Jumping Bridges

As a crazy 19-year-old, I used to do some wild things with my car.  I am not going to get into all the wild things we did in this post, but maybe I’ll revisit those days sometime in the future.  This post will concentrate on the bridges we used to jump.  You heard me right – jump.

I loved to drive fast – really fast.  On the Interstate, I hated it when anyone would pass me.  It was pedal to the metal all the way.  We were rarely sober too, so that heightened the fun.  A bunch of us would pile in the car and just go.  It didn’t matter what day or what time of night, we were just going to have fun.  We explored the back roads all over central Massachusetts and knew every one of them.

One spot we particularly enjoyed was full of dirt roads that had old bridges which crossed the streams throughout the marshy area.  I had a 1965 Ford Fairlane that I had bought from my Mom for $1.  The reason she sold it to me so cheap was that I had gotten into an accident with it and the radiator needed replaced, plus some body work on the front end.  She bought a newer car and I got the one I wrecked.  I loved that car mainly because 1 could jam 5 other friends in there and we could drive and party.

One night we decided to ride off to that marshy area and just cruise around.  There was one particular bridge that offered the most fun.  The road rose sharply on both sides of the bridge, and the actual wooden bridge was about 25 feet across.  After driving over that bridge a few times, I told my buddies that I thought I could completely jump that bridge!  They all laughed and dared me to do it.

We had practiced similar stunts on a dirt bike track.  My friend went one direction in his VW Bug car, and I went the other,  We sped around that track, passing each other going the opposite direction, over the hills and valleys of a dirt bike track.  There were some close calls, but we always came out all right.

I could not resist such a dare.  We lined up with the bridge as far back as we could. Then I stomped on the accelerator, speeding toward that rise that came before the bridge.  There was absolutely no view of the other side – only the top of the hill and a glimpse of the railing on one side of the bridge. 

Faster and faster we went, the other guys in the car whooping and hollering. Dust was rolling up in the air as we sped up the hill.  We could only hope another car was not coming the opposite direction.  There was no view to see if there was, and once we hit the top t would be too late to back out.  If there was another car, we would have to hope to jump it as well!  (There was little traffic on these roads, so we felt fairly safe)

When we hit the top of the hill, we were going about 70 MPH on that dusty dirt road. The car left the ground for what seemed like 30 seconds (it was actually only 1 or 2).  We were off the ground until all four wheels hit the other side at the same time.  We did not hit wood, we hit dirt. We had made it!  WE never tried that again, though.  The thud at the end was so forceful we thought we would blow all 4 tires, but we didn’t.

Today, daredevils do different things with bridges.  They don’t jump over them – they jump off of them!  That is something I would never do!  With a bungie cord attached, people jump off perfectly good bridges, diving downward just the right distance so they don’t hit the ground below, and then rocket back up to the top again. 

I am not sure the science behind measuring the bungie cord, but it has to be precise. I have seen videos of people jumping off bridges 100 feet or more above the surface below.  Since the cord stretches so much, it must take some real math figuring to know how long that cord has to be before it is stretched out.  These people put a lot of trust in that cord, just as I put my trust in my car to jump over the bridge.

Bridges have much better purposes than this! They are built in strategic places so that two sides of a road can connect once the road is built.  They can be built over culverts, rivers, streams, roads, railroad tracks – anything that would impede the continuous flow of the road.  The can be over the obstacle or under it.  They serve a great purpose in our world.

Just imagine if we did not have bridges!  Commerce would literally stop all over this great nation. All business would have to be done on a local level.  The Interstates would have full access of side roads, and could only travel to the next body of water that crossed it.  Most of us would not drive on vacation like we do now because it would be extremely difficult to get where we were going.  Our little town here has the river on three sides of town – there would only be one road out.  I love bridges!

There is another gap that needs a bridge.  It is the gap between sinful man and a Holy God.  It is a big gap! 

When God came down on the mountain to speak the people, the presence of Him was so overwhelming, the people told Moses they did not want God talking directly to them anymore.  They wanted Moses to talk to God and tell them what He said. 

The Israelites had to offer animal sacrifices to cover their sins, and they still could not approach the presence of God in the Holy place.  Only the high priest, one time a year, could go into that Holy Place.  Even then, as consecrated as he was, they tied a rope around him in case he should die in the presence of God.  The gap is big!

