Tuesday, April 28, 2015

It's My Fault

I was a kid when it happened.

Ms. Smith lived across the road from us.  She was an elderly widow.  And she was the first Catholic I ever met.  It is also important to point out that she was a feisty lady with a quick temper.

One day Ms. Smith asked me to ride with her to the cemetery and help her clean up around her late husband's grave.  While maneuvering around the cemetery in her big car, she hit a tombstone.  It made an awful noise.  When it happened, I looked at her just in time to see her angrily yell out, "Well who in the world put that #%@! tombstone right there?!"

She was also the first senior citizen I ever heard cuss too.

I think about that experience and see that she blamed someone else for her dented car.  According to her, it was the fault of whoever set up that tombstone.  No way was she going to blame herself.

She's not the only person to do that.  Most, if not all, of us at some point or another have blamed someone else for our wrongdoings.  Or we blamed our circumstances.

One thing life has taught me is this:  When I do wrong, it is best to man up and admit "It's my fault."

We fail when we don't pay close attention or make wise choices.
We fail when we get selfish and lazy.
We fail when we place our feelings over our principles.

It's our fault when we do wrong.

Why does this matter?

When we know it's our fault, and we accept the consequences, then we can begin to improve.  We can learn from the error of our ways.  We can resolve to do better in the future.

Let's claim personal responsibility for our wrongdoings.  When we do this, God is willing to forgive us.  And He is ready to help us rebuild our lives for a better future.

This may be tough at first to say.  But do it anyway.  "It's my fault."

Saturday, April 25, 2015

My Nine Months On The Piano

(My first and only piano recital.  May, 1989.  I was 18 years old)

During my senior year of high school I decided to try something different.  So I took piano lessons.  Yep.  Piano lessons.

I had never played a musical instrument before in my life, but I wanted to give it a shot.  So I asked Sharon Odom if she could teach me.  She was (and still is) a very nice lady, and she agreed to work with me.

For about nine months I practiced.  Sharon was very patient with me.  See, I was like a lot of other teenagers.  Focused some times, and distracted others.  But she hung in there with me and kept on teaching me the best she could.

Finally, in May of 1989, I played my first and only piano recital.  It was held at a local church here in Sumter, SC.  There was a good sized crowd present for the event, as several people would be playing.  Words can not express how nervous I was that night.  I played two songs.  One of them was "Georgia On My Mind".  The other one was a hymn.  I can't remember which one it was.  I managed to get through it, and I actually did ok.  It wasn't anything great, but I didn't mess up much at all. 

After that, I didn't do much more with the piano.  I went off to college and focused on other things.  But I'm still glad I had those nine months with the piano.  It taught me some important lessons.

[1]  Never be afraid to try new things.  Outside of our comfort zones are thrilling opportunities waiting for us to experience.  Take an art class.  Try to learn golf.  Learn a musical instrument.  Write a poem.  The willingness to broaden horizons and venture out makes life even more rewarding.  Don't just play it safe and stay inside the bubble of familiarity.  Attempt something you've never done before.

[2]  Know that we can do more than we think we can.  Many of us sell ourselves short.  "Oh, I could never do that."  "Me?  Naaah, I don't have what it takes to succeed there."  These kinds of thoughts and comments hold us back from the thrill of launching into new experiences that could benefit our lives.  While I don't have scientific data to prove this, I have noticed that most of us, if not all of us, can accomplish greater things than we can imagine.  We just need to be willing to try!

So thank you, Sharon Odom, for being patient with me and teaching me about the piano.

And may we all be willing to go out on a limb, take a risk, and try new things. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Bike And The Golf Clubs

Not too long ago, I told my family that I hoped to get a bike one day soon.

Shortly after that, I was walking down the road with my son when this guy I've never met before called out to me from his yard.  It turned out he serves in the Air Force.  He explained that he was getting transferred to another location.  Then he asked me if I would take his bike because he couldn't take it with him.

God provided for me a bike.

A week ago, I was visiting with some friends.  We were discussing golf.  I told the guy that I didn't have any clubs, and I hoped to get a set soon.

