DAVID’S HOMEWORK

David and Goliath

This is the story of David and Goliath revisited… perhaps in a way you’ve never thought of it before!

Homework! Yuck!  Who of us really liked homework?  Little did we understand when in school that homework was a vital part of receiving a good education.  (The teacher can teach.  It’s up to us to receive it.)

Homework teaches much more than simply the scholastic facts of the lesson.  It also helps in teaching us discipline, responsibility, and maturity – as well a being an excellent tool in hammering information into our brains.

So?  What does this have to do with David and Goliath?  I believe it has much to do with this, perhaps the best known and best loved story in God’s Word.

First, let’s go back in time, and take a closer look at the setting of the story.  David was just a lad, not yet considered to be a ‘man.’  He was a shepherd boy, tending the family’s flock.  And shepherding took place outside of town, out on the hills and planes surrounding Bethlehem.  Sheep are ‘skittish’ animals.  Sheep are not fighters.  Sheep are basically defenseless.  David was their defense.  This is where David spent most of his time.  You might say, this was his open-air school house.

The other boys, back home in Bethlehem, were ‘city boys.’  I know, Bethlehem was NOT a thriving CITY by any means!  It was a small town.  But even in a small town, one is surrounded by social interaction.  There were homes, there shops, there was commerce and activity.  If you tripped and fell, there was someone near to lend a hand and help you up.  If you were in danger, a scream would alert others of your need for help.  Assistant was near… assistance in the form of other humans much like youself.  David, on the other hand, was alone… surrounded by helpless sheep… or so it would seem!

David surrounded himself with God!  Perhaps, to put it in perspective, he allowed himself to be surround by God by continually welcoming God’s presence!

And here lies the reality of the difference between David and similar youth of Bethlehem.  David had a ‘need’ of God.  Yes, the other lads did also.  But David was acutely aware of it, whereas other boys were not.  The time would come when David would find himself in need of help and assistance… and he turned to his closest source of strength and comfort, God!

God is known for His unlimited strength and immeasurable power.  But God was not content for David just to know this as head/heart knowledge.  God, the great TEACHER of teachers, God gave David a little (what I like to think of as…) HOMEWORK.  It was like God was saying,  I’ve told you.  I’ve shown you.  Now you go home and ‘work’ this problem like I’ve instructed you.  The ‘problem’ came in the form of a BEAR!

David had listen to all of God’s lessons intently.  He had soaked them up eagerly.  So as the bear approached, David was ready.  His weapons of defense were hope, faith, and a secure trust in God.  And those weapons did not fail!  The bear was slain, and the sheep were saved!  And David got an A+ on his homework!

A similar insadent happened with a lion… and again, David prevailed.  David was learning!  

I like ‘catch phrases.’  One of my favorites is LET GO AND LET GOD!  To me, that perfectly illustrates David’s victory over the bear and the Lion. 

What I’m trying to say here is that before David ever stood before and up to Goliath, he had to stand before and up to his own personal weakness!  He had to learn the lesson of letting go and letting God.  Before Goliath came onto the scene, David had done his homework, and David had experienced what God could do!

Yes, when you read the story, some might think that David was speaking with a bit of pretensios braggadocio in telling those around him that he would take on Goliath.  But consider that moment, there in the Valley of Elah.  King Saul’s army was facing battle and blood, life and death, swords and spears, and an angry giant who towered over everyone.  Their minds and hearts were fixed on fear and not faith.  They were not of the mind-set to hear a testimony from a kid of God’s amazing grace and mercy.  But King Saul was!  It was he who made the decisioin to allow David to confront Goliath.

In truth, it was NOT David who stood up to Goliath, but God working with and through David.  David walked into the fray, but with God before him.  David took along his sling, but God gave that sling it’s power.  David picked up the stones, but God directed that stone to just the right spot to fell Goliath flat on his face.  And it was God who gave Goliath’s own sword into David’s hands… with which to sever the giant’s head! 

Was this a ‘miracle?’  On the human-side, it sure meets the requirements.  But what we call ‘miracles’ are simple matters for God.  All too often God uses ‘just kids’ to do His work.  And just what kid God uses is more often than not, the one who has ‘done their homework.”

