Sage Advice

Some of my fondest memories, and best stories, involve my Papaw. He was a kind, gentle, wise, good, Christian man who served more as a father figure to me than a grandfather.

Back in 1994 I decided to chance careers: quit my job as a manager at a pet store and go into the car sales business. While I made a fair living at my job I wanted the chance to make a better living for my family. My wife was apprehensive, to say the least, but didn’t stop me. In fact, no one was particularly supportive of my career change, I felt very good about the prospect.

I remember telling Papaw about my decision, and his reaction. It was Christmas Eve and we were at the traditional holiday gathering at my grandparents house. Papaw and I were talking about I don’t really remember what when I felt like it was time to tell him about my impending change. He listened patiently while I told him of the new job, the potential I felt it held for me, and the reasons I was sure I’d be good at this position. After I finished it remember him pausing, I could see the cogs turning inside his head as he took it all in, a sight I’d seen many times in my life. When he finally spoke he said something I hadn’t expected: he thought I was right! He told me that I had a good plan, had the skills to do the job, and, even though it wouldn’t be easy, I could succeed at it … if I remembered one thing: “Son,” he said, “if you just treat every feller the way you’d want him to treat you if you were in his shoes you’ll do just fine.” I didn’t realize it at the time, mostly because someone finally thought I was making a good decision, but what he was actually doing was biblically teaching me; he was paraphrasing The Golden RuleLuke 6:31

And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.

My grandfather lived by what God’s Word teaches. And he advised or taught, if you will, from the precepts of The Word, too, in a way that didn’t come across as high or holy or righteous; his words came as wise, thoughtful, caring, and genuine down to earth. He didn’t say that he was giving me Scripture or quoting the Bible; I know he did this because it was just how he was, genuine, down to earth, and all the rest. And when I finally got it and realized it was Scripture I felt like God got even more glory from Papaw’s simple, easy way of presenting it.

As I went into my new career I applied that sage advice in every “deal” I worked. I actually took it a bit farther, perhaps, and treated each customer how I’d want my Papaw to be treated; I still hold true to this philosophy to this day and it has served me well.

Papaw was right about everything he said that Christmas Eve night. I did prosper in my new career, and lived it most of the time. And I always told folks what and how I came about my way of doing business. And as clueless as I was to it, God got the glory each time. He still does today, too, I just realize it now and am happy to be able to be able to give it to Him.

Where is the Fish?

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This past April my wife and I bought a fancy fantail goldfish for our grandson, Connor, for his birthday. We, of course, let Connor pick it out, along with all the “stuff” that one needs for a new goldfish: rocks, tank, decorations, etcetera. Naming animals is always a family affair with us and this new pet was no exception. It took an hour or so and several discarded candidates before my wife offered up the winning moniker: Jonah. Connor loves old Jonah and is so cute watching him and especially at feeding time when he almost always says, “Papaw, somebody looks hungry!”, which makes me laugh every time the event it repeats itself.

A little over a week ago Jonah began to act odd: Staying hidden and low in his tank almost all the time, not being at all active and not eating, something he excelled at! I diligently changed his filer, added medicines and anti-stress “stuff”, and performed multiple partial water changes trying to revive his health. At one point it looked like Jonah had turned the corner, too, but alas it wasn’t to be: Jonah went to the big fish tank in the sky late last Saturday.

My wife wasn’t too concerned about the tragedy, she thought a four year-old wouldn’t even notice the fish was gone. But I had doubts, big ones, that she would be correct on this issue. Time would surely tell who was right and who wasn’t since Connor would be back with us Monday after school through Tuesday evening.