Two days later I was visiting a different home here in Sumter.  A fellow there asked me if I wanted a set of golf clubs.  They were sitting in the garage and not being used.

God provided for me a set of golf clubs.

I've been thinking about how God chooses to bless us.  He most certainly provides for our needs.  But He also at times provides for our wants.

I did not need a bike.  I did not need a set of golf clubs.  But I wanted them.  And God chose to give them to me.

I'll bet occasionally He does the same for you too!

What are we to make of this?

#1).  God does take note of our desires and He responds accordingly.  He's not just preoccupied with big matters.  He also cares about the little things we think and talk about.

#2).  God deserves our gratitude.  Part of our prayers should be a "Thank you!" for the needs and wants He meets.  We ought to express our appreciation to Him for the extra blessings He sends our way.

I realize God owes me nothing.  His choosing to bless me is an act of grace.  And I also know that if He did not give me the bike and the golf clubs, He would still be worthy of praise and thanks.

Yes, God meets our needs.  And there are times when He goes the extra mile to grant us our wants too. That just further proves He cares for us.  We matter to Him.  And that, friends, is a mighty good thing!

Talk to God about your needs.  And while you're at it, feel free to mention to Him your wants.  If your desires are in line with His perfect will, you just may see Him come through on your behalf in a special way.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Driveway Parable

My driveway was a mess.  Parts of the concrete were greatly uneven.  This made parking difficult for us.
Yesterday, some guys came to our home and repaired the driveway.
Here is what they did:
First, they used a jackhammer to break it up.  This got messy, but it had to be done.  And it required some hard work. 
Then they cleaned the area out.  Chunks on concrete and roots were removed and thrown away.  It took some time, but they did a great job of removing the big and little pieces of debris from the site. 
Next, they backed up a big truck and began to pour newly mixed concrete.  It filled up the entire area that had been cleaned out a few moments earlier.  Those guys made sure every corner was saturated with it.
Finally, they smoothed out the newly poured concrete.  They used some tools to make sure it was just right.  When they finished, there were no bumps and no rough edges.  It looked so much better!

As I watched the guys do their work, I thought about how God does a similar sort of transformation within us.

Just like my driveway, our hearts can get a little messed up.  Uneven.  Rough.  So God, at times, has to break things up in our lives.  He doesn't use a jackhammer on us.  Thank goodness for that!  But He does use His word, His Holy Spirit, other people, or even our circumstances.  Then He will effectively help us take out all the trash, debris, and rocky parts.  Then, He fills us with His Holy Spirit.  By this I mean He pours His own presence into our lives.  In doing so, He makes us right and smooths us out.  When He does His work, it's mighty impressive.

I'm glad those fellows fixed up my driveway.  But I'm even more glad that God fixes up our lives.  The job He does in our hearts and minds is something to be celebrated.

Let's all allow God to work in us.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Odds And Ends - Edition 7

Hi everyone!  Here's the latest edition of "Odds And Ends".

*  Some of you have never had an opportunity to visit us here at New Calvary Baptist Church.  It is a thrill and privilege for me to pastor this fine church, and I'm excited to give you a quick glimpse into what our sanctuary looks like.  (See picture above.)  It's a pretty place, as you can see.

*  It was a thrill for me yesterday morning, April 19, to watch my son step out, walk down the center aisle of New Calvary, and express a desire to be baptized.  Emerson has an obvious love for The Lord, and I am happy for him.  In a couple of weeks, we will have a baptism service for him at New Calvary.
*  Above is a picture of Emerson.  I snapped this yesterday afternoon before my dad took him out to the country for some target practice.  He's posing with his bb gun my parents gave him for Christmas.  What can I say?  He's all boy!

*  It looks like my family and I are headed up to Columbus, Ohio this summer for the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.  And we'll take in the pastor's conference.  I'm excited to see what good things our fellow Southern Baptists are up to. 

