It Ain't Easy Bein' Me

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Who Needs Craftsman?


It was in 1988 that my professional life took a nosedive. Having received two promotions in less than a year, I was upwardly mobile working with a small but fast growing company, for whom there seemed to be no limit. The future for both the company and me was as bright as it could be. I thought my financial future was made. It would only take a couple more growth spurts and promotions to be knocking out some major bucks. The 2nd promotion required a transfer, so we moved and bought a house. Life was good.

But life ain’t no fairy tale book, so you know things didn’t work out as I had scripted in my mind. The early part of the year, I was making about $30,000.00. That doesn’t really sound like much now, but that was almost 20 years ago and I was not that long out of high school. By the summer of that year, I was making less than $15,000.00. Now, remember, I just moved away from my “home” and bought a house in another city. I had become the victim of a corporate merger. Left behind because no one in a corporate office a thousand miles away cared what a good old boy, or how resourceful I was, or how outstanding my work ethic was. On paper, I was no longer needed. The bigger company of the merger had their own people, they didn’t need ours.

I had to downsize a lot of stuff. Praise the Lord, I still have that house, although my plan was to sell it after a couple of years and get a bigger one. So I’m not where I was hoping to be at this point in my life, but I’m a lot better off than a lot of folks, and I’m extremely thankful I was able to hold on to it during those years. I could have ended up without one.

I ended up driving a 1978 Ford Grenada. Now, it was a nice little work car. But since my financial woes, it became my primary vehicle. It started giving me some minor trouble. It had a three speed manual transmission, and every time I came to a stop, it would go dead. It was very annoying, and I didn’t have the money to get it fixed. One week, shortly after the trouble started, it seemed like every day I would hear some preacher or teacher, or I would read while doing my studies, about stewardship and the fact that everything in the universe belongs to our God. Everything. Every little thing. We own nothing…we’re only given stewardship over it for a short time (including our children, BTW Rather, ESPECIALLY our children).

Anyway, one day I pulled the car into the warehouse at work to have a coworker look over it with me. He was sort of a shade tree mechanic, and I thought surely that one of us could figure this out. It couldn’t have been anything too major. I was just hoping it was something loose…a vacuum hose, an idle screw needed adjusting. I just didn’t have money to get the carburetor rebuild, so I was hoping against hope it was something real simple like that. We took the breather off, inspected everything we could think of to inspect and could find nothing wrong. Put it back together and cranked it up, hoping that maybe something was loose and we got it tightened while we were checking things out, but the car died immediately. I looked at my friend and said, “Mike, it’s God’s car, if He wants it fixed, He’ll just have to fix it.” It sounds sort of like a smart aleck remark, but I didn’t mean it that way at all. That’s just where I was. I was at the end of my rope, and that’s all I knew to do. Turn it over to Him…it’s not mine, anyway.

I cranked the car again and backed it out of the bay. It died again, like it always did. But that was the last time. From that moment forward, I don’t think I ever had one ounce of trouble from the car. I know for a fact it didn’t give me that particular problem anymore. I’m convinced that He let the car die one more time after I told Mike what I did, just so I would be sure we didn’t do anything to fix it. I think He did that so I would know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He’s not only the Great Physician, He’s the Master Mechanic.

That car can represent anything to any of us. I know that whatever I have broken, He can and will fix when it’s time if I can and will just turn it over to Him. Please pray that I can turn my broken cars over to Him. I seem to be building a pretty impressive junkyard right now and I don’t have the means with which to fix them all.

Irreverence or deep theology?


There's a particular song played by Comtemporary Christian radio stations which some folks might believe is disprectful or irreverent or whatever. I'm not usually one to get too uptight about such things, so it only stands to reason that I would have no problem with the song. I love it.

The name of the song is THE CARTOON SONG. I'll supply the lyrics below, but basically it's a fun song in which the performer speculates what would happen if cartoon characters got saved. Much to my approval, the song came on the radio today on my way home from work, and I was thinking about this question. Is this song disprectful or does it take salvation lightly?

As I was pondering this, I believe I got a clear answer from our Lord. He says if man doesn't praise Him, even the rocks will cry out to Him. I believe the song writer does a good job of driving that point home in a fun way.

My friends, God is God. He will be praised. Kudos to the song writer for being creative and fun enough to produce such a deep truth in such a fun way. You know, we need to reach our kids where they are. It's not highly likely that many of our kids are going to be listening to big church organ music, or some Church of Christ a cappella version of HOW FIRM A FOUNDATION.

