To Jesus, everything revolved around obedience. In His relationship with the Father, obedience was all: “I do always do the things that please Him.” (John 8:29) As for us, it’s the same: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do the things I tell you?” (Luke 6:46)
What started me thinking about that is something my friend Shane told us the other night. I was preaching for four days at a church in Booneville, Mississippi, and Shane–minister of youth at a church in the next town–came over to sing on Monday night. Just before the song, he told the congregation what happened to him the previous Friday.
“It was my day to do the hospitals,” he said, “which means I had to drive to Memphis. On the way home, I drove past the airport there, and something happened. The Lord called my mind to that sack of tracts (booklets that tell how to know Jesus as Savior) in my truck, and impressed on me that I should go into the airport and hand them out to travelers. So, I parked my truck and went inside.
As I write this, I’m getting ready for a test at the hospital. Just routine, I think. Last week I went for an annual checkup and my doctor spotted a couple of areas for which she wanted more tests.
About the time I get through with these tests, a note will arrive from the dentist announcing my 6 month checkup. Right now, my car is overdue for its 3,000 mile oil change and it’s time for a tire rotation. The house needs painting and the air conditioning unit is getting some work.
Nothing about ‘maintenance’ sounds very glamorous. Friend of mine is in charge of maintenance at a chemical plant up the river, but don’t let it fool you. We’re not talking about sweeping the floors and mowing the grass. His area is keeping those massive machines and intricate processes working as they were intended.
That lovely old car you spotted on the highway still purring like a kitten after 200,000 miles functions well not because some rich guy bought it and spent a fortune overhauling it, but more than likely because its owner took good care of it from the first day. He had it serviced regularly and kept it in a garage and treated it as an investment.
The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune for Friday, September 17, 2004, is filled with all the things you get following a giant storm. Large color photos of hurricane Ivan’s devastation along the Alabama and Florida coast occupy page after page, taking your breath away. Here is a picture of a five story condominium in ruins, while alongside it are one story homes still standing, seemingly untouched. Go figure.
Our governor’s office assures us that Mrs. Blanco does indeed plan to call a meeting of all the agencies and find a way to speed up the evacuation of the population of this city. We hear this every hurricane, but she’s new in office, so maybe she can pull it off. Stories abound of ten hour drives to Baton Rouge, only 70 miles up Interstate 10, and of citizens arriving in Memphis or Houston to find every hotel room filled.
The other night my wife and I watched actor Sam Waterston portray Abraham Lincoln delivering what is called “the Cooper Union speech” on C-Span. Harold Holzer’s recent book claims this 1860 speech actually made Lincoln president.
In preparation for the re-enactment of the speech, I pulled down a biography on Lincoln and read up on the occasion. In the middle of the oration, Lincoln has a line that smacked me right between the eyes. It was so out of place, I could not believe it was coming from a historical figure from over 140 years back. He said, “That is cool.” He did. It’s in there, in black and white.
The context was this. South Carolina was threatening to withdraw from the Union if a Republican was elected president in the election later that year. So, if you elect a Republican, the state leaders said, and we secede, it will be your fault. Lincoln commented, “That is cool.”
I watched as Sam Waterston read the speech and uttered that line. Not a single comment was made in the followup discussion about those three words, but I lay awake that night wondering. Next day, I went through Professor Holzer’s book looking for some explanation, and found none. That’s when I decided to e-mail him.
I wish I could find that truck driver and give him back that five dollars. Shucks, I’d give him twenty-five dollars just to be free of this memory of the time I did not do my job.
I was a sophomore in college, living that summer with my brother Ron and his wife Dorothy, and trying to scrounge up money any way I could. When I noticed the fellow across the street and how his truck’s lettering on the door was faded, I went into action. “I’ll repaint that on both doors for five dollars,” I told him. Bear in mind, at that time, five dollars was a day’s wages for me.
He agreed and paid me in advance. I brought out my paints and brushes and went to work. I do not recall what interrupted me that day. Probably he had to go to work or something, and I was going to finish it later. But I never did. I moved across town to the campus and put the man out of my mind. From time to time, Dorothy would remind me gently that the neighbor was waiting for me to come back and finish the job. He gave up on me and that was that. Almost.