Series 3

Huge Stinky


“The cats had a huge stinky mess today,” the note laying on the kitchen countertop informed me. My wife’s scribbling allowed my mind to easily grasp what to expect in our cat’s basement domain. This wasn’t the first time; it seems to be more frequent as our cats, Timmons and Ruby, head toward their twilight years.


Jokingly I asked my wife, “Remind me again, why do we have cats?” She alluded to their great mice catching ability. Then she said, “The cats are like relatives, you can’t get rid of them.”


Huge stinky relative problems go back to history’s first family when Cain murdered his brother Abel. From small squabbles to all out war, the family continues to be a battleground. We even have TV shows with family woes being the main theme. 

Most messy family situations start out small. Let’s consider what you and I can do to keep them from becoming huge stinky messes.

While this is a complex, multi-faceted issue; the question of forgiveness will certainly swirl in the mix. Jesus was approached by someone who was willing to forgive “up to seven times” a relative who had wronged him. Generous, since the Jewish Rabbis of the day taught that forgiveness should not be extended beyond three times.

Jesus replied, “I tell you not seven times but seven times seventy.” The point- He wasn’t actually setting the limit at 490, but illustrating endless forgiveness.

Even forgiving a person once can be gut wrenchingly difficult. It was kind of like when I went to clean up the cat’s huge stinky. As I kneeled on the floor with a rag wiping up the smelly mess, the stench tensed my stomach.

And sometimes we need to bend to our knees with a white cloth and wipe clean a huge stinky relative problem.

We need to forgive. And let your white cloth be forgiveness in the manner Jesus prescribed—“From your heart.”


My Big Buck

Bang!  I had an eight point buck. The broad shouldered beast sprung from the tall corn surprising me as it broke through a thin veil of early morning fog. What a trophy!

It was a prize any hunter would be proud of. But I wasn’t smiling. I had rammed the deer with my van as it bolted across the road.

Less than 45 seconds before impact, I was at a crossroads. Either right or left would have taken me to my morning destination—my friend Robert’s house. I almost went left. I turned right.

My van was drivable; I wasn’t hurt. And somebody even came by who needed the meat. So I continued my travels.

When I arrived at Robert’s house and told him what happened, he started laughing. Resisting the temptation to punch him, I listened. He told me how he had suddenly woken up that morning, feeling he was supposed to pray that I would have a safe journey.

Instead, he went back to sleep.


Why didn’t you pray? He replied, “I figured you knew how to drive.”

I did. The deer didn’t . . . thanks Robert.

Would his prayer have prevented the accident, changed my direction at my crossroads?

Obviously, there’s nothing that says: “Thus saith the Lord, pray and the buck won’t be struck.” More importantly we should ask: “What role does prayer play in my life when I’m at a crossroads?”

The Bible says, “Do not be anxious about anything.” That seems impossible—especially at the crossroads. It continues: “But in everything, by prayer; earnest, pleading prayers mixed with thanksgiving present your urgent requests to God.”

And then the impossible happens: “And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your heart and mind . . .”

Now that’s a trophy; that’s what we need when we collide with obstacles at the crossroads of our lives.


Day of Reckoning

The young man glanced towards his daughter and girlfriend. And then he focused his attention on the judge who had just sentenced him. Out on bond, but a police officer was waiting to take the guilty man directly from court to jail.

With an anguished look he could barely speak, “I, I need to take care of some things.” Without emotion, the judge replied: “Today is the day of reckoning.” With a help-save-me look, the man lowered his head and left with the officer.

As I drove from court to home I picked up a hitch hiker.

Tim had been in court that day also. His sentencing had been delayed because of impending heart surgery. Our rapid fire discussion soon spilled over into what might happen if the surgery turned tragic—“Are you ready to go?”

Tim appeared to be in his fifties: “I need to go see Sister Maxine.” Why’s that? “I think she’s close to God.”

Tim didn’t know if he was ready to go, but he wanted to take care of spiritual business.

The Bible states, “Man is destined to die once and after that face judgment.” A day of reckoning.

Tim had a bag full of spiritual experiences- he kept pulling them out during our ten minute drive. Baptism, vacation Bible school, a godly mother, and intermittent church attendance.

Still he was reaching for more. Facing heart surgery and the what-if possibility, he was also experiencing spiritual heart surgery. Tim concluded his life would eventually terminate with a gavel thumping, that’s-it, final judgment. 

The judge in court that day wearily looked down at a stack of paperwork. Looking up, he gave his final remark to the guilty man:  “People are never ready to go.”

I disagree. A person can be ready, confidently ready and worry free. With Jesus . . .  there’s hope Tim.



“Did you mean it Christopher?” I had to know. Christopher, who could float easily from being profoundish to being off the wall, responded, “Rick, you know I did.”  He was only nine, but I knew his words were truth that Friday night.

Friday night—the gathering was a seven to midnight prayer meeting. Heart felt prayers and worshipful praise music punctuated the evening.

Christopher seemed a little restless. He got up from his seat and stood at the rear of the sanctuary. I glanced back occasionally. He was doing fine, even though I did notice he was munching on candy--Skittles.

The did-you-mean-it moment came when he responded to the preacher’s invitation to accept Jesus Christ, to enter into a right standing with God. The preacher said, “Raise your hand.” I glanced back; Christopher’s hand was in the air.

 After prayers of repentance were offered, I went back to Christopher. He told me, “Rick, when I came here tonight I felt hungry.  And it couldn’t be satisfied by eating these.” He pointed to the Skittles he was holding. He smiled, “Now I feel satisfied.”

Jesus spoke of this type of experience during His Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed and spiritually prosperous are those who hunger and thirst for a right standing with God, for they shall be satisfied-- completely.”

And David, the masterful author of the Psalms, wrote about his personal appetite pleasing encounters with God: “My soul will be satisfied as with the richest food.”

What Jesus taught about, both Christopher and David found out personally; God has something more satisfying than Skittles.

God’s banquet table of satisfaction is in knowing Him personally. And you are invited.


Jesus in Jail

“I pulled the blanket over my head last night and started crying,” Jay told me when I visited him in prison.

Both of us remember a tears-of-joy-day 7 years prior. A small group had gathered in the living room. The keys to a new Habitat for Humanity house were given to Jay and his family. Hugs, tears, the smell of new carpet and paint were mixed with prayers, words of thanks and encouragement. It was a moment of bliss--a euphoric rush.

Two years later, after reaching the 5 year milestone of freedom from drug addiction, Jay made a decision. He held a crack cocaine pipe. Lighting the pipe, he sucked the smoke deep into his lungs. From his lungs to his brain to his heart, he felt a euphoric rush. But soon the high was over. He craved more. He repeated the cycle and he craved more and more and more . . . 

The suck on that pipe, sucked his life away. He lost everything and now he will spend many years in prison.

Jay’s life path and mine are radically different. I had to make a decision: do I want our paths to cross again? Will I go to the prison to visit Jay? Why should I?

Jesus said to his followers, “I was in prison and you came to visit me.” They said, “When did we see you in prison and go to visit you?” Jesus replied, “Whatever you did for one of the least . . . you did for Me.”

It’s difficult to comprehend the visiting Jay equal Jesus equation. I really don’t know how to make it all add up. But when the guard shuts the steel door behind me and I see Jay, I grab the thought: “I’m visiting Jesus.” It changes me; it sets me free.