MAMA RODE SHOTGUN

I finally graduated from Arizona State University in May 1960.  Because of extenuating circumstances, not because I was “slow,” it took me six years to complete my studies.

I was thrilled to sign a teaching contract with Anaheim, California Public Schools, but teaching in Anaheim meant that life, as I knew it, was about to suffer a drastic change.  The thought of moving to a place I had never been, meeting people I did not know, and taking a job totally new to me was a bit frightening.

That summer I bought a car, the first car I had ever owned.  I laughed yesterday when my niece told me that her granddaughter, sixteen years old,” just got a brand new car.  She doesn’t even have a license yet.  Well, that’s all right.  I was a late bloomer.  

My car—a 1957 Chevrolet Impala, just three years old without a scratch on it, was yellow with a white top and a silver streak down the side.  Wish I still had that car.  I understand it is now a classic worth many more times what I paid for it.

A couple of weeks before I was to report to my new job, I loaded my car with household goods and personal belongings.  Then early the next morning I started for California down a highway I had never traveled toward a destination 400 miles away, and MAMA RODE SHOTGUN.

The first known use of the phrase, “riding shotgun,” was in the 1905 novel, “The Sunset Trail,” by Alfred Henry Lewis.  In the days of stagecoach travel, a guard was always hired to ride alongside the driver ready to use his shotgun to ward off bandits or hostile Native Americans.   

The term, “riding shotgun,” refers to the practice of sitting alongside the driver in a moving vehicle, but it also means “to assist or protect.”  The phrase has been used to mean giving actual or figurative support or aid to someone in a situation.

That’s why Mama “rode shotgun.”  She didn’t drive and she couldn’t have shot a gun if she’d had one.  She came along to support me.  I’m not sure she ever knew how much I needed that support, but Mama was a cool customer.  When the traffic overwhelmed me, and I wasn’t sure which way to go, she was there to calm me down.  

We looked endlessly for the right apartment in Anaheim.  When I might have given up, Mama was there to spur me on.  She helped me move in and put things away.  Then it was time to send her home—back to Mesa.  Putting her on that Greyhound bus, and watching the taillights as it drove away, was one of the hardest things I ever did.  Returning to that lonely apartment to begin a new life was even more difficult.  Mama, my support, was gone.

Since that time sixty years ago, I have been in and out of all kinds of situations here and around the world.  Once I was stranded in Athens Greece when no one came to meet me, and I could not even read the telephone directory.  I was lured into an illegal taxi in Poland not sure where I was being taken.  There was a very real bandit scare on a dark highway in India, and there were the Spanish police, who insisted I follow them to a hotel at the edge of town.  In Turkey, I was warned to be very careful about what I said in public for fear of being jailed, and in Poland, again, all means of public transportation was halted because of a political uprising leaving me wondering how I would ever get back to Brussels.  When my hotel in London sounded the fire alarm in the middle of the night, there was only time to grab my coat and purse and run.

You know what?  Mama was never there through any of those crises.  However, there was always someone “riding shotgun.”  There was always someone to support me and help through those situations.

David wrote in Psalm 27:1 – 3, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?  When the wicked came against me…they stumbled and fell.  Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident.” 

As If that is not enough, Psalm 91:11 says, “For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.”

Was I ever uncertain?  Yes, many times.  Was I ever afraid?  Of course but there was always that still, small voice whispering into my spirit, “Fear not for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you…” Isaiah 41:10.

Perhaps you have been hurt in some way by this pandemic—physically, emotionally, or spiritually you are suffering.  You have lost a loved one, your job, your business, your income, you’re worried about the future, and if you have to shelter at home one more day, you will go nuts.  

Let me assure you, “There is someone ‘Riding Shotgun’ for you.”  He is there to support you and help you through this situation or any other.

You can boldly say, “…The Lord is my helper, I will not fear.  What can man do to me?”  Hebrews 13:6.

WOW!  This BLESSED ASSURANCE is yours for the taking.

