A VICIOUS STORM

a viscious storm

THE TREE STRUCK BY LIGHTNING

A vicious storm ripped through our neighborhood earlier this week. It blew roof tiles off the house, ripped apart an umbrella that was closed, and turned tables and chairs over in the backyard.

As if that weren’t enough, it tore down shrubs and trees, blew water under the front door and crowned it’s show of strength with a lightning strike to the neighbors tree directly across the street.

Our neighbors had the half of the tree that got blown off by the lightning cut up and hauled off the same day as the storm. I was impressed. I was less impressed with my timeliness responding to the clean up effort.

It’s been a busy week. I have plenty of excuses. They all sound pretty good, but I’m having a hard time convincing myself that any of them have merit.

It dawned on me as I looked at the mess day after day this week while putting off the inevitable, that this was a good example not only of our physical world, but also our spiritual one as well.

How many times in life does a storm pass through and leave a disaster in our hearts and lives?

Most of the time in life I’ll have the same response spiritually as I have this week physically. I’ll live with the mess in my spiritual life. I’ll step over debris, or kick it out of the way. Just enough so that I can still function without tripping over the mess.

To start the clean up process in either scenario, whether within or without takes one very important ingredient… Action.

I’ve also found in life that in either case procrastination usually makes things worse, and the clean up process more difficult.

I finally got around to cleaning up the backyard yesterday. It didn’t take too long, but soon after I started the regret of procrastination was again a reality. If I had cleaned up the same day of the storm like my neighbors did, I wouldn’t be burning my hands on hot metal furniture.

The shredded umbrella canvas wrapped around the bottom of its stand had become the new home of a few ants and spiders. It had also become a new target for our dog Larry to mark as “his territory”.

“Sure wish I’d cleaned this up sooner,” I said to myself out loud. I knew Larry was listening and I was hoping he felt bad. He probably did, but he just can’t help himself. I’m glad he couldn’t answer, the last thing I wanted to hear from him was, “You should have cleaned it up sooner.”

I hope I learn a lesson from this incident, I need to be a man of action in my physical life, but more importantly in my spiritual life.

In fact, I think I’ll start getting ready for the next storm in life today. I’ll batten down the hatches and secure all things inside and out.

I’ll seek God through His Word in study and in prayer.

This won’t stop the next storm, the storms in life are inevitable, but being prepared spiritually assures the weathering of them.

When the next storm blows through leaving some spiritual damage, I think I’ll try to get my spiritual house in order that same day.

Putting off the clean up process only makes matters worse.

Maybe I should get some gloves too…

WOULD TAKE A MIRACLE

It sounded like a faint shotgun blast. I knew instinctively what it was, I’ve heard it before, lots of times. When the echoing glass sound is that loud it means a bird has ended his or her life. For a bird to survive that kind of shot would take a miracle.

I first checked the French doors closest to where I was sitting. I knew it had to hit close to me due to the sound of the bird crashing head first into glass. There was no sign of a bird on the ground. I was stumped, but not for long.

The top image isn’t a cloud. Note the fluids and feathers.

The window at the back of the family room had movement. I strolled over to it to find the body fluids from a bird slowly running down the glass, a gruesome sight… especially for Easter morning.

I know it’s a fallen world as well as the next person, I suppose, but the last thing I wanted was to be reminded of it on Easter morning. We’ve all had our fill of the reality of this fallen world lately.

I’ve seen a lot of imprints of birds on our widows over the years, but none as harsh as this one today, Easter morning. I’ve had to dispose of a lot of birds over the years, mostly hummingbirds, my favorites, and usually during the Springtime.

I reluctantly went outside to find the bird, or what was left of him. It was a dove… the last bird I wanted to lose, symbolically, on Easter.

The dove wasn’t dead, but not far from well. He was crouched on the ground, sitting in body fluids and feathers stuck in it. He looked at me, blinked, but couldn’t fly away. I went back in the house. I figured his brain was so scrambled that even if he could fly, he probably couldn’t remember how.

