THE FAVORITE SON

Israel lifted his tent flap back when he heard scuffling outside. The sight of his eleventh son pleased him. “Joseph, why are you back in such a rush? Where are your brothers and the flock?”

Joseph slid to a stop in front of his tent. “Oh, hi Abba. I, um…we must talk.” He glanced at the women mulling about. “But, not now. Can we talk in private?”

Israel smiled. “Of course. Come here after you wash up and change. I have something for you.”

Joseph’s hair was still damp when he pulled Israel’s tent flap back. The elder man had his back to him at that moment.

“Abba…”

Joseph’s mouth dropped open at the sight of the brightest cloak he’d ever seen when Israel turned around.

Israel used his cane to hold the collar as he pulled the cloak open to display the design. “What do you think?”

“It’s beautiful, Abba.”

“Come here, my son.”

Joseph’s gaze never left the cloak as he approached. He gingerly stroked the fine linen. He stood up as, to his amazement, his abba placed the cloak across his shoulders.

“Whenever you are seen in this cloak all will know that you have the undisputed rights of the firstborn son of Israel.”

Joseph swallowed. “But, I’m number eleven.”

Israel’s hands rested on Joseph’s shoulders. “Your mother…” Tears filled Israel’s eyes. He blinked them off. “Oh, how I still miss Rachel. She was to be my only wife. Laban tricked Leah to be my wife also. You were to be my firstborn all along by God’s will.”

Joseph wiped his eyes. “But, Reuben is your firstborn, not me.”

Israel turned and limped away. He spun around. “There are certain responsibilities that come with the rights of the firstborn. Do you know why I tell you the family stories?”

Joseph shrugged. “So I can tell my sons?”

Israel hobbled back to Joseph and placed his hand on his shoulder. “I, too, am not a true firstborn son. Yet, I have the rights because Esau despised his rights for…”

“…a bowl of lentils.”

Israel shook Joseph’s shoulder. “One of the responsibilities of the firstborn is to pass the family stories down to the next generation. When I am gone I must be remembered, as are Isaac and Father Abraham before him. You must learn from our mistakes.”

Israel walked away. “The firstborn must be upright and God-fearing. Reuben despised his rights when he and…” Israel collapsed into a chair.

Joseph swallowed hard. “When he had sex with Bilhah. That’s why I’m here, alone.”

Israel’s eyes widened. Joseph slid his arms into the cloak’s sleeves and strode to his abba. He dropped to one knee, placing a hand on the armrest.

“I was with Dan, Naphtali, Gad and Asher watching some of the sheep. They were saying they don’t feel like they’re real sons because you didn’t marry their mothers.”

Israel sat forward. “Did you say anything?”

“I told them that was nonsense. We’re all sons of Israel regardless of the origin of our mothers. Then five women came out from a nearby village. They were very familiar to the others…too familiar. If you know what I mean. One of the women came to me and started loosening her clothes.”

“What did you do, my son?”

“I ran away from there as fast as I could. I didn’t stop until I got home.”

Israel smiled as he pulled the front of the cloak together around Joseph. “This cloak looks good on you, Joseph. You wear it well.”

********

Today’s societies hold few generational rituals as sacred. Some rights-of-passage still exist, but very few. The right of the firstborn son was huge in Joseph’s day, especially in a family with twelve sons.

The firstborn would inherit half of the father’s estate upon his death. The remaining half would be divided between the remaining eleven brothers. This still held true in Jesus’ day. Remember the parable of the Prodigal Son?

Many of life’s circumstances are out of our control. Our attitude toward those circumstances determines our character.

Reuben had the rights of the firstborn son all to himself. All he had to do is live up to those expectations. In a moment of weakness and/or passion he threw it all away. Those rights were now Joseph’s to be had.

Israel chose to give those important rights to the first son of who was supposed to be his only wife. Rachel begged and pleaded for a child. God came through in His timing. The eleventh son of Jacob obtained the firstborn rights of Israel by default.

Joseph would prove worthy of the title even during separation from the family. The family stories Joseph carried in his head never traveled far from his heart. That’s why he lived such a God-honoring life.

Israel had no clue as to what the future held for this son of his. This brush with the feeling of royalty would come in handy in its time.

The coat of many colors is a favorite childhood story. This symbol of the family fortune would prove a heavy burden to bear. The hatred of the ten elder siblings grew every time they saw Joseph in it. He wore it anyway.

He wore it to please his father.

As a child of God you have the rights of the firstborn, too. Jesus is called the firstborn over all creation and the firstborn from the dead in Colossians 1:15,18. Galatians 4:7 calls us heirs of God because of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

These two letters of Paul go on to explain how we’re to live lives pleasing to God because we have been freed from the bondage of sin.

Our robes of sonship aren’t colorful at all. They’re pure white because they’ve been washed in Jesus’ blood.

I know that sounds like a paradox to some of you. That’s the way God explains it.

