I’m back from 3 days at Tres Dias

Tres Dias…Spanish for three days. That’s how long I spent near Lake Lavon for a men’s retreat.

This event had a lot going against it for me.

About the worst thing you can do to an introvert is plunk him down amidst 150 guys he doesn’t know. Let’s see how long before he comes out of his shell this time. Gulp!

Another thing this country bumpkin didn’t appreciate is being next to a lake with no time to enjoy the nature of the setting. We hardly had enough time to use the restrooms let alone time of solitude.

And whose idea was it to use a liturgical theme for this event? This free spirit appreciates more spontaneous prayers and such. Why did we have to recite from page 14 of that little book again…and again?

Don’t even get me started about that silly chicken song they made us sing before we could eat a meal.

Does that drummer really have to break my eardrums on every other beat?

Why are so many men discourteous about others when it comes time to go to bed? Can’t those loud conversations wait until daylight…please?

The tradition of this retreat began a long time ago in Spain. That silly chicken song came about while a broken down bus was awaiting a repair returning from one of these retreats. There were originally 99 verses to it. We only had to sing three of them. I guess they were broken down a very long time.

When I remembered the church I’m a member of supports at least three sets of missionaries to Spain I realized this world has sure changed.

The main thing this retreat had going for it is it’s a Christian retreat. As long as they’re honoring God and trying to get us to focus on Him I can put up with some discomfort.

Symbolism was huge here. I appreciated that, too. We don’t use enough of that in this country in my opinion.

One of the first things they did was offer us a white handkerchief to use as a surrender flag if we declared our surrender to God for control of our life. I had mine conspicuously hanging out of my pocket for the entire event.

At one point they gave us a small piece of thin paper and told us to write down the name of someone we needed to forgive or something we needed to forgive someone for. I wrote my ex-wife’s name down.

That evening they gave us time to write down on other slips any sins we wanted to confess and/or something that we desired to give up.

When we finished they had us fold the papers and nail them to a cross, literally. By the time we were done that cross was covered in nails and bits of paper…until they set it on fire.

In a matter of a couple of seconds the things we wrote down were burnt up. We were told we can now let those things go from our lives.

Saturday evening was extremely special. They treated us to a fabulous meal. Then, as someone prayed they snuck a few dozen women in around us. They began singing when we opened our eyes.

My sponsor, Marcia, was one of the first women I saw…before my eyes got too wet to see anybody. I was immediately missing Barb all over again. Not because Barb could sing, but because this was something I wish I could have shared with her.

The other time I cried was when they brought us into the chapel after a talk on prayer. They had some of the cha’s (Christ’s Hands in Action) praying for the speaker there. They explained that they do this with each of the speakers. Then they showed us the papers on the wall that listed the names of folks from all over who signed up to pray for us during this retreat.

They hadn’t given my 100 Prayers of a Writer book out yet. So I couldn’t let anyone know why that spoke to me so profoundly.

Other than my book being given out to everyone there I didn’t know what to expect at this retreat.

The first surprise was when I discovered I was a candidate. Candidate for what I didn’t know. I thought the election was over.

I learned that this was the first step to being able to lead this retreat in the future. Marcia’s son was the rector for this particular retreat. It takes serving at several retreats over many years to get there. I would have been extremely elderly by the time I got there.

I may go back next week on Saturday evening to sing to the women who will be there to repay the favor that was bestowed on me. Other than that I’ll wait on God’s leading about whether to go back to help with other such retreats.

I mentioned cha’s earlier. That’s the first round of entry into this “club.” Many of them actually carried our trays to the tables for our meals. Some of them spent most of their time there praying for us. A few were assigned to kitchen duty.

While I appreciate the ideology behind this it just isn’t quite my cup of tea, I guess.

At my first meal I sat across from a guy who has been divorced slightly longer than me. He lives in Frisco. I got his number so we can connect in the future. I guess God had a reason for me to come out of my shell quickly.

Marcia hoped I could get to know her grandson while we were there. We were both assigned to the same discussion table for the event.

Another guy at the table gave me his number and invited me to call him whenever I need to talk. I told him there’s a good chance I’ll take him up on his offer.