I thought of the verse in Matthew 10. The one about how the Creator of all things knows when even one sparrow dies. I prayed for the dove. I prayed for a miracle.

I checked the dove awhile later and he was still in the same spot, not moving. I nodded with understanding… it’s not a perfect world. We’re promised trouble in this fallen world, but for those of us that know the Father, know that once we’re free of this fallen flesh, we will be perfect.

I know where the freezer bags are… I’ve slipped more than a few critters from our backyard into them over the years.

It’s amazing how God can use the small things in life to get your attention and to make you think about Him, His will, His love, mercy, and grace.

When I went back outside the dove was gone. I checked around the other side of the barbecue. As I did the dove flew across the pool to a boulder on the other side of it, one last feather falling from him.

I looked up to ray of Light piercing the overcast sky and said a prayer of thanks to the One Who cares about all things, little and big in this fallen world.

To get the world to see the Father’s sovereignty in this fallen world would take a miracle… they happen everyday. And Easter is our reminder.

 

IF YOU’RE A HILLBILLY

Excerpt from one of my manuscripts. If you’re a hillbilly.

You’d never be able to guess from laying your eyes on us, or hearing me talk, but I was born in Arkansas. Just like my daddy and his daddy before him…  I’d be the last. It took a while, but I finally figured out that you can take the hillbillies out of the South, but you can’t take the South out of the hillbillies. That takes generations.

My dad and his siblings were born to a half breed American Indian man who was a cotton picking sharecropper. He ran moonshine to put beans on the table and for the spirited perks. Theirs was more like a prison sentence than a childhood. Folks reared in those harsh times lived by the unspoken oath to teach kids to be tough for fear that otherwise it could mean certain death. Or worse, disgracing the family name and tarnishing the only thing they ever owned outright; their pride.

The brood born in the struggling south couldn’t trade that pride for milk, a chicken, tobacco, tomatoes, okra, or a swallow of shine, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t valuable. They couldn’t trade any of those luxury items for any leather bound copy of the Good Book neither, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t worth more than silver or gold. It’s just that everybody they knew already had one—even if they couldn’t read it or never did. That was the job of the preacher man I suppose. One thing they learned good and fast was to quote the parts of the Good Book that justified their lives and actions, but that’s not an art practiced only in the South, maybe just perfected there.

image courtesy of Amazon.com

My dad’s oldest brother, my Uncle Buck, swore it was Troy and Leatha dropping him in a gunnysack and nailing him to the wall of the shack that made him so damn mean. That shack they called home was more like a shelter than a house, and if it happened to snow outside, a fair amount ended up inside.

The nail they used to hang Buck on the wall of the shack was a lot like them, and all of us really. You push and beat on a person enough, whether it be mentally or physically or both, and pretty soon the weak part shows up where we bend just like it does in a nail.

There’s a place in all of us that is softer than the rest of us, a place that is apt to bend first. It’s our weak spot, like the weakest link in a chain. And once we bend in a particular way and place, we’re prone to bend there over and over… even after meticulous re-straightening.

A bent nail is close to useless… not suited for the job it was designed for. It almost takes a miracle to drive a bent nail. I suppose that’s why all of us, just like the nail, try to keep our loved ones on the straight and narrow… but the paths of this life are beset with detours.

If you wanna make a boy tough, you take him into the cotton fields. You wanna make a boy mean, you trap him in a sack like an animal and pin him to a wall with a good and straight nail until he thinks like a badger. Or, if you’re a hillbilly, you do both.

A DAY OF REMEMBRANCE

Perry asked me to pass on that Jacquelyn’s celebration of life will be on Saturday the 24th at Impact Church in Scottsdale. 15650 N 83rd Way Scottsdale, 85260, at 11 am.

This is the day that Jacquelyn Kim Vettraino went home to be with the Lord. From now on this day will be a day of remembrance.

