection in behavior. That won't happen in this life and that is not what it is about. We don't even know what such would be. Choices of the heart . . . that is where it starts. That is the beginning, or that is the end.

Choices . . . yours and mine.

 "I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."  Ephesians 3:16-19


PS: Here's your video.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Flag Flap

If you are reading this from another country or possibly from a state other than Mississippi, you might not know what this is all about, but it's big in the news and on social media so maybe you are familiar with it. I started this post on facebook, but I don't like to put really long posts there, so I moved it here. There is a new controversy, in the ongoing controversy, over what some mistakenly call the Confederate flag and our own state flag here in Mississippi. I wasn't going to say anything about this, but, well, I couldn't help it. So here it is. I am getting a good bit more political than I like to on this blog. Please forgive me for that.

I've been silent on  the "flag thing", listening to (reading) calm, respectful arguments from both sides as well as extremes on both sides. I understand why some people are against the "rebel flag" and our state flag. Certainly it has been carried and displayed by groups and individuals who intended everything from mild irritation or harassment to bringing great harm to certain segments of our population. Certainly men who supported slavery, and those who didn't care either way, fought under that flag and some such, even, fought under the flags of the Northern Army. So, yes, I understand that it is a symbol of oppression to a lot of people for the way it has been misused.

Aesthetically speaking, I think both the Battle flag and our State flag are beautiful. Symbolically, to me, they are not symbols of oppression, but of a heritage of love of family, state, and country, as in the USA. Yes, The United States. Good, honorable men fought under that flag. Their purpose was not the continuation of slavery nor the oppression of any people, but the defense, preservation, and protection of their homes. That's all most had. Many of the officers of the Confederacy were former soldiers and officers of the United States military. They loved their country. However, they could not participate, nor stand idly by, when their nation was marshaling forces for military action against their home states. I understand as well that all that means different things to different people.

BUT, concerning our present situation, what do you expect to happen if and when the battle flag is vilified and removed from all sight and our state flag is changed? Do you really think racial reconciliation is going to happen over this issue? If that were the case I would be all for it, but that is not the goal of those clamoring for these changes. Oh, that it were!! All of this is just one more coal in the boiler of an evermore powerful locomotive called political correctness that is designed to break the back of our entire nation. It carries a far more sinister purpose than has ever been attributed to these "symbols". That is not to lessen the evil of slavery but to point out the weight of oppression that is driving this agenda.

Maybe a discussion of these flags and the history and feelings behind them needs to take place. Maybe cooler heads need to come together and prevail with understandings gained and agreement reached and whatever happens from that happens.  But, now is not the time. If you bring down the flag now you will be bringing down far more than a symbol, whatever you might think of it.

This is all about a political agenda. Shame on those who are exploiting the tragic deaths of those 9 fine people, our brothers and sisters in Christ, for their own political gain! And praises for those who are instead seeking to come together in love and support for the hurting.

You can change every flag in the country and you will have changed nothing other than the patterns and colors being raised and lowered as banners representing our various peoples. Reconciliation, racial or otherwise, has never come, and never will come without change of heart. Divisive words from those in leadership and influential positions, no matter how they are prettied-up, are not going to heal anyone. We need leaders who are not on a power trip, but are on a leadership trip. We need leaders who can start the dialogue. We need major media outlets that present and promote truth. People like me writing this post can't do it.

Our nation is more divided now than it has been since the 60's. Hearts changed and minds changed in those times and people came together. It took time, but it happened. We can still do that, and we can do it better. But, we have to put leaders in office, not lawyers and career politicians. We need to tell those out there now to shut up with the symbolism and to speak and act in truth and with substance. We need a nation of citizens who demand truth, liberty, and justice for ALL.

Above all, Christians, it is up to us! We must pray and seek God. It is us, those called by His name, that He has called upon to repent and to pray. It is to the faithless rebellion or the faithful obedience of His children that God responds. We need to reach out to the lost around us and speak of God's great love and His gift of salvation that only comes through Jesus Christ. It is only then that a pure love for ALL people is made fully possible. It is than that we are actually brought into the same family. Our own attempts at reconciliation are pitiful compared to what Jesus can do.

If a banner is to be raised, the love of Christ is a banner that must be held high.

"You have given a banner to those who fear You,That it may be displayed because of the truth." Psalm 60:4

"And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." John 12:32


PS   Here's your video. . . . a moving and powerful presentation of just who all those flags and banners flew above.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Clearing Out The Clutter

I keep everything . . . until I just have to throw things away. So, I was cleaning out some paper work that I had not looked at in several years and I ran across  some things I had written down and titled "Things To Keep In Mind". Oddly enough, I had forgotten. Well, I'm keeping this and I thought I would pass it on to you. Apparently I was having some trouble with the little things in life. (It comforts me somewhat to think that I am not the only one who might need this stuff.)


