I’m in the second year of my small berry crop. Here’s what I was anticipating by springtime: Makes your mouth water, don’t it? Especially for me, the non-gardener. I’m pretty proud of this little piece of earth, and all the sore muscles along the way. Bob has been very patient with the big Sutherlands Home […]
I’ve always been a little on the ornery side. As a kid, being the oldest of four, there were lots of times that Mom said, “Mike, go tell your sisters dinner is ready” or “Find your brother and tell him it is time to come home”.
I was often given the responsibility of speaking for Mom and Dad.
Now, being the rat that I was, there are more than a few times that I may have embellished on this and I could possibly have told my brother and sisters to do some things, ordered by Mom or Dad, that they weren’t really supposed to do.
I don’t think that making my sisters eat dry dog food was one of those things but that is a different story entirely.
There may have even been times that I used my position as messenger for Mom and Dad to get my siblings to do my chores.
Proverbs 13:17 An unreliable messenger stumbles into trouble, but a reliable messenger brings healing.
I read this verse and my mind raced back to my unreliable messenger days of childhood. In my case, the trouble I stumbled into was often called a belt.
It seems that eventually got caught misrepresenting my parents’ messages and they didn’t seem to like it one bit.
I need to be very careful what I represent here on the pages of what I write and the things that I do and say. If I want to spread a message around, I need to be sure to be a reliable messenger.
Sometimes, I confess I am less reliable than even our old 1978 Olds Cutlass but that, too, is an entirely different story.
Reliability sometimes seems kind of boring to me. It is often tempting to spice it up a little. But being able to count on anything, the car, the electricity, the sunrise, the weatherman (OK, I’ve never encountered a reliable weatherman, so that may not be the best example), all bring a reduction in worry, stress, frustration and aggravation.
If I am reliable, I can do the same. I can bring healing. There really aren’t many better things I can bring to anyone’s life. Bringing healing is a pretty good goal for anyone’s day.
I always have an option, when I may not know exactly what to do or say or what role to play in someone’s life, to just be reliable with my message. It may seem dull, boring, repetitive or whatever but it will bring healing and that is never a bad thing.
The other night I was watching an episode of the survival show ‘Alone’. It is a show where people survive with just a few things in, in the case, Patagonia. I don’t know much about Patagonia, except for the fact that I would like to go fishing there.
Well, these people, competing to last longer than each other in the outdoors, get hungry. One contestant decided to make some traps to catch a wild boar so he would have lots of meat to eat. There seemed to be lots of pigs around and nothing says survival quite like bacon.
This man made an elaborate trap and returned to it to find it tripped and no bait left but nothing in it.
The survivors were allowed a game camera and when he checked it, no wild boars had visited the trap. Instead, a fox had come by and stolen the bait before any oinkers could be trapped.
So the man made the trap fox-proof. He modified it so it was impossible for the fox to steal the bait. The fox stole the bait anyway.
Over and over the man was outwitted by the fox and finally had to admit defeat. His time wasted on the fox cost him victory as he went hungry and inevitably went home after getting so hungry he could not go on in the competition.
I cannot begin to tell you how much time I wasted trying to outwit my depression, trying to capture it as it stole from me over and over again. Often, I was driven so far toward insanity that I stopped trying to make my trap fox-proof. I tried over and over, expecting something different to happen, by doing the same old thing.
I’ve finally learned that the fox isn’t going away. He isn’t going to fall into a trap and die. I have to learn to live in the same neighborhood he lives in.
I need to focus on getting what I need to be a better person despite the fox. I have to stop trying to bait him into becoming my next meal by sacrificing my health and well-being.
As a kid we sang:
The devil is a sly old fox
If I could catch him I’d throw him in a box
Lock the box and throw away the key
For all those things he’s done to me.
My depression isn’t the devil but it has given me a devil of a time and the father of lies can really convince a depressed man that some pretty irrational things are true. If the fox gets me bent on chasing him, and ignoring living a sane life, I might as well put a welcome mat out that says, “Come on in, I’ll believe anything.”
Proverbs 13:15 A person with good sense is respected; a treacherous person is headed for destruction.
Even though, when chasing the fox, I think I am going to do myself some good, I engage in all sorts of foolishness trying to capture a ghost. I have to resort to disregard things that can make my life great even with the fox hanging around.
