Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Something Like Automatic Pilot

Here's a picture of a portion of the dashboard on our 2015 Ford Fusion. The part that shows, to the right, is a programmable section which can can show one of several information screens ... Phone, Entertainment, Climate Control, or Navigation.

When I took the Picture, Navigation is what showed.

That particular screen shows several things, most notably a compass to show where we're going, as well as a little Speed Limit sign, telling us how fast we can get there.

Somehow, the programmers of the GPS system accessed all the numbered routes in the nation, and programmed them in. As you can see, when I snapped the picture ... at a stoplight ... I was on a road with a 45 mph speed limit.

I usually run with that screen showing, for no particular reason, and I can change to another screen with a few flicks of my thumb anyway, thanks to steering-wheel-mounted controls.

I noticed something a few days ago that I thought I'd pass along. Namely that, most of the time, I don't pay a lot of attention to my speed, but when I do, I'm traveling about the speed shown on the dashboard. That's true on 2-lane Helena Road, 4-lane highway 31, Interstate 65, or congested Cahaba Valley Parkway. I'm guessing that I've gotten so used to driving there that I just naturally drive at the right speed without really consciously doing so.

That's the part that got me to thinking. Isn't that how the Christian life should be? If it's true that God remakes us from the inside out, shouldn't we eventually settle into "Automatic Pilot Mode" in how we live? Shouldn't we simply, by default, turn the other cheek when insulted, give the sort of soft answer that deflects wrath, pray for leaders we don't like, love those who hate us, show love for one another, and live our lives in a manner which reflects our relationship with the risen Christ?

Shouldn't that be our automatic reaction, our default mindset?

I think so.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

It Really IS All About Grace

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17) 

This was posted by my friend, Karen Scott, and it word-bombed my brain. A whole flood of thoughts invaded my consciousness, immediately.

The first is that God has been exceedingly gracious in my life. And in several areas, too! I am 78 and still kicking. Arthritic, overweight (hey .. I AM a Baptist...), titanium knees, contact lenses, hearing aids and all. But here I am,

Family: I have the best kids and grandkids, and even the world's neatest great-grandson. Plus the touchstone flesh and blood of my life, my wife (of 57 years), Peggy.

I had a terrific career in the Property and Casualty Insurance business. Started as a mailboy with a (now defunct) insurance company, and worked my way up through the ranks to Sr. VP of a national insurance marketer here in Pelham ... finishing as VP of a local insurance brokerage firm.

A retirement of nearly 9 years now is everything I could hope for. And then some.

During my career, some interesting things happened. One that comes to mind is the time I insured a bowling alley in South Alabama, during which time a hurricane hit the coast. I had the privilege of delivering, the next day, a sizable advance check to the owner so he could immediately start repairs. I felt pretty good about that.

Then there's the time a local businessman, and friend, was unable to find insurance on his lumberyard. I arranged coverage through Lloyd's' of London, just a few months before a record snowfall ... in Alabama! ... collapsed his building. He was instrumental in sending me quite a few clients, after that.

Once, our firm was about to lose its biggest profit-making program for lack of an insurer. Via a personal friend and contact in Ohio, I made a few calls and located an insurer that wanted to take on the program. All in about 10 minutes.

I recall a time in Connecticut that I discovered an unmet need among jewelers. I mentioned it to my boss and in 30 minutes, he designed and presented a program to fill that need. And got it approved. That gave us a considerable edge over the competition.

There are a lot of other things, too. But the point that strikes me is that the bowling alley owner died many years ago, as did the lumberyard owner. The company that bought our firm ... and the big program we almost lost ... went out of business many years ago. And the jewelers' program went down the drain when our company's buyer bit the dust.

The point is that nothing I did then, in my business-related career, matters now. Unless, that is, God brought some good out of it, for His glory. And that'd be on Him, anyway, as He's the author and completer of all increase.

He's said so, in so many words. On the other hand...... When I show up in church, it's another world entirely. When Hannah Grace gives me a hug, I recall the time I had a hand in sending their family on a vacation not too many months before her daddy died. And I marvel at how God worked that out, and thank Him for the privilege of having a hand in that.

When I write a poem or do a painting that blesses someone, I (again) marvel over how God uses something I did to bless another person. Or when a child in the church is saved, and I get to reflect on the days when Mommy and Daddy were in our newlyweds Sunday School class, and once again marvel at how God uses ordinary folks to do extraordinary things.

And occasionally I'll recall the Sunday morning I shared the plan of salvation ... accidentally ... with a class of teens at a Boy's Prison in Plainfield, IN. When 6 young man prayed to be saved.

There are lots of other things, too, but then I guess that's expectable when we've belonged to one church for 35+ years. When we've been pursuing God in our lives for about 50 years. And, when some of those newlyweds, from that long-ago class, are now grandparents themselves.

Then I get to see our grown, productive sons, grandchildren, and our year-old great-grandson, and thank God for the blessing of such a family.

Picture this: two times since I've been doing the Arts and Crafts paintings, I've sent one of them to Facebook friends. Both times, they've said it really brought joy to their kid!

Here's one of them... It'd be easy to keep that for myself, but I have to ask what God can do with what I did for that young man. I gotta say that seeing that picture brings me a lot more joy than seeing the painting ever did before I sent it off.

BIG POINT: I fear that many, many people don't see the joy that comes from doing things for God. Many people think "I'm not able", or perhaps "I'm not worthy". Well. the good news is that nobody's worthy of being used by God (except Jesus) and nobody's really able. But God is certainly able to use the things we do in His name, here on earth.

One of the reasons I share all this stuff is that I am, by nature, an introvert. According to the Industrial Psychologist I saw 50 years ago ... I'd been sent there by my new employer, who saw me as management material and wanted to be sure I wouldn't "go postal" some day ... I am/was shy, introverted, insecure, and high-strung. And in my heart, I knew he was right.

But I could also remember the day in August of 1953 that I decided I would simply not act like that. 

All of this stuff .. the good parts ... is attributable to the Grace of God. And I cannot help thinking that is the essence of abundant life. One of the things Jesus said that He came in order to provide for us.

We're told to lay up treasures in Heaven. That's done by investing in things that will go there. Namely, people. That occurs, 100%, by the Grace of God.

So how's your retirement plan going?