Monday my little buddy came home exhausted, as he often is at the start of the week, and wanted only to have his favorite after school snack and relax while watching some Scooby Doo episodes. My wife thought that this proved her point: Connor didn’t really pay much attention to that fish. And to be honest, I thought that she might have been correct on this now ,too. But Tuesday changed everything…

Connor hadn’t been home from school more than 10 minutes when he looked at me and asked “Papaw, where Jonah at?”. My response hadn’t been thought through or rehearsed in any way, I was shooting from the hip, when I answered him “He is at the fish doctor. He got sick, like Gypsy did and had to stay at the dog hospital, and will be home Friday.”. Without missing a beat, I had avoided “the death talk” and a crying little boy; I was pretty proud of myself I have to admit!

Part of my errands today involved picking out a “new” Jonah. I had studied that fish, both before and after his demise, pretty well so as long as there was one in-stock I’d be in good shape, I was sure of that. They lady who netted my pick of the tank was pretty patient with me (after I told her the story), netting and releasing at least three other fish before finally chasing down the soon-to-be Jonah; he was a spunky fish that eluded her for several minutes, I was glad to see that zest in him.

When “we” got home I realized that I had yet to clean out the old tank for the new fish. So, I set Jonah (it’s officially his name at this point) safely aside in his bag and began to clean, rinse, and wash the tank and the entire contents. I must have had help setting the tank up the first time, though I don’t recall it. I made quite the mess sloshing the tank and water across the kitchen to the metal cart that serves as the fish tank stand, which I;d have to clean up, and is still drying as I write this. But within an hour the tank and all of its “stuff” were cleaned and dry and Jonah was in the fresh, treated water, looking pretty happy to boot.

As I cleaned up the mess I began to contemplate the decision I had made to spare my young grandson “the death talk” at this time. It was during this time that I remembered that my own children were merely five and seven when they experienced their first real encounter with death: My grandmother’s death in October 1995. I hadn’t expected them to react with the emotion they did: They were too young to really grasp it I had, in my youthful ignorance,, thought. But they most assuredly were not too young I quickly learned, as I comforted them and wiped their tears, still somewhat in shock myself both at their grief and in my own.

Sooner or later we will all experience death on some level, be it a “Jonah” type situation or one like that of my grandmother’s passing. Did I do Connor any favor by avoiding “the death talk” over Jonah? Was “saving” it for another time/creature/person really a good idea? In retrospect, probably not. Now I don’t know if the knowledge of death will come to him through a small matter, like a goldfish, a larger one, perhaps one of our dogs, or worse of all from a family member. And I don’t know who or how that event will be dealt with. If I had it to do over with I would have handled it very differently. Hopefully I have learned a valuable lesson here and will use it to good effect in the future.

Liberty

The last few days we have been touring around PA Dutch country in Lancaster County. Yesterday we took a tour at a place that is set up kind of like a working Amish farm, with a guide that explained much of the traditions of the Plain People. I have read a bit about them and find them very interesting so I knew a lot of what the guide shared: they don’t use electricity or any other service which comes in through “lines”, they do use battery and gasoline powered equipment, and they are ingenious at converting things like refrigerators and washers to use LP gas or run off compressed air.

The thing that really stood out to me though was when the guide said that the Amish “are Christians”. It hadn’t occurred to me that people might not understand that they are very conservative group of Christians. And really, in more ways than we often think, they are pretty similar to more “mainstream” denominations.

There is a tremendous amount of liberty that we have in Christ. We should all be thankful for this and keep it in the forefront of our minds.

Almost Tame

Monday evening my wife and I took our grandson out to a local lake to enjoy some relaxing family time. We had a great evening together watching the other folks, seeing the boats on the water, and playing on the huge playground near the marina at Beech Fork Lake.

You probably have already realized that I’m a nature lover: birds, flowers, animals, all of it. Well, as I suppose most three year olds are, Connor is, too; I can’t say if he likes the animals or the old, dead trees best though! Monday we saw lots of animals out after the heat of the day had settled and dusk approached. There were two that caught our attention more than the rest: a young deer and a raccoon. Both of these creatures were unusually carefree of our presence. In fact, I told Billie that they were so accustomed to people that they were probably almost tame. In case you’re wondering, we didn’t press our luck and test my theory.