*  I'm reading a fantastic book by David Jeremiah these days called What Are You Afraid Of? and I'm getting blessed big time by it.  If you can get your hands on it, I'd highly encourage you to do so.  When I finish, I'll do a blog post about the book.
*  It's hard for me to believe that Katie, my oldest child, is about to graduate from high school in just a few weeks.  I'm really proud of her, and excited to see what the future holds for her.  Isn't it thrilling to watch kids grow up?
*  You know what I've been thinking about lately?  There is too much hatred and incivility in this world.  And it's really not necessary at all.  May God help us all get along peacefully with each other.  Life is too short and valuable for us to walk around mad and bitter. 
*  Thanks a million for taking the time to visit this blog and check out the things I write.  I hope at least some of it blesses and encourages you.  I write these blog posts as an online journal for me to record my thoughts, observations, and experiences.  This is not me trying to be some sort of expert on life or know-it-all.  Far from it!  I'm just a normal Christian guy who goes through the same ups and downs that you go through.  So my writing these blog posts is simply my way of passing along to you, my friend, what God is teaching me.        
I hope you have a great day.  More new blog posts will come this week, so feel free to stop by my online home any time!
God bless you and yours.

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Little Overboard On Friday

It's Friday.  We're happy here in the Richardson house.  No school tomorrow for the kids.  No work tomorrow for the wife or me.  It's looking like a peaceful, enjoyable weekend awaits us.
You know the feeling.  Fridays put a little extra spring in your step and a bigger smile on your face.  It's a wonderful day!
I was looking at Twitter just now, when I found what Dave Ramsey (a great guy!) posted an hour ago.  It really spoke to me.  Check it out for yourself:
Wow!  That'll grab anyone's attention.  And it should make us all think.
Sure,  Fridays are special.  There's no point in trying to downplay its significance.  After all, it is the door through which we step into the weekend, where there is usually a little less pressure than what most of us face on normal weekdays.
But doesn't Ramsey make a valid point?  If we're miserable Monday - Thursday, and if the only thing we're doing on weekdays is trying to make it to Friday, maybe it is time for a change indeed.
Here's what runs through this brain of mine:
On Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday...
God's presence is ours to enter,
God's joy is ours to experience,
God's peace is ours to embrace.
I once played golf with a guy in North Carolina who looked at me after we finished the 18th hole and said, "Well, I endured it."  Did you catch that?  He endured it.  He did not say he enjoyed it.
Let's don't just endure Monday - Thursday.  That's no way to live.  Let's do more than try to survive those days so we can make it to Friday.  Life can be better than that.  Let's enjoy every day in The Lord.
Every day is a gift!
Every day is an opportunity!
Every day is a chance for us to proclaim enthusiastically Psalm 118:24, which reads "This is the day that the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it."
So, yeah, may your family and mine have a most Happy Friday!!  That's a great thing.  But let's also remember to tell ourselves on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings, "With God's presence, today is going to be a blessed day too!!"
I'm glad the joy God gives us is not just confined to Friday.  Aren't you?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Water Into Wine

I love the story that is recorded in John 2:1-11.  In it, Jesus and His disciples are at a wedding celebration.  The wine runs out, and Jesus is made aware of it.  So what does He do?  He turns water into wine.
I preached on this miracle this past Sunday at church, and I'm still thinking about it this morning.
What does this miracle have to do with us today?
Consider the following...
[1]  Jesus is full of compassion.  In that culture and time, it was considered highly offensive and very rude if the groom and bride ran out of wine at a wedding party.  Hospitality was a mighty big deal back then.  If the guests found out there was not enough food or drink, they would think less of the newlyweds and run down their name in the community.  Jesus understood that; therefore, He intervened and fixed the problem so they would not be embarrassed and shamed. 
That's how Jesus rolls!  He cares about people.  And He injects Himself into the lives of those who hurt.  Why?  So He can lend a helping hand. 
Are you hurting?  Jesus cares.  Your problem does matter to Him.  So ask Him for help.
[2]  Jesus can bring about change.  He turned water into wine.  That actually was His first miracle.  Can I scientifically explain how He did it?  Nope.  But I do believe He did it.  And so should you.  It's not hard at all to believe Jesus could do that.
What a powerful Savior He was and is!  If He can change water into wine, then He also can change us.  It's happened before, you know?!  Jesus is into the life changing business.
Do you need some changes in your mind, heart, or life?  Jesus can more than handle it.  Ask Him to transform you.
[3]  Jesus teaches us to bless others without calling attention to ourselves.  He turned this water into wine very quietly, with only a small group of people knowing about it.  Jesus didn't ask everyone to gather around the water pots, strut His stuff, and say, "Ta-da!  Look what I just did, everyone!".  Nope, not at all.  He did it privately.  And He did not seek applause from others in the process.
What an awesome example He sets.  Through His actions, Jesus teaches us to bless others privately without making a big deal about it.  When we help people without seeking applause or thanks, our hearts are in the right place.  We're lending a helping hand with the right motives.  And that, my friend, is a beautiful thing.
Do you see someone that needs a little help?  Then quietly, privately bless them by taking action on their behalf.  And don't advertise it to others.  When you do this, you're becoming more like Jesus.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Lizzie And Me At The Masters

