A soft, warm breeze emanated across the field and over the dark waters of the small mountain lake. The sky promised much sought after rain; pregnant cumulonimbus clouds garnering up their courage to compete against an Aztec sun.

It was not a quiet afternoon, at least not at this point in time. The mid-September day with its heat and associated humidity bore much more of a semblance to Faulkner, and much less so to Frost. The primeval woods were filled with the sounds of four-wheelers belching acrid blue oil-smoke and barking Labrador retrievers, of men guffawing to each other over stories well told - the very songs of our lives. I sat on a make-shift bench; a stump seemingly placed by nature in that particular location and perfect for me to discover. Meanwhile, my watering eyes were squinting upward to a sky that mocked me for not remembering the sunglasses I had left back in the truck. I cradled the borrowed Benelli across my lap and began using all of my engineering skills in an effort to ascertain how to load it. Some say (and with authority) that it is a fool’s game to hunt birds with a borrowed weapon, especially one you have never proven against your own shoulder. But our current state of travel in the aftermath of 9-11 makes this more and more the only option available for those of us who visit far away fields and valleys in pursuit of prey.

The yelps of one or more of the dogs announced the arrival of the first bird; a brown speck interspersed with vivid color now screeching across the lake, and as luck would have her say on the matter, in my general direction. I stood and shouldered the 12-gauge, squinting against the sunlight and picked out the bird against the camouflage of the horizon. The first shot was high, and I had time for only a few intemperate thoughts about sunglasses as I pumped the next shell into the chamber and corrected my aim. The next round was true and I was rewarded with an explosion of feathers as the bird dropped into the lake in front of me. 'Jeebies’ the Lab was airborne over the deep water before I could lower the gun, a high-dive plunge from the four-foot bluff that is a rare thing of beauty and proves even harder to describe to those who have never witnessed it. He retrieved the bird and swam to a point where he could vacate the lake, whining as he dropped the bird at my feet.

“Good boy, Jeebs” I caressed his neck and ears. “That’s a really good boy!” He wagged his tail in acknowledgment that scratches to his ears and the cheerful comments sufficed as paid in full for his job well-done. Then he ambled back over to the edge of the barren field in anticipation of his next call for duty. I had met him earlier in the day for the first time, but as with most dogs, we shared an instant bond. There was nothing magical associated with our new friendship, I mean, had I fallen into the water I seriously doubt he would have dove right in after me to save my life. He might have. Yet you can feel those sorts of things with dogs, an almost accidental kinship, if you are a dog person. I am so inclined.

They live only in the moment and for the moment, do dogs. If you want to express a quadratic equation or discuss the laws of thermodynamics, forget it. It’s not their bag. If you want to voice your opinion on social relationships or politics, well, that won’t work with them either. They could care less for our silly little nuances as well as the other frivolous things we seem to try and wrap our utmost significance around. Drop a bird in front of them, however, and a well trained Lab knows exactly what he or she should do. Call it their niche in life, or calling, but they know it and never doubt themselves in the process. We frail human beings could stand to learn a thing or two from a dog. We worry or fret over the little things, and can completely lose our minds over the bigger things we face in life. Our mortgages, careers, our mutual funds and 401k plans, even the Saints… In doing so we often forget what we are here for and what our purpose is meant to be in life. I think Jeebies helped me remember, and for that I owe him much more than a pat on the head or a scratch behind the ears.

Ah, Shannon, you say, it is because you were in the woods and had time to reflect on life. No, I was actually worried about my aim failing as I am now older, or not bringing home enough birds to brag about or treat my family with. I was worried about snakes and hornet nests, the possibilities of alligators (slim), or wrenching a knee while crossing the rugged terrain. The forest served only to replace my mundane, daily fears with new ones I seldom encounter. The dog reminded me that I simply must live life and ‘do what I do’ when those fears accost me. And what I do best is depend on the One who is bigger than I. In Him I find peace and rest. In Him I find the strength to face those things in life that I can’t help but fear the most.

