Posters To Social Media–Change My Mind

This is directed to all those angry posts on social media revolving around politics and political parties by those who self-identify as Christian. I have a question for you: “Do you think God is really glorified with those negative political posts? Do you think those posts reflect HIS Character?”

Truth time: You are dishonoring His Character and misrepresenting His Kingdom. Shame on you! Change my mind about this!

WHY, GOD?

This is the first in the most recent series of messages I have been sharing
1 This is the message that the prophet Habakkuk received in a vision.  2 How long, O Lord, must I call for help?  But you do not listen!  “Violence is everywhere!”  I cry, but you do not come to save.  3 Must I forever see these evil deeds?  Why must I watch all this misery?  Wherever I look, I see destruction and violence.  I am surrounded by people who love to argue and fight.  4 The law has become paralyzed, and there is no justice in the courts.  The wicked far outnumber the righteous, so that justice has become perverted.

I have said at other times that no message or series has been more difficult for me than the one I am sharing.  And this new series is proving itself to me, to be the most difficult one ever.  I’m calling it Why, God?  Notice the use of the comma.  It would be much easier for me to talk about Why God?  Why God speaks about our need for God.  But that pesky comma, Why, God? speaks into the season we are in today.

We are living in a season like none other before.  We have this Pandemic of Covid-19 and we are seeing a lot of racial unrest.  I also see that the core of this season of racial unrest is a symptom of something else that has been going on for some time now— and that is Social And Political Unrest.  The fabric that is meant to hold us together in a common society is being cut and ripped apart. 

I am compelled to speak into this chaos.  I would rather not and tackle an easier word.  But I Firmly Believe This Mess We Are In Has A Message.  Unfortunately, it may not be the message that people inside and outside of church want to hear.

We are going to begin this series with an honest discussion around the question that many are asking out loud, and many more that are wondering about inside their hearts and minds but are afraid to ask.  Why, God?  Why Are Things Like They Are Right Now?  Why This Covid-19, This Racial, Social, And Political Unrest? 

I believe this is a question that needs to be asked and explored.  So be prepared for some hard or difficult things I will share with you.  And at the risk of losing some of you—I will honestly say upfront that I may not have a neat answer to the question—I may not even have a good answer for the question.

And let me be upfront and honest with this disclaimer:  I Am Not An Expert On The Ways That God Thinks.  My answers may not be your answers as to the Why Question.  Know that I am not expecting you to agree with anything I say.  I won’t be disappointed with anyone who disagrees with me. 

My personal goal, and the goal of this Series, is that you will not be afraid to ask God questions, and that you think through your own answers—without using the standard issue replies that are dressed in a Polly Anna or The Born Loser view of life.  I am convinced that oversimplified answers to the Why Question are only adding to the frustrations and fears. 

Posting things on Social Media with the line “Repost if you believe in Jesus” aren’t helping.  Reality Check folks: Reposting And Quoting Scriptures Isn’t Going To Help!  So What Will Help?  I believe raw honesty helps more than posting and quoting Scriptures.

Look, it’s not that life Could Be difficult and hard.  If you can handle the truth, then here it is—The Truth Is That Many Times Life IS Difficult And Hard.  None of us are exempt from the troubles and pressures of life.  And if anyone tells you that you can live a happy and pain-free life as a Christian—they are lying to you and they should be ashamed of themselves for deceiving you. 

I have been a pastor for nearly 46 years, and in those 46 years I have read and studied the Bible extensively.  In that same 46 years I have had a lot of personal experiences and I’ve been a part of other people’s experiences.  I have seen joy—and I’ve seen the doubt and deep pain brought on by life as it really is—the fear and hurt that comes with those difficult experiences. 

I am going to try, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to be totally Honest with you.  And sometimes coming face to face with Honesty is not very easy.  And know ahead of time that my Honesty may not fit in with The Truth.

