Thursday, October 28, 2010

Do YOU get the message?


“My grandma went to Costa Rica and all I got was this lousy T-shirt!” I’m the grandma who went there on a mission trip. Thankfully little Sheridan, our granddaughter in California, can’t say more than a few baby words or this might have been her response.

Although Disney used screen printed T-shirts as a form of marketing in the 70’s it was only when designer Katharine Hamnett in the 1980’s began putting slogans and designs on T-shirts that messaging in this manner became popular. Hamnett’s messages were mostly humorous or ironic.

When Charlie ran unsuccessfully for Bleckley Co. Commissioner back in the 90’s our whole family was on the T-shirt bandwagon, promoting his candidacy. I still wear that old campaign T-shirt, reminding myself from time to time, that God sure knew what was best by sparing Charlie from all the stress of politics.

Since the turn of the 21st century there has been an even greater popularity of T-shirts with political and social statements. If you go to Google you’ll find over 200,000 websites for political T-shirts. Knowing how many political messages are out there literally makes one’s head spin.

In our recent presidential elections we saw a slew of T-shirts sporting messages like, “Change you can believe in” or how about the pig with lipstick that Palin supporters wore?

Although we didn’t hear about it on any of the news media, the rescued Chilean miners were also sporting T-shirts with a message. The 33 miners who had been trapped for 69 days, 2300 feet below the earth’s surface, emerged in relatively good condition from their horrendous ordeal.

In all the excitement of the rescue hardly anyone noticed the miners were all wearing crème-colored T-shirts that bore a message. Since the T-shirts were dirty and covered with some type of harness, those of us who had been glued to the TV didn’t pay much attention to the words written in Spanish on their shirts.

A discerning observer noticed the writing on the shirts and deciphered the message. On the front were the words, “Gracias Senor!” (Thanks to God!) On the back an expanded version of the thank you to God was written. It read: “Thanks to God! In whose hands are the depths of the earth, The peaks of the mountains are His also.” This was a quote from Psalm 95:4 in the Bible. The observer recorded the rescue effort, shared the translation and posted it on YouTube.

God did an amazing thing down in the heart of the earth. The ministry of the late Dr. Adrian Rodgers was instrumental in supplying religious literature to the miners. I’m not sure who the supplier of the T-shirts was, but the miners were certainly proud to wear them. Thanks to God went up from the miners and from millions of others who were involved and who watched the rescue.

On Oct. 24 the thirty-three miners and six of the rescuers were given a heroes’ welcome at the national palace in Santiago, Chile by President Sebastian Pinera. On Oct. 28 a few of the miners were selected to come to the White House to receive a commendation from President Obama. One day they will all stand before God in heaven and I think there just might be a “Well done,” from God for declaring Him before the world on their T-shirts.

Did I mention that there was one word on the sleeve of the miner’s T-shirts? That one word was JESUS! His name is above every name that is named in heaven above or in earth beneath; the name to which every knee shall one day bow and to which every tongue will confess that JESUS IS LORD! (Phil. 2)

Next time you go shopping, to a ball game, or to a social function, just notice the messages you see on T-shirts. Everyone is advertising something. Who or what are you advertising today? And if you have a Jesus T-shirt on, be sure your life is backing up what you’re advertising.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Going once....going twice....


I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw all the cars lined up on both sides of the highway and down an adjacent side street. What in the world? If there was a death in the family, the person sure did have a lot of friends and relatives. But, no….it was an auction. I can’t remember seeing that many cars line a highway in Cochran since our house almost burned to the ground about 20 years ago.

According to one of my children, the auction was a huge success. It almost looked like a party was going on. For some an auction is more fun than a party. I’m sure the auctioneer was a happy camper when he counted up his profits at the end of the day.

Actually no one is really sure when auctions began. Earliest records indicate that they could go back as far as 500 B.C. At that time, women were auctioned off as wives. It was even considered illegal to allow a daughter to be “sold” outside the auction method.

Today when you buy something at auction you’re stuck with it, even if what you thought was valuable turns out to be junk. Back in the days when women were being sold off, a buyer could get a return of money if he and his new spouse did not get along well; but unlike a horse, maidens could not be “tried” before auction.

Many years ago we had a family reunion and for fun we took everyone to the Montrose auction. That was in the days before the auction house had fancy TV monitors to show off their goods and a central heating and cooling system to keep the audience comfortable.

All of a sudden I saw a painting I just had to have. A young maiden was sitting at a piano with her right hand raised in the air and her left hand on the keys. A look of rapture was on her sweet face. The bidding got higher and higher and finally it was mine!

When I saw it up close I was horrified. The painting was atrocious. I didn’t realize her neckline was lower than proper and it was not an original. Everyone in our group laughed at my great purchase and someone dubbed her the “Pentecostal Hussy”.

About three years later we had another family reunion and we had everyone put their name in a pot and we drew for a winner of a secret prize. You guessed it…my fantastic auction buy. Later one of my grandchildren, so disappointed that she wasn’t the winner, came to me and said, “Grandma, how come all the names in the basket said Mary?”

