Be careful about the little things

“A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough” (Galatians 5:9).

Take care of the little things.

In art, the difference between mediocre and masterful is often attention to details.

In wartime, attention to the little things can mean surviving.

I wonder if Goliath thought something like this in that millisecond before he expired: “This cannot be happening.  A giant like me, a champion of warriors, massive and mighty, undaunted and undefeated–taken down by a kid with a rock in a sling.”  He must have thought, “I hope my brothers never hear about this.”

Up in your state penitentiary you will find quite a number of good guys, people with impressive credentials and strong convictions and good records of achievement.  But mixed in with their outstanding accomplishments was the leaven: a single habit they could not control, a friendship out of bounds, a secret vice, a weakness.

At this moment, the Christian community is discussing a prominent pastor for whom the world was his oyster, as the saying goes. He was a star among the ministerial heavens.  He built a great church, wrote popular books, was in demand for every program and conference.  And now, look at him.  Felled by such a little thing.  No one is more shocked than he.  “How could this be?” he’s wondering at this moment.

Who am I talking about? Which preacher with what problem? Take your pick.  There are so many to choose from.

I’ve been reading “In Your Face: Cartoonist at Work” by Doug Marlette, the Pulitzer-Prize winning artist for newspapers such as the Charlotte Observer, the Atlanta Constitution-Journal, and Newsday.  At the time he did editorial cartoons for these papers, he was also turning out “Kudzu,” a syndicated daily strip with wide distribution.  He published many books and received all the awards and accolades a cartoonist could hope for.

Doug Marlette was younger than me and should still be around doing what he did so well, satirizing our foibles and turning out books about Will B. Dunn, the cartoon preacher. His clippings adorned refrigerators and professors’ doors far and wide.   Marlette, who would have turned 65 later this year, would probably still be with us except for one little thing.


Hydroplaning: Several inches of water on the highway which lifts the tires of vehicles off the pavement causing the motorist to lose control.

The pickup truck taking Doug Marlette from the Memphis Airport to Oxford, Mississippi, was driven by the theater director of the high school which would be performing a musical Doug had written. When the truck hydroplaned, it ran off the road and into a tree. Marlette was killed instantly; the driver was treated and released.

I worry about hydroplaning.

On a stretch of Interstate 65 between Mobile and Montgomery, Alabama, the pavement is poorly slanted and in heavy downpours collects the water.  Time and again when traveling that road after a storm, I’ve noticed cars in the median that have spun out, some of them turning over, as a result of hydroplaning.

Such a small, unexpected, and tragic thing, something no one gave any thought to that 10th day of July 2007 when Doug Marlette crawled into the pickup truck with the theater director.

Can I say one thing more about this?

I suspect I know how that high school teacher felt while driving the wonderful, famous Doug Marlette in his truck:  highly honored.  So much so, in fact, that he lost his judgment.

Under normal circumstances, I’m guessing that teacher would have thought about the conditions of the highway and the layers of water laying on the pavement and the need to slow down.  But his car was filled up with someone that day, a condition that ended up diverting his attention from the road.

This is a big reason teenagers should never drive with other teens in the car.  They lose their senses.  Suddenly what is happening on the street is not nearly as interesting as what’s taking place inside the car. They laugh and talk, they text and they fool around, and drivers lose that one quality absolutely necessary for safety: awareness of what’s happening outside.

I think about a nursing student here in our city.  She and I never met, but I heard plenty about her. We all did.

She was beautiful and brilliant, dedicated and loyal. She was going places in life and the world would be a better place because she had arrived.

She did not live to see her 21st birthday.

A drunken driver, someone I know and love, a member of my church, was driving on the wrong side of the street and hit her car head-on. She died instantly.

A champion taken down by something so little. So quickly. So unexpected.

We are all vulnerable. It can happen to any of us.

An accident on the highway.  An untreated infection.  A lump you were afraid to ask the doctor about.  A drunken driver.  A kid who didn’t know the gun was loaded. A momentary lapse of judgement.

We cannot afford to lose our good sense, even for a minute.

Stay alert.  Even the godly and successful are vulnerable.

Stay prayerful, asking the Lord to protect you–from accidents, from evil, and from yourself.

Stay with us. We cannot afford to lose someone as wonderful as you.




2 thoughts on “Be careful about the little things

  1. Pastor Joe, you stated we can use this is we can and I certainly can. I publish a Christian news publication, a ministry from my heart, that I share over 5 counties in Georgia. I would love to include this blog if I may. Your name on it of course. I can’t find many writers that will contribute and this will be most beneficial to the audience that I serve. Be blessed! Onward!

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