If anything, the writers of the Bible are Honest—more than Honest, they are Painfully Honest.  There is page after page, story after story, which speaks Honestly—but not always be The Truth.  Think about Job—not everything in there is The Truth—but everything there is Painful Honesty.  In Ecclesiastes Solomon writes Honestly about His Feelings—though some of his conclusions about God are not true.  But His Conclusions About The Pain And Difficulties Of LifeThey Are Most Definitely True

There’s the book of Lamentations—where Jeremiah blames God for everything that happened to Jerusalem.  And there’s this passage we begin with from Habakkuk.  Habakkuk, this prophet of God, Honestly believes that God isn’t listening and that He has forgotten all about him.  And true to human nature, it’s easier to blame God than accept responsibilities for our choices. 

That’s exactly what Adam did—he blamed God.  And here’s the truth that many will disagree with me—God Didn’t Destroy Jerusalem.  God didn’t point His finger at Babylon and manipulate them into doing what He wanted to be done.  The blame for the destruction of Jerusalem lies squarely at the feet of those who rejected God by choosing another way.  God didn’t have to punish them—they punished themselves by rejecting the ageless truth of God—and that rejection reaped them a whirlwind and a hurricane of consequences.

And all of this that’s going on all around us?  I am about to say something that many may disagree with—and remember I warned you.  I want you to think deeply.  This is it:  God Is Not Causing Any Of This To Happen.  Covid-19 Is NOT God Punishing Our Nation And World.  God Is Not Pointing His Finger To Manipulate People To Create This Hate And Chaos. 

What I see happening here in the U.S. with the unrest, what I see happen in the U.S. and around the world with Covid-19 is The Consequences Of Generations Of People Abandoning God’s Principles For Another Way.  We are reaping the same whirlwind and hurricane that Habakkuk and Jeremiah were seeing in their day.

One of the blogs I read is Walking With A Limp.  Here’s what the writer, Joe Misek, had to say about his title:  “The reason why I title my blog Walking With a Limp is because I believe our faith and our humanity is meant to be lived out not hiding our brokenness.  In fact, the Bible even has an entire genre of literature dedicated to expressing pain, grief, anger, and brokenness:  Lament.” 

In a recent blog he wrote:  “We don’t do Lament well in the modern American church.  In fact, we often arrange our entire experience of corporate worship to be happy.  Lament sounds dark and depressing; it is uncomfortable if you hear it and you are in a ‘happy place’ in your life.  But the Lament is not in the entertainment business and doesn’t appeal to consumers.  It is reality.  It is healing.” 

Joe is right—unlike Job, Solomon, Jeremiah, and Habakkuk we don’t handle Lamenting very well.  We either hold all our pain, doubts and questions in—or we adopt a lifestyle of being happy all the time while masking what’s really going on inside us.  Many often chastise others and themselves for even thinking about that question of Why, God? 

I don’t really know all the whys about why we aren’t truthful with ourselves and with God in this time.  Maybe it’s because we’ve had long years of comfort here in the United States.  We have forgotten or never really learned how to Lament.  It seems we would rather find someone or something To Blame than to become broken over our own lives and the world.

The Ability To Lament Comes Out Of 2 Things:

  1. The Pain Of Realizing Something Isn’t Right.  It’s being broken over what’s wrong to the point that makes us restless and deeply hurting.  And here is another hard truth:  We Don’t Like To Hurt—we avoid pain as if it were some sin.  But it’s not.  Many today are trying to make their hidden pain go away by not admitting something isn’t right and then justifying themselves.  In the LBGTQ community, they blame their pain on those who will not agree with their justification.  Racial Unrest is the result of blaming history for their pain and the reality that some still hold on to racist views.  Political Unrest is the result of blaming those who don’t see things their way.  And the Social Unrest is the result of blaming others rather than accepting responsibility for our own choices.
  2. Then It Takes An Honest Vulnerability To Express That Pain Of Being Broken And Living In A Broken World.  I’m talking about raw emotions—like the raw emotions we see in the lives of Job, Solomon, Jeremiah and Habakkuk.  I’m not talking about finding out who or what is to blame. Blaming isn’t the same thing as Lamenting

I’m not talking about moaning and groaning, whining and complaining—God knows we are good at that.  Many have taken this to an art form or made it a science.  Whining and complaining, moaning and groaning are cheap substitutes that help us avoid confronting the real issues—issues that are eroding our culture, our own hearts, and are hurting others.  It takes little effort and even less thoughtful reflection to moan and groan or whine and complain.  It just gushes out of us without any effort.