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

LEGACY OR LEGEND

 

There are fundamental times in a person’s life when he is faced with his own mortality and forced to question the value of his life. The last three months of uncertainty knowing that each time I walk out of the house or into a grocery store I put myself at risk, have forced me to think about my age. At the age of eighty-four, I know that there are not many more years of
my life recorded in God’s journal.
Sheltering in place has left me with ample time for retrospection. Even while I am cooking or cleaning out closets, I find myself looking back on and reviewing my life as I have lived it. I have also spent a lot of time soul-searching thinking of how I could have or should have done some things differently. I have lived an incredible life most assuredly sprinkled with
faults and failures, but the first eighty-four years of my life are finished, and I cannot change them.

So, now I must look to the future, to the years yet remaining.
What will I do with these remaining years? That is the question. I find a desperate longing within me to do something that matters. I realize that retirement years are often spent relaxing, traveling, partying, golfing, and I would enjoy some of that, but that cannot be everything.
I want to leave behind a legacy that is more than houses and money and possessions. I want to leave behind something that is imperishable and eternal.

Years ago, as a missionary in Europe, I wrote the scripts and helped to produce “Boulevard des Enfant” a video series for French-speaking children. The videos taught scripture and introduced kids to Jesus Christ.
Those videos were so well received that they were used for religion classes in Belgian public schools and welcomed across the French-speaking world. Years later they were translated into Russian and into Chinese. Only eternity will tell how many children came to know Jesus through that endeavor. That is what I mean when I talk about an imperishable and eternal
legacy. I don’t want to rest on my laurels. I want to do something else just as meaningful.
I do not know what direction my life will take in years to come. Though I hate to admit it, activities are limited because of my age, but God has not run out of ideas. I will let God choose. I am asking Him to use me to accomplish His purpose. His purpose is my purpose.
This world is in a mess. Our country is in trouble. I am prone to be annoyed with people who make their own problems. I want to say, “You did it, now undo it! You made the mess,clean it up!” I admit that I am sometimes short on compassion. Whatever legacy I leave must begin in my heart and in my relationship with God, and I do need a new infusion of compassion.

I think the whole world is longing to hear someone say, “I love you!” I want to be that someone. I want to invest in others. I want to commit to doing something about this sad world.
You can either leave a legend or a legacy. A legend is all about you. It’s about becoming a rock star. It’s about getting all of the attention, so when you are gone, you’ll leave a pretty big hole and people will talk about you for years. Leaving a legend stokes your ego, but does little for anyone else.
In contrast, when you leave a legacy, your work or your ministry is more about other than about yourself. Do I want to be remembered when I am gone? Of course, I do.

So do you, but the truth is, it’s possible that I might leave quietly and only a handful of people will ever notice. However, the legacy I leave behind, the time I have invested in the Kingdom of God will far outlast me.
Someone has said, “Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones.” Then your legacy will be etched into the hearts of those whose lives you have touched.
Benjamin Franklin said, “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” I say, “Let’s do something worth writing.” Today many Christians are so focused on what other people think that they are unwilling to take any risks for Christ. I think of the 70 million Christians martyred for their witness since the time of Christ (David B. Barrett), and I
recall what Jamie Buckingham wrote. He said, “The problem with Christians today is that no one wants to kill them anymore.”

Think about that for a moment. Jan Hus, a Czech priest, considered the first church reformer, a predecessor to Protestantism was labeled as a heretic and burned at the stake on July 6, 1415. As the fire
licked around him, he declared, “God is my witness that…the principal intentions of my preaching…are solely that I might turn people from sin…I am willingly Glad to die today.” From the fire, he was heard singing, “Jesus, Son of the living God, have mercy on me.” This year thirty million people will die without ever hearing the name of Jesus. What
risks are you willing to take so that they may hear?

WILL YOU LEAVE A LEGEND OR A LEGACY?

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

OVERWHELMED

OVERWHELMED

Overwhelmed!  That’s the word that defines many of us today, for very good reason.  It just simply means that we have too much to deal with—that we are drowning beneath a powerful deluge over which we have no control and very little understanding.  That’s the hardest part.

