Thursday, March 26, 2015

What T Whispered To Me

I saw T today.  She's a lady who is about the same age as my mom.  I've known her for years.  But today was the first time I've been around her in quite a while.

While I was walking through a crowded room that was filled with people, our eyes met.  T hugged me, leaned in, and whispered these words into my ear:  "David, life is short.  Just love your wife and love your kids."  I responded, "Yes ma'am, I sure will."  Then she smiled and told me it was great to see me again.  The whole conversation lasted under one minute.  And it was powerful.

It was a good reminder for me.  Time flies by.  James 4:14 tells us life is "a vapor that appears for a while and then vanishes away."  So, with these years I have, I am to love my God, love my wife, and love my kids.

Family does matter.  It's a big deal.  And it deserves attention, effort, and loyalty.

This is true for all of us, married guys.  Life really is short.  Let's love our wives and our kids.  That always needs to be high on our list of priorities.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Keeping It Real With Ms. Baker

Here is Ms. Baker.  She's a wonderful lady in our church.  And it's a total pleasure to be her pastor.

Recently she was talking to me at a Wednesday morning Bible study.  I was having a hard time hearing her, and I only picked up a few words here and there.  But I didn't let her know that because I was too embarrassed to ask her to repeat herself.

So I just nodded along.  I smiled too.  And I acted like I heard what she was saying.

A little while later that morning, I went back to her.  We had a short conversation.  Here's how it went.

ME:  Ms. Baker, I need to be honest with you.  I didn't hear hardly anything you said to me a little while ago.  I'm sorry about that.  I guess I was just too embarrassed to tell you that.

MS. BAKER:  It's ok.  I knew you couldn't hear me.  But thanks for coming back and talking with me about it.

We both had a good laugh over it.  Then she hugged me.  And we had a wonderful conversation.  (Yes, I did hear everything she said that time!)

I've learned that it's always best to keep it real and be honest with people.  Dealing in truth is the way to go.  Honesty is indeed the best policy.

Sometimes we may be tempted to wear a mask and act like everything in our lives is just fine.  The problem with this is it holds our relationships back from being healthy and close.  And it prevents us for working through real issues that need to be addressed in our lives.

It's ok to show people who we really are.  They'll more than understand.  After all, they're not perfect either.  And dealing with truth will pave the way for them to help us move forward to a better place in our lives.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A Grandmother, Shotgun, And Possum

 True story. 
A grandmother here in Sumter county had enough!  She surprised her family when she walked through the living room with a shotgun in her hands.  "Those possums are killing my chickens, and I'm going to fix this problem right now!"  The family looked at each other and looked at her.
Outside she walked.
"Boom!", her shotgun went about ten minutes later.
And then she walked back into the house, carrying something.
The grandmother then announced, "Well, if I had known it was a mama possum with two babies by her side, I may would not have shot her.  I guess now I need to raise them myself."  Then she proceeded to show everyone in the living room two baby possums.
One died in just a little while.  But the other lived.  And the grandmother took it upon herself to raise it.
She kept the possum in a cage in her house.  She fed it and kept it warm.  And she would put a leash on it and walk it down the sidewalk like someone would walk a dog.
Visitors would come to see the grandmother.  When they got close to the cage, the possum would hiss at them.  But when the sweet, old lady got close, the possum calmed down.
That possum lived with her for 20 years.  Then it died of old age.  The grandmother missed her little companion when its time on Earth ended.
I've been thinking about that grandmother.  What a special kind of love she had for that possum!  She loved that which was dirty and ugly.  Kind of like that love God has for us sinners who are morally dirty and ugly.  With a heart full of compassion, God takes us in and loves us up. 
That, my friends, is grace.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Pink Cake

Over the weekend, I was waiting in a store at the check out line.  Behind me was a young lady with her three small children by her side.  They all were girls.

The lady unloaded her buggy, and one of her items was a pink cake.  I noticed it and then said, "Wow!  It looks like someone is about to have a birthday party!"  Excitedly, one of the little girls replied, "Yes Sir, my cousin is.  This is for her party."  I responded, "Well, I like her pink cake.  It looks great."  With great enthusiasm, the little girls said, 'That's right.  And you know what?  There's plenty more where that came from!"  Everyone within a few feet heard her reply and smiled.  

It was a cool moment that made my day!

See, she knew that the same bakery which made that pink cake could also make many more pink cakes.  They would look equally good.  And they would taste great. 

That little girl realized there was an endless supply of pink cakes available as long as the bakery was open for business.

That makes me think about God.

This morning, we all woke up.  God's love for us was there.  It was perfect in every way.  And you know what?  There's plenty more where that came from!  Tomorrow morning, He will have another dose of Heavenly love ready for us.  And it will be fantastic, all over again.

Lamentations 3:22-23 tells us about this.  God's love never ceases.  And we get another blessing of it "every morning." 

In a way, we followers of Jesus ought to be just as excited as that little girl was.  We have something better than a delicious, pink cake.  We have God's unconditional, sacrificial, powerful love.  And we always will.