Do your best to keep your robe spotless.

Let’s please our heavenly Father as best we can.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

A story for National Story Day

In case you haven’t guessed today is National Story Day, at least in Scotland and the United Kingdom, aka England. Six months from now it will be in the United States. But, since I’m a writer I believe every day should be a story day. So sit back and hear my story, enjoying it is optional.

Once upon a time there was a mild-mannered truck driver who woke up with the phrase “have you heard of the herd?” stuck in his noggin. Being that said truck driver was hard working and dependable he went about the task of preparing breakfast and lunch as usual.

While spreading a butter substitute on his sandwich he asked himself–since nobody else was around to hear him–when and/or where would a herd be heard?

Being firmly acquainted with the Bible the answer came to him fairly quickly, at least as quickly as it could through his sleep-deprived-half-awake mind. Noah had a herd come to him after he built the Ark.

Soon the first line of a poem formed: “Have you heard of the herd that came to the Ark?”

Before leaving his modest apartment for the daily battle of Dallas roads the second line was birthed: “They found it without knowing where Noah had parked.”

Being on speaking terms with the Creator of the universe, as well as poems and stories, he sent up a prayer. “Okay, God, if You want this written today give me some time to work on it. Otherwise I know it will come to me in Your time.”

This hard-working, dependable truck driver never knows where he’ll be fighting big city traffic each day so anything was possible. To his amazement he received his bill pack to a place he hadn’t been to in about a year. A large distribution center in the city of Waxahachie was his for the day. This particular assignment is known for being the slowest unloading facility around. Which means our truck driver is about to have many hours of uninterrupted writing time.

The first thought in our truck driver’s mind was a prayer. “WOW! God, You must really want this poem written today.”

Being caught totally off-guard our truck driver hasn’t brought anything to write on. So, he scrounges around for a piece of paper. Fortunately his employer has had a problem with drivers getting into too many accidents with long van trailers. So, they’ve gone to handing each driver of such trailers a colored paper warning them to be extra careful. The back of this yellow page becomes the beginning of our scribes efforts.

Once that page is full he finds an extra sheet that was added to his pack. It fills up with page two.

A third sheet is found to complete the three hour act of obedience.

Two lines will be changed so there aren’t four lines in a row ending with the same rhyme after this is read later. A few lines will be added to balance the scenes of animals leaving the ark with the ones entering the ark.

Our poet posts said poem on his blog to get other’s reactions to it. A few encouraging comments are left, including one who said “this is genius.”

Filled with hope our writer shoots the poem to an agent who specializes in children’s Christian books. She finally responds with, “this is good, but I haven’t been able to sell any picture books at all.”

So, our hard-working truck driver goes back to driving while waiting on God to guide his next steps.

In the course of time our writer learns of a new form of bringing stories to market that pique his interest: a book app.

Think of a book app as an interactive ebook. Children love them!

So, our truck-driver-turned-writer learns as much as his technically-challenged mind can absorb about book apps. A one-on-one coaching session encourages him to find the best illustrator possible to ensure this poem is accepted as an app.

A link is provided to someone who teaches people how to illustrate books and apps. He has a job posting service that links writers with illustrators. Our writer posts his work for hire on this service and waits for responses.

The first reply is from a strong Christian who is just beginning this course. She wishes she could do it but feels unqualified for lack of experience.

A few days later another reply comes in our writer’s email. This person has not only completed the training, but has worked on a few apps already. She’s always wanted to do a Noah’s Ark book because that was the first story that drew her to God as a girl. She works on one project at a time and is in-between jobs.

Our writer waits a few days to respond so his sleep-deprived mind can pray about whether this is the person God wants for this project. Besides, he’s still fighting Dallas traffic on a daily basis.

When no other emails show up about the job posting a series of emails flow between the poet and the artist.

Okay, enough with the charade. This is the true story of my poem titled Have You Heard of the Herd? I have some exciting news!

Dyann Joyce has been hired to illustrate this app that I plan on making into a book, too.

I believe this has huge potential to introduce many people to Jesus. That’s the goal of everything I write.

She thinks we can have this ready before Christmas. That would be major since people will be looking for apps to add to their new devices they receive as gifts.

Since Apple doesn’t have a Bible story category in their app store yet this would be their first one, another plus.

I’m asking for prayer, lots of prayer for this project. I expect Dyann’s life to get crazy soon to keep her from working on this.

Pray for the two of us to be able to communicate effectively about my vision for this and her talents. I want this to glorify God. I hope this points people to Him , not us. I want this to blow people’s minds so word of it spreads on its own. I want pages in the Book of Life to be filled by names of people who are exposed to this.

In case you can’t tell I’m pumped, stoked, juiced, excited, etc. about this. I think Dyann is even higher about this than I am. That’s a good thing.