And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest? Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” Luke 12:25-27

Sin Enters The World

Youth Sunday School Lesson – 9/19/10

This week we’ll be talking about the entrance of sin into the world, and of course we’ll be in the Book of Genesis as are all of our lessons during this quarter. Two weeks ago we discussed how G_d created the world, and last week we learned how man was created in His image. In order to set the stage for this Sunday’s lesson, we must remember that everything was perfect at this time on the earth. G_d walked and talked with Adam and Eve on a daily basis, the garden was the ultimate place to be, and the man and woman lived without fear of anything bad ever happening to either of them.

You probably already know the story of the serpent, and how Satan used the serpent to trick Eve as well as Adam. I’m sure you remember from earlier classes when you were small how they were kicked out of the garden and how life changed for them afterward. But this week we are going to look at things in a different light, and in a perspective that may just teach us a little more about the choices we make in our own lives. The essence of this story (found in Genesis 3) is the contrast between what is truthful and what is a lie. Jesus told us in John 8: “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” The truth Jesus speaks about will indeed make us free, but before it does so, we must first believe in that truth.

Our story opens with Eve being faced with a temptation to eat the fruit of a forbidden tree by the serpent. Temptation is a very important part of this story, but there is a lot more to be considered here than merely ‘she was tempted and she gave in to it.’ If you’ll remember from last week, G_d had placed a special tree in the garden they were not to eat from. This one simple command from G_d was all that Adam was held accountable for during this time, and he had obviously already explained this to Eve when she arrived at this point of our story.

Satan, through the serpent, calls what G_d commanded her to do into question. The first thing we should notice here are the lies propagated by the serpent. He begins by asking Eve if G_d had told them they could eat from every tree in the garden. What he did here was to begin their conversation by asking her about G_d’s Word in a casual manner, and by verifying what she already knew to be the truth. Eve answered that G_d had told them they could in fact eat from every tree in the garden except one, but if they ate from that particular tree they had been told by G_d they would die. With an opening from Eve, Satan had the opportunity to do what he does best; he began to lie to her. Jesus reminds us that all lies come from Satan, as he is the father of lies. He (through the serpent) tells her that she won’t really die, thus calling into her mind a question as to the validity of G_d’s Word. As this point simmers in her mind, he also tells her that G_d is holding back something wonderful from her and Adam - that if they eat from the tree they will become something special. In fact, he tells her that they will become ‘like gods’ if they will simply eat the fruit from the forbidden tree.

If you look closely (and I hope you will) you can find three lies from the devil that are still being used on all of us today. First, he questions G_d’s Word: “Hath G_d said?” As young Christians we should know what the Bible tells us to do and not to do. And we should not be drawn into a debate on topics that question G_d’s Word by anyone, least of all Satan himself. It provides an opening for doubt in our hearts, and once Satan senses that first small crack in our armor, he can use his other lies to trap us and control us.

Secondly he comes right out and tells her that G_d is a liar. He tells her “Ye shall not surely die.” The Creator has no reason to lie and will never lie. He is Holy. You can take His Word to the bank, and the aftermath of the story proves this out for us. As a result of sin entering into the world, we all eventually die. Death is not a result of poor medicine, bad choices, or by accident. Death is a result of sin in our world. The Book of Hebrews plainly states this: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Because of sin, we all have an appointment with death at some time in our future.

Thirdly, Eve is told that she will become like G_d if only she will eat the fruit of this tree. This last lie from the devil is very much still in use today in our modern society, and it is easy to see it if you look for it. We as a culture feel we no longer need G_d because we are as smart as G_d and as wise as G_d. We’ve invented electricity, harnessed the atom, and have iPods and computers to play with. We treat our Creator as if He is merely a distraction instead of Someone we will be accountable to on Judgment Day.

Once the three lies from Satan are pondered by Eve, it becomes a question of her will versus G_d’s will for her life. In the end, the seeds planted by Satan and watered by her own free will bear the final fruit of sin entering into the world. We’ve had our sinful nature with us from that moment forward.