Well, Mary and her husband John hauled the Pentecostal Hussy off to California and ever since then, we have bounced the old painting back and forth from coast to coast. To tell the truth I’m not sure who has it right now, but you can be sure she will reappear at the next family reunion.

One of my favorite poems, written in 1921 by Myra Brooks Welch, is about an auction. It tells of an old battered and scarred violin. The auctioneer was having a terrible time getting someone to buy the ugly looking musical instrument. The final bid was a meager three dollars.

From the back of the room a gray haired man came up and started playing the violin. When he finished, the auctioneer hit the gavel and began again… "One thousand, one thousand, Do I hear two?" "Two thousand, Who makes it three?" "Three thousand once, three thousand twice, Going and gone", said he.

The audience cheered, But some of them cried, "We just don't understand." "What changed its worth?" Swift came the reply, "The Touch of the Masters Hand." And many a man with life out of tune, All battered with bourbon and gin, Is auctioned cheap to a thoughtless crowd Much like that old violin. A mess of pottage, a glass of wine, A game and he travels on.

He is going once, he is going twice, He is going and almost gone. But the Master comes, And the foolish crowd never can quite understand, The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought By the Touch of the Master's Hand.

Those of us who have been purchased by the blood of Christ, remember when we were on the auction block of sin. We were slaves to sin, but Jesus felt we were worth the price and so he bought us with His blood. By doing this he revealed how much He values us. Where are you today my friend…on the auction block of sin, or in the family of the Son of God?

Monday, October 25, 2010

The tree fell in a good place!


Some years back we were privileged to take a new child into our home. Alan Raffield was a fifteen year old who needed a place to call home for a few years while finishing high school. What an adventure it was for two old people like Charlie and me to experience parenting a teenager again.

We had some ups and downs and some highs and lows, but all in all it was a great experience that made for a solid relationship that continues to this day. I learned many things while Alan lived with us. When Alan was seventeen he and his best friend Brandon, brought a whole new meaning to the verse in Ecclesiastes that states, “Where the tree falls, there shall it lay.” (Eccl. 11:3)

Trying to keep the boy busy during the hot summer months, I decided to have him clear some brush near the back of our house. First, there was the need of a bow saw, clippers and gloves; so it was off to the hardware store. With all the needed supplies purchased and delivered to my field hands, I went to the grocery store to get them something cold to drink.

Now you have to realize that my trips to the store are not quickies. Down one of the aisles was an old friend I hadn’t seen in ages. During the course of our twenty minute or so conversation we covered everything from her daughter’s marriage to the exciting time my pastor and I had recently when we led a man to Christ in my office.

Of course I had to stop and get ice for the Gatorade I had purchased. There’s nothing like cold Gatorade to keep two teenagers working. It was at the convenience store that I happened to meet up with a local pastor who drives a delivery truck on the side.

Another twenty minutes ticked by while we rejoiced together over the recent Bible Reading Marathon we had and how God was working in our community. These were all positive conversations on my grocery trip.

Oh, did I mention that Charlie had prayed for the boy’s safety before I left the house and while he was at it threw in a request that God would give us grace and PATIENCE?

Finally home, I drove into the back yard. It’s hard to describe the scene of devastation that lay before my eyes. No, it wasn’t a tornado. Could it have been a hurricane? Maybe it was a dream, or more likely a nightmare!

Dashing into the house I asked Charlie if he had seen what the kids had done. He replied by saying he had just gotten home from taking the chainsaw to neighboring Eastman for repairs and no, he had no idea what they had done.

The boys were so proud of their work. They had cut down just about every tree in the area where I had instructed them to cut only the brush…sixty-six in all! The oak trees were 15-20 years old. Alan proudly exclaimed that he had left the pines, one of which was dead! I just knew it was going to take me awhile to get over this one.

I never imagined when I taught Ecclesiastes in a Sunday school class at the Jeffersonville Church of God, that the scripture that had become one of my favorites, would come back to test me so severely.

When Solomon penned those words it was a metaphorical way of stating the fact that there is no sense in crying over spilled milk. “Where the tree falls, there shall it lay.” Most likely in modern day lingo he would have said, “Get over it, honey. What’s done is done.”

I managed to keep my cool, made a big lunch for the kids and even smiled when Alan asked if he could knock off at four o’clock and go to his friend’s house. I reminded myself about the positive side of this whole debacle -- the chainsaw had been taken to the repair shop. Can you even imagine what could have happened, if those two teenagers had had a working chainsaw? I shudder to think.

(As an update on Alan…he has been happily married since March of 2009 to his high school sweetheart, Brittany. On October 4th of this year they became the proud parents of a little 8lb, 14 oz. baby boy whom they named Ayden Wilson Raffield.)

As for the downed trees, I wasn’t able to put them back on the stumps. Neither can I change anything else in my life, whether good or bad. Paul puts it this way in Philippians, “Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." (Phil. 3:13-14)

Do you have some downed trees in your life, situations that you would give anything if they had gone in a different direction, choices you wish you hadn’t made and can’t undo? Quit looking at the past. Ask the Lord to help you to look forward to Him. He will give you the grace to make it past every stump, and He may even give you a smile on your way.