1. God IS in control.

2. Be ever vigilant and sensitive to the leading of The Holy Spirit.

3. The "small" things matter greatly.

4. Guard yourself against considering anything too small to make a difference.

5. Intentionally search for the "small stuff". The "big stuff" will be obvious.

6. Little things have more potential to trip us up.

7. Little stuff, you can usually just step over, so why be brought down by them?

There it is. A little list mostly about little things. I hope it helps a little.


Monday, March 23, 2015

A Lullaby Maybe?

Sleep never was a problem . . . never was.

Is it the undone, unattempted, unaccomplished, that rages somewhere in the subconscious, or is it just the opposite? . . . the done, the tried, the failed. Is it a notion of waiting for life to begin, but wondering if you're too close to the end? Is it wondering how? How? , , , and now? Time constantly grows shorter and it moves much faster beginning with the day you wake up and realize that you no longer have forever to get everything done. And I suppose it's merciful, in a way, that it's later in life the realization hits us that we really can't "make right" any wrong in our past. There is less time left to have to live with it.

Once the youthful notion of forever in this world is gone, taking with it those dreams of all the "young you" would do, a remnant of hope wanders through the now empty space. Why does the wandering seem to happen only in the quiet of darkness? Maybe it's constant, but can only be heard after we shut down and settle in, ceasing the noise of our external lives that prevents us from living the truth and consequences of our internal lives.

Struggling for sleep is rather oxymoronish, don't you think? Following years of keeping late hours by my own design, I am now often forced into it. There might actually be a good dream that I'm missing, my escape into a world where scattered and unrelated scenarios make a strange kind of sense. But whatever is happening, as weird as it may be, is OK in the moment . . . except for all those times I'm hitting the brake trying desperately to stop as I pass by the place I need to be for some unknown reason. (I don't like those dreams, and I have a lot of them.)  When sleep finally comes in the wee dark hours of the early morning it does not easily release me to the light of day. . . . A day often spent struggling to stay awake. These are times that I actually could sleep were it not for the demands of the day. And all that does is to add to the burden of the undones, the unattempted, and the unaccomplished that allows no sleep when the day once again is done. More empty space, more wandering, more wondering . . .

So, is it all this? Maybe it's just that glass of chocolate milk I had right before bedtime. I don't know. Maybe.

Rest. We all need rest. There are pills and supplements, all supposedly offering sleep, but is sleep rest?

Like the illusion of the value of our own activity is any kind of rest this world has to offer.

True rest can be found in only one place, in only one person . . .

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28-29 

Resting in Jesus doesn't mean that all of your issues and situations, your problems and trials, your struggles and disappointments will vanish. They might, depending, but it's not likely. Some things that are issues for you will no longer be issues and some of the things you are struggling with will no longer be a struggle merely by virtue of Jesus being a part of your life. Resting in Jesus, our Lord, is simply turning it all over to Him, putting Him in charge - after all, He is THE Lord. We lay whatever burdens us at His feet and ask Him to take care of it in His way. If we are satisfied that he will, then He gives us rest. If we are laboring (you can put any verb that applies to your situation in place of "laboring") over and in any issue in life, we are not resting in Jesus. And this means that we are not trusting Him. This is where we must understand that believing is something other than just a way of thinking . . . something more.

Past, present, or future, He is Lord over all.

He can make our past, whatever lies behind, as irrelevant to us in the present as it is to Him.
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come" 2 Corinthians 5:17
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:1-2

"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1

(Like my pastor says, it's always a good idea to go to the Word and see what the therefore is there for.)

Wherever we are, whatever is going on in our lives in the present, at this moment, God is with us and He is involved. He is working, He is calling, and He is leading.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

"Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." Matthew 6:31-34

It can be said that God is in our future. What He says will happen will happen, He keeps His promises.

"For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome." Jeremiah 29:11

"Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:12-14

"My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them." Psalm 139:15-16

Whether it is the waking walking version, or the bedtime version, when we are tossing and turning, we're tired and rest nor sleep will come, there is a place to go and find rest. Better than the Best Western is the Best Restern. Yeah . . . I just made that up. Best Restern. Sleep. Yeah, that should help.


PS: Yep, you get a video with this one, too!

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Love for a Day and Other Random Thoughts And Events From My Childhood . . . or Later - Volume 1

In honor of my 5,000th view here are just a few very random things from life as I've know it. Random.