Finally, sin cannot be cured by taking a pill or even by living your life as a good person. The only cure for sin is the cure that G_d provided when He gave His only Son as a sacrifice for us on Calvary. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, we are freed from the penalty of sin. When we die, it is not the end for us – we have eternity waiting for us in a place where there will be no more sin.

Questions For Class

1. Does Satan still use the same lies on us today? Explain.
2. In verse 6, what things did Eve notice that caused her to finally give in to temptation? Are we still faced with these things today in our own lives?
3. What was Eve’s specific punishment?
4. What was Adam’s specific punishment?
5. In what way were both Adam and Eve punished?

Old Trucks, All Of Us

I have a crack in my windshield – oh the humanity! As I drove to work this morning it was there, reminding me that I had waited too long to have the nice people at the glass shop seal it for me a few weeks back. Its spidery tendrils now snake across the landscape of my vision, and getting a brake tag in a few months is pretty much out of the question. I’m also thinking that it takes away from the cosmetic appearance of my beautiful GMC 4x4 - makes it look unrefined and well-used. I need to take action here, and I need to do so quickly. The windshield must be replaced.

I remember a time when a cracked windshield was hardly noticed and in a strange way, it was expected. In high school I happened to inherit (no other way to explain it) a 1962 Chevrolet pickup truck; we both shared the same life span of seventeen years at the time, that truck and I. She was rust-bucket red with a faded white cab and smoked like a steamboat churning through hard water on the Mississippi. My dad had worked magic on the engine, somehow getting her running and procuring four bald tires to get his teen-aged son mobile again following the spasmodic, premature death of my previous vehicle. Neither he nor I cared for superficial appearance at the time, because it was different back then. In a previous life, the truck bed had been used to haul garbage, and the hard-crusted debris were by then impossible to remove. The bed was also replete with a sweet-gum tree growing up from some hidden alcove above the rear wheel-wells. To cap off its impressiveness, an abandoned toilet hung askew right outside the rear window. But she ran and I proudly drove her to church one Wednesday night for her maiden voyage.

I took a little bit of ribbing from my friends, but not too much so. You see, back then we all drove junk cars and trucks – new vehicles or nice, used vehicles were reserved for the older, more established members of a family. You know, the ones with jobs who paid the bills and otherwise made the rules. We never had a problem with it because we knew better and expected less.

Before the close of that first night, my friends had graciously endowed a nickname on my beloved truck: The Rolling Junkyard. The name fit, therefore it stuck. Falling parts and pieces, rusty brown dust, and a plume of blue oil smoke followed me wherever I travelled. Putting it mildly, no one tailgated me when I was under way on those lonely country roads back then. But I drove her all over our county and even recall a few members of the fairer gender that overlooked my vehicular shortcomings and were proud to ride up front with me. Despite looks and other misgivings (a tepid smell emanating from the ancient garbage, for one), my rolling junkyard always started on the first attempt and turned out to be very forgiving in the area of gas mileage. The only regret I have today is that I cannot recall what happened to the truck, and have no pictures to share with my children when they complain about their own whips (cars) they pilot on the self-same country roads I used to.

Oh for a truck today that is as reliable and non-pretentious as that one was. Ever faithful, she carried me wherever I wanted to go with minimal complaint. Was she really a rolling junk yard? Yes, and how. But she was my rolling junk yard and I grew to love her. Eventually, I even chiseled out most of the garbage, leaving the toilet in place merely for old time’s sake. (For the record, it was not a working toilet!)

Looking back, I have a lot in common with that ancient, almost forgotten truck from yesteryear, at least in my spiritual nature. My heart is rusty, neglected, and has many flaws covered by many more layers of filth and grime. But the Master touched me, got me running again, and most of all He loves me. In many ways I find myself much akin to the woman at the well, when she said, “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” G_d knows everything I’ve done and everything I’ll ever do, and yet He loves me anyway - despite my sordid spiritual flaws.