Dear Heavenly Father. I ask Your Spirit’s leading over Dyann’s hands as she crafts pictures that draw people into this poem. Move by Your Spirit to bring people into Your family as they experience this in their life. Guide me as I steward this into being for Your glory. This is for Jesus and Him alone. AMEN

A DIFFERENT DAD

Jacob couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw Esau approaching with a smile and open arms. The two men embraced and cried for several minutes. The bond of blood and the passing of time had healed old wounds.

Jacob pulled back, wiped his eyes and sniffled in the tears. “Is Abba still alive?”

Esau smiled. “Yes, Abba is alive. He’s looking forward to hearing from you again.”

Jacob swallowed. “And what about Mom?”

Esau shook his head slowly. “Mom’s heart broke the day you left. She never recovered. She’s been gone several years now.” A twinkle returned to his eye. “Deborah insisted on coming with us. She just had to be with you as soon as possible.”

Jacob peered over his brother’s shoulder and spied an elderly woman approaching. He limped to her and hugged her tight.

Esau cleared his throat. “And who, Little Brother, are all these people with you?”

Jacob used his mom’s nurse as a support as he limped back to the group.

Deborah searched the crowd of children with a smile. “What happened to your leg, Jacob?”

Jacob glanced at her. “It’s a blessing from God.”

Deborah searched his eyes. “If that’s how He blesses you I’d hate to see what would happen if you got on His bad side.”

Jacob chuckled. “Indeed, I’ll explain it to you later.”

They stopped next to Esau. “Deborah, Esau, this is the family God has blessed me with while I was gone.”

Introductions followed, along with a feast.

****

Rather than go with Esau back to Hebron Jacob settled near Shechem to rest his herds and children. A search in town for other girls to play with ended badly for Dinah when she was raped and used as a ploy to draw Jacob’s family into the townfolk. A twist of deception was used by her brothers to weaken the men in town so Simeon and Levi could kill all the men to avenge their sister.

Jacob vented his anger when his blood-stained sons returned home. “Why have you made me a stench in the nostrils of the Canaanites? Now they’ll gather together and wipe us out. What were you thinking?”

Levi stepped forward. “Nobody’s going to treat our sister like a harlot.”

****

 A few days later Jacob gathered everybody around him. “God has told me to move on to Bethel, the place He first spoke to me when I left home. I want all of you to bring me your foreign gods, purify yourselves and put on clean clothes before we depart.”

The idols were all buried under a tree.

While at Bethel Deborah died.

God spoke to Jacob yet again. “Your name shall not be Jacob. From now on you shall be called Israel. This land I promised to Abraham and Isaac I now promise to you and your descendants.”

****

Israel exited the tent Rachel breathed her last breath in. “We shall set up camp here while I dig Rachel’s grave and we morn. My son Benjamin will be coming with us.”

They moved on from the future place of Bethlehem and stopped for a time of rest near Eder. While there Reuben seduced Bilhah into bed.

They arrived home in time for Israel to see Isaac before the elder man died.

********

One of the main differences between Joseph and his brothers is the fact that although they shared the same father they had very different dads.

Before Jacob left home he’d quickly bribed the family birthright from Esau for a meal, and Rebekah helped him deceive Isaac into giving him the family blessing.

Laban deceived him into an extra seven years of free labor by switching his daughters around at the wedding. So, Jacob deceived Laban’s flocks into breeding the stronger animals into his pay.

The return to Canaan was filled with stress and life-changing events for this father. His fears about Esau proved to be totally ungrounded. Several deaths made him take stock in his own life. I’m sure.

His mom died while he was gone. The woman who helped raise him died in his company, as did his first-love Rachel while giving birth to son number 12. Finally, dad died shortly after he returned home. But, not before Reuben, the firstborn of his line, had sex with his step-mom; and Simeon and Levi wiped out an entire town of its men to avenge their sister.

God knew these series of events would profoundly alter the man who relied on deception to get ahead in life. That’s why He changed Jacob’s name to Israel, the name his descendants still used today.

Joseph already had a special place in dad’s heart because of his birth in the man’s old age. The fact he was the first-born of Israel’s first-love gave the advancement of the family birthright to Joseph after Reuben’s indiscretion with Bilhah.

I’m convinced Jacob/Israel took stock of his life during this time of turmoil. Now that he took on the role of family patriarch he saw his failure of being a good dad to his elder sons. So he poured himself into Joseph like nobody’s business.

The name change by God gave him the incentive to begin fresh with this boy in amazing ways.

I’m convinced Israel put Deuteronomy 6:6-7 into practice long before Moses ever wrote it. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.

Family stories were passed down orally at that time. I’m sure Joseph heard them multiple times in his youth. He learned of the God of his dad often, his brothers didn’t. The adult results speak for themselves.

Would you rather leave the legacy of Jacob, or of Israel?