My daughter, Lizzie, and I had the thrill of a lifetime this past weekend.  On Saturday, June 12, we attended The Masters in Augusta, Georgia.  A good friend of ours gave us tickets so we could attend.  And we sure are glad we went!
First of all, the course was beautiful.  Gorgeous.  Stunning.  I was blown away at how pretty everything was.  Especially Amen Corner.  Honestly, I thought we were at Heaven on Earth as we walked those famous grounds.
Next, the people there were classy.  The fans and the workers were a total pleasure to be around.  I did not see one person being rude or obnoxious.  Folks had good manners and plenty of smiles.  We enjoyed the company of everyone we interacted with. 
Also, the food there was amazing.  The egg salad sandwiches and the pimento cheese sandwiches were mighty delicious.  To top it off, they were only $1.50 each!  I was amazed at how inexpensive the food was.
Finally, we did take in some good golf action.  We got to see Tiger Woods for three holes.  Also, we saw Sergio Garcia and Vijay Singh.  Of course there were plenty of other guys we saw, but those three were the most popular ones we got to see in person.
I'll never forget my special day with Lizzie at The Masters.  And I'll forever hold on to the picture that was taken of us on our day together.  It truly was a magical experience!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Catcaller Or Gentleman?

Our family has a friend who wrote on Facebook recently about guys yelling out and catcalling her.  In her post, she stated there is "absolutely nothing cute" about guys behaving this way towards females.  Furthermore, she said she is not "a piece of meat" and has no desire "to be hit on in this way."  I could tell by reading it that this lady has been hurt and offended.

That got me thinking about something the Bible teaches.  1 Timothy 5:2 calls us to treat "younger women as sisters, with absolute purity."  Guys, when we're dealing with females, God wants us to be pure towards them.  In our thoughts, words, and actions, we are to be gentlemanly and behave towards them like they are our sisters.  In other words, we are to treat women like we would treat our family. 

Let's be honest, fellows:  We know we will always notice a pretty lady.  We're visual.  That's how God wired us.  Older and younger guys can't help but appreciate a lovely female.  But we still are called to practice restraint and behave accordingly.

I'll never forget an old seminary professor I had.  He was way up there in age.  One day in class he said, "Guys, I may be old but I still notice pretty girls.  So here is what I do:  When I see a lovely young woman walking towards me in the hallway I smile, say "Hello" to her, keep walking without staring at her, and silently pray, 'Lord, You sure did a good job on that one!'  Then, I make my way to my next appointment and continue on with my day."  We all erupted with laughter at this elderly professor telling us this.  But we also knew he was right.  It's ok to notice someone is attractive.  There's no sin in that.  But we then are to keep our eyes ahead and move on with our business.

No woman or girl wants to feel awkward or like "a piece of meat."  It creates an uncomfortable experience for them that is just not pleasant.  And it hurts a little bit of their heart.

Men, let's bless the ladies we interact with by being gentlemen.  May our words, looks, and deeds be respectful, appropriate, and comforting.  That's how Jesus treated women.  And we should do the same.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Just Like Me?

I spent the afternoon with my son today.  We went to a state park for some hiking.  Then we drove out to the country to shoot his bb gun.

