Series 15

A Kernel of Wheat Falls

As I walked up to the casket, bagpipe music softly wailed “Amazing Grace.” I knew Patty was in heaven, still I felt like crying. Is it acceptable to ask, “Why would one of the kindest people I know die at age forty-nine?

Some eulogies are spread so thick with the frosting of compliments that you wonder if they’re really talking about the person who died.

Admit it; you’ve experienced this.

With Patty, no frosting was needed to sweeten or to smear over flaws in her life.

Days leading to her death, I had been pondering Jesus’ words; letting them infiltrate my brain. “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”

Our lives are initially a single kernel of wheat. Completely focused on our own wants, needs and desires; at the end of life a single life has been bettered—your own.

Then there is the dying seed scenario.

Here’s how it works. Patty never drove. She usually walked or rode her three-wheel bike to her numerous volunteer activities. She helped at a nursing home with her church, at school she mentored children, and if there was a charity walkathon, she was probably involved.  Patty was prolific in sending out cards—condolences, get-wells, on and on. She was even taking piano lessons to fill a need in the small church she attended. Her pastor said in the eulogy: “Patty probably shared Jesus with more people than I ever will.”

By serving the needs of others, Patty produced many seeds. She improved the lives of countless people. 

Most why-death questions are never answered. There is a much more important question.

How? How did you live the time God gave you?


Salty Words

I really hadn’t taken a close look at her, as she spent a long time browsing the used children’s books. But when she looked up at me, I knew the stupidity of my question. The words just slipped out as I realized she looked about fourteen: “How many children do you have?”

“I’m pregnant,” she said. “How old are you?” She told me she was sixteen. “That’s pretty young,” I replied, probably with that disapproving wrinkle above my eyes communicating even more.

My mind swirled around with things to say. The Bible says, “Let your words always be full of grace.” And knowing that the Bible continually emphasizes heart attitude, facial expressions should be grace-toned also.

I thank God, He arrested my thoughts. I heard a voice in my head, “She’s already heard, many times, everything she’s done wrong.”

So I started helping Kimberly find children’s books. And just listened. It was like a grandpa listening to his granddaughter hip hop from one subject to the next. Kind of strange, since I had never met her before.

Without proper words, it is difficult to arrive at an understanding of a person’s situation. The Bible verse continues; adding an ingredient to grace-filled words. “. . . seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”

That’s exactly what I was hoping for-- an opportunity to respond with a dash of hope, a dash of life direction, a dash of God into our conversation.

Kimberly looked through more stacks of children’s books. Casually mentioning, “I like to read.”  When the conversation took a convenient curve, I responded: “Do you ever read the Bible?”

Words, like salt can be used to sting a wound or enhance palatability. One repels; one attracts. How’s your sprinkling going? Need improvement? Me too.


Restoration Project

Chet was always talking about his 1933 Chevy restoration project. Then he e-mailed pictures: “Thought you might want to see the finished product –Chet.”

Wow, nice car!

With all his car talk, it’s difficult to wedge my world in. I need to e-mail him.

Chet, I do restoration also. Surprised? I found this 2000 model in a trailer park east of here. Looks sound on the outside, but I noticed a lot of inside damage. Her name is Samantha.  

Monday I drove into to the trailer park. In a flurry, the regular kids claimed their seats in my van. And a new child was buckling up. “Samantha’s going with us,” Tyler said.  “Samantha,” I said. “Do you know where we’re going?” She formed the word best she could: “Chuch.”  Yes, off to Monday night children’s church.

Smiling at Samantha’s eagerness, I could have driven away with this precious package. I thought, “This is wrong.” I was a stranger and had never met her parents.

A child can sustain significant damage when they lack nurturing, love, and discipline. Six-year old attention-starved Samantha’s problems quickly surfaced.

Chet, the Old Testament closes with: "God will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers  . . ."

“God will restore.”

Great.  Let God do all the dent-banging restoration . . . well, we know that’s not God’s way. God asks us to partner with Him.

Hey Chet, let’s take the “33” Chevy to the trailer park-- give some kids a ride. Maybe, you could talk to Samantha’s dad. He might listen to you. You’ve struggled. God restored you with His Jesus plan. Actually, He’s continually fine tuning you. Me too. 

Still, God allows us on His restoration team. And He’s looking for more help.

Are you available?


The Millionaire’s Daughter

The millionaire’s four-year old daughter-- I had never seen her before. Now, there she was just yards up the beach.

Brisk wind held seagulls in near mid-air suspension over blue sky touching blue water. But now my attention was focused on the millionaire’s daughter. And her father.

I had my camera. I wanted a picture. But . . . a camera could not adequately preserve the scene. A few degrees cooler than playing-on-the-beach weather--they frolicked exuberantly on an abandoned expanse of sand. So engaged with each other, I doubt they noticed me. They zoomed a yellow toy front-end loader around a freshly created sandcastle. If their laughs and hugs were the loader’s fuel, it would run forever.

I stood there suspended in my thought world. My mind grabbed images of several under nurtured kids I care about.  

With emotions continuing to ping pong, I walked towards the man. A stranger. I extended my hand: “You must be a millionaire.”

He replied, “I’m not a millionaire.” 

He didn’t know my brain was contexting our conversation through the words of Jesus. "For what does it profit a man, what does he benefit, if he gains the whole world, and yet forfeits his soul—forfeit the vital force of his life?” And along that gain-the-whole-world path, what else will be traded in for the allurement?  Maybe a four year-old daughter?

“You’re doing what’s important,” I said. “In my eyes you’re a millionaire.”

Our concluding twenty-five second conversation gave me zero clues to the “millionaire’s” financial status. Then feeling compelled, I placed my hand on his shoulder: “Bless you.”

That same hand extends to all who properly nurture the children in their lives: “God bless you.”

If you do not? Change. Today can be your day to become a millionaire.


Speed, God Loves You

Is going only five miles over the speed limit really speeding? Well, maybe I was going six over. But Allen and I needed a boost to get to church on time.

Now my friend Allen’s theology is like a road atlas with pages missing. We both know it; we laugh. Once again his words launched a missing-page adventure: “If we make the next light it means God likes us.”

If that was true we needed God to like us for four lights in a row.

Well, God liked us on the first light, according to the Book of Allen 1:1. But I wasn’t converted yet. So I asked: “What about the people going the other way?”

Allen had the answer: “We’ll see who God likes best.”

Second light-- we made it. It’s nice thinking God likes me better. So if Allen’s theory is correct, would that person driving the immaculate Escalade be favored over someone driving a dented van with 186,000 miles? That someone is me. And I just made light number three.

Allen, let’s see if I can correct your theology. Kind of the why-do-red-lights-happen to good people quandary.

There are a lot of slices to this; here’s one. The Bible says:  “Don’t despise discipline from the Lord and don’t lose heart when He rebukes you. The person He loves He disciplines.” The Bible parallels this to a caring father disciplining a son he loves.

The Bible goes on to say: “God disciplines us for our good so we may share in His holiness.”

Encountering red lights in your life? Could it be you are experiencing God’s love? Could it be God desiring for you to experience more of His holiness? The Bible says, “God changes us from glory to glory.” Want to experience Godly life change?

Expect red lights. Godspeed.