2 Timothy 2:15 tells us… Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.  And remember, study often comes with homework.

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TERROR ON THE TRACE

Natchez Trace Parkway

I can’t remember the exact year, but I know it was fairly soon after the opening of the Natchez Trace north of Jackson.  Prior to that time our family’s trips to Carthage to visit Dad’s family was always thru Canton, then over to Carthage.  The new Trace gave us a ‘short-cut.’

Let me give you a brief description of Mom and Dad.  They were childhood sweethearts, and totally devoted to one another.  As far as I’m concerned, they were both excellent parents, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing.  Mom could be a bit hard-headed, as demonstrated by the fact that years before I was born, and before she got her drivers license, she took the car to town after Dad told her not to.  During the ensuing ‘settlement’ over this disagreement, Mom declared that she’d NEVER drive again…. AND SHE DIDN’T!  

Dad held himself to high standards.  I never heard a ‘profane’ word cross his lips… ever!  He didn’t smoke, drink, tell or laugh at ‘dirty’ jokes… and… he never fished on Sunday… really!  Dad’s one spot on his record was that he had a heavy foot when driving.  Speeding tickets were not often, but mainly because most speed traps had been closed before Dad flew through.

The speed limit on the trace was 50 MPH, which to Dad, must have seemed like 15.  On this particular late Sunday afternoon, we were flying low toward home from Carthage on the fairly new Trace.  

Mom and Dad had a habit of referring to one another in loving terms like ‘Honey’ and ‘Sugar.’  But around friends or company, Mom used Dad’s name, Hendrix.  This day, Mom had long since ceased saying, “Honey, please slow down,” or “You know the speed limit’s only 55.”  Now, it was more… “Hendrix, WHEN they stop you, it’s gonna be a BIG ticket!”

I guess this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  In a very calm voice, Dad replied, “Eloise, if you say one more thing… I’m going to stop this car and put you out.”

The gauntlet had been tossed.  The irritable force was about the meet the immovable object.  The fan had been plugged in.

Mom was silent for a long while… perhaps considering her options?  But Mom was never famous for keeping her silence.  

Even as she was beginning to speak the words about slowing… Dad’s foot was off the accelerator and onto the brakes.  We slowed to, then below, 55 and continued to slow… until Dad pulled onto the shoulder and stopped.

By now, in the back seat, my sister Mary Lilly and I had reached the point where, like the Star Trek theme says, we were where we’d never gone before!  Our parents, although practicing utter calmness, appeared to be in the actual process of splitting apart!  Could this really be happing?  Was it only some big joke?  We didn’t think so.  And then, Dad said the unspeakable word… OUT!

Mom opened the door and got out.  

What happened next was something truly unbelievable to my young heart.  Dad actually drove away, leaving Mom beside the road!  Mary Lilly was wailing in utter grief, shock, and terror.  I don’t think I was even capable of thinking at the time… I was in shock.

Dad pulled onto the roadway and accelerated.  Ahead the road curved, and when we rounded that curve, Mom had disappeared behind the trees.  

And then Dad slowed. He slowed real slow and made a U-turn, and headed back and picked up Mom.

She didn’t say anything when she got back inside, and especially not anything about Dad’s driving.  But she didn’t need to… he drove much more slowly the remainder of the way to our happy home on Evergreen.

Something tells me that they had, shall we say, a sweet reunion that night.  Like I said before, Mom and Dad were in love, and totally devoted to one another!  They were inseparable… except for once when he put her out of the car on the Natchez Trace!  

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CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE SON

My mother’s been gone for twenty-five years,  and I’m now eighty-one… a great-grandfather almost a dozen times over.  So… let me get this off my chest.  I once sorta-kinda, lied to my dear mother.  OK, it was a genuine lie.

I was in the seventh grade at the time, Enochs Junior High.  That’s the time when boys really begin to think of girls as both exciting and desirable.  But there are two types of girls: first the ones who are ‘just friends,’ usually the ones you’ve know for many tears… and then there are fresh acquaintances who turn your head for the first time.  The girl of this story was a neighborhood girl, one who’d been a school mate for years… Winnie Holston.  Winnie lived one street over, on Silas Brown.  And Winnie was really gorgeous, which I somehow failed to notice at the time! 