While I missed four days of potential work and a Sunday of worshiping at my home church I’d say the time was well spent for me.

I’ll be keeping my spiritual eyes open to anyone who I feel will be a good fit for this type of retreat.

At least six guys committed their lives to Christ and a couple dozen others re-committed their’s so it’s working to build the kingdom.

De Colores, mi amigos.

Keep smiling.   Wade

HARD LESSONS

Samuel walked across the courtyard to rest under a Tamarisk tree. He stopped when he heard God’s voice.

“About this time tomorrow Israel’s first king will come to you. He’s from Benjamin. Anoint him so he will save My people from the Philistines. This is what My people want.”

The next day Samuel sat in the gate of the city watching folks coming and going. The tall man sauntering up the hill caught his attention. God’s voice was clear.

“This is the man I told you about. Anoint him as king before you send him away.”

Saul approached. He bent down to speak to Samuel. “Can you tell me where the seer’s house is? I must inquire of him.”

Samuel smiled. “I’m the seer. Wait for me in the high place. You shall eat with me today. Tomorrow I will send you home. Don’t worry about your father’s donkeys. They found their way back. I am privileged to meet with you today.”

Saul stood up. “Why? I’m from the little tribe of Benjamin. My family history isn’t impressive.”.

********

A few years later Samuel again heard God’s voice. “I regret making Saul the king. He has failed to carry out my commands.”

Samuel fell to his knees. “I warned the people about such things happening. They wouldn’t listen to me at all. How can we keep from losing Your favor, Lord? What must we do to correct this iniquity?”

The questions and beseeching continued through the night with no response from God.

In the morning Samuel set out to confront Saul.

********

A while later God again spoke to Samuel. “How long will you grieve over Saul’s failures? Fill your horn with oil and travel to Bethlehem. I have selected a son of Jesse to rule My people.”

Samuel looked up. “But, how shall I go without Saul finding out? If he knows what I’m there for he’ll kill me.”

“Take a heifer to sacrifice. Invite everyone to come, especially Jesse. I’ll tell you which son I choose.”

********

Samuel led the heifer to Bethlehem. When he came to the gate the elders approached him. “Do you come peaceably?”

Samuel nodded. “Yes. I have come to sacrifice here.”

“Very well. We are pleased you have come.”

Samuel scanned the group. “Which of you is Jesse?”

A man stepped forward. “I am Jesse.”

“Bring your sons to the feast. I must see your sons.”

As the crowd gathered Jesse brought his sons to the prophet.

Samuel smiled as the eldest son came to him. His thoughts took over. This one will be a good king. I can see the leadership oozing out of him

God’s voice broke through. “No. Don’t look at his outside appearance. I know his heart. He isn’t the one for this role. I will tell you which one has the best heart.”

After the seventh son walked past Samuel scanned the crowd behind him. He looked at Jesse. “Is this all of your sons? God has not spoken to me about either of them.”

Jesse pointed to a distant hillside. “There’s still David. He’s watching the flock over there.”

Samuel folded his arms. “Bring him here. We will not sit until he comes.”

Jesse grabbed the arm of one of the servants. “Go. Send David here at once.”

Everyone watched the servant run across the valley. He talked to David. David came running to them. The sheep tried to keep up with him. The servant threw his arms in the air.

When David came into town the crowd separated in front of him. He fell to his knees to catch his breath. “What do you need me for?”

The sight of a gray-haired man dressed in linen appeared after the brothers stepped back.

Samuel smiled when he heard God’s voice. “Anoint him. He is My choice.”

Samuel removed the stop from the horn in his hand.

David was still breathing hard as the oil saturated his scalp and fine beard. He cupped his hands together to catch the liquid. It flowed over his fingers onto the ground.

************

The selection of a king is a mighty undertaking. Especially when you’re responsible for finding the best man for the job to lead God’s people.

I’m pretty sure Samuel felt like a failure when Saul committed one blunder after another once he gained the throne.

He shouldn’t have. I say that because he was simply following God’s leading in choosing Saul as Israel’s first king.

Samuel had a unique line of communication open to God that nobody else had at that time.

We now have that available to us as believers in Jesus Christ. It’s called prayer.

Samuel’s prayer life was different from ours because God dealt with people differently then.