I love our Lord. He's way good to me. I said it before, way gooder than I deserve. He sends Christian friends to pick me up after the world has kicked me squarely in the groin and takes the opportunity to kick me in the face while I'm down on my knees. He sends hugs and nuggets of wisdom from my kids at the most opportune times. He is a good God. I really don't know why He loves me so. I really don't. But I'm glad He does. And I'm glad He blesses people like Chis Rice to come up with cool little songs to reach and teach cool little kids who desperately need someone to reach and teach them. Yes, I am.


Artist: Chris Rice
Album: Past The Edges
Title: The Cartoon Song


I was thinking the other day
What if cartoons got saved?
They'd start singing praise
In a whole new way


Yea, I was thinking the other day
What if cartoons got saved?
They'd start singing praise
In a whole new way


Fred and Wilma Flintstone sing
ya-ba-daba-lujah


Scooby-do and Shaggy
scooby-do-be-lujah


And the Jetson's dog named Astro
ra-ra-ru-jah


CHORUS


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
cowabunga-lujah, dude


Then there's Kermit the Frog here,
singing hi-ho-la-lujah


And that little bald guy, Elmer Fudd
hallelujah, uh


CHORUS


Oh that big ol' Moose and his friend Rocky,
ba-ya-ca-bujah


And our favorite bear named Yogi,
hi-a-baa-lujah


And There's all those little blue guys
And they'd sing..
la-la-lalalala-lalala-lujah


Oh, how 'bout Beavis, and that other guy
*beep*


CHORUS


Now there's a point to this looney tune
I'm not an animaniac, but there's a lot of praising to do
And cartoons weren't made for that,
It's our job. Oh, yeah


So let's sing hallelujah (hallelujah)
hallelujah (hallelujah)
hallelujah (hallelujah)


Let's sing hallelujah... (Let's sing hallelujah)
hallelujah (hallelujah)

Copyright/Label: Label: Rocketown

And a Little Child Shall Lead Them


My son, Nathan, was born July 17, 1990. He’s an awesome young man. I’ve never known anyone his age so spiritually in tune. And he has such a huge, loving heart. He genuinely cares for his friends and acquaintances with a true compassion that can come only from our Father. Unfortunately, some people don’t understand that compassion at times and take his concerns the wrong way. But that’s OK, either they’ll figure it out or they won’t. The main thing is, he’s really concerned about doing God’s will. And that makes me very happy.

Nate prayed for salvation at the tender age of five. I was in the den watching TV one night and his mom told him to go get ready for his bath. He left the den, then poked his little head back around the corner and said, “I want to be steamin’ for Jesus!” I’m sure I chuckled, and I remember thinking he must mean, “On fire for God.” It was really sweet. He went on and started getting ready and his mom went and prepared to bathe him. A few minutes later she came in the den, “You need to go talk to Nathan.”

“Why?”

“He wants to ask Jesus in his heart.”

Whew, that’s big. My eyes water now as I relate the story to you. “OK,” I said, “I’m on my way.”

So I go in and ask him about it and he confirms that’s what he wants to do. Now, I’ve taken classes on how to help lead people to Christ, so I knew what to say to him, but this is my boy’s eternal life we’re talking about, and he’s awful young, so I wanted to make darn sure of two things. One, that he definitely knew was he was doing, and two, I wanted to get an objective viewpoint, as I was very emotional over this.

“OK, Nathan. That’s great. How about we go talk to our pastor (no better pastor in the world, I’m convinced) tomorrow?”

“No, Daddy. I want to do it now.”

“OK, son. That’s just fine. Let’s get you out of the tub and get dried off and dressed and we’ll pray.”

“No, Daddy! I want to do it right now!”

Again, I have to tell you, tears of joy over God’s goodness steam down my face as I type this. So we prayed, right there, soaking wet and naked in the tub. Now, isn’t that just how we need to surrender to God? Naked, wet, no pretenses, offering Him nothing, because we have nothing to offer at that point. We just need salvation. And we need it bad. The song, “JUST AS I AM”, by Charlotte Elliott comes to mind, eh? My Lord still uses that to remind me I have nothing to offer Him. My life is nothing. I was born into sin, I chose to sin, and I am like an open grave of rotting flesh to Him apart from Christ.

Now, I should have known from that experience alone, just his frame of mind and since of urgency, that it was all legit. But you know the Doubting Thomas in me kept rearing his ugly head. And God had to reassure me more than once.

I guess the first thing was through a cable box and a TV. I’m pretty sure it was the next morning when I came into the den and turned on the TV and got the first sign from my Lord that it was cool. It was an odd thing the way it happened. The cable box we had at the time would always turn onto the same channel if you turned it on with the remote. Channel 2, I think, but I wouldn’t swear to it. Well, the overwhelming majority of the time, that’s what I did: Pick up the remote and turn it on. But this particular morning, I turned on the box with the on/off button atop the box itself, so when it came on, it came on the channel I was watching when I turned it off. Another strange thing about it is the channel I was watching is one I would have rarely watched right before I went to bed. I had been watching a Chicago Bulls game, I think, on WGN the night before. Now, I very rarely watch the NBA unless it’s the championship finals. But God used this peculiar chain of events to comfort me.

