Saturday, May 30, 2015

Griping At Chick-Fil-A

I was at Chick-fil-a recently here in Sumter.  While I was placing my order at the counter, I overheard a customer at the next register.  He was holding up his cell phone at a female employee and complaining.

"Excellent restaurants all have wifi.  But you guys don't.  You want to be an excellent restaurant don't you?!  Then y'all have got to provide wifi for your customers."  He went on about this for a couple of minutes.  All the lady could say was, "I'm sorry, sir."

It made me shake my head and laugh.  I thought to myself, "This guy is standing here in an awesome restaurant that serves millions of people tasty chicken sandwiches, delicious sweet tea, and wonderful waffle fries.  And it's a business that was founded by Christians.  Yet here he is, griping at Chick-fil-a simply because he can't access the internet for a few minutes."

Good grief.

He had so much positive going on around him at that moment.  And yet he chose to focus on the one negative.  Because of this, he missed out on what could have been a fantastic experience.

In the spirit of fairness, we all probably do that from time to time.  If we're not careful, we can get hung up on one or two negatives in life while we lose sight of the many positives that surround us.  It's kind of like we go blind to the gifts God has bestowed upon us.

May God forgive us when we do that.

Let's focus on what is going for us instead of against us.  Let's count our many blessings from above.  And let's be thankful for the good things that we get to enjoy in our lives.

God is good.  He blesses us daily with His grace and love.  Because of this, He should hear shouts of gratitude from us instead of gripes of bitterness.

Thank you, Lord, for your kindness to your people.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Looking Good

When I was a young kid at Thomas Sumter Academy, I didn't want to look neat for class.  I realize this sounds weird, but I would mess up my hair and untuck my shirt before walking into school every day.  I'm not sure if other boys were that way or not.  It was just one of those things I did that I'm not able to explain.
I remember the day it happened.  There in the boys restroom I stood looking at the mirror.  I was 12 years old.  As I saw my reflection, a new thought hit me:  "This is dumb.  I should just tuck in my shirt, brush my hair, and try to look better."  It was like a light bulb turned on.  From that moment on, I tried my best to look good.  I suppose I was beginning to mature some.
Our external appearance matters.  Most, if not all, of us want to be looking good.  That is important.
But looking good on the inside also matters.  Actually, it matters much more.  To God, it's of great significance.
People see our outside.  God sees the inside.  Beneath the surface is where His gaze is set.  I Samuel 16:7 teaches us "People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."
The neat thing is God can help us look good inside.
He can clean our heart.
He can purify our mind.
He can make us just right.
David understood this well.  In Psalm 51:7, he stated "Cleanse me, and I will be clean.  Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow."  His desire was to have his heart and mind in the proper condition.
Part of my growing up was discovering the importance of looking the best I can with what I have.  And that does matter.  Let's do take care of ourselves and consider our appearance. 
But we grow up spiritually when we put even more emphasis on our heart and mind being clean and right.  Let's fill up our lives with scripture, prayer, worship, and God's Holy Spirit.  When we allow Him free access to our inner world, He will clean us up and have us looking good in the area that matters most.

Monday, May 25, 2015

A Rough Day For The Flower Lady

I was recently talking with a buddy of mine when a lady from a florist approached us.  She was really nice and we had a good visit with her.  When she turned around to leave, I said, "Have a great day!"  Without looking back at me, she kept on walking and said, "It's only going to get worse, I believe."
I felt bad for her.  She's normally pretty upbeat.  That was just a rough day for her.
Maybe we all have been there one time or another.  Times get tough, and, as a result, we get negative.  Pessimism creeps into our hearts and minds.  And we begin to expect the worst.
I've come to see there really is power in positive thinking.  Sure, I understand some things will not go favorably in life.  That's just a realistic fact.  But I've also learned that when I trust God to see me through, and when I expect the best, I'm in a much better frame of mind to face the day.  It really does make a difference in what I think and how I feel.
A positive attitude helps us set fears aside and charge forward with energy, boldness, and confidence.  Also, when we have a positive attitude, it affects other people.  It makes us more pleasant to be around, and it inspires them to be more optimistic in their own hearts too.
I'm not judging the flower lady.  Believe me, I'm not.  I've gotten pessimistic before too.  But I have learned that being positive and optimistic will get me a lot farther in life than being negative and pessimistic.
May we find our confidence in knowing God is with us and He will empower us for whatever may come our way.  That is why we can have a smile on our face and a spring in our step!  It's hard not to be positive when we have faith in the awesome God of Heaven and Earth.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Odds And Ends - Edition 10

* Today, May 24, was a good day here at New Calvary Baptist Church!

*  Tim McCormick, the President of South Carolina Gideons, gave the message during our morning worship service.  It was a thrill to have him here as he shared what all God is doing in and through this important ministry.
(Tim McCormick speaking at New Calvary, May 24, 2015)

*  New Calvary took up a love offering for the Gideons and brought in just over $400.  That will purchase a lot of Bibles to be put in the hands of people around the world. 