The bakery may one day close down and stop baking those cakes.  But God will always be on His throne, and He will always be filling our hearts with His love.  And man, oh man, no gift we can ever receive will be better than that! 

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Power Of A Compliment

"I can live for two months on a good compliment."  - Mark Twain
I was in a bar-b-q restaurant yesterday.  There were three ladies working behind the counter.  We were talking back and forth when I said "You all sure do make great food!".  After a few more minutes, my supper was ready and I was walking out the door.  One of the workers behind the counter called out to me and said, "Sir, thanks for saying our food is great!".  I gave her a "you're welcome" nod, and then I left with my bag of delicious bar-b-q.
As I got in my car I thought about that experience.  I really didn't make a big deal out of it when I complimented them.  While I did indeed mean what I said, it was just a quick statement in the midst of a discussion.  And yet she held on to those seven words of praise.  Of all that was said, the brief compliment meant the most to her.
I've come to realize there is power in a compliment!
Some people only hear the negative.  What they're doing wrong.  How they've messed up.  Where they've failed.  And these folks feel like they just can't do anything right.
People need to hear some praise every now and then.  This can come in many different forms.  Just think of the different types of compliments that folks share:  "You look great today."  "That meal you cooked tastes delicious."  "I admire how hard you work."  "That essay you wrote is fantastic." 
Have you ever stopped to think what a compliment can do? 
1.)  Compliments can boost the self esteem of someone who is down on themselves.
2.)  Compliments can encourage someone who is tempted to give up.
3.)  Compliments can improve our relationships with others.
4.)  Compliments can change a rotten day into a terrific one.
Of course, we need to be careful with our compliments.  Don't tell someone they've done awesome when they've actually done a terrible job.  They'll never learn to improve if they think erroneously that their performance is up to par.  Also, don't compliment people with a selfish goal of buttering them up or manipulating them.  We need to be sincere in our hearts and pure in our motives when we dish out praise to people around us.
Compliments.  We all get a blessing when we receive them.  This is true whether we are selling bar-b-q, teaching a classroom full of kids, singing a solo in church, or cleaning a yard.  Everyone likes to receive a good one every now and then!
Let's intentionally look out for people who are living right and doing well.  And let's compliment them for it.  When we do this, we're blessing them in a life-changing way!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Let Them Go!

Sometimes we want to hold people back rather than let them go, don't we?!
My oldest child is looking at a couple of universities that are out of town.  She's excited.  But part of me struggles to let her go because I like having her around.
A buddy of mine is considering a career change that would result in him moving away.  He's really interested in the possibility of it.  But I know that'll mean I see less of him, which is kind of a bummer for me.
Have you been there before?  Some people feel called by God to launch out and do something different with their lives.  Maybe it involves relocating.  Perhaps it involves switching jobs.  Possibly it involves not getting to see them for a while.  Do you sometimes struggle letting go so they can follow their calling?
When I think about this, Deborah comes to mind.  She was an ancient leader of the Israelites.  In Judges 4, she tells Barak that God wants him to gather his troops and defeat the Canaanites.  He is a little hesitant to do it.  But Deborah persists.  In verse 6 she tells him to go.  Then in verse 14 she exclaims "Go!"
Is someone you know feeling God's call to move away, switch careers, or make a major life change?  If so, perhaps your role is to be a Deborah.  Encourage them to "Go!"
To hold them back is selfish.  We're thinking more about our own desires and interests than what is best for that person.
To hold them back is sinful.  We're contradicting God if we try to talk people out of following His plan for their lives.
We're human.  We can't help how we feel.  And it's normal to want to keep things the same.  But there are some times in our lives when we need to set our personal feelings aside, trust the decisions others are making, and encourage them to follow God's will, regardless of where it may lead.
One thing we don't need to be guilty of is holding people back from following God's plan.  When our time on this Earth ends, we want to stand before Him knowing we inspired obedience within the hearts of people we knew during our lives.  And this can only happen if we can set our personal agendas aside and put more emphasis on the will of God. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Odds And Ends - Edition 6

Life is going really well here in the Palmetto State!

Here is the latest batch of odds and ends...

* We Carolina Gamecocks are mighty proud of our girls for winning the SEC basketball tournament today with a victory over a good Tennessee team.  Very excited about that!

*  My brother, Condy Richardson, is here in town.  He's preaching revival services for us at New Calvary Baptist Church.  I'm very glad he's around for a few days.

*  Speaking of New Calvary, I'm thrilled about the growth we are seeing.  The sanctuary is filling up more and more every week.  New faces are showing up, and that's a great thing.  

*  Have you seen the short film "An & Ria's First Flight"?  It's a true story about two senior adult ladies who will most definitely make you smile.  I love this.  To see this 10 minute video, just click HERE. 

*  This past week, the Prime Minister of Israel spoke to our nation's congress.  It was a passionate plea for continued American support.  Contrary to the embarrassing, negative response some politicians gave on television, I'm glad he spoke from his heart about their tough situation.  America has traditionally stood by Israel, and it is my hope our nation will continue to do so.