God desired to have fellowship with His people, with all mankind, but He would not be around their sin.  So He sent His only Son, Jesus.  Jesus taught us the ways of God and then gave His life for our sins.  He suffered a cruel, torturous death to take the punishment of sin upon himself.  When He died on that cross in our place, He became a bridge to connect us to God.  The gap now had a bridge!

This bridge must be crossed in order to enter heaven.  You must accept the bridge and leave all your sinful ways behind, because sin cannot cross the bridge.

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

It’s quite simple. Ask Jesus to be your Savior and Lord, then live for Him and follow His ways, and you may cross the bridge.  If you do not, the gap will remain between you and God and the bridge will not be available.

Those of us who call ourselves Christians must tell others about this bridge.  They must know that the gap is too great for them to jump, to high for them to bungee.  There is only one way to bridge the gap, and that Is Jesus Christ.  No other bridge exists.

Meeting Janeen

After I got saved in Iowa, I returned to Massachusetts.  My life and lifestyle drastically changed in the next two years. My language cleaned up. I rose to prominence in my job. I cut my hair to look like a normal human being. I started attending church regularly and getting involved with different groups. I even kind of had a girlfriend in the church. It was late spring in 1978 when I went back to Iowa to visit my friend again.

When I walked into his house he was on the piano and was playing a song. He asked me if I knew the song.

“Yes I do. It’s called You Light Up My Life”.  I answered.

He said “That’s right” and then he immediately started playing another song. “Do you know this song?”

I said “No I don’t.”  He moved over on the piano bench and motioned for me to sit down. There was a hymnal open on the piano and I looked at the title of the song – Blessed Assurance.

“I was hoping you would help me sing the song for church.” He said.

“Sure, no problem.” I answered.  We sang together many times in church and in high school so this was nothing new for us.

We started learning the song and he said “I’ll take the first verse; you take the second verse and we can do the third verse together.” So we practiced it that way a few times.

“You really need to memorize it.” He said.

I said “Well, since I only have to memorize two verses and a chorus, I can probably do that.”

We took a break for a little while and then came back to practice.

My friend piped up.  “Oh, by the way, we’re going to sing this on television.”

I looked at him in surprise.  “I thought you said it was for church?”

“It is” He answered.  We televise our church service.  The recording is done tonight.”

“Well, you got me hooked now.  Let’s do this.” And we continued practicing.

We headed down to Kirksville, Missouri to the TV station with a whole bunch of other people. I think they’re were a dozen of us altogether in 3 different cars. Everything went well at the recording session and we headed back home around 9 or 9:30. We were all hungry, so we stopped at a little restaurant on the way back. At the table I sat beside the pianist from the church and her husband. She had her younger sister with her and I leaned over to the pianist and asked her

“How old is your sister?”

“She’s 15” the pianist answered.

“You wouldn’t happen to have a sister that’s a little bit older, would you?” I asked.  To be honest, I didn’t know why I asked that.  I had a girlfriend back home, but something prompted me to ask.

“Why yes I do.” She answered happily.

Well, have her in church tomorrow!” I said.  I didn’t ask, I told her to bring her to church.

“I will!” She said. 

We finished eating and headed home to hit the sack for the night.   I am told that when Joyce, the pianist, talked to Janeen, the other sister, Janeen was not really interested in going to church.  She got off work at 3 AM, and was going to sleep in.  But Joyce had a way of making Janeen do what she wanted.  The next morning, I headed to church and watched as Joyce walked in with her other sister. They sat right in front of me and, wouldn’t you know that I didn’t say a word to the young lady that I’d asked to be there. At the end of the service I walked back to the guest book that was at the back of the church and I signed it and wrote that I was visiting from West Boylston, Massachusetts. Joyce’s sister came up beside me and said “You came a long way to come to church today”

I said “Yes I did.” and I walked out the door. Joyce told me afterwards that at this time her sister was furious with her but she convinced her to come back to the evening service.

During the afternoon, my friend taught me a few new choruses because we were going to lead the congregation in worship that night.  We had a wonderful time learning those worship choruses and were ready to go to the service. I walked into the church and the Joyce’s sister turned around and looked at us. When our eyes met, my heart fluttered. Something happened. I walked up to the front and we lead the worship service and sat down.