*  Tim is a good friend of mine.  I've known him for about ten years.  I respect his wisdom and enjoy his company.
(Tim McCormick and me, May 24, 2015)

*  I loved it when Tim said today, "The Bible makes a difference in people's lives." 

*  Our church family enjoyed a tasty salad lunch today after the morning worship service.  The fellowship was fun and the food was delicious. 

*  In tonight's worship service I preached on Proverbs 28:13 which states, "Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy."  I focused on confession and repentance while talking on this verse. 

*  It's Memorial Day weekend.  With that in mind, may God comfort the families and friends of those who have died in military service.  And may we always be thankful for those who lost their lives defending America and fighting for freedom.

*  Lara, the kids, and I are doing really well.  We're excited about the upcoming summer.  We're real proud of Katie, who is about to graduate from high school.  And we love our church family.  All six of us are blessed and thankful.

*  Finally, here is one more picture we had taken today of the McCormick's, Lara, and me:
(Tim & Katie McCormick, Lara, and me, May 24, 2015)

*  That's all for today.  It's been a great one.  More blog posts are coming up this week.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Looking Alike

(Lizzie and me on Saturday, May 16, 2015)
A couple of days ago, I needed to run to Walmart for just a moment.  I asked my Lizzie if she wanted to go with me.  "Sure", she said.  We both went to our own rooms so we could get ready.  When it was time to go, I walked into the living room and saw Lizzie wearing the same tshirt I was wearing!  We didn't plan it.  It just happened.  There we stood, wearing identical Jurassic Park shirts and grinning from ear to ear.

We got a good laugh, snapped a quick picture, and went on to Walmart looking alike.  She and I did get a few looks from people.  One guy in particular looked at me, then looked at her, shook his head, and tried to hold in his laughter.  But neither Lizzie nor I cared.  We just had fun with it.

It was kind of cool looking alike.  But I can think of something way better than that.  I'm talking about looking like Jesus!

Jesus doesn't wear a Jurassic Park tshirt.  So how can we look like Him?  Well, here are just a few ways we can do this...

We look like Jesus when we have compassion for hurting people.
We look like Jesus when we submit to the will of God the Father.
We look like Jesus when we forgive those who do us wrong.
We look like Jesus when we immerse ourselves in scripture.
We look like Jesus when we serve others with a humble heart.
We look like Jesus when we pray and seek closeness with God the Father.

I can not think of anyone better to be a reflection of than Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  When our life resembles His, something wonderful is happening.  It proves God is working in our heart and mind.

May God use His word and His Holy Spirit to make us more and more like Jesus!  What an awesome transformation that would be.  Let's seek that and allow God to make that a reality in our lives.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Odds And Ends - Edition 9

*  The best video clip I saw this past week is about a lady discussing manhood.  It is powerful and direct.  I can promise you that watching this two minute video will inspire you.  To check it out, just click HERE.
*  Last week I bumped into a lady that looked quite familiar.  It turned out she was my first grade teacher, Ms. Sara Jernigan.  She taught me how to read and write in the late seventies at Wilson Hall here in Sumter.  To this day I still say she is one of the best teachers I ever had.  It was a pleasure seeing her again.
(Ms. Jernigan and me)
*  Yesterday (May 17, 2015) was a special day here at New Calvary Baptist Church.  I had the honor of baptizing two young people.  One was a Corey, a ninth grade girl.  The other was Emerson, my son.  We celebrated them throughout the service.
 (Baptizing my Emerson on Sunday, May 17, 2015)
(Everyone clapping for Emerson & Corey after their baptism)
*  They both are fine young people with bright futures.  I'm proud of them both!
*  On a personal note, it feels good to know that I have seen all four of my children ask Jesus Christ to be their Savior and Lord.  And it has been an honor as their father to baptize each of them. 
*  We continue to enjoy New Calvary Baptist Church.  They are a fine congregation that loves the Lord and loves each other.  Also, they have been more than good to me.  I've been fortunate to pastor fine churches along the way.  And I'm thankful for each of them for different reasons.  New Calvary is the right church for me at this point of my life, and I feel like I am finally home.  This is where I belong, and I could not be happier about it.  Lara and the kids love it too. 
*  My oldest child, Katie, is about to graduate from high school in a couple of weeks.  Lara and I are very proud of her.  She is growing up and becoming a mature young lady. 
*  Our other children, Lizzie, Rachel, and Emerson, are growing up too.  It's amazing how time flies with them.  My girls are all teenagers, and Emerson is now 10.  My, how the years go by quickly!
That's the "Odds and Ends" of life here in my corner of the world. 
Blessed and thankful is what I am. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