I can be cantankerous, moody, neglectful, and sometimes unreliable. He loves me anyway. I can be a terrible example of a Christian at times, but He bought me with Calvary’s very high price, and my soul now belongs to Him. I'll always do my best to remember that fact, and in turn do my utmost to be as reliable as I can be in my daily walk with Him. You see, His love is reciprocal. John said it best: “We love him, because he first loved us.”

Best of all, unlike my past relationship with that old truck, He also promises me in His Word that He’ll hang on to me throughout eternity.

Confessions Of A Lock-Checker

Each night before I go to bed, I have a routine I regularly follow and it has reached a point where my children have decided I have obsessive/compulsive disorder. I check the locks.

Specifically, I check the locks on the house doors after I let the dog in. It is not OCD behavior to me as I only do it once and only before I turn in for the night, but it will prevent blissful slumber for me should I somehow fail to follow the set routine and find myself in bed without performing my duty.

The definitive lock that got me started down my path of habitual lock-keeping is the external door to my youngest daughter’s bedroom. She is almost twenty-years-old, in college, and entertains her own schedule; a schedule that most of the time is different from the rest of the family. As a result, she swapped bedrooms with my wife and I not long ago in order to get a room with its own outside entrance. Although she assures me she ‘never uses that door’ and there is sufficient evidence provided by the amount of cob webs growing in the hinges - I still check her door each night. It gives me peace of mind and a dad not only needs that, but basks in the security of it. After all, responsibility for the safety of my children is mine and mine alone. I understand that and of course, I get it.

But I would be remiss as a father if all I did to ascertain the safety of my children in this world was based solely upon checking the door locks on a nightly basis. So much more is required of a parent. There are bills to foot, and homework to help with, activities to attend, and things to be taught. Praise must be administered in a timely manner, and correction should be implemented on at least a customary schedule to simulacrum their minds around what is and what is not appropriate for newly recruited members of our society. Parents, myself included at times, seem to have gotten good at letting the latter slide for our foot-heel generation, and the proof can be found in newspaper reports or a simple visit to the principal’s office at the local school. We are very good at defending our children; they can do no wrong. We buy them anything they desire and expect their admiration for the frivolously materialistic things only we can provide. We’ve always said we wanted our children to have better things in life than we had at their age, and now they do. But it’s a shame when you think about it.

As a parent, I know that raising my children is more than merely insuring that they make it through school with the least amount of emotional scars possible. I have more onuses on me than simply teaching them the rules and making sure they follow them to the letter of the law. These are good things and a child that grasps the conspicuousness of each should do all right as they travel the winding road that leads to their future, but a parent’s responsibility does not end there.

I also know it is my duty to ‘train them up in the way they should go’ spiritually, which should be the number one priority for any parent. I believe and have no doubt that I will answer for the way I raised my children one day, and I’ll have to have justification for my parental manner, too, whether they turn out good or bad. This is all part of being a father, along with the smaller things like checking the locks and protecting them from all of the bad things out there in the world.

Yet,could there possibly be anything more important than praying for them on a daily basis? A daddy can’t always be there, and the same temptations I faced at their age have multiplied exponentially since I was a teenager. The things they take for granted and have become jaded toward were never thought about when I was young. It’s a different world, and a tough old world at that. They need my prayers as well as my guidance, and failing at either can have serious ramifications in the lives my children.

I think about this a lot these days, and when I do I consider Job in the Bible. The scriptures tell of a time when his kids were grown, where they threw a party at one of their houses. “And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed G_d in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.”

A parent that continually prays for his children, just in case they may have done something wrong that he was not even aware of. That’s a pretty good example of a father checking the locks, and doing his best to make sure the bad things are kept at bay.