And here is the one thing you need to remember from today’s message:  The Only Way To Find Our Way Forward And Navigate This Broken Culture Will Only Begin When We Recover The Ability To Lament.  Lamenting requires a different focus for us. 

This week I came to a most unusual, perhaps unorthodox view about LamentingLamenting is another learned Spiritual Discipline.  Spiritual Disciplines never happen automatically.  They require both intentions and diligence.  I can’t remember ever studying about Lamenting as a Spiritual Discipline or reading a book that taught Lamenting as a Spiritual Discipline.

I’m not saying I haven’t—maybe I have and it these times that are bringing it up in my spirit and heart.  Quoting Scriptures and motivational phrases will not change our culture.  The Key is to become broken, and then Lamenting—about ourselves and our world.  Do you need an example?  Good, because there is the best example ever.

It’s Jesus!  In Luke 19:41-44 we see:  But as He came closer to Jerusalem and saw the city ahead, he began to weep.  “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace.  But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes. Before long your enemies will build ramparts against your walls and encircle you and close in on you from every side. They will crush you into the ground, and your children with you.  Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place, because you did not recognize it when God visited you.

It was too late for Jerusalem, but it’s not too late for us and the world.  And because WE can’t follow Jesus and stay where we are, we need the Next Step. 

In Our Hearts And Minds, Replace The Idea Of Blame With The Truth  That We And Our World Are Broken And Hurting.

Are you really broken over our world?  Or are you frustrated?  Are you angry?  And are you wanting to escape by desiring the return of Jesus more than the return of people back to Jesus?

For the next few weeks, I want us to look at how we can reclaim the Art And Discipline Of Lamenting.  Admit it, nothing we are doing now is making a difference.  Maybe, just maybe, a good old fashioned Lament will make a difference.

There Is No Quick Fix

This is the last in my reflections of my recent medical emergency. If you haven’t read the first one, then click here.

When we are hurting–whether physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, or relationally–we want the pain to go away and go away quickly. And here is another lesson I have learned in my most recent episode:

The quick-fix rarely, if ever, works.

In my situation of my ruptured appendix, Dilaudid made the pain quickly go away. And for a little bit the quick-fix solved my problem with pain. But guess what? The effects of Dilaudid wore off and the pain returned. Other than making me feel comfortable, the Quick-Fix did nothing to solve the real problem. Can you make the connection here?

In case you did not, allow me to explain. There are things that will help us numb the pain but cannot treat the real condition causing our pain. It’s not just in the realm of physical pain–but all other forms of pain. For example, holding a grudge against someone who wounded you deeply can hide the pain momentarily–but the pain returns. Trust me on this one; I personally know about holding grudges–it won’t heal the pain.

There are a lot of ways–chemical, emotional, and mental–to numb the pain. Yet they fail to heal the cause of our pain. This is why we turn to God in times of pain. God doesn’t offer us a quick-fix–but He does offer us wholeness. And sometimes, wholeness requires both time and a process. In the case of my ruptured appendix, they did not immediately remove that vile and evil beast. To have done so would have exposed my entire body with poisonous toxins that would have put me in further danger. By treating the poisons in me first, it decreases the probability of further complications when they will remove my appendix.

Next Wednesday I revisit my doctor. Hopefully he will tell me when they will schedule surgery to remove my appendix. Doctors have helped me understand why I need to wait–and I trust their knowledge and skills. And you can trust the knowledge and skills of the Great Physician to restore your whole health–spiritually, emotionally, mentally and relationally. You can trust Him because He created you–and offered you redemption through His Marvelous Grace. God doesn’t offer us a day-trip with a quick-fix. He offers us a journey–filled with His more than sufficient Grace–and His Presence to help us when we can’t help ourselves.

