Even in line at Staples…

So today is “Black Friday.” The one day out of the year where some people will brave the weather, get up a lot earlier than normal, stand in line for hours in hopes that they can get that one item that they want before the rest of mankind gets there and gets it before them. Sure most stores put really great prices on items just to get us there but then they will only have a few of the sale items.

Today, I was one of those people. I had seen the “Black Friday” ad for the stores in my area and found there were only 2 items that I wanted. One was a new laser printer to replace mine that died and an inexpensive point and shoot camera to keep in the truck with me. Staples had both of these at significant savings, so I made the decision to be there in line an hour before the store opened hoping that I could get at least one of these two items.

I was there an HOUR before the store opened and I was 18th in line. I was in line, in the cold and damp, at 5 AM and had only gotten there in time to be 18th. Are you kidding me? So, I got in the line that quickly grew long behind me and after a while actually thinned out some in front of me due to the store giving out reservation appointments to purchase discounted laptops.

God has given me a gift that came in handy while in line at Staples. I seem to have the ability to strike up a conversation with anyone. It is a gift for me, but could be considered a curse for others. None the less, I began talking to the people around me. They were telling stories of people passing out at Wal Mart, of long lines at Best Buy, and here we were all together waiting on the doors to open at Staples passing the time, telling stories together.

One gentleman in front of me, asked where I went to church. Nothing was said about church from anyone until that moment. I told him that I was a member of Lost Mountain Baptist Church and was the middle school youth director there. He began mentioning churches in Douglasville where he had attended previously but right now he was not a member anywhere. Not that he wasn’t saved, but he had not found the right church for him and his family yet. I immediately invited him to my church but I could tell he had more to say.

He asked me if I had ever heard of the “Ticket to Heaven?” I was kind of caught back. I had just told him I work with youth at my church and now he was asking me about salvation? I told him reluctantly, that I had not heard of this. He took out one of the pieces of paper that the salesmen had given us, began to fold it almost like a paper airplane and told this story. He said he had heard a story of 2 brothers, together during war time that were in a fox hole under fire together. The older brother was saved while the younger brother was not. The younger brother confessed to the other that he was worried about his salvation and what would happen to him. The older brother asked him if he had his ticket to heaven and the younger replied that he didn’t know what he was talking about. (The whole time the man in line at staples is telling this story, he is still folding this paper). The older brother began folding up a piece of paper that he had, just like this one, telling the younger brother how Christ had died for us to pay for our sins. He then tore off 2 pieces of the folded paper and handed them to the younger brother. Then he unfolded his paper, said this is the ticket to heaven. The unfolded paper was now in the shape of the cross. He told the younger brother that if he didn’t have this ticket, he would have to use his, the paper that the older brother tore off. It formed the word HELL.

As the man in line at Stapled was telling this story, folding and tearing this ad from the store, everyone around him was watching him and listening to him tell this story. When he unfolded his cross and then spelled out the word HELL, everyone around him heard just a simple version of the gospel this morning, at 5:30 AM, in line at Staples.

So, God’s message will get out. Someone in that line this morning may not have been saved and may have heard the seed that this gentleman had planted. I may never see that man again or know of the results of him sharing the message of Christ until I get to heaven but it gave me hope that even a stranger, can have the courage to share Christ in the middle of a group of people that he had never met and may never see again.

The message of Christ was shared, even in line at Staples.

Dear God,
Thank you for being the reason that we celebrate this time of year. Thank you for sending your messenger this morning to wait in line with complete strangers and share your message to those around him with confidence and without fear. Give me this same courage and confidence when the opportunity arises when You need me to do the same.



The Ride

Several years ago, my Aunt Judy passed away and went home to be with Christ. She had suffered for a long time in her battle with cancer and now she was not suffering any longer. We left that Friday morning for the service that weekend. It was an unexpected drive but we got to spend some time with family. While we were there, we also got a chance to go see my Aunt Ruth, who had also been diagnosed with cancer but was just beginning her battle. She recognized us. She talked with us and told us how great my dad and the family had been for her during this time. We only spent a short time with her as she appeared tired and needed some rest. I didn’t know it at the time, but that would be the last time that I would see her.

The very next Monday, while on my way to work, I got a call very early in the morning from Dad. Those were 2 things out of the ordinary. Getting a call from home early in the morning and it being from dad. I knew what the call was about even before I answered it, but my fear was confirmed as Aunt Ruth now joined other members of my family that have gone on before me. We made plans to return home again for yet another death in our family.