I’ll see you later.   Wade

Welcome to Evaluate Your Life Day

As an exercise for Evaluate Your Life Day I want you to picture yourself in the driver’s seat of a semi, that’s right you’re now in control of a big-rig. This isn’t a stretch of my imagination since I do this regularly as my main source of income. Let’s see if I can give you a sense of this experience for a moment.

The first order of business is to adjust the seat to make sure you can reach all of the controls. Reach down with your left hand and feel for the control for the height of your seat. Play with it until you get a comfortable level from the floor. I like to have it so my feet set naturally flat on the floor because that’s where they’ll ride when not on the pedals. Others from the hood prefer to be seated on the floor as much as possible. That’s their preference. To each his own I guess.

Now, move the seat forward so you can reach the pedals with your feet. I typically come about two notches back from full-forward with my stubby legs. Relax, this is simply an evaluation of your life. We aren’t trying to stop a deadly virus, or create a new national health care initiative, nor are we attempting to stop an international threat to Christians. If you’re inspired to tackle those after your evaluation feel free. For now just relax.

Now you need to set your mirrors to the best position for viewing what’s behind you. You should be able to glimpse the side of the trailer at the very edge of the mirror. That way you’ll see as much as possible with a minimum of blindspot issues. To transfer this to evaluating your life you need to be able to know what happened in your past so you can repeat successes and minimize mistakes. You never know when something from behind you will come speeding up and cutting you off with little warning of it. If your view of the past is skewed you’ll be caught off guard. Evaluate your past first.

Before you reach for the key to turn the engine on–I know you’re itching to feel all that power–stop and figure out where you’re going first. It won’t do you any good to drive down the road with no destination in mind. Now that you’ve looked at your past and determined what your strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes are you can decide where you want to be in the future. Map out a strategy to get there. Some folks can take the shortest route to their destination. Most of us have to take a longer course through some sort of educational experience. There’s no one right answer here.

Assuming you’ve checked to make sure you have a full tank of fuel and other fluid levels are topped off, your tires are all round and hard, and all the lights are in working order, you now have my blessing to start that engine. Oh, yeah, you’ll feel afraid. Feel very afraid. You’re about to move 80,000 pounds of chaos down the most dangerous place on earth–the american roadway. A solid prayer is definitely in order now.

Now you’ll press the clutch down and place the shift lever in first gear. No. You’re NOT ready to release the clutch, yet. There are two knobs on the dashboard that must be pushed in before you can move anywhere. Don’t get ahead of the process here. One parking brake is for the tractor the other one is for the trailer. BOTH need to be set free in order to go anywhere. For those of you who are married you know you need your spouse’s support to get to your destination. That’s why the Bible warns about being equally yoked. If your spouse thinks this is a bad idea you may need to re-evaluate your plans.

Okay, now you can release the clutch and move forward toward your future. Keep in mind each trip is reached one gear, one street, one stop sign/traffic light at a time. You can’t drive down the second street until you’ve put the first one behind you. Make your ultimate goal into smaller goals to complete your journey. Do each one in its time before you move on the the next one. You’ll get there in good time if you’ve planned well and God blesses.

And one more thing to remember, share the road, even with that bozo who just cut you off. You can’t control their attitude, but you can decide which one you’ll have.

Keep smiling.   Wade

A CONNIVING MOM

When Rachel crested the hill she noticed a few other flocks near the well. She looked back at her sheep. “We’re right on time, guys. They haven’t rolled the stone, yet.”

A lone man approaching from the west caught her attention as unusual. “Who could that be?”

The fact the men were staring at her wasn’t unusual. The new man had a familiarity about him that excited her.

Before she could introduce herself the new guy rolled the well stone off without assistance. Her sheep took the hint and drank the water he filled into the trough.

When they had their fill he approached Rachel, hugged her tightly and kissed her cheeks. “I am Jacob.”

The heat in her cheeks increased as she searched his eyes for more.

He stepped back with his hands on her shoulders. “Your father has a sister named Rebekah.”

She nodded.

“I am Rebekah’s son. She is well.”

Rachel sprinted to tell her father. Her sheep followed her to town.

****

Seven years later Rachel waited in her tent as the day’s festivities came to a climax. The scene at the well played through her mind several times. Soon they would be one for life. As the minutes became hours she began to wonder what the delay was. She drifted off to sleep alone.

When morning came she opened her tent flap.

Jacob came from his tent in a rage. He found Laban. “What is the meaning of this deceit? I worked seven years for Rachel, not Leah.”

Laban smiled. “It is not our custom to marry the younger daughter off first. Fulfill Leah’s marriage week. Then you shall have Rachel for another seven years of labor.”

Tears blurred Rachel’s vision as she fell in her tent and sobbed.

****

Several years later Rachel’s anger lashed out at her husband. “You’ve given my sister four sons. When will you get me pregnant? Give me children or I’ll die.”

Jacob held her close. “It’s not up to me to decide these matters. I’m doing all I can for you. God is the one who makes that call, not me.”

