Friday, October 15, 2010

I'm gonna get you sucka!

Disclaimer: I was raised in the country. My heart and my roots still go back to my country upbringing. If you are with PETA or any other animal rights group; if you refer to hunters as “Bambi Killers” or you just don’t think hunting is “right” then you need not read any further because you will most likely be disgusted, appalled and possibly insulted.

When my cousin Jarrod and I were young we had this thing against possums, not opossums - they only have those up north, I'm talking about possums. For the most part they were pesky! They really weren’t bad but they really weren’t good either – they were just always in the way when we were trapping raccoons (coons).

Okay let’s get this out of the way. Yes, we trapped coons! Possibly the highlight of our year as kids, very close to Christmas. It was fun then and I would still think it was fun today if Grandpa wanted to give it another go! This could easily evolve into a whole series of posts so I’m going to attempt to keep is short.

Every summer when it was about time to pick our Grandpa’s sweet corn (and I’m not about a couple rows, I’m talking a couple acres) we’d trap coons.

Why would we trap those cutesy cuddly wuddly little raccoons you ask? Because if left unsupervised coons will DESTROY, no other word for it, a patch of sweet corn. And something we learned very early was if there was ever an animal I believe to be schizophrenic it’s a coon! Oh yah, they look all innocent and adorable on Marty Stopher’s Wild America, BUT I’m here to tell you that pound for pound they are the meanest animal on the face of the earth bar none!

Again, Jarrod and I have stories; OH do we have stories, but this is blog and not a book. If you throw a biscuit in a room with a three day starved coon and a pit bull my money is on that coon coming away with that biscuit EVERY STINKING TIME! Sorry had to get that last shot in; I think you get the point.

So, in the course of coon trapping the odds were much greater that we would trap a possum rather than a coon. I don’t know why, maybe they got an earlier start, maybe they were dumber, maybe they were smarter, maybe we didn't know what the heck we were doing (double that) but inevitably we would catch about ten possums to every one coon. And it would just tick us off, but possums had to be “taken care of” as well because they could damage the crop too, though not as bad, and if we let them go they would just keep getting back in our traps over and over and over so…it was “dirt nap” for them really without a second thought.

Fast forward to this week…

We come rolling into our driveway here in Ada and look up to see, YES, a possum eating our cat’s food. Something else I never understood about possums is they are never in a real hurry to get away if they even try at all. They just waddle around, act real mean, hiss a lot and look really ugly.

I throw the car in park and instantly, I had flashbacks to being a kid again, listening to Jerry Clower records, Uncle Buddy telling some outlandish story about hook men and hungry panthers to keep us scared all night and checking coon traps!

I’m thinking…

“Dude (possum) you’re toast!”

“I’ve hated your kind since I was a kid.”

“I hate you to this day.”

“You picked the wrong bowl of cat food today bro!”

So I jumped out of the car, which my beautiful wife quickly locked me out of by the way, I walked straight up to the possum; looked him in his hideous face; looked at the shovel that was propped up against the wall AND I………scooped him up and harmlessly pitched him over the fence.

I got back in the car and Christy knowing me better than anyone said, “I figured you were going to smack him in the head with that shovel. Why did you just throw him over the fence?”
Somewhat confused myself, my only reply was, “I don’t know. I’ve become more merciful in my old age.”

What I really meant to say was, “I’ve grown more merciful and forgiving the closer I have grown to the One who forgives me.”

Did the nasty love child of a raccoon and skunk deserve to die? Heck yah!

Was the filthy retch doing me dirty? Heck yah!

Everything about me would normally say, “smack that sucka’ in the head, the arrogant fool is eating it right in front of you no less, HE DESERVES IT!!”

But the more I go through life and realize how jacked up I am and how I mess up every single day and how He still forgives me even when I don’t deserve it – the more I feel compelled to hand out mercy and forgiveness…sometimes even to my old nemeses, the possum.

The more I go through life more I have an overwhelming with gratitude for Romans 5:8 (NLT) But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

It did not say, God sent his son to die for us because we deserved it.

It did not say, God sent his son to die to show the greatest act of forgiveness and mercy the world has ever seen because we were good people.

It says, God sent his son to die WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS!

I used to be the world’s worst at holding grudges. If Guinness had a world record for it I’m positive I would have been in the book with a picture of me and my Beaver Cleaver plastered comb over hairdo holding a list as long as my arm. When I met my wife about 14 or 15 years ago I seriously had a “list” of those who I was not only not going to forgive but I was actually going to get even with sometime before I died. This is no lie!

