Who Will Replace the Watchmen?

In the past few years, our town has lost a number of great men and women who were instrumental in making Happy a wonderful place to live. These were men and women who helped shape our community. They were of a generation that is mostly gone now, and recently I have been wondering who will step up and take over the work that they were so willing to do. While time and space would not permit us to consider each one, I do want to briefly touch on two: Joe Bill Dempsey and Jackie Pyle.


Joe Bill was born and raised in Happy, but served all over this region in law enforcement. He did everything from serving in various police forces, to leading the police department at West Texas State University, as well as working as an investigator for child protective care. But his greatest job by far was his work with his home town. After retirement, Joe Bill worked as the Chief of Police for Happy, Texas on a volunteer basis. And though he refused to take pay for this job, I doubt if there has ever been a police chief anywhere who did more good for his community.


If Joe Bill slept, I have no idea when he did it. He was available for every call during the day and then patrolled the streets at night, often into the wee hours of the morning. He answered every call that he could and headed off a lot of situations before they became serious. I remember one gentleman showing up at the church building around 12:00 one night in a blinding rain storm looking for a ride. There was something that wasn't quite right about the man (for one thing, he showed up in the storm on a bike) so I called Joe Bill. He was just as courteous and disarming as ever, so when he asked the man if he would allow him to frisk him before riding in the police vehicle, the man agreed.


As it turned out, he had a knife with a blade that was at least 6" long. Joe Bill went ahead and gave the man a ride, just to a different location than he had hoped for. Joe Bill was never mean about it, but there was something about his 6"3" presence and deep base voice that just made a person want to comply. I remember Joe Bill telling me once that he had never written a ticket in Happy, though he must have stopped hundreds of people for different violations. He would just talk to them, friend to friend or parent to child depending on what the situation called for, and then suggested that he not have cause to pull them over again.


Our other "watchman" was named Jackie Pyle. He worked in one of Happy's gas stations for a number of years, and then eventually owned and operated it for years after the rest had closed. Jackie was a quiet man (he rarely strung more than four our five words together at a single time) but he took care of Happy in ways that most people were never aware of. During the day, Jackie's place served as much of a "triage" station as a filling station. In addition to pumping gas and fixing flats, Jackie would take care of those who didn't always have the money for what they needed. If they needed a bit of gas to get on their way, Jackie would provide it. If they needed more than a bit, he would call one of the local churches to see if they could help.


But if the person in need was "trouble", Jackie could take care of that too. If they just needed to head on down the road, Jackie could give them directions. If they were a real threat to the community, then Jackie would call law enforcement if that were the only option. At night Jackie would patrol the town in his pickup or golf cart looking for skunks, The four-legged kind he would shoot. The two-legged kind he would move on. Don't get me wrong, Jackie Pyle was never mean about it for I don't think Jackie had a mean bone in his body. He just wanted the folks (especially the kids) in Happy to be kept safe and he was quick to take care of any threats to their safety.


Jackie was also a generous man, but when he helped he didn't want anyone to know. I have no idea how any people Jackie "carried" during tough times. After he passed I heard story after story of someone he had helped in his own quiet way. He had helped countless teenage boys with a job through the years even if he didn't really need the help that much. He had helped people who were having a hard time with the rent. He even bought one little boy who was undergoing chemo treatments an I-Pad to help him have an easier go of it. I don't know if Jackie even knew what an I-Pad was for, but he had found out somehow that it might be just the thing for this boy who was up against such a struggle as he was going through.


Now Joe Bill and Jackie are gone. They passed way too young, but they had served the people they loved for a long, long time. When they left us they left a hole that really could never be filled by just one or two people. They were excellent "watchmen" but Happy still has some fine people taking up the slack in that area. It's just that these two men were much more that watchmen, they were also shepherds. Maybe not from the standpoint of leading, but surely from that of caring for people in the tender way that a shepherd would tend to his sheep. The reason, I suspect, is because Jackie and Joe Bill loved people. Because of that love. they watched over them in a way that a mere watchman could never do.


Happy is not the same since they have gone. Many, many wonderful people have done their utmost to help fill the void left by these two great men, but their efforts still fall a bit short. The fact is that such men (and women) are rare indeed. They leave such a hole behind that it takes a long time to fill it. And though they have been gone for a while now, I still find myself wondering more and more who will replace these watchmen?   

God Really Does Love You

For the LORD takes delight in His people; He crowns the humble with salvation.

Psalms 149:4, NIV


I think one of the hardest things for us to wrap our minds around is that God truly does love us. We know the verse by heart that states, "For God so loved the world", but we still have difficulty in fully believing it. And it's not because the gift of His one and only Son is not enough to prove that love, for it clearly is, so what is the problem? Why are their so many of us who have difficulty in believing that God really and truly loves us?