Ridding Yourself Of The Poison.

Today I’m continuing to reflect on my recent medical emergency and the lessons I am learning. If you didn’t read the first one, here is the LINK to where this all started. So here is today’s Lesson:

Get Rid Of That Poison!

As you probably know, when the appendix ruptures it release a toxic poison into the abdominal cavity. No one really knows the exact function of the appendix–lots of hypotheses–but no certain conclusion. That’s right, our body is locked-and-loaded with poison. As long as it stays where it belongs, no harm, no foul. But when it gets out–the story line changes.

Here’s how it continues to change my story line. I still have a drainage tube which requires my attention. Twice a day I take a 10-cc syringe of sterile saline, take an alcohol wipe and clean the connection, attach that syringe, turn a value and inject half of it into my abdominal cavity, turn the valve again and flush the line, and return that valve to the original position. It may sound painful but it’s not really painful. Then I measure what’s in the drainage bag and record it in a journal for my doctor.

Some may think this is another inconvenience–but my perspective tells me it’s necessary for my healing. If this poison remains in me then sepsis will set in. Sepsis happens when an infection you already have—in your skin, lungs, urinary tract, or somewhere else—triggers a chain reaction throughout your body. Untreated it is fatal. Knowing the outcome of what happens if I don’t flush out my abdomen, it’s not really inconvenient.

And it’s not just the body that internal poison is harmful–it also happens in the heart and mind. Some of those poisons are greed, fear, bitterness, resentment, guilt, shame, anger, lust, revenge, unforgiveness–these are just a few of the poisonous toxins. If untreated, they are as fatal as sepsis to the heart, mind and spirit. And as in my physical case, there are ways to get rid of those poisons. We can’t get rid of the poisons alone–we need our Heavenly Father to show us how to get rid of that poison. And they are worth the effort–because they work.

So, don’t allow those poisonous toxins create spiritual sepsis. Jesus delivered us on that Cross–and He continues to deliver us. It’s not always instantaneously–but He always makes us whole!

We All Need Help!

Today I’m continuing to reflect on my recent medical emergency and the lessons I am learning. If you didn’t read the first one, here is the LINK to where this all started. So here is today’s Lesson:

We All Need Help!

Have you ever looked at someone and either thought or said out loud: “You need help!” Well, guess what, cupcake: So do you! So do I! Back to room S704 at University of Alabama Birmingham Medical Center. Each time a nurse, patient care tech, doctor, or other staff came in my room they would always ask, “Can I get you anything?” Not just once while they were in my room, but 2 or 3 times before they left my room. And if I needed anything, it was only a minute or 2 when they came back with what I was needing.

Nurses and staff showed me the very thing I needed: Compassion! They did not come in my room and say, “Hey! You have a ruptured appendix!” This I already knew. I didn’t need that reminder. The care team also knew I didn’t need that reminder. They knew exactly what I was needing: Compassion! They didn’t tell me, “If you had went to the ER Sunday night instead of Tuesday afternoon, you wouldn’t be here!” They cared for my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs without placing blame.

Yet, when it comes to the Body of Christ, many feel the need to point out where people did or went wrong rather than giving hurting people what they need; namely Compassion. That week I was vividly reminded by the actions of those around me the value AND the importance of Compassion. The Compassion of my care team wasn’t in their words or attitude. It was in their Actions! Saying you are Compassionate and Being Compassionate are not the same.

Look at Matthew 14:14 (NLT)–“Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” Compassion from Jesus always involved An Act! This crowd? He made them whole. The woman weeping on His feet? He released her from her sin and guilt. Have you made the connection? Feeling without action is worthless. Seven days in Room S704 reminded me that it’s not enough to feel for others–but to act on their behalf.