When we started heading home, I realized I did not have my seat belt on.  I just forgot to do it, which is unlike me.  Then, I glanced to my right and saw my son sitting there in the passenger seat.  He did not have on his either.  So, without saying a word, I put on my seatbelt.  After I clicked it in, I looked out the corners of my eyes at him.  Guess what he did?  He put on his seat belt. 

This silent experience got me wondering:  Do I want my son to be just like me?

See, from time to time I get reminded that kids watch what we adults do.  And quite often they imitate what we do.  Whether it's good or bad, they often walk in our footsteps and follow our examples.

I guess all of us grownups should ask ourselves this question:  Do we want our kids to be like us?

Do we want our kids to be just like us in how we...
Handle our emotions?
Spend our money?
Treat our spouse?
Manage our time?
Conduct our business?

Do we want our kids to be just like us in how we react to...

The seat belt moment today serves as a reminder.  Our kids watch us.  And they often do what they see us doing. 

If we want these sons and daughters to live better, we must live better.  We must show them the way.  We must set the example.  We must model how life should be lived.

Men, let's be good men.  Women, be good women.  One reason for this is simple:  Because our kids are watching us.  And one day, when they grow up, there's a good chance they may end up just like us.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Happy Easter 2015

Happy Easter, everyone!
It's been a fantastic day here in Sumter.  We enjoyed our first Easter with our church family at New Calvary Baptist Church.  Then my family and I ate a delicious lunch with my parents at their home.  Mom and Lara teamed up to serve everyone a great meal.  Of course I should also add that Lara and the kids looked like a million bucks this Easter! 
It's a special day, you know?!  Jesus Christ was dead on Friday.  Dead on Saturday.  But alive on Sunday.  Do I really believe that?  Absolutely!  He walked out of the tomb on that first Easter morning, and He has been alive ever since.  A risen Savior!  That's who you and I serve.
Jesus lives.  He always will.  And that's why we Christians rejoice. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Why Good Friday Is Good

Good Friday is the day we Christians remember the cross of Jesus Christ.
It is on this cross that our Savior suffered, bled, and died centuries ago.
So why is Good Friday good?
It is GOOD that He took all our sins upon Himself.
It is GOOD that He stood in our place and bore our punishment.
It is GOOD that the required payment for sin was made.
It is GOOD that He was obedient to the plan of His Father.
It is GOOD that Satan and his forces were defeated.
It is GOOD that forgiveness for our sins was made available.
It is GOOD that we were able to experience peace with God.
It is GOOD that access to Paradise was provided.
It is GOOD that God's love for us was proven.
Yes, we call it Good Friday for a reason.  Good was accomplished on that cross.  This good blesses us today, and will continue to do so for all of eternity.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

At Peace

For years I looked ahead and wondered "What's next?" rather than enjoying what was going on right around me.  I wondered where I would work next, where we would live next, and what ever else would be next.  There was this restlessness deep within me and I never quite knew what to do with it.  
Now that I'm a little older and a tad farther along in my life's journey, I find myself at a neat spot:  I am at peace.  And it feels really good.  Thanks be to God, I am satisfied and content.  I look around me and see that I have a wife, four kids, a ministry, a home, good health, and simplicity.  I can say with sincerity that I like where I am in life.
Isn't it neat how God helps us work through that?  He teaches us to be content with what we have and to enjoy this moment we're living in right now.  And He enables us to count our blessings while recognizing how fortunate we are.
The Apostle Paul addresses this in Philippians 4.  He states in verse 12, "I have learned the secret to being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want."  Now that's a great secret to learn!  So, what exactly is the secret?  In verse 13 he explains, "I can do all this through Him who gives me strength."  There it is.  Paul is saying that when his focus is on the Lord, he can be content regardless of his location or circumstances.
What is true for Paul is also true for you and me.  We are most at peace when we are closest with the Lord.  And this peace satisfies the longing of our hearts so that we can enjoy the moment. 
Here's some friendly advice I have for you:  Choose to embrace this season of your life in the Lord.  Live in it.  Celebrate it.  It would be a shame to always wonder about the next moment and miss out on appreciating this moment. 
At peace.  I truly believe that's how God wants us to live.  May we all find that wonderful treasure in Him.