Maybe it's because we spend so much time on the negative side of the equation. We know that God will punish the wicked and we have been wicked. So for a lot of us, we simply spend so much time fearing the punishment that we get the idea that God is somehow out to get us. And in our experience, anyone who is out to get us isn't doing so out of love.


The thing we miss is that while God really will punish the guilty, that punishment is only for those who remain in that guilt. He has made it very clear within His Word that there is a way to remove our sin and, therefore, our guilt along with it. He has told us if we will repent of our sins, have those sins washed away, and then do our best to walk in His light, that we will be saved. And Jesus died on the cross to justify us in this salvation, having taken the guilt of our sins away by paying the penalty for those sins on the cross.


Once we grasp these things, it will change our lives. We know that we don't deserve to have our sins removed (this is where the humility comes in, in the verse above) but our sins have indeed been removed. And though we will sin again and again, if we will just keep walking in the light and repenting when we do find ourselves in sin, then God will really forgive us.


And, He will take delight in us!


I think maybe this is the hardest fact of all for us to understand, but it is true. It's like when you have a child that has done something bad that they knew going into it that it was bad, but they did it anyway. But then, instead of compounding their error, their conscience got the best of them and they ceased their bad behavior and told you how sorry they were. And you were so glad that they had come to their senses that you were overwhelmed by your sense of love for them that you hugged them tight and let them know that it was okay, that you forgave them. And you not only did that, but you then looked for ways that you could help them to continue to do the right thing. This process, by the way, works well for the four year old, the teenager, and the twenty five year old.


Now, think about the One who so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to die for our sins. Add that to the fact those who truly repent of their sins will then accept His terms for living and we will then begin to understand one of the most amazing parts of this verse: He delights in us! Just as you and I had parents who delighted in us when we did the right thing, and just as it now delights us as parents when our kids do the right thing, God really does delight in us. And He does so because He has always been on our side, even when we weren't on His. In a large part, it is because God does delight in us so that He is willing to save His children who humbly return to Him in repentance when they do wrong.


And then, life becomes wonderful! It is wonderful because we now realize that God is not looking to squash us like a bug when we sin; rather, He is looking to provide us with all the help we need to come back and live for Him. It is when we realize that God is rooting for us, not against us, that we can then begin to live the life that He designed us to live. It is a good life filled with wonder and joy for those who will humbly accept His terms of salvation. It is so because God not only loves us so much, but also because He takes delight in those who will love Him back. 


The only question that remains for those who desire a fulfilling life is this: Do we truly love Him? 

God is Not Just for the Old

Both young men and maidens; old men and children; let them praise the name of the LORD: for His name is excellent; His glory is above the earth and heaven.

Psalm 148:12-13, KJV


One of the most insidious things that men will ever do is to withhold God from the next generation. This self imposed ignorance starts on an individual basis and then spreads like a cancer throughout society. It begins with us when we get too busy (lazy) to read our Bibles, pray and attend worship. This inactivity weakens the family, then the church, then our communities and eventually the nation.


We don't have to wonder if this is true because the evidence is right before our eyes. We can observe the lack of respect and love all around us. Families, if you can even call them that any longer, are devolving to single parent units in which the mother has to work so hard that there is little time left over for the proper religious training that used to be universally recognized as vital. Children then grow up without the governing presence of God in their lives, so they have to choose their own standards.


Our public schools are devolving. Not because our teachers and administrators are not trying, but because the children they are entrusted with no longer have a fear of God instilled in them by their parents. The schools have not been allowed to help in that area because they have been told that the Constitution (You might remember that document from ancient history) forbids it. Though this is a lie, nobody wants the hassle of bucking the system so they try as best they can without God and Christ. But trying to teach children who do not have God in their lives does not work. Test scores are proving it, as America is now near the bottom of the industrialized nations in many academic areas. This was not the case prior to God being removed from the public square.


Then there is society at large. Stray from the safe paths of any large city and you will see unbridled crime, filth, and a moral degradation that would have made the people of Sodom and Gomorrah feel at home. Many will deny this, but as one whose early years were spent in Denver, Seattle and Houston, I know it to be a fact. There has always been a block or two in every large city reserved for skid row denizens, but now the wickedness has spilled over to the point where it is hard to go a block or two without exposing yourself and your children to things that even movies with an R rating do not permit.


What has happened?


What has happened is that our generation has withheld God and Christ from our children. I know that this is not true of everyone for there are still a few Godly parents who are training up there children in the fear and the admonition of the Lord, but not nearly enough. Society is on the decline, not the assent, and we are going to have to do something soon if we want to change things. But I must warn you that it will not be easy. The people of Noah's time were not willing to make the sacrifice. Nor were the men and women of Sodom and Gomorrah. Nor were the kings of Israel before their nations were destroyed. They thought, just as many of us, that it was too hard and too late for a change of heart and direction, so they didn't even try. 