We were about to have a sock-hop at Enochs.  It was to be my first school dance.  But I didn’t know how to dance!  I mentioned this to Winnie, and she suggested that I come over to her house after school, and she’s teach me a few dance moves.  Great!  Problem solved!

Now this was 1953, back during ‘old fashioned’ times.  And yet, even ‘back then,’ I considered my mother as ‘old fashioned.’  She had a belief young men didn’t visit young women ALONE in the house… and Winnie was alone in her home after school!  So… I didn’t tell my mother of my plans to learn how to dance.

My childhood pal Buddy Gorday lived at the end of our street.  To get to Winnie’s, Buddy’s was along the way.  So I told mother that I was going to Buddy’s.  But instead I made two additional rights and went to Winnie’s and learned to dance! (Would you say that in this case, two rights made a wrong?)  

Winnie and I played no other parts than that of dance instructor and student.  I may not have become a Patrick Swayze, but at least I didn’t embarrass myself and my dance partners on the gym floor!  Looking back, I’ve often wondered why!  Like I said, she was a real beauty.  I suppose that being friends, I was simply too close to the forest to see the beautiful tree in front of me. 

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Praise, Worship, and Snuffy Smith

Award Ceremony

I’m not sure whether or not it’s original with him or not, but my son-in-law, a pastor, says this about worship and praise: “We praise God for what He’s done, and we worship Him for who He is.”  Some say that they are basically the same thing, you know, six of one, a half dozen of the other.  

Really?

My personal belief is that there can be, and usually is, a distinct difference between what we do, and who we are.

Example One:  Our prisons are filled with vile murderers and rapist who have committed unspeakable acts on innocent victims.  And yet, back at home, there are countless mothers who still love those guilty monsters.  That’s because they can still see and love them as their own flesh and blood children.  They love them because of who they are… their child… in spite of what they’ve done.

Example Two:  But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:8

Example Three:  It happened on May, 1, 1943 in the war-torn skies over Europe.  Weather had made havoc of the Army Air Force bombing mission of an enemy submarine base.  Several planes had mechanical problems and turned back, several more got disoriented in the horrid weather and turned back.  And then enemy fighters attacked the few remaining planes! 

Aboard one bomber was what can only be described as a miss-fit.  His name was Maynard Smith,  The others called him ‘Snuffy Smith’ in derision, after a popular cartoon character of the time who was a back-woods, cantankerous oaf.  Maynard was what the military called a ‘screw-up.’  He didn’t adjust well to military life.  He was in trouble as much as he was out of it.  But, the USAAF needed ‘warm bodies’ to fight, and Maynard Smith met that qualification.  Maynard was assigned as a gunner in a bomber. 

Maynard’s aircraft was hit… in the fuel tanks!  A blazing fire erupted.  3 crewmen immediately bailed out, never to be seen again.  The German fighters continued the attack.  Maynard grabbed a fire extinguisher and battled the flames… and then alternated this with firing back at the fighters.  He also tended to the wounds of the others around him, as best as he could.  As the fire burned through the fuselage of the plane, Maynard threw out burning debris from inside the plane through these holes.  He alternated between battling the blaze, firing at attacking fighters, and attending to the wounded… until the piloted somehow managed to get the crippled plane back across the English Channel an to friendly base.  The plane broke apart on touchdown.  But all 6 of the remaining crewmen survived! 

For this, Maynard Smith was awarded the Congressional Medal Of Honor… for single-handedly saving the lives of all the others!

There was a huge difference between WHO Maynard Smith was and what Maynard Smith DID.  And as if to farther illustrate this, on the very day that he was awarded the Congressional Metal Of Honor, he didn’t show up for the ceremony!  He had to be found! And why?  Because, he’d messed up yet again, and was on KP in the kitchen, being punished by doing menial tasks, like peeling potatoes!  He had to be removed from a punishment detail so that he could be given our nation’s highest award for valor!  Yes, this is a true story.