You may feel, as I do, that I have faced this crisis with calmness and strength and a sound mind.  I know why I am housebound.  I know why I cannot come and go as I choose. I am devastated that I cannot see my sister, and there is no telling when that may be possible.  However, it’s not the fear of death that is bothering me.  Honestly, it is the issue of life, as it is at the moment that troubles me.

I think I am discovering that it is not the main issue, Covid-19, that is so troubling, though in no way would I diminish its importance. It is all the issues that come along with it that are weighing us down—the loss of jobs, working at home, diminished income, home schooling, and the lack of relief day after day not knowing what the future holds.  For many, it’s these things that tip the scale robbing them of patience, and a clear mind, and bringing despair.

A couple of years ago I was suffering endless pain.  It just never went away.  I was at the point where it was impossible to pick up anything from the floor.  Wouldn’t you know, I was always dropping something?

One afternoon, I was putting away my Thanksgiving groceries, when I dropped a glass jar of gravy on the tiled floor.  The glass shattered and flew all over the kitchen.  The gravy splattered and spread out in a sticky pool. 

I had faced months of pain, coming and going, taking care of myself, attending to my duties, and faithfully teaching my Bible class, without falling apart.  But—the gravy!  The gravy did me in.  It was the last straw.  I looked at the mess having no idea how I would ever clean it up, and I cried in despair like a baby.  

My California friend chose that moment to call.  

“Why are you crying,” she asked?

“Because,” and I told her.

My friend laughed uproariously.  She told me later that she and her husband laughed about my gravy for weeks.

I couldn’t see that there was much to laugh about, but Star’s laughter kind of put things in perspective.  I wasn’t injured.  I wasn’t dying.  My pain was no worse.  I had not broken a priceless heirloom, and I would figure out a way to clean it up.  So I swept up as much of the glass as I could.  I covered the gooey stuff with tons of paper towels, and I went to bed.

The next morning things looked a lot brighter, and I did clean up the mess.  Yes, it was painful, but I felt great satisfaction when I looked at my shining floor, and the world had not come to an end.  This in no way compares to what we are going through at the moment, but it does remind me that sometimes it is peripheral things that really do us in.

Someone has made a list of remedies for these overwhelming times.

Exercise, then exercise some more.

Don’t binge eat!  That’s a hard one!

Comfort yourself with friends and family.

Listen to happy music.

AND BREATHE.  KEEP BREATHING!

I am sure these are helpful, and it won’t hurt to try them, but they are not nearly enough.  I believe we need more than breathing exercises when we are in over our head.

Sunday morning, my pastor said, “You are not designed to do life on your own without help.”

God often allows more than we can handle on our own.  (This Corona virus is one example.)  If we try to take care of our life all by ourselves, the weight will destroy us.  We must be willing to cry out, “Help, Lord, I’m in over my head.”  While it is true that we have no control over, and very little understanding of certain situations, God does.  He has all control.  He knows everything, can do anything, and is everywhere.

“Crying out to God” is just another way of saying, “PRAY.”  However, we must not wait until we are in trouble before we pray.  For prayer to really work, it must be a constant in our lives.  Prayer is essential.  The writer of Philippians tells us to “Pray at all times.” We live in a broken world, where we will forever need to pray.

The Psalmist, David, in Psalm 42:5 cries, “Why are you cast down, O my soul?  And why are you disquieted in me?  Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.”

David was going through trying times, dangerous times, as are we.  His own son, Absolom, had stolen the affection of the people, and usurped the throne, and now David is running for his life.  As though he were two men, he talks to himself.  He says, “Why this deep depression, why this sadness?  Why has my peace disappeared?” He was overwhelmed, and then he told himself, “This won’t last forever.”

David chides himself out of the dumps.  His hope is in God, and God does not change.  He is still smiling upon David, and one day David’s sighs will be exchanged for songs of praise. 

Try it!  Talk to yourself.  Repeat the Word of God.  Remind yourself that He is near, and His promises are true.  Fill your heart with His promises, and the praise will return.

Corrie ten Boom, survivor of the Holocaust, said, “Let God’s promises shine on all your problems.”