But the more God and I walked together the more he helped me realize, “Man, I am still a sinner! I use and abuse God every day and every day he forgives still forgives me! That's the best deal going! Not only forgives me but throws my mess ups in the Sea of Forgetfulness. So who am I to decide who gets forgiven in my life?”

I read this one time and it was probably the most real this topic has ever become for me, “When we refuse to forgive, what we are saying is; God, I don’t trust you to do your job and I can it better.” If you could use OUCH and WOW in the same sentence I did!

I finally trashed my list and oh what a relief! Like an Alka-Seltzer after a good bowl of crawfish étouffée. Like a weight removed from around my neck. It’s liberating!!

Then I started to feel the gratitude the Psalmist felt in Psalms 130:3-5 (The Msg) when he said…
If you, God, kept records on wrongdoings,
who would stand a chance?
As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit,
and that's why you're worshiped.

Who do you need to scoop up with the shovel and pitch over the Fence of Forgetfulness? Who’s the possum in your life? They have a name. It’s time to tear up the list.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I Choose Freedom!

Ask my beautiful wife and she will tell you where my favorite place is in the fall. It’s Ada!!

Every year, when student come back to college and dorm parking lots are full and I can no longer roll through the stop sign where they cross going to class for fear of making a hood ornament out of bewildered freshman, when I can hear the Friday night bands warming up for the home football games, when there’s just enough nip in the morning air that I have to wear a jacket knowing I'll have to shed it by noon because only in Oklahoma can you scrape frost in the mornings and be in a royal blue mesh half shirt by noon, it excites me! I love Ada in the fall!

I've had a connection here since college. It’s where I graduated college, made lifelong friends and really grew into adulthood; it’s where I became the Jim Kelly of ECU intramural flag football (1 semifinal appearance and 3 championship appearances and never brought home the title). I love Ada in the fall!

It was here in the fall at college where I met this awesome girl I NEVER EVER thought I had a chance with. I remember the first day I saw her at the Pesagi Dorm lounge in an ECU Pom jacket and jeans faded down the back. NEVER WOULD I HAVE A CHANCE WITH THAT GIRL! Turns out she married me! That blows my mind every day!!

My favorite place to be in the fall is Ada!

And this morning as I pulled out of my drive at home I was reminded of this and so much more. You see where we live now, I believe, has one of the best views in Ada and in the fall the sun is at just right angle and I get this view every morning on my way to work (if I don’t oversleep).




This beautiful view reminded me that at this time two years ago we had just moved into this house and I was struggling with overcoming some feelings of guilt in my life when one of my closest and dearest friend gave one of the greatest pieces of advise on this subject I’ve ever read. I think as Christ followers we all need to hear these words from time to time. Below is a summary of his email to me. Enjoy.

Recently, God gave me some insight on this issue. A few weeks ago, he impressed upon my heart to read through the Bible. Well, when I got to Exodus God really opened my eyes to how the Israelites were like me (and the rest of us). Here was a group of people who had just witnessed first hand incredible miracles (the plagues, the Red Sea parting, manna/quail, the cloud and the fire) yet they still grumbled and at one point after all they had observed they told Moses they wanted to go back to captivity and live again as slaves. Can you even imagine?!?

Although that seems crazy to us, we do the exact same thing ALL OF THE TIME! When we worry about things we don't have control over, when it seems impossible to break free from habitual sin, when we doubt God's love for us, when we feel overcome with guilt, etc., etc. we are CHOOSING captivity over freedom. My theme for the last few weeks has been: I'm not going back to captivity; I'm going to choose freedom.

Does God use feelings of guilt to convict us and expose sin? Absolutely.

But he also wants the best for us and he wants to bless us so that we can praise him and thank him and so our lives can be a testament to his goodness and grace.

I think what we have to settle in our own mind is whether our guilt is from our flesh, that part of our flesh feels naturally drawn back to captivity

or

whether our guilt may be the Holy Spirit convicting us over something in our life that needs to change.

If it's your flesh, get over it and choose freedom.

If it's conviction guilt, then make the changes God wants you to make, forgive yourself, and then move on.

This is something we have to get over if we are living in Christ. This is something the church has to STOP using as a submission tool!

"Why" you ask? Because a friend of ours named Jesus died for us and when he did, guilt died at the foot of the cross as well!! We are forgiven! I CHOOSE FREEDOM!!

Thank M! Don’t know what I would do without you brother!