Getting Cheeky

I get a chuckle or two on pretty much a daily basis when I read media reports on all things Islam in our country. We have a mosque that is going to be built near ground zero in New York, and more recently a preacher in Florida is reportedly preparing to burn copies of the Koran (or Quran, however you want to spell it) on the anniversary of Nine-Eleven. The latter story has caused quite a bit of consternation on both sides, the gist of which appears to be the fear that it will anger Muslims and could cause them to kill Americans or step up their attacks on our troops. By golly, they are already protesting in Kabul and Jakarta and the first copy has yet to touch the fire! You’d think they’d go about things in a more civil manner, having been glowingly reported by media myrmidons as ‘A Peaceful Religion’ and such. Maybe go burn a few Bibles in retaliation, possibly boycott Coca-Cola, or pledge money to the Democratic Party re-election fund, etc. Instead they promise violence and systematic retaliation – who saw that one coming?

Personally, at this point I’m not worried about the mosque in New York. I’m past the notion of either fret or fear on the issue. The current slant of government, in both the Big Apple and in D.C. will allow them to build if they have the money, and if they can find a contractor to do the job. So be it. I know it will actually be a symbol of conquest as mosques have usually been in the past, (Jerusalem, Cordoba) and I know on the other side they are saying it will bring the faiths together in harmony (wink, wink). But for now at least, I do not see how a mosque will change my life, my faith, or my taxes one iota in the interim. I lived in Gotham back in the mid-eighties, within ear shot of ground zero to be precise (Governor’s Island). The people are a different breed than we hay-seeds down here in the South. They have a harder edge about them and can handle the situation no matter how it works out. I’m betting there are certain types already lining up to paint unintelligible (at least to me) graffiti on the sides of it.

I’m mixed on the book burning issue. I have a brother in Iraq, which despite the glowing reports on the evening news is still a bad place to be, maybe even worse so these days. I’m shaking my head at the same time at the thought of Americans bridling free speech because it might upset people in foreign countries – I don’t know how to wrap my mind around that part of it just yet. You can’t live in fear and be happy about it. We Americans just aren’t wrapped that way; at least we used to not be anyway.

Consider me a heretic to the Islamic faith because I do not believe in their god. Yet at the same time their faith is growing at a rate not seen in religion since the times of Rome. In New York City alone, there are already more than one hundred mosques, while back in 1970 there were only ten. What really alarms me it is the fact that most Christians know so little of their own Bible to the point they can easily be led astray by the teachings of not only the Muslim faith, but others such as Scientology or Hinduism. I do not blame the churches for this, as a personal walk with G_d is not complete without reading and studying His Word, and the key term I use here is ‘personal’. A Christian’s knowledge of the truth is something he or she must garner on their own – while I also believe a scriptural church can provide the necessary tools to aid in that very important pursuit.

So where does that leave us as Christians when we look at the perspective of Islamic growth, terrorism, and all of the things that fall in between? What I am going to say here is going to hurt. It will be hard to swallow. It might just make you angry or think I’ve lost touch with reality. But everything I do is based from G_d’s Word and the divine direction he provides for us in the pages therein.

We may decide to protest a mosque. I probably will when they finally get around to putting one up in downtown McNeill. (Fat chance - but there is an empty building across from Kahl's) But we should protest peacefully if we are going to go that route. We may be tempted to burn a few Korans while we are at it, if for nothing else than to show them we aint’ scared of ‘em. These are natural instincts and a part of our human nature. However, if in all honesty we are going to walk the walk and talk the talk as Christians, what should we really do?

Though it does not seem fair, and goes against our natural inclination, Jesus taught us the example we are to follow in Matthew 5: “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” If our country does not return to what it once was, and if we continue instead to elect leaders that do not have our best interests or moral values at heart, there is going to be a lot of cheek-turning required in the near future. Unfortunately, it will be the Christians that are challenged to do this, not the other religions.