You and I may also be tempted to think it is too hard to change the course of our nation as well. Maybe it is and maybe it isn't, but wouldn't you agree that our children have the right to find out? Again, this is not a task for the lazy but it is a job for the Godly. And I believe that you will agree that our children and their generation are at least worth the try. So, let's try!




Take Care of What You Can then Don't Worry Anymore

What is crooked cannot be made straight.

King Solomon, Ecclesiastes 1:15, RSV

It is so, it cannot be otherwise,

Plaque over the gateway to an ancient monastery


Of all the things I have wasted my time on, whining about things I could not change is near the top of the list. You know what I am talking about, for you probably know someone like me. Whether it is complaining about someone having cut you off in traffic, or grumbling over that stupid stop light that just seems to know when you are in a hurry, we spend far too much time fretting over the things that cannot be changed and not nearly enough time trying to figure out what we need to do to improve the situation that we find ourselves in.


Take the recent, worldwide flu outbreak. The very people who had developed it (but lied about their deeds) were then the very people who came up with the cure. "Trust us", they said, but many didn't. It was like when one of your children (you know the one - he had jelly all over his face) said that he didn't know who got into that delicious fruit spread, but he would be glad to help you find out who did. There are some situations that people will tell you that they are here to help you, but it is best to decline their generous offer.


The fact is that some things just are and we cannot do anything about them. The car that got totaled is still a loss and the quarter that rolled into the sewer grate is best not recovered. So, what do we do? We move on and make the best of it!


Some people will not like it when you do. There will be some who are very upset when you don't accept their "cure". They will ask you what will happen if you die and they will be even more upset when you tell them that you were planning on going to heaven anyway. The fact is that this world comes with genuine problems that sometimes cannot be solved. The thing to do when this happens is to take care of the consequences of these problems as best we can, try and prevent the ones who are making mischief from doing so again if we can, and then move on.


Christians should never waste their time on wishing that things had never happened. They should instead be concerned with dealing with what they can while all the time pressing onto the goal which Christ has called us heavenward for. It is when I refuse to let go of things that I find myself the most unhappy, but I realize that I must indeed let go and stop complaining if I am ever to be a happy and effective servant for God. 


So, I am trying to do better on those things I cannot change while at the same time trying to concentrate on changing the things I can. Since that is the case, maybe it's best to refuse to take any cures from people I don't think are trustworthy and let those who want the cures to go ahead and take them. I'll try to leave them alone and as politely as I can insist that they do the same when it comes to my business. Then I can move on! I can spank the naughty child with jelly on his face, get a new car to replace the one that was wrecked, and find a new quarter to replace the one I lost.


And for all of those matters of the soul, I am determined to ask God to help me with the things that are simply too big for me to handle on my own. And I am going to try to whine and complain less, and replace those grumblings with words of encouragement to help others who are going through the same thing. After all, there truly are some things so crooked that they cannot be straightened, but our attitude should not be one of them. We are going to heaven some day, by the grace of God. So we need to just do what we can, let Him take care of what He will, and then move on. For those of you who know me, you realize that I've got a ways to go on this type of change, but I'm working on it. And I'm finding that it's a lot more fun to offer praise to God than to complain about His children.



Happy People

Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the LORD.

Psalms 144:15, KJV


I love this passage. It is written by King David and inspired by the Lord. In this same chapter of Psalms David talks about all that the Lord has done for those who follow Him, including how He rescues us from our enemies and even helps our sons and daughters grow. He then points out that these blessings of God should prevent us from complaining because we are so content. And he begins the whole discussion by asking the question "what is man that Thou takest knowledge of him?"


I have to admit that I like this passage even more because I am a resident of a town called Happy. I recognize the fact that this is a small thing indeed in comparison to God's great blessings towards us, but when added to these blessings it just serves as a reminder to me that we ought to be happy and we ought not to complain.


One of the things I truly appreciate about our service to God is that His way actually makes us Happy. His commandments concerning our interactions with others will make their lives happier as well, if they will let it. Commands such as don't lie, don't steal, don't covet, don't commit adultery, and love your neighbor as yourself, all serve to make us good citizens and excellent friends. In short, they make us into the very type of person that other people like being around. It's makes us happy and much less likely to complain when people treat us with such love and kindness. 


When you consider the idol worship of the Old Testament times you see something completely different. You see the people who worship these made up "gods" doing all sorts of things to please them, from sexually immoral behavior to human sacrifice, and all of these things tend to make people very unhappy indeed.


But those who serve God have happy commands with happy outcomes. It was true during the old law of Moses (and before) and it is even more true under the Christian era. When you think about it, it is no wonder that David asked in seeming wonder just who men were that they could be so blessed as to have God take notice of them. God's ways have always led to happiness and praise, whereas the ways of those who reject Him always seem to lead to terrible unhappiness and lots and lots of complaining.


We are indeed a blessed people and that ought to make us happy. And it also should make us very hesitant to complain, but very quick to offer thanksgiving to the One who brings these great blessings. Are you happy?