Rachel shook free, then pulled her maid servant, Bilhah, into the tent. “It’s our custom that my maid can have children for me. See if your god can give me children through her.”

****

When Rachel finally conceived she had a son. “I’ll name him Joseph so God can give me another son.”

****

When Jacob ordered his family to pack to move away from Laban Rachel sneaked into her father’s tent and took the family idols.

When Laban came to the fleeing Jacob ordering the return of the idols Rachel packed them into a camel’s pack and sat on them. When her father came in search of them she insisted her period was too strong for her to move off the saddle. He left without finding his heirlooms.

****

Rachel’s second pregnancy came while Jacob led his family into the land God had promised to his fathers. Her contractions began as they neared the town of Ephrath.

After several hours of agony she felt the child slip from her body as her energy slipped away.

The midwife’s voice rose over the cry. “You have another son.”

Rachel summoned her last breath. “He shall be Ben-Oni.”

********

Rachel was the beautiful daughter who was cheated.

Jacob’s first love became his second wife by deceit of her father, Laban. She had no clue she was just a pawn so easily discarded in a chess match.

She felt cheated by the gods, and by Jacob’s God, when her sister gave him six sons and a daughter while both maidservants added four more sons as her tummy remained flat.

Greed led her to name her first-born Joseph: literally–“He will add.” She longed for God to give her another offspring so she could catch up to Leah.

That second son cost her her life in birth. She named him Ben-Oni–“son of sorrow” as she died. Jacob changed his name to Benjamin–“son of my right hand” as soon as he could.

The place of her burial would play a prominent role in prophecy as Jeremiah 31:15 became Matthew 2:18, also. In response to the murder of the boys in Bethlehem this passage is quoted: “Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

You see, even a death occurring during a time of travel plays a part in God’s sovereign plan.

Joseph would have been a boy when his mom died. Perhaps he was seven years old. Her features would fade from his mind as time progressed, as would her influence.

Why did God allow Joseph’s mom to die when he was so young? I think it was because she would have been a bad influence on him. That answer doesn’t hold true for all moms who die when their children are young, but it fits here.

I don’t think Rachel ever fully embraced Jacob’s God. That’s why she stole her dad’s gods before they moved away from home. She was still drawn to her belief of their power over her destiny. She turned the tables on her dad when she convinced him she couldn’t stand from her position on the package that held those idols he wanted.

Deception isn’t a good character trait for a strong leader.

Rachel was taking notes from the men in her life. She was passing her tests with flying colors. One way for God to keep that trait from being passed down is to end the line attempting to carry it forward. We’ll see another way next time.

What example are you living out before your children? Does our life glorify God as much as you humanly can, or are you clawing your way to the top by any means possible? Your children are watching you and taking notes.

It’s not too late to make changes in your lifestyle.

A positive change will have a dramatic impact on the next generation.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

2014 Stonebriar Men’s Retreat recap

This was the fifth consecutive year I’ve attended the men’s retreat put on by Stonebriar Community Church. Each year I’ve offered the use of Clifford, my full-size van. Each year they’ve taken me up on my offer.

I remember the first year I did that I waited until the day before the event to find out I’d be bringing the drums.

My first thought was, “NO! Not the drums.”

My second thought was, “Is it too late to back out?”

My concern was based on my experience with drummers. Most of them beat on them like they’re in the middle of a stadium in a marching band.

When God didn’t give any indication of a change of plans I fulfilled my commitment. Once David began playing I was glad I did. He blended into each song effortlessly. He even held the sticks in his lap for a couple of songs. He knew he wasn’t to be the center of attention.

Our church is blessed with fine musicians. The retreat band is no exception.

The last two years I’ve had the opportunity to go out a day before the retreat to help with the group of men who spend a good part of the previous year organizing this event. We spend the added day getting set up and geared up.

Yeah, we get a bit silly when we’re away from our families. We stopped at Cracker Barrel for lunch on Thursday. After they brought us the corn muffins somebody asked for some honey to go with them. As they passed it around they began calling each other “honey” and “dear and “sweety.”

Then they asked me with one word if I’d like any muffins. They tipped the plate my direction and asked, “Wade?”

I quickly glanced at each of them and asked, “Is it too late for me to go back home?”

They appreciated my humor, then changed the talk around the table.

The Shores of Pine Cove on Lake Palestine (pronounced Palesteen y’all) near Tyler, Texas is a beautiful campground. I thrive on the serenity before the crowd arrives. As crazy as this past year has been I soaked up an extra dose this time around. The naps on the dock were God’s gift to me.

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The cabins have the basic air-conditioning Texans require. The memory foam mattresses are another matter. I call them that not because anybody has a copyright over their name, but because one night on that two-inch thick foam wrapped in vinyl and you’ll never forget that night of “sleep.”

Last year there was a rumor somebody saw a bald eagle. This year it showed itself to me as I blended in with nature. That was quite a treat.