People who turn the other cheek are easily taken advantage of; therefore it is best not to reach a point in our society where it will be required of us. I’m going to pray. I’m going to vote in November. I’m going to do my best to talk to my neighbors, plead with them to give up 'America’s Got Talent' and 'Glee' long enough to pay attention and become informed as to what is going on in our country - right now. Maybe they will listen. Maybe we’ll buy ourselves a little more time this Fall.

If not then I’ll add ‘face slapping’ to my gym work-outs, to toughen up my cheeks in preparation for the things that will be sure to follow.

What Price Perfection?

I’ve been off from work for a few days, the old vacation-thing. Didn’t go anywhere. No, last week I made a list of things around the house that required urgent attention from me, and I took the time off from work to take care of them. The list had grown considerably by the time my wife added her requests to the tally, and for a while the issue was in doubt as to whether or not I’d be able to complete the tasks within the set time frame I’d established. But I did and I’m back at work this week with a sense of accomplishment and a renewed purpose in life. Really.

Buried in paperwork (amazing how it can pile up while you are away) I began this week with a feeling much akin to being overwhelmed, which is usually how I feel when I return to work after being out for a few days. I’ve learned through maturity and patience that you simply knock out one item at a time and eventually it all gets taken care of. But I’m drifting this morning in a back-washed sea of rabbits, I know.

I was drinking coffee this morning and talking on the phone when my eyes happened to focus in on a picture my daughter gave me for Father’s Day earlier this summer. It’s a picture of she and I on her wedding day, both of us smiling as I walked her down the aisle. Truth be told, I’m actually smiling at her like fathers do toward their daughters, and she is just smiling because of the day and what it meant for her. But it is her smile that caught my attention; the golden hair, blue eyes, and most of all her perfect teeth. Those teeth are perfectly straight, the sum of braces when she was younger at a time when her dad had a difficult time paying for them. They are also white, not white like you normally use the word to describe something, but glowing, ethereal white, almost leaping from the photographic paper. She must have had them cleaned or bleached, whitened, or whatever it is they do these days to achieve that result.

My teeth have always been bad. Crooked and discolored, a product of my own doing as well as my growing up at a time when braces had not been invented yet –at least not the affordable kind. I could change that, I could. Adult braces are becoming popular and whitening products are all the rage on the dental hygiene shelves down at Wal-Mart. Or I can merely close my mouth when someone points a camera in my direction and not worry about it. I choose the latter. It’s too late in life and I’ll be replacing them soon enough with artificial choppers anyway. Then I’ll smile for the camera.

Perfection as far as my teeth are concerned is not of vital importance to me. Probably a good thing, too. I work out at the gym religiously and watch what I eat most of the time, but my goal is not perfection in that area, either. I do what I do in those regards purely for my health these days and besides, it makes me feel better when I do so. I’ve long since given up on perfection in relationships, especially after I came to grips with the truth that I am not perfect, therefore, by the same token, I cannot expect to find perfection in others. Perfection in any facet of life is difficult, and probably impossible to obtain.

The impossibility of perfection makes it very hard for me to fathom when I consider how Jesus used the term during the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5, he states, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Be perfect. (I get this mental image of Bill and Ted saying ‘Be excellent to each other’) How can I be perfect, or how can I find perfection, when I have so many flaws in my life and in my daily walk with G_d? I mean, let’s face it, I can’t garner the ability to reach perfection with my teeth, much less in the way I try to handle sin in my life. It is beyond me.

Maybe it is the value I place in perfection to begin with. I can get away with crooked, dingy teeth. I can get away with an extra pound or two and even a ‘success paunch’. I can get away (sometimes) with being a less-than-stellar father or husband. But I can’t get away with being a less-than-perfect Christian. According to that verse in Matthew, I must be perfect. Jesus didn’t say ‘try to be’ or ‘make it a goal to be’; he simply said ‘be perfect’. It’s kind of a command when you look at it that way, don’t you think?