My brother and both sisters took piano lessons. Nobody ever asked me if I wanted to take piano lessons. They had these things called "make-up lessons". I truly thought they had to go in and wear makeup during those lessons. I wanted no part of that, so the no-piano-lessons thing was OK with me.

Not necessarily from childhood, but when I was 19 and working my first real job in an office, there was a woman there who had a hysterectomy. Everybody was speaking of it in hushed tones and some were even talking about being "so sorry". She came back to work and walked like every step might result in bolts of agony running through her body. I, however, was quite confused. I could not understand what the big deal was about having hemorrhoids removed. In my defense, I didn't really know what a hemorrhoid was either. I just made it a point not to sit on cold concrete.

Back to childhood: Hell wasn't the only reason I was afraid to die. I thought they buried you naked.    . . . laid you out for all the world to see. I didn't want to be in a funeral, but I did kind of want to go to one.

I was skinny, had skinny legs. I overheard a comment about my skinny legs from an adult one time. I was maybe 8 - 9 years old. I didn't wear shorts much before then. Except for swimming (which for some reason doesn't count) I never wore shorts in public again until a year or so ago. . . . and that was someplace where the same people will not likely see me ever again.

I almost shot my grandfather one time. . . . well, . . . the dove flew right by 'im. We met up with my cousin nearby. His daddy had already taken his gun away from him. A fellow can get pretty excited when there's a bird to shoot at.

I was never any good at sports. In junior high, our basketball team was playing in Satartia, MS. Coach says to me, "Can you stay on that number 4?" It sounded easy enough to me even though I had never played in a "real" game. Stay on number 4. That's what I did. I was in number 4's face.  I think I lasted almost 5 minutes before I was taken out. I didn't understand. Number 4 was always in my zone. I followed him all over the court. Covered him well. Some years later I realized that basketball has an offense and a defense. . . . somebody should've told me.

Like most, for me any soft drink was a coke. This worked out fine as long as I was the one leaning over into the drink box or putting my 6 cents in the machine. There was a time when we drove up to Uncle Ray's store and Pop went in to get us something to drink. He asked what I wanted. "A coke." Of course. He came out with a Coke.  I started crying and carrying on because that wasn't the kind of coke I wanted. He tried to figure out what I wanted, but I couldn't tell him I wanted a "Sprite coke". The Coke coke had to do.     

I waited 6 years for a girlfriend. 6 years! Finally, one afternoon I was sitting in my 6th grade class, and this note comes across the room to me. It said, "I love you. Keep this. Keep. Keep. I love you. P.S. Don't tell xxxx." - (verbatim!)  Don't tell xxxx? I could live with that. After all, it had been 6 years! The rest of that afternoon and night I was on Cloud 9. Had me a girlfriend! Well worth a 6 year wait. When I got home from school that day I climbed up on top of the chicken house and sat there daydreaming of all the possibilities. I was supposed to keep the note so I found a jar to seal it up in. I dug a hole and I buried it. I could hardly sleep that night because I couldn't wait to get back to school and my girl.

Talk about struttin' in! Things were great. Then the bell rang for our first little 15 minute recess. XXXX corners me and asks about OOOO. (Get it? X . . . O???) I have since come to wonder if a 3rd party did a little pot stirring. Well, I couldn't lie. Besides, she picked me, didn't she? I gave XXXX my sincere sympathies. So, everything's good again. Right? An hour or so later the bell rang for lunch. Outside after lunch I'm walkin' on sunshine when I hear that voice from alllll the way across the playground, as does every other kid outside and those inside the classrooms on that side of the building. "I hate you, Dennis Manor! I hate you!" Well . . . we had a good run. 22 hours. 22 out of  8,760.

Yep. It was crushing. Tragically rejected at the height of my most anticipated acceptance. At that moment I wouldn't have cared if I died and they buried me nekkid. But, I got over it. 'Course, it probably ruined me for what would have be a primo relationship in the 8th grade. (And I mean p-r-i-m-o!) But, I got over it. It probably was still rollin' around in my head when I was finally able to ask a girl out in the 10th grade, but that date ended before 10 o'clock without so much as a one-armed side hug or a fist bump. It was on me. Just too shy and scared. But I'm so over it. . . . can't you tell?

I suppose that's enough randomness for now. If any more of this stuff comes back to me I might do a volume 2. By then, though, I might have figured out what drove me to do this one!