When We Have To Wait

I was driving a work van a while back when I suddenly had to stop.  There was a pond by this nice neighborhood where geese love to hang out.  On this particular day, about 35 of them decided to take a stroll in the middle of road. 
They were in the way and I wasn't getting anywhere.  So I waited.  And waited a little more.  I just sat there, relaxed, and finally was able to move after they moved out of the road.
Sometimes in the journey of life, we come to a standstill and have to wait.  And occasionally we have to wait quite a while.  It's not always easy to do this. 
We wait on relationships to improve, job opportunities to open, financial breakthroughs to happen, and sicknesses to go away.  We wait on people to get their lives together.  And we wait sometimes on God to answer our prayers.
Believe it or not, waiting can actually be good for us.  It can cause us to slow down and appreciate the moment we're in.  And it teaches us to not live in such a hurry.  Those seasons of life when we have to wait are actually good seasons that help us grow spiritually, emotionally, and mentally.
Are you having to wait for something right now?  Is it trying your patience?  Remind yourself that moments we wait are not wasted.  Far from it!  Instead, moments we wait are seasons where God further develops and refines us.
Hang in there!  You won't have to wait forever.  In due time, God will move the geese out of your way, and you'll be in forward motion once again. 
Finally, while you're waiting, remember these words from Psalm 27:14 - "Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord."

Monday, May 11, 2015

Climber The Crab

It was a big deal to Emerson.
My son got a pet last week.  It was a little crab that stayed in a box by his bed.  His name was Climber.
Emerson loved that little crab.  He would tell it "Good morning" when he woke up.  He would tell it "Bye" before he went out the room.  And he would tell it "Good night" when he was going to bed in the evening. 
My son recently finished a creative school project on Frederick Douglas.  Daily he would set his project by Climber's home.  And daily Emerson would say, "Dad, he likes looking at my Frederick Douglas project."
Well, over the weekend, Climber died.  Before church yesterday, it became obvious.  So we gently broke the news to Emerson.  That did not go over so well.  My son wept.  I haven't seen him cry like that before.  It broke his heart.  He said, "Climber was my best friend" as tears rolled down his face.
I placed Climber's home on the back porch with the Frederick Douglas project yesterday before church.  We left him there for most of the day.  Then, around 7:30 last night, we had a funeral in the back yard.  Yes, a funeral.  Lizzie dug a little hole.  The our whole family gathered together in a circle by his burial site.  I held Climber in my hand and said the following:
"We are gathered here today to commit Climber back to the dust of the ground.  He was a good little crab.  Emerson and the rest of us enjoyed our time with him.  He made us smile and he brought a little extra happiness into our lives.  So thank you, Climber, for being such a good crab."
Then I led us all in prayer.  I thanked God for letting Emerson enjoy a few happy days with Climber.  And I asked God to comfort Emerson's hurting heart with peace from above.  After all this, we laid the little crab in his grave, and Lizzie covered him up.  Finally, we placed some rocks around and on his burial site so Emerson can visit it whenever he wants. 
Emerson cried at the crab's funeral.  He hugged me and his tears got on my shirt.  Also he hugged his sisters and mother.  Then we went inside.
See, God reminded my wife, daughters, and me of a simple lesson through this experience:  When something is a big deal to another person, it needs to be a big deal to us.  In a way, I think that's what compassion is.  Sure, crabs die every day.  That may not be Earth-shattering news.  But this one really mattered to Emerson; therefore, it mattered to us.
May God give us all sympathetic hearts.  When we see someone hurting or grieving, let's show them love and compassion.  Even if the problem is not a big deal to us, let's remember it is a big deal to the other person.  And the best thing we can do is be there for them and encourage them.
As we were walking inside, Lara noticed Emerson's Frederick Douglas school project beside Climber's old, empty home.  Then she said this to Emerson and the rest of us:  "Hey, I have an idea.  When we get another crab, let's name him Frederick."  We all agreed that was the best suggestion anyone could have given.  And Emerson seemed pleased with the idea.
Tomorrow I'll go to the pet store.  But I won't get a crab.  Instead, I'll get two of them.  A boy and a girl.  And I'll do everything I can to keep them safe and alive.  Why?  Because it will be a big deal to Emerson.  That's all the reason I need.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Two Moms I Love

It's Mother's Day 2015.  So with that in mind, I want to put the spotlight on two moms I love.
First is Lara, my wife.
Lara is Mom to our four children.  Anyone who knows her can say with certainty that she loves these kids.  What some people may not know is that Lara has a great sense of humor with them.  She can make them laugh by coming up with creative, hilarious words and songs in a split second.  I must admit she also makes me laugh.  Katie, Lizzie, Rachel, and Emerson are blessed to have her love and compassion in their lives.  And I'm blessed to have her in my life too!