Then, during a lull in the registration time I heard a sound I recognized from some TV shows I saw. I stepped away from the dining hall and witnessed two of our nation’s majestic symbol enjoying the thermals. WOW!

Our church brings in some fabulous speakers for these retreats. Jeff Kemp was no exception. He was exceptional and challenging, in a good way. This former pro quarterback now works for Family Life Ministry in Little Rock, Arkansas. He’s steeped in building strong families by strengthening strong men.

Being a part of the behind-the-scenes crews has its advantages. I often get some time with the speakers others miss. This year’s impact didn’t need such opportunity.

I sat at the table Jeff settled into for Saturday’s lunch while one of my cabin-mates was talking to him. Then, one of the men asked if I’d pray for the meal. Jeff had mentioned during his talk on Friday evening how life throws blitzes at us. These challenges are fraught with danger and tremendous opportunity.

I shared in my public prayer that I was in one of life’s blitzes at this time. Jeff probed to learn about the marriage challenges I’m facing. He offered some suggestions for me to try.

During Sunday’s brunch, the last meal before we departed, he sat at my table and talked with everyone during the meal. He asked what I planned on doing about his suggestions. I told him I was praying about the best approach I’d take to implement them.

When he left he walked around my side of the table. I made sure I shook his hand. He gripped my hand and prayed for me and Barb before he left.

The attendance was down a bit for this year’s event. I’m definitely glad I was one of those who went.

Keep smiling.   Wade

GOD’S MAKING OF A GREAT LEADER

It’s time for a new series of posts on this blog. We’ve covered the Christmas and Easter events in a fictionalizing manner while devotionalizing them, too. We then went through the Bible and looked at the widows and orphans God showcased in His story of mankind. After that we found the teenagers, then senior citizens, in the Bible.

As we followed the teens I spent an inordinate amount of time on the young life of David. I was intrigued by how God prepared him to be the greatest king Israel ever had. There was a stark contrast between him and his predecessor Saul, who had no training for that important position.

I came up with over a dozen steps God used in his life to condition him for leadership. I could have continued but I felt compelled to move on since we’d gone well past his teenage years. We’ll come back to some of the steps involved in his leadership building process.

I plan on spending the next several weeks observing the life of the other great leader in Israel’s history. Many of you are thinking about Moses right now. No, this man influenced Moses in ways most of us can’t even comprehend.

This man was so prominent in God’s story his dad made sure he received a double inheritance when the promised land was doled out by God through Joshua.

The man I’m thinking about was so unimportant to those around him they rumored him to be dead. Yet, he proved to be their savior during their life.

I’ll stop the riddle to tell you we’re going to look at the life of Joseph and how God prepared him to be the second-in-command in the most powerful nation of the world at that time, Egypt.

Great leaders aren’t born, they’re made. God brings influences into their life that set them apart from the ordinary people of the world. The process isn’t easy or simple, but it is effective.

Times of great pain and isolation are the tools God uses to form a great man.

Joseph experienced both in his young life. His actions would save many lives during his life. His echo is still heard today in our lives.

Many Bible scholars consider Joseph to be an Old Testament “prototype” of Jesus. The boy had no clue he was destined for such accolades. He simply lived his life one step at a time like we all do.

I’m looking forward with excitement as I come to know this man in better detail over the next several weeks. The process I use to write these posts is quite intense and impactful.

I leave my Bible open on the diningroom table during the week because I re-read the same passage as I eat breakfast each day. By doing that I ask questions as things surface in my mind. By the time I write the scene I’ve been reading I “know” these people so much better than I ever did before.

This first became evident as I read the Christmas story that way a few years ago. The person I grew to know the best was the other Joseph in the Bible, the husband of Mary the mother of Jesus. I “saw” ways he had to step up during their journey of parenting the Messiah. I didn’t think the Bible had much to say about the man until I read it that way. He was a man’s man in my humble opinion.

Nobody gets to choose their parents, nor when they’re born. Their station in life begins at birth. Joseph’s family lived nomadic while he was with them. Both parents were schemers. We’ll see God step in to keep Joseph’s focus on Him.

Dreams come in many forms. Joseph’s were real in more ways than one.

The guiding hand of a dedicated father is crucial in building the proper character in a boy. Israel did his best with his favorite son.

Sibling rivalry was as rampant in his day as it is in ours. God was able to use that, too.

The school of hard knocks is God’s best classroom. Joseph was knocked around more than his fair share.

Some people’s God-given gifts aren’t known until they’re called upon to use them. Joseph learned that lesson well.

Waiting is never fun, but necessary in God’s economy. Joseph spent many months in suspense.

What do you do when someone lets you down? Joseph crossed that bridge more than once.

We’ll see God working behind the scenes in these situations and more in the coming months. Perhaps you’ll see parallels in your life and begin to wonder if God has great plans for you.