In the history of mankind God had never chosen a race of people to be His chosen nation.

God chose to speak to Samuel to carry out His plans.

Today God works through people of every nation because of the all-encompassing work accomplished by Jesus on the cross and beyond the grave.

God recorded the methods He used in the past to help us shape the future.

By seeing the big picture of each life lived out in the Bible we know how each person succeeded and failed.

Now that the Holy Spirit indwells every believer God can guide us in the decisions we make.

Our relationship with God is developed by reading the Bible to learn more about God. Our prayers open our hearts to talk to God about our hurts, pains and problems. As our dependence grows so will our influence and impact.

Your eternity with God doesn’t begin when you reach heaven after you die.

God wants to build you into a better person who loves and lives like His Son, Jesus.

Saul’s failures would continue. They would help shape David into Israel’s mightiest king.

Your failures will continue, too.

Will you let them defeat you?

Or will you let them build you into a person God can use?

I’ll see you later.   Wade

Is Anybody Else Under Attack…or is it Just Me?

My crazy life has been some kind of crazy on steroids lately. March and the early part of April were a bit slow. I’ve been needing that to get caught up from the Christmas rush that lasted into February.

But, last week was one I’d rather not repeat any time soon.

I volunteered to help with some Easter preparations at church. That was fun on Saturday.

Then I woke up on Sunday morning as usual at 6:20 am. There was a meeting scheduled that afternoon so I didn’t get that nap I really should have taken then.

Sunday evening I headed north to Tulsa, OK. The trip up was fairly smooth, mostly because it was during the dead of night.

Monday’s return trip was another story. The closer I got to Dallas the heavier the traffic got.

By the time I got on the Central “Expressway” traffic came to a standstill. Made me wonder who names these roads anyway?

Fortunately I’m legally allowed to go over my 14 hour work limit once a week. I used it up on Monday and prayed for a productive rest of my week.

I was close to the thirty hours awake mark when I left work and headed home. About halfway there that little noise Clifford started complaining about got very loud just before it went quiet.

When the steering of my van got difficult I was pretty sure what happened. One of the pulleys for the serpentine belt gave up the ghost.

I limped the old van into a car parts store parking lot and popped open the hood.

Keep in mind Clifford is 17 years old. That about 97 in human years.

The pulley in question was on top so it was easy to reach. The weather was warm and dry, not my usual working conditions for a breakdown.

The first thing I did was go inside to make sure they carried said part for my elderly vehicle. They did. I bought one right then and there.

After I got the old part off I discovered the center piece needed to be separated from the pulley. Since they’re designed to fit very tightly I knew this would be a challenge getting them apart.

I thinks to myself…if these guys have some way to get these apart with a nifty tool they may have pity on me and help a feller with an elderly van out.

The guy in the white shirt at the counter looks at my dilemma for a few seconds before he heads to the shop and shows it to his tech…what used to be known as a mechanic back when Clifford was young.

The white-shirt fella walks back in and hands me the part back. “It’s all one piece. You have to buy the right part.”

It was at that moment I was definitely glad I decided to fix this myself. Perhaps if they had mechanics on duty I would have been better off.

I picked up a chisel and hammer and worked methodically on those two pieces until they indeed separated.

I spent about as much time attempting to show the white-shirted nit-wit the two thingies in my hand, but he stealthily avoided me.

I put the new pulley on then tried to route the new belt through the entire series of pulley thingies. It was too long.

If I had been awake I probably would have said something I would have later regretted.

I looked all over Clifford’s hood area for a diagram of how this contraption was supposed to go back together. Nothing.

After returning the useless belt I showed the back counter guy that it was longer than the old belt. He gave me my money back.

I walked a half block away to the next car parts store. Not my usual luck with a breakdown. Their belt was too long, too.

I popped Clifford’s hood back up and searched more diligently. There that pesky diagram was…right under those two water hoses running over the radiator. Finally, something worked out as it usually does during a breakdown…I wasted time looking for something too obvious.

So, the nit-wit working on my van goes back in and re-buys that belt that was too long.

After a day and a half I was able to go back to sleep.