Perry, Jacquelyn, Max, Christian, and Roman

Jacquelyn left a legacy that touched many lives, the most important being her family; Perry, Roman, Max, and Christian. She was a devout wife and mother who was used by God to help shape all of them into people of honor.

I’ve witnessed more people passing from this realm to the next than I ever cared to, but Jacquelyn was the first to do it with the ease from seeing it as an opportunity to show God to the rest of the world. And that’s exactly what she did. One of Jacquelyn’s friends came back to faith by seeing her faith and seeing her walk the walk after years of talking it. And that’s just one of many people she touched while navigating the most difficult part of her life.

A few days ago, after fighting a valiant battle with cancer for eight months, Jacquelyn whispered, “I want to go home.” She didn’t mean their house, she meant heaven.

We watched Jacquelyn fight the disease and speak boldly of her faith in public and private. I thought she might be less certain at the end. After all, that’s what I expect from most people, myself included. I was wrong, she never wavered in her faith and trust in God… Who took her home this morning with a smile on her face.

Jacquelyn was as beautiful in death as she was in life. And that also is a first for all of us.

I’m honored to have been a small part of Jacquelyn’s life, and of course my life long friend Perry and their boys as well.

If you’re a praying person, please send some up for Perry, Roman, Max, and Christian on this day of remembrance.

STOPPING TO SMELL THE ROSES

Repost and edited from September 2010

A cup of coffee, my favorite pen and a fresh tablet… Stopping to smell the roses.. I guess it doesn’t get much better than that.

Understanding it is truly the little things in life that bring joy, is a gift from God. It’s easy to get sidetracked by the bigger things in life. We get consumed with the tasks of life and let them choke out the more important things in life. That’s what happened to me today.

I’ve often heard it referred to as “stopping to smell the roses.”

I’ve also bought my share of roses but rarely take a whiff in the process. I’m reminded of my bad habit of missing the important things… Again.

Today was my youngest daughters first cross country meet. Not of the year, but of her life. It’s not completely my fault due to an error by the hosting school to not send a follow-up schedule change yesterday.

I dropped the little one off at school two hours before the meet was to start. She was a bit nervous so I said, “I don’t care how you finish, I’m just proud of you for doing something in spite of being nervous.” She quickly answered with a grin, “You mean like driving the go-carts?” I smiled and answered, “Yeah, like driving the go-carts.” That was last weekends, “Face Your Fears” lesson. Her smile indicated her appreciation for my persistence.

Instead of driving leisurely to the meet, my calculations gave me about an hour and a half to multi-task and knock down a lot of birds with a few stones.

When I got the word the meet was to start an hour earlier, it was too late. I drove like an idiot trying desperately to make up time, but to no avail. I missed my daughters first cross country race.

I know those “important items” needing to be crossed off my list could have waited. I could have done those later and if pushed, I could have postponed them until Monday.

The only thing I couldn’t change is my little girl’s first race, whenever it was going to be.

As I was speeding down the freeway, glancing between the speedometer and the clock, regret settled in my stomach. Another rose I let slip away without a sniff.

My daughter has a great heart and is always forgiving. She knows I’m proud of her, not just for placing with a good time, but mostly for facing her fears and giving absolutely all she had. When I finally got there, I could see her sense of accomplishment, in her smile and demeanor. She wore her sweat like a medal of honor.

I can’t get that time back. I’ll never have the image in my mind of my little girl finishing her first race.

stopping to smell the roses

I really enjoyed the cartoon “The Flinstones” when I was a kid. Well, except for the part at the beginning of the show when the saber tooth house cat kicked Fred out of his own house and locked the door.

Often in that cartoon Fred would do something stupid or selfish, usually to his wife Wilma or his daughter Pebbles. When Fred realized how foolish he’d been, he would start to physically shrink in his chair. He would shrink to the point where he was one-eighth the size of the seat itself.

I didn’t understand what the cartoonist was trying to communicate at that time in my life. I understand now that Fred was feeling regret, he was feeling smaller as a man.

That’s how I feel today…