I need to use good sense and simply push the fox away. Chasing him causes me to be distracted from living and obeying God’s commands and points me on a path to destruction.
I have decades of ruinous living behind me. I’m only learning to experience a better life using good sense despite my sometimes malfunctioning brain.
I’m not going to play with the fox today. Today, I live a good life.
Every now and then I like to watch the Barrett-Jackson automobile auctions. They are on TV for hours at a time for two or three days. I can’t make myself watch the entire time but I like to check out the cars that they are selling.
There are all sorts of cars. There are muscle cars (my favorite and much more stylish than muscle shirts), sports cars, cruisers, novelty cars, luxury cars; just about any sort of car that has ever been made, some of them almost forgotten, makes its way across the auction block. They all pretty much have one thing in common: they are perfectly restored.
Even ugly cars look remarkable as they slowly roll up to the stage. There are cameras closely scrutinizing every aspect of the car’s interior and exterior. Even the bottom of the car with its perfect exhaust and frame, parts that are normally rusty and covered with road crud, are shown off by a special camera.
The announcers in the booth talk ceaselessly about the car and brag about how awesome it is even if it was never a very good car originally and everyone hated it so bad that only three were ever sold. Now it is perceived as rare and artfully restored to ‘better than showroom’ condition.
The guy down on the auction block begins to walk around the car and point out all of its faults but he seems fine with not pointing out that it was a lousy car in the first place. He mentions the paint is a little off from the original. The air filter cover is not quite right. The tires aren’t vintage style. He nit picks and broadcasts the mistakes and omissions of the restorer. It is rare that the car rolls over the block that he can’t find something wrong with.
The bids go on and on. The price goes from cheap to reasonable, from reasonable to expensive, from expensive to outrageous. The camera shoots to a happy guy that just paid a fortune for an old car that often really isn’t very pretty, isn’t very fast, stops dangerously slow and drives like a log wagon.
The thing is, even though these vehicles are in perfect running order, even though all the parts are like new, even though they are capable of running for years on end, they aren’t going to be driven. They are going to be put in someone’s personal collection in a building somewhere and will rarely even see the light of day. They will sit and look like new, restored by a master craftsman to just sit and do nothing.
Some of these collectors call their building for storing these cars a museum. Sometimes I think we could call it a church.
John 12:26 Anyone who wants to serve me must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me.
God has carefully restored me but he didn’t create this new and improved me to sit and shine. He made me to be used. He made me to burn rubber and make some noise. I’m not a museum piece. I am built to follow Jesus and be where he is, not sit and wait for him to show up where I am, protecting myself from the world inside a building.
Once in a while, a car rolls across the stage that flies in the face of what the announcers like to see. It sends them into a tizzy. The car has modern brakes, a modern engine, a state of the art transmission and ignition system. It has been rebuilt to drive. The guy on the stage says what a shame it is that it isn’t restored back to the original condition while I sit and wish I could drive that car. It is going to look like a classic but drive like a dream. It wasn’t built to sit in a room indoors. It was built to hit the road and breathe heavy as my foot hits the gas. It was built to move and not sit. It was built to be seen in a blur not a static position for years on end.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
I complain about being tired. I complain about feeling beat down and beat up. That is probably a good thing. It means I am hitting the open road. I’m getting covered with dust and road grime. When the rain comes, I’m not hiding inside but I am going down the road with the wipers going and the lights on.
Luke 14:23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go to the roads and paths! Urge the people to come to my house. I want it to be full.”
I hope the roads you travel today lead others to be restored in the Master’s house!
Let me tell give you an example of how reading my blog may have been had I started doing it ten years ago:
I don’t like (insert one of a million things here) and someone (not me) needs to change it! I’m great and you’re not. The end.
Oh, there would have been lots more words, words describing how I am right and something or someone else is wrong.
It is a frustrating and stressful way to live, always unhappy with something, always feeling that everything needs to be better but only in ways that make me happier.
I was sure I was right and perhaps I was right a lot, though I suspect more often not. But being right means nothing in the grand scheme of life. Proving I’m right doesn’t win me a shot at being king for a day nor does it win me a lifetime supply of Nestle’s Quik.