* Two years ago I read this short, powerful blog post by Scott Hodge about questions we need to reframe.  It spoke to me then, and it speaks to me now.  Take a brief moment and check out Scott's post here. 

That's it for now.  Thanks for following the blog.  I'll post more new writings this week!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Bethel Reunion

Last night was a great one for me.  I had the honor of preaching at the "Go Conference", which was hosted by Bethel Baptist Church here in Sumter County.  My long-time friend, Larry Frasier, is their pastor, and he invited me to give the opening sermon of the conference.  I more than enjoyed being a part of it!

One reason I had such a great time was all the reunions that took place last night.  Since my dad grew up in that fine church, I got to see relatives from his side of the family that I have not seen in a while.  Also, I bumped into some friends that I haven't been around in years.  Even two of my high school football coaches were there.  It was a thrill to see Coach Hans Swygert and Coach A.L. Geddings. 

There are very few things in life more special than reuniting with people we have not seen in a while!

So here I sit on my couch at home this morning, reflecting on last night.  And looking forward to something neat in the future.  It also has to do with reunion.

When we get to Heaven, one of the many thrills we will have will be seeing loved ones and friends we have not had a chance to visit with in a long time.   We will get to see parents, grandparents, spouses, children, friends, classmates, coworkers, coaches, doctors, neighbors, bosses, principals, and fishing buddies, just to name a few.  In Heaven, there will be smiles, hugs, hand shakes, pats on the back, and laughter. 

The Bethel reunion has me thinking of Heaven's reunion.  We will be reconnecting with people who mean a lot to us.  That's going to be a wonderful experience.  And, to make matters better, it will be a reunion that never ends, because we will get to stay together for all of eternity.

I look forward to Heaven. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

More Than Being A Good Preacher

Tripp Brogdon is a good friend of mine.  We have some great talks about life.  Recently, he sent me a quote by Fred Craddock.  It sums up exactly what I've been thinking lately.
Here's the quote:
"When I was in my late teens, I wanted to be a preacher.  When I was in my late twenties, I wanted to be a good preacher.  Now that I am older, I want more than anything else to be a Christian.  To live simply, to love generously, to speak truthfully, to serve faithfully, and leave everything else to God."
That sums up how I feel.  I think a lot more these days about being a good Christian man than I think about being a good preacher.  I'm realizing that more than anything, I just need to love God and love people.  And if I do those things, everything else falls into place.
The truth is this ought to be what we all desire.  There's something way more important than being a good farmer, doctor, teacher, secretary, lawyer, housekeeper, architect, florist, funeral director, or salesman.  What matters more than these things is simply being a good Christian.
May that be the desire of our hearts!  Let's just become men and women who are more like Jesus.  I'm realizing our lives get much better when that becomes our focus.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Cross

 At the cross, at the cross
Where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day!
(At The Cross by Isaac Watts)
I stopped by Evergreen cemetery today here in Sumter.  In the middle of it is this huge cross.  It's a beautiful reminder of what matters to us Christians.
Why does the cross mean so much?
Because of the cross, our sins are forgiven.  Jesus took all our sin upon Himself and paid the price for it when He was crucified on a Roman cross years ago.  As He hung up there, He took the punishment for our public and private wrongdoings.  That action put us in a position to receive forgiveness and mercy for all our sin.
Because of the cross, our relationship with God is possible.  We sinners become sons and daughters of God because of our Savior's sacrifice at Calvary.  No more would our sin keep us distant from God!  Now that our wrongdoings have been paid for, we can have an eternal connection with Him.  What a blessing it is for us to be able to call Him, "Father"!
Because of the cross, our minds and hearts can know Jesus loves us.  Never do we have to wonder if we matter to Him.  The willingness of Jesus to lay down His own life, bleed, suffer, and die in our place is perfect proof of His incredible love for you and me.   
Fellow Christians, we have much to be thankful for.  Let's always remember the cross!  It's there where the price is paid, the relationship is enabled, and the love is demonstrated.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Excited About The Word

Lara and I were sitting in Sunday School yesterday when it happened.
Janice, our teacher, asked a lady in our class to read one verse from an Old Testament passage of scripture.  The lady agreed to do it.  She read the first verse, and then got half way through the second verse.  She stopped mid-sentence and said, "Oh.  I was only supposed to read verse one.  Sorry, I just get excited reading The Word!" 
It was a cool moment.  She wasn't being self righteous about it.  Not at all.  Her love for God's Word was just obvious for us all to see.  And I thought it was fantastic!
Psalm 119:97 says, "Oh, how I love your law!  I meditate on it all day long."  Passion for the scriptures.  That's what we see in this verse.
We all should get excited about reading The Word!  After all, it is the perfect message from God to us.  It contains hope for the fallen, strength for the weary, guidance for the confused, peace for hurting, and salvation for the lost.  Also, it is relevant, powerful, direct, and life-changing.    
Have you spent time in God's Word today?  Take a few moments.  Open it up.  Soak it in. 
I can promise you this:  The Word will bless your heart and mind.  And you'll be glad you invested your time in it's sacred writings.