After the service my friend was having a gathering at his house and guess who was invited. Yeah, you got it right.  The mother and father, Joyce and her sister were all there.  It was a nice gathering and I learned the sisters name was Janeen.  At the end of it everybody was talking about a fellowship meeting of churches the next night. They wanted me to sing a solo since I was visiting.

I looked over at Janeen and said “I’ll go if you go”

Janeen said “I’ll go if you go”

I came back again “I’ll go if you go.”

Finally we decided that we would go. It was a night that would change my life.

We went to the fellowship meeting the next night. I sang my solo. On the way home, I sit in the backseat with the Janeen. With us in the backseat was her3 year-old nephew, Jason. I’d been a bachelor for the last 6 years and had not been around kids at all. Jason was a rambunctious kid who was as funny as all get out. And he made me laugh1 I mean really laugh!  You have to understand that for years I had not really laughed. I had made up laughs – I was the king of laughter!  I had a hundred different laughs but I didn’t have a laugh of my own. And then he made me laugh – my own laugh – and it was a wonderful feeling. My head was spinning with all that was going on.

We got back to the town where Joyce lived since we rode with them.  My friend was working at a gas station in the next town about ten miles away. I wanted to go over and be with him for the rest of the night since I was leaving the next morning. Janeen volunteered to give me a ride in her 1965 white Mustang. As we drove over to Fairfield, just out of the blue she started singing You Light Up My Life. I didn’t know what was going on that she would start singing that song for no reason, the same song my friend was playing when II walked into his house.  We got to the gas station and I got out and came around to Janeen’s side of the car. I gave her a little squeeze on the arm and said “See you later” and went inside the gas station. To this day she’s upset that I didn’t kiss her goodnight.

When I got inside that gas station I sat down in the office and I started to weep. I told my friend that I was lost. I didn’t know where I belonged. I had a great job with a wonderful future at a large company back in Massachusetts, but everything within my being was telling me that I belonged in Iowa.  I had to leave the next day early in the morning. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen or what I was going to do but I had to go back.

I headed out the next day and drove the usual route across Interstate 80. Usually when I made this trip, and I’ve made it three times before, I just slept in my car when I got tired and then headed out again.  But for some reason this time I decided to stay in a Red Roof Inn in central Pennsylvania. I got into the room and was still pondering what I should do. I reached into the drawer and picked up the Gideon Bible. in the front of the Bible there are some helps.  It said in time of decision turn these verses. One of those verses with Proverbs 3 5 & 6, which says Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt as soon as I read that scripture that I was supposed to move to Iowa and marry that girl. I picked up a pen and paper at the hotel that night and I wrote her a letter. I was wise enough to get her telephone number and address before I left. In the letter, I said if you’ll be my girl I’ll move to Iowa.

I got back to Massachusetts Sunday night.  Monday morning I put in my two months’ notice at work. I had a very unique position and I know it would take that long to train anybody to take my place. The big boss called me in his office and offered me a promotion and more money.  I told him I couldn’t.  One of my co-workers joked with me and said what are you goin- g to do  – go out there and get married and have kids? I just said who knows. My mom thought I was crazy.  My brother thought well I don’t know what he thought.  All my friends wished me the best – they knew nothing was going to stop me.

Over the next two months Janeen and I shared letters and made phone calls quite frequently. We got to know each other this way. I worked on training my replacement. I worked long hours to get things caught up and organized for my replacement.  In the second week of August 1978 my friend and his wife and Janeen came out to get me. I had a station wagon full of things and that was all. Janeen and I rode together on the trip back to Iowa. I asked her to marry me 2 months later and we got married in November of 1978. We recently celebrate our 40th anniversary and have 3 beautiful daughters and five grandchildren.  The Lord has been very good to us. We are blessed.

Take Control (Music Video)

Here are the words and a video to a chorus the Lord gave me yesterday.  I hope you enjoy it!

What else can I do but to worship you
What else can I say but give you praise
What else can I offer you but this life you’ve given me
All I have is yours Oh Lord

All of my heart
All of my soul
All of my spirit take control
All of my heart
All of my soul
All of my spirit take control

Lessons From the Pond

Garside’s pond was a magnet for us as kids. It was a small pond nestled in a grove of trees at the top of the hill above Peter Dees house. It sat on the side of the road right where the road took a bend. There was nothing fancy about it. Definitely no swimming – it was dark and murky. Not much for fishing either – there was a tremendous amount of algae and the growing things that would grab your line. So, what was the big attraction?