That didn’t stop me from trying to let lots and lots of people know that I was right and the rest of the world was wrong. All of my words of self-recognition and self-promoting got me a total of a big fat zero.
Proverbs 12:23 The wise don’t make a show of their knowledge, but fools broadcast their foolishness.
I’m reminded of listening to sports shows on the radios where two guys sit and dissect any sports team’s weaknesses and “what if” the situation to death, like they are finding a cure for cancer or stopping war. They get so focused on a problem with a team that their thoughts become more and more ridiculous.
Of course, if the sports analysts thoughts didn’t border on completely stupid, no one would listen. I’m convinced that people tune in to hear stupid.
I feel like I’ve broadcast my ridiculous views after I become obsessed with problems and people only tuned in to me to hear what stupid sounds like. In my efforts to show how brilliant I was, I only ended up broadcasting my foolishness.
I’ve changed a lot since then. But sometimes, I want people to know how great of a job I have done transitioning from fool to super genius. But the moment I forget humility, my foolishness starts to take over once again. Wisdom and humility fit together like a hand in a glove. Humility is the glove that protects my wisdom.
Humility also reminds me that it is not me that has turned my brain from a selfish lump of arrogant grey matter and into something capable of thinking beyond myself and what I want. It is God alone.
Each time I make myself a sacrifice, I gain. Each time I refuse, I lose.
So, that is why my blog is most always about my weakness and how I can live better through God’s wisdom and strength applied liberally to my life. I’m tired of being life’s class clown broadcasting foolishness to a world that needs to hear better from me.
This is Mike, signing off for now.
I personally know a great many men that have really huge issues with their dads. While many times I think the relationship between a father and a daughter is awkward and clumsy, the relationship between fathers and sons is much more complicated. Fathers seem to have a hard time approving of their sons and showing affection. They often drive their sons to be athletes when they are not, to be doctors when they are bricklayers or to be fighters when they are poets. A father sees his own weakness in his son and rather than working with the son to overcome the weakness, he simply encourages his son to compensate. Sons can grow up resentful, angry and disappointed by their dads. A great many men I know feel that their dad taught them some of their worst behaviors. Their dad feels like those bad behaviors are a symbol of rebellion against them. Rifts and gaps have developed over the years and communication has broken down. Sometimes dads make huge mistakes that a son or daughter can’t let go of. Some of those mistakes will never be forgiven. They are often grievous acts that scar a child for a lifetime.
Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.
Fatherhood is full of lose-lose situations. There are times in a father’s life when no matter what he does he runs the risk of alienating himself from his family in some way. It is easy for me to see why some of the kids I know had father’s full of anger, criticism, greed and sarcasm. Their dads constantly felt as if they were failing. They felt like they were playing a game with a different set of rules than everyone else. Being a father is tough. Being a father requires a lot of sacrifice and a balance between earning a living and being there for your kids that is often very difficult to discern. Some just can’t ever seem to get it right. Some have completely given up. There is a huge part of our society today that has decided that being a father is just not worth it and their part in fatherhood ends with conception. Mom is left to fulfill the roles and both mom and dad.
This is Father’s Day. It is a good time to start getting things right with our dads. Not just sons, but daughter’s too. Most men do the best they can with what they have. A lot of times they gave their kids a much better life than their fathers gave them. On this day we need to honor our fathers. This is a great time to look for the good that our fathers did, to be thankful for what we received and not what we did without, to be thankful for love shown awkwardly, to choose to see their efforts and not their failures.
Ephesians 6:2 “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: 3 If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.”
I truly wish I could have been a better father. In the vast army of fathers in the world today, I am not alone. There are legions of fathers out there today that wish they could go back in time and get some do-overs. I did the best I could do. I really wish I had let God be a bigger part of those years I was helping raise my kids. I didn’t. It would be easy to feel guilty and sometimes I do. But I gave my kids the opportunity to come to know God. I know that I did that. I also know that I will be here for them no matter what they do or where they go, whether they disappoint me or make me proud. Even if they wound me deeply I will want them to come back to me.
Jesus told of the prodigal son that greedily wanted his inheritance early and he left his family to go and pursue pleasures on his own. The son wasted it all away and nearly died. He decided to return home and live as a servant so he would at least know where his next meal was coming from. But his father was waiting for him, he hadn’t been forgotten. Dear old dad was missing him and expecting him home any day now. His father saw him coming from far away.