Anyone who insists they do not need help is lying. Plain and simply lying. We all need help. It doesn’t take special training or a degree in theology. All it takes is to have the same desire as my care team, the same desire as Jesus–do something that restores and lifts up others. Plain and simple. Plain and simple.

The Myth Of Unintended Consequences!

“There is no such thing as unintended consequences! Never has been, is not now, nor will it ever be!”

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We are experiencing the devastation and fallout of another myth: UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES. In case you forgot, a myth is a widely held but false belief or idea. You’ve heard people say, maybe you’ve said it: “That not what I meant. I didn’t intend for it to happen like this.” It’s as if that statement absolves and forgives that person’s choice, actions or words. The slate is wiped clean. It creates the illusion that the damage caused by those UNINTENTIONAL CONSEQUENCES is lessened.

Let’s get it out in the open: “There is no such thing as unintended consequences! Never has been, is not now, nor will it ever be!” I have a deep seated suspicion that many disagree with my assertion. Well, guess what? Your disagreement doesn’t change the facts. Do you need proof that this is the truth? I refer you to Newton’s Third Law of Motion: “For every actionthere is an equal and opposite reaction.” Denying the reality of Newton’s Third Law of Motion doesn’t change the reality of this Law. “How does this apply to unintended consequences?” Glad you asked this question.

Every choice you make, every act, and every word spoken has a subsequent equal and opposite reaction. Good or bad, it happens. This is NOT affected by your intention. Unintended Consequences are nothing new. It goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden with Eve’s choice and Adam’s silence. I don’t think their intention was to get booted out of the Garden. They only intended to be a god. How did that work out for them? Allow me to show you a recent example.

COVID-19 PROTOCOLS! If these protocols had been followed, we would be seeing a decline in the number of cases. But, no! Social distancing? “What’s that?” Face masks and gloves? “You’re kidding right?” Stay at home and go out only for what is essential? “Well what I want to do IS essential!” Don’t panic buy and leave important supplies on the shelves for others? “You’re hilarious Preacherman! I’m taking care of me and to hell with everyone else.” Being out in public may expose you to the virus? “You’ve lost your mind. I’m invincible!”

Well, I could go on, but let me get to the point of the INTENDED CONSEQUENCES OF THIS WAVE OF SELFISH IGNORANCE HAPPENING HERE IN THE U.S. Bear in mind, with the exceptions of narcissists and sociopaths, this is not what these selfish, ignorant people intended; it is, though, the consequences–and because they made those decisions–THEY ARE THE INTENTIONAL CONSEQUENCES OF ALL THOSE WHO IGNORED AND VIOLATED THE PROTOCOLS! Here’s a few of those INTENTIONAL CONSEQUENCES:

  • People have lost their jobs. Some employers and still paying their employees, but this can’t go on indefinitely. Others are NOT receiving a paycheck.
  • Family and friends are unable to visit loved ones in a nursing home or skilled care facility. Imagine, if you even can, the loneliness of those residents.
  • We have family in hospitals with other illnesses, but we can’t be there with them! I’m one of countless others in this situation. We can’t be there for them. A friend of ours, Krissy, shared with me that her grandfather is in ICU but she can’t be there for him and with him. It’s all because of all you who violated the Protocols. This is what you intended!
  • People with autoimmune diseases and respiratory conditions cannot find disinfecting supplies. Those with autoimmune diseases and respiratory conditions are highly susceptible to other conditions. A common cold or “ordinary” flu can devolve into pneumonia and respiratory failure resulting in death. A part of me secretly wishes law enforcement could find these hoarders and charge them with at least manslaughter; preferably second degree murder.
  • Families who have had a death in the family are restricted from the love, care and comfort of friends in a time they really need it. A couple of weeks ago I did a graveside service for a good friend. Only a limited number of people could gather in the parking lot, and only 10 at a time could go in for what we in the South call “a viewing”. At the cemetery it was only a limited number of family members who could be there. It broke my heart.
  • Couples who planned that special wedding day have had to postpone or do something different, without friends and family. Weddings are a time of great and shared joy. But they can’t happen because of you who violated the Protocols.
  • Children who live in an abusive home could look forward to being at school for a few hours of respite from their abusers. And now they are trapped with their abuser 24/7. This is what violators of the Protocols intended to happen.
  • Spouses/significant others who are abused could look forward to going to work or their abuser going to work, but if they aren’t “essential workers” they are trapped with their abuser. This is the intent of those violating the Protocols.
  • Violators of the Protocol who bring their children with them to the stores still open are abusing those children. They are intentionally exposing them to grave danger. In my book, they are child abusers. And we know what Jesus said about abusers of children!
  • Medical personnel cannot hug their family members; some even staying away from their home to protect their loved ones. Numerous cases of COVID-19 have happened within the medical community. Violators have put at risk and added stress to the very ones who are trained, skilled and committed to taking care of you. That’s the equivalent of you cutting off your toe because you have an ingrown toenail.
  • First responders–law enforcement personnel, fire and rescue personnel, EMTs and paramedics are risking their lives even more. Their jobs are to protect you and there were already enough dangers they face to protect you violators of the Protocols. Now they are facing even greater dangers and us family members are worried even more about them.

Well, I could go on; feel free to add other INTENTIONAL CONSEQUENCES in the comments section below. But the point is clear! Every decision, word, and action, as in Newton’s Third Law of Motion, has consequences. Your intentions are absolutely meaningless. Now, you can continue to expand the chaos. . .or. . . you can think things through beforehand. Your choices. . .your words. . . your actions carry with them CONSEQUENCES THAT ARE UNINFLUENCED BY YOUR INTENTIONS. Perhaps the death of this myth will be another consequence of this pandemic. And that would be more than good. . .that would be, as Tony the Tiger would say: GRRRREAT!

IT’S BROKE! FIX IT!

Community is broken. May that community never be seen again.

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Since everyone else is either saying something or writing something I thought I might as well put my two-cents worth into the fray. Due to the inability of the vast majority of Americans to stay home when they have symptoms of even the flu or even the common sense to wash their hands, the government has been forced to step in with this thing called quarantine and social distancing. Some states and municipalities have gone further than the Federal Guidelines and moved into total lock down.

Florida has even closed it’s borders to outsiders unless they have a Federal Certificate of being a necessary person. Of course native Floridians say it’s too little, too late because of the damn Yankees. In case you are wondering what that term means, I will explain. A Yankee is someone who goes down South but then goes back north. A damn Yankee is someone who goes down South and stays. A good friend of mine once said that we should round up all the damn Yankees, put them in cattle-cars and ship them back north. But in all fairness, there are a few damn Yankees who are good; few but nonetheless good. They have adapted to our Southern Culture. They have repented of and renounced their Yankee ways. If there was only a way for them to get rid of their accent you wouldn’t even know they were once a Yankee. I am digressing so I will get to the point.

Due to social distancing and quarantine, community has been broken, well except at Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club Costco and the local grocer. But the fact remains that what once was known as community is now broken. Not only in the sense of towns, cities and counties, but it has become illegal to assemble as the Community of Believers. And the very nature of The Kingdom of God requires being and living in Community. And many Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters are bemoaning this current reality. And now the first penny of my two-cents worth.

The Community known as church, at least in the U.S., was already broken. Long before it was known as “church” the word used to describe this gathering was “kononia”. Kononia means a shared life, fellowship, and a sense of each contributing to the welfare of others. The U.S. church has been turned inward–and though it considered itself a “community”, it wasn’t the kononia community. It had already quarantined itself from a fresh movement of the Holy Spirit and had socially distanced itself from the very ones we are designed, called and commissioned to reach. This social isolation and quarantine only revealed what already existed–Real Kononia Community was broken. My first penny. Now, for the second penny of my two-cents worth.