Fast forward to Tuesday night. I’m driving back from Houston. It’s pitch black out. I catch a glimpse of something off to my right just before the loudest sound I’ve ever heard while driving a big rig.

I expect to see the windshield in cubes. It isn’t. I look to the right side of the glass and discover an egg struck me just above the wiper.

I quickly review my memory banks for where I was just before this incident..no bridge for that to fall off from…no vehicles carrying chickens right in front of me.

So then I surmise some guesses. It could have been the Easter bunny practicing throwing eggs to speed up his hiding efforts…or mayhaps he wanted that carrot I was eating at the time…or it could have been juvenile delinquents having “fun.”

I decided that since I could see to drive I’d keep going without attempting to smear it off with that strip of rubber just below the point of impact.

I drove about a half an hour to the next truck stop. One fuel island is actually open…not my usual luck when I pull in for fuel. I attempt to get some paper towel from the denspenser on the post…nothing. I step over to the next one…paper towels come out for five movements of the little handle pointing out at me…I’m at the end of the roll.

Twelve inches of paper towel will have to be enough. I don’t have 14 hours to invest in correcting some idiots’ fun.

Jesus warned me each day would have troubles of its own. He didn’t promised me they wouldn’t come stacked on top of one another, too.

It’s all working together for good…somehow. The Bible promises me that much…not that it will make sense in this life.

By the time I get to heaven it won’t matter anyhow, so come quickly Lord Jesus…before the next egg is hard boiled.

Please.

Keep smiling.   Wade

GIVE US A KING

Samuel watched a group of gray-haired men walking up the hill. “What do you need help with today?”

One of the men stepped forward. “Your sons are not like you. They judge loosely.”

Samuel tilted his head. “What do you mean by that comment?”

Another man pushed the first man aside. “I had a case come to them about a property dispute I had with my neighbor. They met with him in a tight group before the judgement. I know I heard coins and laughter. I lost half a field that day.”

The first man placed his hand on the man’s shoulder. “I had a similar thing happen to me. They must not lead us after you die. The nation will crumble under men like that.”

Samuel sat back and stroked his beard. “And just what do you suggest be done about the situation? The Lord has not directed me to anything else.”

Three men pushed past the first two. “We want a king.”

“Israel should be like the nations around us.”

“A king will be able to lead us into battle. The Lord is too unpredictable. How do we know what He wants from us? A king is what we need. I tell you!”

Samuel shook his head as he stood. “No. No! This thing is not good. The Lord has been our defense. Only He can win wars and defeat enemies. A king will bring too much pain to everybody.”

The first man stood in front of Samuel. “If you don’t find us a king we’ll get one ourselves.”

Samuel fell back in his chair. “I shall pray and seek the Lord’s guidance on this matter.”

********

Samuel walked into the temple and fell before the ark of the covenant. “Lord, what is happening? How did I fail to pass Your importance on to my sons? A king is not good. He will be as corrupt as anybody. All we need is You, Lord.”

God’s voice was clear. ” Listen to the people. It’s not you they’re rejecting, but Me. They’ve been doing it since they left Egypt. I will tell you who to make the king, but you must warn them about what a king will do.”

********

Samuel walked back out to the men. “A king will bring you much hardship. He’ll take your sons to fight his battles, even if they don’t want to fight. Some of your daughters will serve him as well. They may become his concubines. Your flocks, crops and fields will be confiscated, too. When you cry out to the Lord then He will turn away from you.”

The first man stepped forward. “Give us a king like everybody else.”

Samuel swallowed. “Very well, go home. God will lead me to the man of His choosing.”

************

This was a massive turning point in the young nation of Israel’s history. They began with a promise to Abraham. The Egyptian captivity isolated them to grow into a distinct race of people over a 400 year time period.

Dependence on an invisible god was their distinction alone.

There’s a story of a little girl who was afraid of a storm blowing outside as she went to bed. Her parents did their best to calm her fears by spending time with her in her room.

Since the girl had recently accepted Jesus as her savior they told her that Jesus would be with her during the storm. She nodded so they went to their room to get some much needed sleep.

A few minutes later the girl yelled down the hallway. “But, I need somebody with skin on.”