Luke 15:20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.”
Today let’s honor our fathers. Return home to do it if you have to. Ask for forgiveness, give forgiveness. Fathers, let’s run to our kids. Let’s be filled with love and compassion for our sons. Embrace them and kiss them. Cry if you feel like crying, applaud if you feel like applauding. Make being a father more than just getting a card once a year. Let it remind us of forgiveness, love and compassion.
God, please take away my regrets and guilt from past mistakes. Fill me with love and compassion. Fill me with forgiveness. Amen.
When I was a kid I found a lot of ways to earn a little extra spending money. Often it was doing something none of my other friends would take on. I did lots of things none of my other friends would do. That’s why I would classify myself as being a little weird. One way that I made a little extra cash was to sell fish. No, I wasn’t going up and down the street selling catfish fillets or anything like that. I was selling pretty little fish that look nice in an aquarium. We had gotten a small aquarium and stocked it with standard fare, sword-tails, angel fish, catfish and guppies. The guppies were Fan Tailed Guppies to be exact. Maybe that isn’t exact but that is what the tag on the tank said at the place we bought them. Those guppies must have loved being in our tank because they decided to start a family in there. In fact, they started several families. They added to the family at a fast and furious pace.
I would remove the tiny fish from the big aquarium and place them in a smaller aquarium where the larger fish couldn’t eat them. There they grew quickly and soon I had more guppies than I knew what to do with. I decided that the pet store in town must buy guppies from someone so why wouldn’t they buy them from me? I loaded my guppies up in a giant jar and headed into town. The owner of the pet store was surprised to see a junior high kid show up with a gallon jar full of guppies but he was actually glad to get those guppies. He gave me twenty-five cents a piece for them. Well, most of them, one of them earned me a dollar. He pointed out that these fish should be green and transition to a dark color with a tail that is a pastel. All of my fish were like that. He also pointed out that most of my fish had spots on the wide tail. They weren’t worth as much as the one fish that had no spots on the tail. He told me to keep some fish each time that had fewer and fewer spots until I was breeding with better guppies and pretty soon I would have schools and schools of fish with spotless tails. I did as he said and for quite a while we did business. I brought him perfect guppies and he was always glad to get them.
Being willing to perfect what I was bringing to the store owner brought me greater rewards. I could have kept bringing twenty-five cent guppies to the store and he would have been glad to get them. They would sell. But he knew which ones had more value. So by following his instructions I got more money. If I hadn’t gotten good advice and followed it I would have gone on and on doing the same amount of work for less reward.
Philippians 3:12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.
Every day I bring an offering to the Lord. For a long time it was minimal. I would give up a quick prayer at meal time, a glance at an email with a devotional sent by a friend, a hello to someone that needs to talk, always a little something here or there but usually not much. I was giving God guppies with tails full of spots. They were worth something but they weren’t worth much. God deserves so much more from me.
I expect God to honor His covenant with me and to save me from the fate I deserve. I want Him to lead me and guide me in a way that protects me from harm. I stand on the promises He has made to me to provide all I need. But when it comes to giving my life back to Him and offering myself as a living sacrifice I grudgingly give Him far less than He deserves. What I say and do is an offering before God weather I want to admit it or not. What am I placing before Him?
Psalm 51:16 You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. 17 The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.
God has covered my sins in the blood of His Son. So why are the things I do riddled with imperfection? I think it is because I have been satisfied just to offer the minimum. I know that within me I cannot achieve perfection but I can remove many blemishes from the actions I perform throughout the day. I can make my life an offering to God.
1 Corinthians 10:31 So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
Colossians 3:23 Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.
I have to strive for perfection in the offerings I make to the Lord. They can eventually be pure and spotless. They can be the best they can be.
As for my rewards, I have to admit I simply do not understand them. God has made numerous promises of blessings while we are here on the earth. The rewards are heavenly and I just can’t comprehend what could be perceived as a reward, something that could still have value and that I would still desire, while I am standing before the Lord. Yet God promises us these things and I will some day understand.
Revelation 22:12 “Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds.”
God, I have failed to give you my best. Help me to see that what I offer you today is not good enough for tomorrow. I have held back and desire to give everything to You. Amen.