After I turned on the box, I headed to my recliner where my remote control was to find something worth watching. Before I got settled in good, though, I was hit with God’s unique way of communicating to us. There happened to be a broadcast of some church service on. I cannot tell you the pastor’s name. I don’t think I had ever seen him before, and I can probably count the number of times on one hand that I’ve seen him since. I think I can tell you what he looked like, but I cannot tell you his name for anything. Anyway, before I could get the channel changed, I heard this man give the name of his sermon…ON FIRE FOR GOD. That’s kinda similar to “Steamin’ for Jesus”, ain’t it?

Another really cool thing God used was a book by Dr. James Dobson, and I’m pretty sure it was PARENTING ISN’T FOR COWARDS. Well, I’m quite sure it was. A friend and brother in the Lord we used to worship with gave us that book when Nathan was born. In this book, Dr. Dobson mentioned that he came to the Lord in his preschool years. That was comforting to me. Now, the odd thing about this was, like I said, the book was given when Nathan was born, over five years earlier. I never got around to taking it off the bookshelf, though, until about the time Nate was saved. So, I’m convinced the Spirit led my friend to give us that book, knowing full well I’d need that reassurance (as well as all the excellent advice and encouragement Dr. Dobson offers) five years down the road. God’s timing, folks, isn’t our timing. Time is a tool devised or man. God is just as much in the past and future as He is the present. He’s not bound or restrained by anything, other than His own holiness. He can’t lie. He cannot sin. He cannot be unholy. Apart from that, He has no limitations, including that of time. He goes before me and comes after me. He went before me when my friend gave me that book. He comes after me and cleans up my messes a lot, too. And I can assure you, He’s always with me. Before me, after me, and with me. And you think that insurance company “has you covered”? Well, you can’t beat God’s coverage with a stick.

But I guess the thing God used that meant the most to me was an incident in his kindergarten class. The thing that kept bothering me most about his conversion was the fact that he didn’t seem to want to share it. He didn’t mind talking about it with us, and he didn’t mind talking about it with our pastor, but he was very reluctant to share with anyone else. That was so unlike me when I was saved. I couldn’t wait to get to school to tell my friends who I went to church with. Looking back, it’s a no brainer. I was 14. I was under pretty heavy conviction. I was running from God as fast as I could. Nathan was a super good kid with a super sweet personality in kindergarten. How much conviction could he be under, for crying out loud? But, as I said earlier, this was my son, and we were dealing with his eternal security. I wanted to make sure we were straight. So I was concerned that he didn’t want to witness. Then his mom told me about something that happened at school one day. I’ll tell the story as I know it, not having been there, but knowing what I know about what did happen and the personalities involved. If this isn’t accurate, it has to be pretty close.

Nathan was in kindergarten. His teacher was super sweet lady with whom his mom had worked at another school, who also happened to teach Sunday School at another Baptist church here in town. She was preparing for her day one morning. Nathan approached her. He was a pretty persistent little guy, very sweet, never disrespectful, just innocent and unassuming. “Mrs. Smith,” Nathan said to get her attention.

“Just a minute, buddy. Let me finish this.”

“Mrs. Smith,” Nathan persisted.

“Hold on one minute, Nathan.”

“But Mrs. Smith, I have to tell everyone something.”

“OK, Nathan. What is it? What have you got to tell us that can’t wait?”

“I’m getting baptized!”

“Oh,” replied Mrs. Smith. I can feel the sheepishness she must have felt, as he did that kind of stuff to me all the time. “OK. Class, listen up. Nathan has something he’d like to share with us. Go ahead, Nathan. Tell everyone what you have to say.”

So he proceeded to advise the class of his upcoming baptism. This prompted questions from the class so he told them what he knew of salvation and following in obedience with baptism.

Mrs. Smith then went to the principal’s office. “Dr. Jones,” Mrs. Smith said to catch her attention.

“Yes?”

“I just thought you might want to know that Nathan’s led us in revival and half the class wants to get baptized.”

Yes, ain’t God good, indeed. I’m hard headed sometimes. One of my occupational therapist, Gina, once told me, “You don’t take a hint unless someone beats you upside the head with it.” Well, He kept on beating me upside the head with it ‘til I got it. He’s like that, you know. He’ll stick with us ‘til we “get it”, because He is good. Way gooder than I deserve, I can tell you that much.