Having two funerals this close together, I began to notice certain things about death and about people that I had not had the opportunity to notice before:
1 – Most funerals that I had been to in the past were all “feel good” funerals talking about the memories of the deceased. Not so this time. The pastor that did the funeral yesterday came out swinging. He told of a previous service that he had done where the only one saved in the building was “Momma” and he was doing her funeral. He quickly reminded the family that if they didn’t know Jesus, and didn’t have a relationship with Him, there were NOT going to see “Momma” again. He lowered the boom like I had never seen it before. As soon as he did, I stepped up the prayers as I had done just a few weeks ago at Judy’s service for the member of my family who isn’t saved. Getting an unsaved family member to church on Sunday morning to hear the gospel message isn’t as easy as when a family member passes away and they are at their funeral. People at a funeral service are, (as Shan put it) a “captive” audience. Many members of my family in that church yesterday were not saved, but they heard the gospel. Some heard it for the second time in a few weeks. So even when we don’t have the words to share with a close friend or family member, God’s message will get to them. Then the choice is up to them. We can’t make it for them.
2 – Family will surprise you just when you need it. More than once, I heard it said Wednesday night, “Seems like we were just here” or “The last time that I saw you was at a funeral, here”. Going to a funeral is tough on anyone. Going to 2 within a short period of time, is almost too much to ask especially of a family that had just lost one of their own. Even Mrs. Stone, who just lost her best friend in the world when Mr. Stone passed away just months ago, was there. She is the brightest light in any room. Her smile, her laugh, and her almost crazy ways can put a smile on anyone even at their darkest time. She is such a true God send to my family and we love her for it. Dad’s family came through when Judy passed now mom’s family came through when Ruth passed. I got to reconnect with cousins that I haven’t seen in years and it was almost like no time apart had passed. We laughed together, cried together and all promised to not let the next time that we see each other be this long or be because of another loss.
Finally, the one thing that stood out to me was when the funeral home arrived at the church with Aunt Ruth. Me, Chris and Aunt Ruth’s other nephews were all pallbearers. Not a fun task especially at mom’s church with a VERY steep set of steps, but an honor for us none the less. Because of this, we were all at the church when the hearse arrived. It was long, sleek and every inch of it shined like it was a new penny. This made me realize that in life, sometimes the greatest “ride” we have is our last ride. As long as I have known the friends and relatives that have passed on, I don’t remember any of them having a car that was as nice as the hearse they were carried to the grave site in. I think this parallels our last trip. I have been very fortunate to be able to take a lot of trips in my life. I have been to Chicago, to Washington D.C., to Boston, California, and even Hawaii but none of these places, none of these trips will even come close to the last trip that I take to be with Christ. No journey and no destination here will ever come close.

My bags are packed and I’ve already been through check-in. I’m ready. Are you?

Dear God, Thank you so much for the opportunity to have both of my aunts in my life. Both of them loved me and my family unconditionally and completely. Both of them loved You and both are now with You and the other members of my family that have been there for a while. You have blessed me in every direction with loving and caring family who came through for us even at a tough time like these past weeks. Now you have planted the seed of Your Gospel in family members that needed to hear it. Now send others to water it.


Wish you were here…

The saying that “Time flies when you are having fun” should also apply when life gets busy. A lot has happened since my last post. Some good and some not so good.

On the good side, after a lot of prayer and a lot of time seeking God’s will, Lost Mountain Baptist Church licensed me into the Gospel Ministry on August 29, 2010. Two years ago, I never would have guessed that I would be standing on stage accepting the church’s acceptance of me and Stephanie and our ministry with the youth. Now, I cannot imagine wanting to do something else. For the first time, I feel like I am centered in where God wants me and making a difference in the lives of students. Steph and I are still waiting on God to open the door for us to be in full time ministry, but until He is ready, we are both leading and serving where He has us.

We also got to take our annual fall vacation with her family to Pigeon Forge. This year, we were able to see the production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” that Steph had done while she was teaching at Landmark Christian School a few years before we met. To say it was awesome would be an understatement. I had to play it off like I was bored in a feeble attempt to recover from making Steph watch the sequal to “Wall Street” (which was awful to say the least) but Joseph was incredible. I found myself constantly looking at the stage and lights and wondering if we could do it at LMBC with our youth.

On the not so good side, after a 2 year battle with cancer, my Aunt Judy went home to be with Christ. She had suffered tremendously and why she held on for so long none of us will ever know. I watched as family members took turns staying with her at night just so she would not be alone. After her passing, Steph and I were able to spend some time with my cousin Jill and it was great getting to reconnect with her. She is one of those people in my life that I don’t get to see much but when we do, we reconnect almost like no time apart has passed.

Aunt Judy’s memorial service was unlike anyone that I had ever been to before. Sure there was music and songs of remembrance of the memories of her. Two pastors spoke of her to help the family deal with their grief as expected and stories were told, but as the service closed, her pastor got up and reminded us of one last thing about my aunt Judy. He reminded us of how much she loved Alabama football. One of the flowers at the service even had Roll Tide written on it. The family all started to laugh a little bit because we knew what was coming. The tears that we had, not for Judy, but as the pastor said, tears for us and OUR loss, now were starting to ease as the Alabama Fight Song began to play. Sitting behind my Uncle Ferrell, I watched him throughout the service grieving for the loss of his sister, now began to laugh and clap because he loves Alabama football as much as Judy does. What a great way to be remembered!