Sometimes, as I read a proverb, I wonder how it came to be. When Solomon wrote the book of Proverbs, did he just hear from God and have it written down? Or did he have experiences and take notes?
I have a proverb that I wrote myself: If a guy can throw you over your car, he can probably do it three times.
I wrote mine out of experience because getting thrown over my car once just wasn’t enough for me. I had to go back over and over until I hit my limit. It turns out that three was my limit.
I suppose I should put the word fool in there somewhere since it seems so appropriate in this case.
As I was reading in Proverbs this morning, one grabbed my attention.
Proverbs 17:10 A single rebuke does more for a person of understanding than a hundred lashes on the back of a fool.
My mind jumped back to grade school when one particularly troubled kid used a curse word in class. The teacher brought him to the front of the class for swats. Every time the paddle hit his backside, he demonstrated that he knew lots of other cuss words. The teacher realized that this was going the wrong way and escorted him to the principal’s office.
I remember thinking, “What an idiot!” But this fool (me) has played the role of the idiot time and time again. I’ve wanted to exert my will on the mighty and unchanging God so desperately that I ignored the truth when it was spoken, plunged headlong into being disciplined with no intention of allowing myself to be corrected and then wondered why God couldn’t get any of this right.
I read this verse and wondered what the situation was that prompted Solomon to write this. I’m sure he ran across all sorts of hard-headed fools like me. How refreshing it must have been to simply tell a man to stop doing things wrong and see him obey.
Maybe these days I am more refreshing to God than I once was. I certainly hope so. A few words to sway me into the right direction is a lot more pleasant than lashes on the back of a man who has no plans to be beaten into obedience.
I’ve grown tired of being the one that everyone looks at and exclaims, “What an idiot!” Maybe someday, someone will say, “That man listens to God.” I don’t really need to hear anything else that says I am heading in the right direction.
I actually said this, “I don’t think I’ll ever buy a car with air conditioning because it cuts fuel mileage.”
This was stated by a sixteen year old know-it-all who, when driving a car, cut fuel mileage at every single opportunity. I slammed the gas pedal as if every second it was not floored was a second off my life.
Just a few years ago, I had a Ford Ranger that had air conditioning but it didn’t function. It just happened to be one of the hottest summers on record and a thirty minute drive home from work in the afternoon at 105 degrees would bring me to the brink of dehydration. It was a real sweat box.
I no longer find air conditioning optional. I honestly think that the only reason I liked not having it in a car in the first place was so that I could drive around with ‘Foghat’ blasting ‘Slow Ride’ at excruciating volumes for all to hear as I cruised around town with all the windows down.
As the temps here climb into nice, humid nineties, I’m pretty glad to be able to crank the A/C and find my younger self’s opinion to be a lot of hogwash.
I’m glad that I have let go of lots of dumb opinions and ideas that I had in my youth. I’m not quite so glad that I have let go of my waistline but that is a different story.
I’ve also slowly begun to learn to let go of some of my opinions and ideas about God, although I learned my air conditioning lesson much earlier in life. But at times I am still, at times, just a nearly sixty year old know-it-all driving with my sinfulness floored, professing to care about something I really disregard.
Proverbs 12:14 Wise words bring many benefits, and hard work brings rewards.
It is good to start with changing my babbling to wisdom. I can’t make up truth to justify my actions or my wants. Wise words aren’t just wishful thinking, they need to be words of truth about my needs and not denial. Denial of truth is just another way to lie.
When I speak truth, good things can happen.
Proverbs 12:19 Truthful words stand the test of time, but lies are soon exposed.
I lived with a lot of lies in my life for a long time and I thought that I was getting away with being a liar, but I had to continue to lie to cover up my lies because they could not stand the test of time.
If, after a while, I find that what I thought was true was kind of a little off or if I was completely off base, I can simply admit I was wrong. In the past, I felt I had to compound my wrongness with all sorts of talk, talk that cannot possibly be called wisdom, to try to make myself seem right.
It is much simpler to admit I was wrong and go fresh from there. It is just another benefit of wise words. Sometimes the wisest thing I can say is, “I was wrong.”
It is almost time to walk out the door into another steamy morning. I’ll climb in the truck and crank up the A/C.
Here’s a video I did with my church a couple of years ago, telling a bit of my story. I thought I’d share it here.