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

 

 

 

PEACE OR PANDEMONIUM

PEACE OR PANDEMONIUM

Peace or pandemonium?  That’s the question!

I fear that peace is in short supply these days.  Though there is certainly strife in our country, most of us lived in comparative peace until Covid-19 raised its ugly head and succeeded in stripping away that peace which we enjoyed so casually a few weeks ago.  

As a country, America has had its ups and downs, but never, since the civil war, have we fought a major war on our own turf.  We have sent our boys to Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf, and we are still engaged in armed conflict in The Middle East.  However, unless you have loved ones involved in the fight, being thousands of miles removed from the scene serves to make the whole thing a little less real.  It is amazing how we can go about our everyday lives without giving it a thought.

Now finally, war has come to our own shores—not a war fought with bullets and bombs, but war none the less—a deadly and damaging war.  We find ourselves fighting an enemy about which we know very little.  

This pandemic has disrupted daily life, altered global economy (1.3 billion dollars loss on oil and gas, and the loss of two-thirds of our restaurant industry), killed almost a quarter-million people and reminded us all not to be tricked by complacency, and an atmosphere of comfort and safety, for we are really never far from a disaster.

To some degree, this is a traumatic time for all of us.  For those who have lost jobs and homes and businesses, for those who can no longer pay the bills, and are perhaps wondering where the next meal is coming from, and for those who have lost loved ones this is a dark and devastating time.

For all of our technology, our best weapon against this enemy is simple.  “Stay at home and don’t get too close to anyone else.” My governor has extended our “Shelter in Place” quarantine by two weeks, until the middle of May.  Honestly, I am aching to go to church, to see and interact with my friends and family but, at the same time, I am kind of hesitant about mingling with crowds of people again.  What if it is too soon?  What if Covid-19 is still out there ready to pounce? 

However, many people are fed up with the quarantine.  They are tired of isolation, and they are beginning to question the wisdom of having closed down everything.  Protest rallies are cropping up here and there, and mobs are marching on state capitals.  Placards read, “LIBERATE THE STATES,” “FREEDOM,” “OPEN THE U.S. NOW,” “WE’RE REVOLTING,” “END THE LOCKDOWN.”  As people take to the streets demanding their freedom, peace disappears and pandemonium takes over.  

John Milton, in his epic poem “Paradise Lost,” coined the word Pandemonium as the name for the capital of Hell—“the place of all demons.”  Today the word refers to a place of chaos and confusion or a wild uproar or tumult.  A homespun definition would be, “when all hell breaks loose.”

I believe that our leaders are honestly trying to determine when we can best and most safely return to normal living, but, when it comes to this virus, most of them are novices just as we are.  They don’t know any more about it than we do.  They must take the word of those who are struggling from day to day to find the answers, and the longer we have to wait, the more likely it is that unhappy citizens will revolt, and “All hell WILL break loose.”  

One day, I’m confident, life will return to normal, but it won’t be the normal that we knew.  I am praying that it will be a better normal.  I am praying that we will be more thoughtful, kinder, and cautious, and more aware of God’s goodness.  We may have to live with some shortages for a while.  Perhaps we cannot all attend church at the same time, because there must be some kind of crowd control, at least at the beginning, and sitting six feet apart in the restaurant may be a problem.

As difficult and upsetting as this whole trial has been, I have learned and relearned truths—some wonderful and some not.  I am impressed by the kindness of strangers.  I am humbled by the devotion and commitment of our medical personnel, and I am offended by the sheer meanness of many government leaders. 

The most wonderful truth I have relearned is that it is possible to live in perfect peace even in the middle of the battle, even when the world is in turmoil.

Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ.” 

Isaiah 9:6, speaking of Jesus, says, “…His name shall be called…Prince of Peace.”

Isaiah 26:3 gives good counsel, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

The message is this.  Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, is our only source of real peace.  His peace is beyond understanding.  He has promised, if we trust in Him and keep our minds on Him instead of on our problems, He will give us His perfect peace.

I choose HIS PEACE over PANDEMONIUM any day!

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!