Next is Diane Richardson, my Mom.
I've enjoyed a good relationship with Mom along the way.  Over the years people have also told me I look like her.  I don't know if I do or not, but folks say my face resembles hers.  Either way, I'm thankful for Mom.  I remember when I was a child she would spend plenty of time with me.  When I was a teenager, she would do things like teach me how to dance in our living room (I never got the hang of that) and play basketball with me in the backyard.  Then I became an adult and she still stuck with me.  When I was ordained as a pastor in 1996, Mom placed her hands on my shoulders there in the church and prayed over me.  That was special!  She has been right there with me to celebrate the good things that have happened along the way.  And the times I failed and made mistakes, Mom stood by me and helped me get my life back on track.  I can honestly say that she has been loyal and loving to me every step of the way.

So there they are.  Two moms I love!  They both are truly special ladies.

Happy Mother's Day, Lara!  You're a wonderful mom to our four kids.  I love you and appreciate you.

And Happy Mother's Day, Mom!  You're a great mom to me.  I'm thankful for you and I love you.

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Old Green Furniture

I was driving through Palmetto Plaza today when I noticed it.

There's a place where people can donate items for those who are less fortunate in our community.  Usually it's clothes people leave.  But today I saw where someone left old furniture on the pavement. It was green, beat up, and in awful shape.
I shook my head when I saw it.  Someone basically dumped trash for the needy.  That was not so much of a good donation at all.

I'm glad God gives in the opposite manner.  He doesn't donate Heaven's old left-overs.  Not at all!  When He gives, it's extravagant, life-changing, and wonderful.  The best things in life come from Him.  God blesses our needy hearts with peace for our storms, strength for our battles, wisdom for our decisions, and hope for our future.  But wait, it gets even better!  He grants us forgiveness for our sins and salvation for our souls.  And it all comes our way through Jesus Christ!

The greatest needs of our lives can't be met by mankind.  But they can be easily handled by our awesome God.  Look to Him and see that He gives His very best, time after time.  Let God bless you today!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Odds And Ends - Edition 8

*  Today, May 3, was a good day.  Lara, the kids, and I went to Hamlet, NC, for the Homecoming service at Calvary Baptist Church.

*  I served as their pastor 1999-2002.

*  It was a great time of reunion for us as we walked into their sanctuary this morning and saw lots of old friends we haven't been around in a long time.

*  I preached on "How Blessed We Are" out of Psalm 103:1-5.  It was a reminder of how good God is to us. 

*  We enjoyed a delicious meal there at the church after the worship service.  And we had an awesome time just sitting around and talking with friends.

*  I have good memories and warm memories of my time with them.

*  The best laugh I had today took place during the meal when this guy walked up to me with a grin on his face.  I didn't recognize him.  He told me that I baptized him and his brother together about 14 years ago.  Then he said I introduced him and his brother to the church as "The Meatballs" before I put them under the water.  Then I remembered doing that.  I replied, "Man, I'm sorry I did that."  But he didn't care.  He thought it was funny.  We both had a good laugh about it.

*  I also missed our church family today at New Calvary Baptist Church here in Sumter.  I love those people and enjoy getting to serve them.

*  I'm sitting here tonight on my couch with the Red Sox - Yankees game on tv & feeling blessed.  God sure has been good to me.  Counting my blessings reminds me just how fortunate I am.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

My Flight From Dallas

Let me tell you about my flight from Dallas.
I had been on a mission trip to Alaska.  It was an incredible time of ministry and fellowship.  Our trip home took us through and Seattle and Dallas.  When we were on our flight just outside of Charlotte, I looked at Keith, who had led and organized our trip, and said, "Hey man.  You did a great job with this trip.  It was a total success!"  I'll never forget what happened next.  He looked at me and said, "Don't thank me yet, David.  Our plane hasn't landed."
After a few seconds of awkward silence I said, "Yeah, I guess you're right."  Then I whispered a prayer for God to help us land safely.  Gratitude filled my heart when we touched down in Charlotte.
Keith's words still make me think of these words from Psalm 27:1 - "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth."  This verse teaches us to be humble and keep in mind we have no clue what the future may bring.  Nothing is guaranteed.  We do not know what will happen in the next hour, day, week, month, or year.
I didn't know for sure if we would land safely in Charlotte.
You don't know for sure what will happen in the next day or two.
Only God knows these things.
What does this mean for us?
Well, consider this...
#1  We should make the most of today, because we may not have a tomorrow.  Each of us has projects to complete and people to love.  So let's maximize our moments and seize the day instead of waiting for a tomorrow that none of us are guaranteed.
#2  We should stay humble and remember that only God knows what the future holds.  His amazing foreknowledge allows Him to clearly see what is waiting for us around the corner.  That is just one of many reasons why God is worthy of our praise and worship.
When it comes to time, may we never get cocky; instead, let's make each day count, and let's remember only God knows what the future holds.