Community, as it HAS BEEN defined SHOULD NOT BE fixed. If the COMMUNITY that HAD BEEN was the right kind of COMMUNITY, we would not be seeing the fear, panic, hoarding and complete disregard for their fellow human beings. There! I said it! Community BEFORE COVID-19 was defective, mean, ugly and it sucked at being Community. And not just outside the church. Many congregations who cherished their buildings and traditions in those buildings more than people in their community now have neither! And the social distancing now in place has been in practice by many congregations BEFORE COVID-19–and I pray it does not continue after the all-clear is given.

Truth Time! Can you handle it? We do not need community as it has been. My deepest prayer is that out of this calamity, there will be a Resurrection of Koinonia Community–This is Community as God designed it to be in the beginning. A Community unmarred by selfish desires and behavior. A Community that longs to be defined by the Creator rather than the created. A Community that reaches out to make sure no soul is left behind. A Community that celebrates together and that mourns together. A Community that isn’t defined by buildings and habits–but IS DEFINED by the heart that is completely surrendered to God.

Community is broken. May that community never be seen again. And may the Community of the Kingdom of God rise in its place. And it will happen if each of us heeds the words of this song:

JUST 3 PLANTS

As long as I can remember, Dad had a garden. I mean a BIG garden. I think it came from his growing up years when times were hard. In spite of those hard times, he absolutely loved planting a garden! I remember him coming home from an 8 hour day at the local Reynolds plant and working until dark. His Saturdays found him working in the garden. And when they decided to build a new home in a subdivision he purchased 2 lots–one for the home and the other for the garden.

Even after my sister and I grew up and moved away, Dad continued his garden. After he retired, I remember my Mother fussing because he was working so hard in that garden. At first I suggested he slow down; but then I realized if he died working the garden, he would have died happy. Lord knows I’ve seen enough people die in misery. But as the years passed, he made his garden smaller. The only way he could do that was to plant some fruit trees so there wouldn’t be room to plant something else.

Finally, time did catch up with Dad and he just couldn’t garden the way he wanted. So he would plant in buckets and the inside of a washing machine tomato plants, squash and sometimes a cayenne pepper. But this spring, I was worried about him. Recently I asked him about his tomato and squash plants he told me, “I don’t think I’ll be doing them this year.” Understanding my Dad, I knew this wasn’t a good sign.

A bit of context. Dad just turned 94 years old. My Mother, his wife of 72 years, died 2 years ago come May. He still lives in that house he had built in 1962. It is filled with many wonderful memories, for him and us. He sounded tired, and I know he is; at times his grief is almost overwhelming. And for him not to plant at least 1 tomato plant and 2 squash plants meant he didn’t see a future for himself here on earth. I know he longs to go home to be with The Father.

But this week, 3 plants changed everything: 1 tomato plant and 2 squash plants. When I called him he proudly told me that he had put out his “garden”. That, my friends, is what is known as hope. Hope doesn’t blossom and become fruitful in the best of times–but in the most difficult of times. My Dad’s hope has grown. I realize that at 94 years old he may not eat a single tomato sandwich or fry up a skillet of fried squash–but he is planning on it. That is when hope becomes visual.

And the lesson, my dear readers, is clear in these days. COVID-19 is scary and there are many, maybe some of you, who have ONLY hunkered down and you do not see a future filled with hope. Let me ask you this question: What are you doing right now to plan for the future? I’m not talking about hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer. What are your plans WHEN this pandemic is over? And are those plans simply a reflection of what you are doing now? Where’s the hope in that?

So start “planting” now how to enjoy life more than ever. “Plant” those plans of spending more time with family and friends. “Plant” those plans of reconnecting with the Body of Christ. “Plant” those plans of being kinder in public. “Plant” that plan of a special trip with your family. Don’t wait until the pandemic is over to “plant” your hope. Do it now! Otherwise, your current mindset will continue to control your life. Three plants changed Dad’s perspective. It doesn’t take a whole lot to change your perspective. After all, only you can determine your perspective.