There is a price for this perfection that Jesus mentions, but it has already been paid. When I accept what He did on the cross, (His perfect work not mine) and believe in my heart that the grave could not hold Him - I am on my way. By hiding me, covering me with His blood, and no longer depending on my own perfection but by taking on His, there is a way to reach that state of perfection. When I stand before G_d, it is not my imperfections He sees, although there are so many. Instead He sees the only thing that matters; that I am cloaked in the righteousness of His Son. “Dressed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne.”

My perfection was bought with a price; it was truly an amazing grace that purchased it.

Casual Sins

I’m all about diet and exercise these days, and I feel much better as a result. Sure, old age is creeping in and my joints and muscles no longer respond as they did in my younger years, but all in all a healthy lifestyle is worth its weight in gold when you consider the alternative. I believe I may have gone a little overboard on vitamin supplements at one point, but I’ve even managed to get that under control for the present. Yes, it is good to be the best that you can be in all three phases of life: physically, mentally, and spiritually. Hoo-rah.

Who am I kidding? I decided to forgo my mid-morning breakfast of butter-less and sugar-free nuked oatmeal this morning and replace it instead with something better. Heaven on earth has a name and it is ‘Almond Joy’. Of course, that is today – tomorrow it may be one of those monster Snickers bars at least a foot long or so. Or then again, maybe I will splurge and head down to PJ’s for a blueberry scone and one of those sissified coffee drinks where coffee has very little input upon the amount of chocolate contained therein. Yeah, that’s the ticket. And I’ll do that every day until Thanksgiving, at which point they can use me as a Macy’s Day parade-balloon.

Back to reality, I did have an Almond Joy this morning but it was bite-sized so it was not harmful to my waistline at all. Couldn’t be as small as it was. But I still feel guilty as it was something I really did not need, was not actually hungry for, and normally would have had no desire to eat. It was there in the bowl as I passed by the receptionist’s desk, and thus it ended up in my digestive tract.

What bothers me now that I have returned from lunch at the gym is how easy it was to grab that candy bar, peel the wrapper, and pop it into my mouth. It was an almost (almost) involuntary action on my part. Maybe I didn’t have my guard up early enough this morning, or maybe there is something subliminal about the blue and white wrappers used on Almond Joy bars. I’ll probably never know, but it is past history by this point and there is nothing I can do about it. I should have known better, and if/when I am honest with myself, I did.

Being flippant with regards to my diet pales in comparison to how I handle the small, seemingly insignificant sins in my life. I should never become so callous (jaded) to the circumstances around me in our world that could cause me to fall down in my daily Christian walk. It’s a lot easier for me than you might think. I drive in to work from the north end of Picayune at one of the busiest times of the morning. I have plenty of opportunities to lose my temper at those who cannot drive as well as I do. I mean, I seldom use my cell phone when I am behind the wheel and never woolgather when I find myself first in line at the red light. Gr-r-r!

When one of my guys is late for work I can usually see through most of the excuses; I’ve both heard them all before and I’ve used a few of them myself when I was in their shoes not too long ago. It’s so easy to dismiss those excuses and make the judgment in my heart that they are lying to me. I also walk up and into a lot of coffee pot conversations that no Christian should be coerced into hearing, and most of the time I can avoid them. Sometimes I do not. I’m not talking simply off-color jokes here, I believe gossip is bad for any conversation and can probably do a whole lot more harm to others.

What I’m saying today in this blog is that the opportunities for un-planned sin are abundant and can be found behind every corner and turn. A simple relaxation of your guard is all the devil needs to get his foot in the door, and boy, does he love to do that. He exists for it. It’s what he does.

I’m glad I’m not the only one that has faced this dilemma in their Spiritual walk as a Christian. Paul writes: “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.”

That’s a mouthful of words in those verses, but it is easy enough to understand for me because I know exactly what he was talking about. Who can deliver me from this seemingly uncontrollable urge I have to sin each day, although I try and do my best not to? Only Jesus Christ can. I’ve got to depend upon Him because I can’t do it on my own. Those casual sins are much too hard to pass by without reaching into the proverbial jar without thinking about it.