First was that it was secluded for the most part. We could hang out there and not be seen. We would play around the shoreline. One of our favorite things to do was to skip stones and see if we could skip a stone all the way across the pond. Not that the pond was that big – maybe 30 feet across. But skipping a stone that far took talent, and we became pretty good skippers! The second test was how many skips you could do with one stone. I can remember several over 10. Another stone related thing we enjoyed was throwing a rock into the middle of the pond and watching the ripples come out. We used to try and make patterns by throwing rocks into different areas. Not as exciting as today’s video games, but it kept us occupied.

Second was the tadpoles. We loved to seek out tadpoles and watch them with fascination. It wasn’t unusual for us to find a nest of eggs and take some home, and watch as they hatched and became tadpoles. I can’t remember if we were ever able to keep one all the way to the frog stage, but I’m sure we tried several times over. It’s a fascinating thing to do, especially for a 10-year-old. The little eggs would first sprout a tail, then some front legs, and then the rear legs. We could watch them for hours.

But the biggest reason we hung out there was the bullfrogs. These beasts were gigantic and we were hunters. Catching a bullfrog was a talent we developed over time. Ordinary frogs were hard enough. You would see them on a lily pad, or along the shore, and you were sure you could sneak up on them, only to have them jump before you got there. It took stealth to capture even an average frog. And we caught plenty of them.

But the bullfrog, now that was a catch that made you special. These bullfrogs would trumpet their presence with a loud Ribbit that could be heard miles away – I’m sure! And you could kind of tell where it came from. Slowly you would creep that direction listening to him bellow out his presence. Then, as you got closer, no matter how quiet you were, he’d go silent. If you were really good, you might get close enough to see him sitting there. But you had to be fast to catch him. And catch some we did. Catching a bullfrog was a badge of honor to us. I will not tell you what we did with these beasts when we caught them, but it was not very humane – not humane at all.

What great memories!

I was back in Massachusetts a couple years ago, and we went by that old pond. It was much smaller than I remembered, almost more like a marsh than a pond anymore. The trees and brush had overgrown much of what was the pond many decades ago. There was no place for kids to play around the shore anymore – there wasn’t even much of a shore. It made me sad to see one of my favorite places become so un-useful.

Jesus told a parable about a sower who went out to sow his seed. Some seed fell on hard ground and the birds just ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground and never took root. Some fell on ground that then sprouted weeds that choked out the seed. And some fell on good ground and brought a good harvest. Then Jesus explained that this was really about sharing the gospel. Some will just not receive it – like the seed that fell on hard ground. Some will quickly accept the word, but the word will never take root in them and they will fall away., like the seed that fell on rocky ground. And some will accept the word, and start to live for Christ, but will turn away because of the cares of this world, much like the seed suffered at the hand of he weeds. And of course, some accept the word and go on to live for Christ and bring forth a harvest.

The pond reminds me how easily the world can encroach on the beauty of our salvation. It happens slowly, as little things start to distract us from serving the Lord. Maybe something comes up on a Sunday morning that causes us to miss church. Maybe our devotional time is disappearing beneath work or family pressures. Whatever it is, our time with God gets the short end of the stick. The world creeps in, just like the plant life crept into the pond. If we are not careful, our spiritual life can become overgrown with those other things, and we will find ourselves mediocre at best.

Examine your life, as I have been mine, and see where the world is creeping in. Then start to take steps to clear back the weeds, pull the muck out of the water, and restore the pond, restore your life, to a life-giving force once again. It can be done!

Does God Count You Faithful?

This is a reblog from my God’s Maintenance Man Blog.  This blog is found under the Teachings tab at the top of this page.  If you would like to read others in the series on Timothy and Titus, please click on that tab.

 1 Timothy 1:12-14

12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;
13 Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.
14 And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.

I like to take credit. I like to think I did something myself. It was me who read the Bible and gained the knowledge I have. It was me who began to understand how the Old and New Testament worked together., It was me who figured out how the scripture applies to everyday life. I wrote all these poems and songs through the years. The moving of the Holy Spirit is due to my ability and expertise in putting a worship service together. All these years, I have been slaving away for God and coming up with these thoughts and ideas on how God works in our lives. I did it. Me!