As for me, I praise Him for what He’s done for me and for my family. And I worship Him with a grateful heart and with all of my being… for who He IS, and WAS, and forever WILL BE! 

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THE MASTER’S TOOLS

THE MASTER’S TOOLS

Once there was a young but very skill skilled artisan, a sculptor who worked in stone.  He was commissioned to do an important work, one to be placed in the town’s square.  But he was fearful of taking on such an important project.  So before he began the work, he returned to his teacher for additional training.

The teacher knew that his former student was capable of doing this work, but he also understood that the student was but a poor man, who could not afford the quality tools required for such an important commission.  “I will teach you how to do even greater work than that which you already capable, however, I require that you used my tools!

Day after day, the student hung onto the teacher’s every word, as he soaked up both knowledge and skill from the great master.  He learned quickly, but his young hands were not accustomed to using the master’s tools.  So when the master-teacher wasn’t looking, the student reverted to using his own, familiar tools. 

But the master knew.  He could tell by the cut of the stone. 

One morning as the student was about to begin work, the opened his toolbox only to discover that every tool had been smashed and broken into a worthless heap!  As he held the mangled remains in his hands, the teacher walked in.  “Why?” The student asked.

The old master looked at the bewildered student with loving eyes.  “I have not destroyed your tools,” replied the master,  I have destroyed only those  tools, the ones you now hold to your chest.”  Picking up one of his own fine tools which was laying before him, the old master continued, “I asked you to learn to use these tools… because they are now… your tools!” 

Are we too trusting in our selves, and in our own abilities?  Like the young sculptor, are we too comfortable using our own tools… instead of the quality tools freely supplied to us in His Word by our Lord and Master  

Scripture tells us in 2 Timothy 2:15 

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 

We most always take that verse to refer to the importance of diligent, careful Bible study… and it does.  But tucked in between those words pertaining to scripture and study is the word WORKMAN.  I take that to mean that after we have read the Word, and we have diligently studied the Word, and we have confirmed in our heart what ‘thus saith the Lord,’ then we are prepared to take up the Master’s tools and do His work, His way, and for His glory.  After all, we are but the student!  

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Doing What Old Men Do

    I’ve just returned from a delightful outing with my childhood pal Buddy Gorday.  For the past hour, we’ve been sitting in his truck in the parking lot of the Madison County Airport, a very active airport for its size, watching aircraft takeoff and land… and sharing sweet memories of the past.  We were doing what old men do.

    There was a time, way back when, in the days when I was far, far younger, when I simply couldn’t relate to this.  This morning my memory was jogged to such a time, many years before, when I experienced a stark and powerful illustration of the ‘progress’ of time, which I could not at that time comprehend.

    Buddy is only eighteen months older than me.  But a year is much, much longer when you’re ten… than when you’re eighty.  Remember?  This day, Buddy and I were far closer to 10.  We were in his front yard at the time, probably doing what robust, active boys did during those days long before TV and video games.  We chased one another, dared each other to ‘see’ if we could jump over the neighbor’s hedge, always doing active and physical things like that.  And that’s when we spied him… and old man slowly making his way down Evergreen Street.

   I don’t recall if he had a cane or not, but he walked slowly, carefully, and slightly bent over as if he needed one.  I stopped my activity, and simply stood and watched, actually a bit confused.  In my young mind, I could relate to only my then young and active body.  I couldn’t understand his slow gate and posture.  My thought was:  Why is he walking so painfully slow?  Doesn’t he understand that all he needs do is to stand elect and walk purposefully and correctly?  I even walked a few paces myself as if to demonstrate!      

   Fast forward seventy years.  Now I understand.  

   This morning, when Buddy pulled up in my driveway, it was two ‘old men’ meeting to go out and play again.  But we had no plans to chase one another around the yard, or to jump hedges.  It was to do what ‘old men’ do… sit and watch the airplanes take off and land.  It’s only ‘the fun’ that has changed to other things.  I’m sure we haven’t changed a bit!

The photo above is of Buddy and me taken on Evergreen Street. I’m sitting in my beloved and much-used airplane ‘kitty-car.’ I’m not sure of the date, but at the time, we were just doing what kids did in the 1940s.

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