I don’t know what Heaven holds for us; the Bible tells us it is beyond our comprehension and imagination. But I can imagine a place where every thing is in perfect peace and harmony. Imagine that the beautiful creatures we admire but can’t approach here on Earth, like the deer and raccoon, we’re truly tame and not only would let us approach them but desire it. I can imagine a place much like the Garden where all is perfect and free of sin, death, and disease, a place where we will walk with God in perfect fellowship for evermore. I can imagine all this and more. Yet God’s Woes says it will be so much more, so much better than I can imagine. Makes me look all the more forward to seeing it someday. Until that day though I, and you, have a work to do, to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to dark and dismal world so that they too may have the hope to look forward to that we can only imagine.

40 Day Challenge

As most of you know, our church has been challenged by Pastor Danny to set aside 30 minutes a day, every day, for 40 days to read the Word aloud with our families, beginning and ending in prayer. Today I received the following in an email newsletter from author Ray Comfort at Living Waters. I must say that I know too well the “excuses” he mentions, as we have been fighting many of them in this challenge. I hope that his thoughts might encourage you and strengthen your resolve to have a “family altar” time, too.

If you want “godly offspring,” it is essential that you make the time to establish a family altar. Build it out of the unmovable rocks of resolution. You will need to be resolute about this because it will be a battle. Your flesh will fight it, and you can be sure there will be a continual spiritual battle within your mind. “Circumstances” will constantly crop up. Your kids will occasionally groan when you announce that it is time for devotions. Loved ones may subtly, subconsciously discourage you. However, your time of family devotions should be a priority for your whole family. Don’t be legalistic about it, but as much as possible, put all other things aside before you postpone or cancel family devotions.

It will be an altar of sacrifice, as you sacrifice your time, your energy, and sometimes your dignity. For years, our kids heard, “Six o’clock—reading time.” My wife and I dropped whatever we were doing, and the children learned to do the same, and we gathered as a family. Making it a priority for your family’s growth will speak volumes about its importance in their lives.

Again, you will find that there are many excuses for not having devotions. You may be pressed for time, feel tired, or think you are unable to teach the Bible. However, there is one very powerful reasonwhy you should have daily devotions: the eternal salvation of your children. (Adapted from How to Bring Your Children to Christ…& Keep Them There.)

Malachi 2:15 But did He not make them one, Having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.

Birthday Gift

For our grandson’s first birthday I made him a leather covered Bible; that was two years ago. This past weekend was Connor’s third birthday and on Sunday he took, for the first time, his Bible to church with him. He thought it was the best thing of the weekend and kept repeating “my Bible; Pap made Bible for me.”. I was really touched by how Connor loved that Bible. It was very cute to see him carrying it all over the place, looking at the tooling I’d done on it, and leafing through the pages. And add in the sense of pride I got because he understand that I had made it specially for him and, well, it was some thing I’ll never forget.

This made me think about how our Heavenly Father must feel when we spend time in and appreciate His Word. He gave us the precious gift of His inspired Word to guide us and to teach us all we need to know to be reconciled to Him and live this life in the center of His will. We should have the same childlike enthusiasm for that precious gift as Connor showed for his first Bible. And we should hope and pray for ourselves and our families that we never loose it.

In Tune

The other day my wife was mowing the lawn; she always does the mowing since I’m unable to do so. Our grandson, Connor, was in the yard playing while she was working. Every so often he would holler at her or say some thing to her. Every time he spoke to her she paused and replied. I found this a little odd since normally when she is mowing and I need to get her attention it takes a lot more than speaking to her: yelling, waving my arms, maybe even throwing some thing at her is required. Obviously she was much more attuned to Connor than she normally is anyone else while she was working.

The Bible teaches us that if we will draw closer to God, He will draw closer to us. The more open our spiritual eyes and ears are the more apt we are to clearly hear the Lord when He speaks to us. Spending quality time in the Word and prayer is the best way to become attuned to hear His every call and feel His sweet presence.