I hope that possibility opens up because God isn’t finished building great leaders.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

The migration of the Monarchs is on…the butterfly of course.

Last Saturday was one of those beautiful days we hold out for in north Texas. I call it a transition day because it’s between the heatwave of summer and the deep-freeze of winter. My workday began at 6:00 with a light jacket. By 8:00 the jacket came off. The shirt sleeves were rolled up shortly thereafter. A front had moved through on Thursday dropping some much-needed rain. The sky was pure blue with a slight north breeze.

I was working on the dock for a few hours when hunger pulled me outside to eat a sandwich in my van. I mixed my dried tea in a bottle of water and lifted my meal out of the lunch box. As much as I wanted to I couldn’t justify taking my workday off to enjoy it in nature, so God brought the nature to me. When I looked out the windshield while parked in the employee lot I saw my favorite bug.

Dozens of Monarch butterflies flitted in the same south-by-southwest direction. Many of these delicate creatures began their trek in Canada, but they weren’t stopping in Texas. Nope, their destination was south of the border in Mexico.

Each of these orange, black and white bugs was homing in on a chunk of trees they’d never been to. The only explanation I can come up with as to why they knew where to go to spend the winter was God told them to go there.

I empathize with these critters. My writing feels like much the same journey, except, I don’t know exactly where its going to end up, or where I’m going to end up with it. I only know God told me to do it so I’m obeying my Creator.

Most weeks I can count the number of folks who read my blog on one hand as near as I can track such numbers. That could frustrate me to no end if I let it. Those numbers won’t quite excite a potential publisher who might think about taking on one or more of my books.

If I only looked at the short-term prognosis I’d probably quit this insanity of writing. I know God too well to dwell on anything less than eternity in anything I do, especially anything I do for Him. To me blogging is like tithing my writing to God. He gets the first fruits. He’ll bless back in His own unique way.

Even though these bugs were flying in the same direction they were all flying solo. Yeah, just like writers.

Occasionally they’d bump into another of their kind and spin together toward the sky. I think it’s their version of dancing. We writers aren’t known for dancing when we come together, at least not the ones I’ve bumped into, but we do feel a kinship when we’re in the same vicinity. That’s why we look forward to conferences and critique groups.

In the early afternoon I had to wait for my trailer to get loaded so I observed more of these butterflies named after royalty. I noticed the ones that flew closer to the ground flapped their wings more than the ones who floated across the sky. There was one that never flapped its wings while I watched it ride the thermals and the north breeze. The ones who flew closer to God took advantage of His power to get to their destination with less effort. I’ll do my best to follow their example.

As a teenager in Michigan I took advantage of living with these bugs to get to know them better. I actually raised some of them in a jar. No, I didn’t fear them flying out of the container at all because they didn’t have wings at that stage of their growth. Let me explain.

When the milkweeds sprung up I looked at their leaves. I searched for the ones that had chunks missing from them. There are only two bugs that do that damage to a milkweed. Both of them are caterpillars. I wasn’t interested in the ones with spiked hair poking all over the place. I think those become moths.

I wanted to find the yellow, black and white striped, smooth skinned worms. When I found one I’d carefully break the leaf off it used for food. After I gently carried it into the house I’d place it in a clean glass jar. I’d poke some holes in the metal lid so air could get in and the bug wouldn’t be able to crawl out.

At that point all I had to do was make sure a fresh leaf was available for my friend. The bug had one mission: eat as much of that plant as possible. It didn’t care if it was outside or in a person’s house. At first the only thing that happened was the worm got bigger, as did the pile of green droppings in the bottom of the jar.

Then the strangest thing occurred. The worm stopped eating and crawled to the highest point it could find, usually on the lid. The two back feet would latch onto the lid as webbing, much like a spider’s, would spin out from somewhere. When the web reached past the feet another strange event took place.

That caterpillar skin began to pull loose as the webbing turned green. I sat and watched for an hour as the chrysalis formed in the outline of a butterfly. As the process completed the caterpillar would repent of its old skin and drop it off. The chrysalis remained motionless for days.

I got excited when the green coffin turned black, and then translucent. I knew that old caterpillar was about to emerge. The bug that now appeared different would fight to break free from its confinement. I’ve heard of people carefully cutting the critter free only to have it die.

When that butterfly comes out it isn’t the majestic beauty it’s designed to be, yet. At first the body is large and the wings are small. That tiny heart that fought to break free is now strong enough to pull the blood out of the body into the wings. It takes a few hours before the butterfly can fly.

There are so many similarities to the Christian life here. Before someone becomes a Christ-follower they’re crawling around only interested in their own needs being met. When they give God control of their life they must repent of their old life and sins to become what God intends for them to become.

The changes are often dramatic, yet gradual. A new Christian will likely want to cling to their old habits. Given time the new self emerges as the Holy Spirit does His work. Time spent in the Bible and with other Christians make the believer more like Jesus every day.