PS In honor of angst, here are 2 angsty songs from "the day". . . . and one about a funeral, complete with clothes. Don't worry about looking it up. Of course "angsty" is a word.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Slip Slidin' Away

"Backslider". We used to hear that word more than we do nowadays. Not that it's any less of a problem than it ever was. The thing of it is, it sometimes seems to be more of a problem for the people pointing it out than for the people they're pointing it out to! It is a word which, all too often, is used by one Christian in criticism of another Christian. Generally, it comes at some point from a preacher delivering a sermon or a Sunday school teacher's lesson for the day. And it is usually delivered rather harshly. Backslider!!!

They might merely say " . . . all those backsliders . . .", but what is heard is ". . . all those dirty, rotten, stinkin', low down, no good, sin lovin' backsliders . . .". Man! How is any body gonna come back from that?

Maybe it's not put out there with any harshness attached, but we hear it that way because what hits home hits harder.

Backsliding is not the same as our "everyday" sin. Both happen. Neither is good. But, backsliding is more problematic. Mirriam-Webster's online dictionary defines backsliding as: 1. to lapse morally or in the practice of religion   2. to revert to a worse condition :  retrogress 

To backslide is to step back into old ways. Usually, it means that someone has pretty much completely fallen away from their commitment to live for God. They are a long way from where they were and they wonder if they can ever get back. (Commitment is the problem. I'll address that a little further down.) It might not always involve falling back into former sinful activities, though. This Christian life is progressive. We are always moving forward, growing. At times it's an up hill climb. God's enemy is always seeking to bring us down, make us ineffective. So, a backslide could be taking a step or two back to a place you just went through on your upward Christian walk. Not that you slipped up and sinned, but that you have stepped back into something that you have grown past. God wants to draw you nearer to Himself and you are not merely dragging your feet, you've moved back, maybe just a little further away than you were.

That could be as easy, and as common, as going through a time of "life is easy, things are good" where you don't depend on God as much as you did in more difficult times. Maybe you are not praying like you once did. You're not going to church and getting together with your fellow Christians as often as you used to because it's just easier to stay home. Perhaps you've allowed circumstances to keep you from tithing and giving like you once did. For whatever reason, and in whatever way, you have stepped back from your pursuit, your search for God in all matters of life.

Maybe you know your spiritual condition and you feel all the worse for it because you always think of the word backslider as being accompanied by a fist pounding the pulpit, and that fist may as well be pounding you for all the help it provides. Life is beating on you and so is someone else's opinion of you. You've fallen back for sure, but how are you now going to step forward?

Take heart. The answer is near, and the answer is instant!

 “Return, you backsliding children,
And I will heal your backslidings.”
                                  Jeremiah 3:22  

If you read this entire passage from Jeremiah you can hear the tenderness, the care, the love, in God's voice. He is not beating you up. He's not accusing you. He knows where you are, and He knows He is your only answer. You can't make your own way back nor can you earn your way back. You have to be brought back by God, and He is ready, willing, and well able to do just that!

Luke 15:11-32 is called the story of "the Prodigal Son", but it is really about the love and forgiveness of the father. Read the story again and see how the father, seeing his son returning in the distance, ran out to meet him and immediately restored him as his son.

And then there is John 21 which recalls Jesus restoring Peter to his place as an apostle, a loved, effective, and anointed leader of the faith.

There are so many examples of forgiveness and restoration in the Bible. The process of coming around in the mind may take some time. That's you and I. The healing in the heart, the healing of your backslidings, is instantaneous. That's God. Our acceptance of that is paramount to the completion of the process. 

I mentioned commitment earlier. The problem with us making commitments is that we control the length and depth of the commitment. We are only committed under certain conditions and circumstances and when either of those change our commitment is subject to change. When Jesus said "take up your cross and follow me" He was calling for a total surrender to Him. In surrender we have no agenda of our own. We control nothing. In surrender, Jesus is truly made Lord of our lives. 

Commitments are easily broken even with every intent of fulfilling them. We are simply trying to take control of the circumstances. A change in the terms of surrender requires escape, which requires purpose, which requires planning. It's easy to break a commitment. It's not so easy to escape even when you've surrendered of your own free will. And when you belong to Jesus nothing will separate you from Him. You will not want to "escape". You will go to your Lord and ask for help and see Him glorified as He answers your call.

So, take that area of your life where you've fallen back and surrender it to Jesus. Return to God and He WILL heal your backslidings.    

God deals with you from the state of your heart, not your actions. He doesn't make you grovel or jump through hoops. He knows your heart, and the moment you turn back to Him in your heart you are with Him. He has always been with you, but, just like that, you are back with Him! Don't let Satan or any of his minions, which may well be someone very close to you, tell you any different. The healing of your backslidings is a work of God, not of your self. You must be strong and faithful and live it out, but the work is done!

And, please know, that I only use all these "you's" and "your's" because I have been there myself.


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