That paragraph is the definition of pride. I did it. I accomplished it. I figured it out. This is where I lived for years, and truly believed the sayings in that paragraph. It caused me to start top think I could disregard all that I had learned and do what I wanted to do. After all, I had done it all for God!

But I soon fell hard, lost my job and almost my family and had to take inventory on my spiritual life. What I found out was what Paul says here. God has enabled me. I do not have the ability within myself to do the things above. It is God in me and through me. That is the only way these things can minister the way they do. That is the only way the right words can get on paper that will touch hearts and heal up wounds of the soul.

You see, I was once very much like Paul. I certainly was a blasphemer, a breaker of all the commandments, a drunkard and drug addict and a person who could care less about God. My own way was the way I would go and no one could tell me I was in the wrong. I had walked away from God in high school and had no plans on coming back to Him. I was a persecutor, maybe not of the saint, but of everyone around me. I would put down, speak badly of, and try to hurt with words anyone that wronged me. I was a smaller guy and not a physical specimen, so I relied on a quick wit. This also made me injurious, like Paul. My words could injure peoples spirits and hearts quicker than a dart being thrown at them. The bigger problem is that they could dodge a dart, but could not avoid my stinging words.

Then grace came in. Love came in. Faith came in. Somehow I found myself driving to Iowa to see my best friend. Clear out of the blue I had decided to make the 1300 mile drive from Massachusetts to Iowa. When I arrived at his house, we had a great reunion, having not seen each other for over a year. He was a Christian, and had tried to sway me a year earlier at our high school reunion. It didn’t work, but it also did not hurt our friendship. Here I was on His doorstep in Iowa. Through the last year we had sent letters back and forth and each one of his letters had a scripture address on it. I had to look it up to see what he was saying. He was a sly old fox (well, not that old. He was a week older than me).

Then he said come to church with us tonight, and I said OK. I had no problem going with him, just don’t give me any of that salvation stuff. Don’t tell me I need saving. I was doing just fine. And I was so wrong. That minister, who was a missionary home on leave, told me I was headed for a burning hell. I did not want to go there! Then he told me there was only one way to avoid it, and that was Jesus Christ, I wanted Jesus. Jesus took me into His arms later that week and saved my soul. His grace covered me completely.

Now He enables me. I do everything I can to keep my thoughts out of this blog, out of the poetry, out of the songs that fill the pages of my web sites. I seek God’s wisdom and His words for these pages, not mine. I have nothing of value to give except my life. These are His words, His thoughts, His songs. I claim no ownership.

Since He has enabled me, it is now up to me to be an open conduit. He has put me into this ministry and now I need to allow His message to flow through me out to you. Paul tells us that the spirit of the prophet is subject to the prophet (1 Corinthians 14:32). This means God gives us the ability to shut it down or make it flow. We can muzzle the message God gives us to share. We can say “God gave this to me and I’m not going to share it!” We absolutely can. But I do no want to be that person.

My heart’s desire is to be counted faithful. Jesus said that to whom much is given, much will be required (Luke 12:48). The words, songs, melodies and so on come from God. He has given them, for some reason I will never understand, to me. He entrusted me with the ability to hear His voice, and I for one want to make sure He will say I did it well. I could care less if anyone on this earth says the same. I am aware that very few hear God the way I hear Him. Very few have learned to listen as He has taught me to. He holds me accountable for those things He has entrusted to me.

What about you? What gift, or gifts, has God given to you? What talents do you possess? What are you doing with them? I suggest you make a list of all the gifts and talents God has bestowed on you. Some will have just a few items they can think of, others might have many dozen. Pray about it and be thorough. Once you have compiled your list, take each item one by one and ask God if you are doing a good job with that talent. If you’re like me, there are some you are doing well with and others you need to do better.

After this is done, ask God to help you do a better job of ministering in the areas where He has gifted you. Ask Him to enable you to reach more, teach more, love more and touch more. Ask Him to make your light shine so that you might bring Him glory. Give yourself as a living sacrifice for Him so that you might prove the will of God is alive in your life. Be vigilant in your ministry and never back down. This world needs you!