As I look back over the weekend and the stories that were told, the pictures that were shown of Judy with family and friends, it was something that my mom said that will stand out with me for a long time. My aunt was saved. I have no doubt that she is in heaven right at this very moment with other family members that have gone on ahead. Family like my grandparents and my cousin Kevin. Mom made the comment that “She’s in heaven right now with momma and daddy tellin’ them how mean to her I’ve been.” It wasn’t that mom was mean to her. All of the family did what they had to do for her but to hear that reminder that she is in heaven, with my other family members, just brought an incredible peace to me.

And one day, I’ll see them all again, but I’ll never hear the Bama fight song without thinking of Aunt Judy and know that she’s in heaven right now, probably walking the streets of heaven wearing a Bama shirt saying “Wish you were here!”

I wonder if her mansion in heaven has a steep driveway like all the ones she had while she was here….
Thanks for the memories Aunt Judy. Roll Tide!

“I’m gonna miss that smile,
I’m gonna miss you my friend
Even though it hurts the way it ended up,
I’d do it all again.
So play it sweet in heaven,
’cause thats right where you wanna be
I’m not cryin’ ’cause I feel sorry for you,
I’m cryin’ for me” – “Cryin for me” – Toby Keith

Dear God,
There isn’t anything I can say right now that would mean as much as thank you! Thank you for my family and how even though we may be far apart, we are always there for each other. Thank you that one day, I will see them again.


Taking life for granted…

Last night was a very long, and very hot night at the White House (yes, I call our house the White House as its our house, and we’re the Whites). You see, yesterday when we got home from church and after some Mexican lunch with great friends of ours, we came home to a house that was 79 degrees when it should have been 73. The air conditioner was running, but no air was coming out of the vents and it was getting warm quick.

To make a long story short, after a few phone calls, and a visit by one of the guys who works with me, I found out that the fan motor on my air conditioning unit had given up the ghost. There was not a chance that the motor could be replaced at 8PM on a Sunday night. A replacement motor would have to be picked up in the morning.
Knowing that we were facing a very warm and uncomfortable night, I asked Steph to go to her parents and I would sleep downstairs in my office which has a separate air conditioner. She was almost too quick to take me up on the offer.

To say that last night was probably the worst night of sleep that I have had in my life would be an understatement. If it wasn’t the loud portable AC unit that I have keeping me awake, it was the dog moving around or it was still too warm to be comfortable, or it was the air mattress having a leak and sleeping on a hard floor, or it was trying to sleep sitting up in an office chair. Yep, last night was incredibly AWFUL.
The good news is that the parts are already on the tech’s truck and he is coming by on his way home to fix the AC unit.

It got me to thinking how I took cool air and comfort for granted. I just always naturally assume that when we get home, the house is going to be cool because the AC just works. Sure I do the regular maintenance to it so it should, just work. After all, it has worked for over 6 years without many problems so why not just keep assuming it would be working when we got home yesterday.
Most of us take a lot of things for granted in life. Sure some of YOU exercise and eat right. Some of us watch what we do and eat maybe not as well as we should be we all just think we are going to wake up tomorrow and the heart is going to keep on beating.

Not always true. Last week, I found out that a guy that I went to school with, just 3 years older than me, had a stroke at the end of June and passed away just a few days ago. Just three years older than me and had a stroke. Guys my age are not supposed to have strokes. We are in the prime of our life. We are 10 feet tall and bullet proof. We take our health for granted.
I have a job. Granted its not the job I want anymore and its not where I feel that God is leading Steph and I, but it is a job. I have a job when a lot of others don’t. I take this job for granted because I have been here so long and feel secure in my position.

We have a new tech. He is a great guy. He is very friendly and works harder than just about all of our other techs put together. He appreciates his job a lot more than I do, but makes a lot less. You see, he has a history so getting jobs hasn’t been as easy for him as it has for me in the past. He appreciates his job where I take mine for granted.
I have a great family and an incredible wife. Living 2 hours away I don’t get to see them as much as I would like so I am grateful for the time that I have with them. Steph I see every day and one of my greatest fears is that I take her for granted. I just know without a doubt, she will be there.

I also take for granted what Christ did for me. A song that I heard a long time ago said that “When He was on the cross, I was on His mind” I cannot begin to imagine the pain and agony that Jesus went through on the cross. It was one of the most brutal ways to die in history and He did that for me….for you…..for the person sitting next to you or in the next room….even if they reject Him, He still died for them….for me. Nothing that I could ever do in my life can repay the debt that He paid for me and my sins.

Only through the unattainable favor, God’s grace, am I able to be called a child of God.

What are you taking for granted in your life today?

Dear God,
Thank You so much for the little things in our life that make our lives so much easier. Things like air conditioning, things like comfortable beds, like running water. Thank you (here is the geek coming out in me) for wireless internet and online banking. Thank you for a very loving and caring wife who supports me whole heartedly. Thank you for my family and friends and for the ministry path that you have Steph and I on. Help us to never take your blessings and gifts for granted.