Eventually we’ll all fly to heaven. When God calls us Home.

If you’re tired of just feeding your desires and making a mess give Your life to Jesus. He died for you so you can fly to Glory, too.

Keep smiling.   Wade

SENIORS’ SUMMARY

Ten months ago we started an amazing weekly journey of senior citizens in the Bible. Let’s take a few minutes to see what we saw about them.

We found not one, but two, aged couples who became first-time parents: Abraham and Sarah from the Old Testament, and Zacharias and Elizabeth in the New Testament. I sure hope God was gracious enough to not give them colicky babies. God obviously had great plans for these two boys: Isaac and John the Baptizer.

Jacob/Israel definitely knew how to twist a blessing in its time. First to his advantage, then in Joseph’s sons’ blessings. God was in it both times.

Israel’s reunion with Joseph in Egypt was one for the memory bank. The family secret held by ten brothers was broken before Dad’s life ended.

Joseph displayed God’s grace so beautifully when his brothers’ guilt resurfaced after their father died. Just goes to show how long a grudge doesn’t need to be carried.

His faith showed when he made his brothers swear to take his bones back “home” before he died. Moses made sure that promise was kept.

Moses was surprised to be called back into the game after being sidelined for 40 years. That 80-year-old still had many years ahead of him for God’s work.

Joshua led the nation well as they entered the land promised to Abraham many generations previously.

Caleb stepped up in his mid-80’s to claim the best of the land to kick out those punk giants who lived in what would later become the nation’s capital.

Eli, after failing to pass God’s truths down to his sons, was given a second chance with Samuel given to him by a grieving woman.

Samuel would be responsible for setting up the first two kings of God’s struggling nation. He lived to see Saul’s failure, but not David’s success.

David needed to be pushed into action in his late life. First to choose a spot for the temple, then to declare Solomon as his successor.

Daniel’s devotion to God couldn’t be altered even with the threat of death.

Simeon and Anna’s faith was rewarded by a simple glimpse of the Messiah as an infant. It was enough for them.

Nicodemus’ questions led to a firm commitment of Jesus’ Messiah-ship  when he helped bury our Lord’s corpse.

Three Apostles’ final letters revealed a deep love for those they shepherded into God’s kingdom. I hope we carry that tradition onward.

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I have a few observations to give as we close this time of respecting our elders.

  • The word retirement never shows up in scripture. I couldn’t find anybody who was told to save up for a life of leisure near the end of their life. On the contrary, many people were surprised to be called into action when they thought they were past their prime and of no use to anybody.
  • David was the only king of Judah or Israel who did anything of significance in his later life. Most of them died before reaching an age to be qualified as a senior citizen. This was during a time when old age was considered a sign of God’s blessing on a person, especially a good leader.
  • God gave many people a second chance in their later life, even when they didn’t deserve it. Most of them took full advantage of that chance to make a significant difference through the one they mentored into the next generation.
  • The negligence of some leaders to pass God’s commandments down held grave consequences for those who followed. Once the tribes scattered out to their section of land Joshua never brought them together to do as Moses told him so they would remember God’s laws. Solomon’s failure can be traced to David’s failure.
  • Finishing strong for God is a rare occurrence. Too few held God’s heart and laws to the end of their life. Those who did are still held in the highest respect, as they should be. Joseph, Moses and Daniel are the old Testament examples. The apostles who had the Holy Spirit’s supernatural power are a few more.

So, what do we do with what we’ve seen?

To use a sailing metaphor: make a course adjustment to avoid any impending disaster.

You may have neglected your children on the altar of work/career as they matured into adulthood. Perhaps they’ve chosen lives that displease God. Love them with all you’ve got. Maybe they’ll see the change in you and make their own course adjustment. If not, find another young life to invest yourself into.  It’s never too late to do the right thing. Future generations depend on us to help them avoid disaster.

If you gave Jesus control of your life later in life then give Him your all. He wrote the Bible and preserved it so well so we can read it as His love letter to His children. Hold it with that much importance in your life. Use it as your guidebook to live by. It won’t steer you wrong.

Develop an accountability group to hold you true to God’s laws. It’s too easy to slip into sin when you think nobody is watching you. So, make sure you have others watching you as you promise to do for them. It’s the best way I know of to finish strong for God.

Pass on the life lessons you’ve learned in printed words. Blogging is a good way to record what you want to say to others. Tell them what you wish someone had told you. Record what you learn as you read the Bible. If you’re uncomfortable with computers then write a journal in pencil or pen. Your legacy may be preserved in marvelous ways for others to benefit from.

As long as you have breath in your lungs God has a purpose for you to be alive. If you find yourself so bed-ridden you can’t do any of the other suggestions I’ve offered you can still pray. A conscious thought is all it takes to carry on a conversation with God.

Finish strong for God even if all you can do is think.

I’ll see you later.   Wade