We’re so much like that little girl. We know God is powerful and kind and loving, but sometimes we need a human touch. A physical hug does more to calm us than a promise in a book.

I’m not down playing our need to depend on God in our lives. We need that more than anything.

But, God made us physical beings in a physical world for a reason.

He wants us to reach out to hurting souls desperate for a touch of love.

He uses us to rescue those trapped in addictions and/or bad situations.

He guides us to guide young lives in need of direction for their lives.

Israel’s best king was called “a man after God’s own heart.” Too bad very few leaders try to be that style of leader.

The young nation of Israel struggled under the direction of this God who spoke to only a few select people. They wanted a king to lead them. A man who would tell them what to do. Somebody with skin on is who they wanted to give their allegiance to.

Most people are followers. They want somebody to tell them how to vote, where to work, what to do and so on. As long as they bring in enough money to pay their bills they’re content to sit back and be entertained.

A king seemed like the best solution to the dilemma. God recognized the rejection of Him they were actually doing. He planned for this moment before they ever left Egypt.

In Deuteronomy 17:14-20 God told Moses how these kings should rule. Yeah, before the people ever reached the promised land God knew they would demand a king.

He knows our hearts.

He is well acquainted with our stubbornness.

Our decisions don’t surprise Him.

Where have you rejected God’s rule in your life? I hope it’s not all of it.

What demands have you given God about how to run things? Remember who is in charge.

How have you tried to twist things to fit in your agenda? Release those reins today.

Not all leaders are bad. Some are actually benevolent.

Sometimes we need to take action to rectify a situation.

God needs us to step in to change things occasionally.

So, how do we know how and when God needs us?

That’s why God wrote the Bible for us.

It’s our guidebook to live by.

Let’s use it that way.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

Is it high-purr-bowl-ee or Hyperbole?

Jesus was a master jokester in my book. He was in His book, too. Let me explain…

We’re working our way through the book of Matthew in our church, Yeah, there are still churches that teach from the Bible. Especially the one where Chuck Swindoll is the senior pastor.

We just covered the end of chapter 19 this week. The story of the rich young ruler was covered last week.

I know…I know, it’s all the same chapter, but when you need to make too many points for your listeners you break it down into more bite-sized pieces…especially when Chuck Swindoll is the senior pastor.

For a refresher for those of you who haven’t read that section of scripture in a while…or a fresher for those of you who ain’t never read it, yet.

That rich young punk ruler kid comes to Jesus and asks Him what he must DO to get into heaven.

Jesus lists off some of the the commandments.

The kids checks them off as Jesus lists them. “Okay, got it! I’m good to go then.”

Jesus knew this guy wasn’t being totally truthful when he said he ain’t never lied…especially when he just said he never lied just now.

Then Jesus turns this kid’s world upside-down by telling him he has to sell off all of his do dads in order to see His Dad.

The guy was watching his toes as he walked away.

If Jesus wasn’t making such a serious point His next statement would have been hilarious.

Yeah, the camel going through the eye of a needle hyperbole. Remember, with God all things are possible. Even large animals squeezing through a tiny space.

It’s not that rich folks can’t get into heaven. The point is that it’s more difficult for them cuz they trust their own success too much to trust that they need to trust anybody else for nuthin’.

Trust me…there’s a point there somewhere.

Jesus later explained that the road into heaven is on the straight and narrow way. Apparently it’s so narrow we all have to squeeze through the eye of a needle.

Don’t worry…with God all things are possible. Don’t keep forgetting that one point and your life will make much more sense.

Apparently Jesus fit through the keyhole of a locked door to see the disciples after His resurrection so just chill. God has this covered. Trust Him!

Since a hyperbole is an exaggeration to make a point, not to be taken literally, don’t sweat too many details here.

Like I said, God’s got this. He has all your other problems under control, too…even those imaginary ones.

Yep…I’m back to that trust thing again.

Worry is you taking control of things you don’t need to have in the first place.

Trust is you giving God control of everything in your life…and the things in other folks’ lives, too, while we’re at it.

That rich young punk kid thought he had everything under his control, too.

Just remember, you don’t call the shots. God does.

Don’t keep forgetting that one point and your life will be better in the long run…all the way to eternity.

Keep smiling.   Wade