Devotion in Motion: What to do about the haters

17 ¶ “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” ~  John 17:17 (NKJV)

By Bro. John L. Cash

As the great modern philosopher Taylor Swift once said, “Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.” And as the great Protestant reformer Martin Luther of haters-gonna-hate-catGermany once said, “This is most certainly true.”

So, parents, get ready. “The haters” are going to “hate” on your children. If it hasn’t happened yet, it’s going to. Be prepared.

Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. When Seth was in middle school, he became a cigarette smoker. Now I’ve never been a smoker. I tried it once when I was a kid. I took a long drag off of a “Lucky Strike” (filtered), and instantly the interior of my respiratory system broke out in spots. I’ve never smoked another one. That first cigarette was plenty.

The same thing happened to his mother. Susan tried one cigarette, and that was enough to last her for the rest of her life.

But when Seth was in 5th grade, some big boys offered him a cigarette. He lit it up, smoked it, and enjoyed it very much. He told me that after that first time, he smoked whenever a cigarette was offered or was available. I guess smoking just agrees with some people more than others.

a very sweet boy

Seth, a very good young man :-)

Now, as you might imagine, this wasn’t something his mom and I had planned for our youngest child. We always talked to our boys about the danger of lung cancer. And we tried to set a positive example for our children. We never had a conversation in which we said, “Seth, you’re going to be turning 10 years old soon. Your mom and I have been talking, and we think it’s about time we bought you a Bic lighter.” (Just sayin’.)

That’s the “smoking” part of the story. Now we get into the “hater” part of the story.

One day a man, who also had a teenage son, walked up and said this to me: “I saw Seth walk behind the gymnasium with one of Spencer’s friends. I’m glad the older boys take up time with him.” That’s what he SAID. But from his tone of voice, I knew the meaning of what he was trying to convey. What he MEANT was, “Seth is a hoodlum. I saw him smoking behind the gym.”

Well, this is where the “be prepared” part kicks in. I answered with the first thing that came into my head: “I would imagine that Seth went behind the gym to smoke a cigarette. I think Seth smokes Camels-without-filters-in-a-crushpack. He’s a very tough little kid. We wish he didn’t smoke, but he does it anyway. You know how it is. Your son is a smoker.”

(Note to the reader: Everyone in a 100-mile-radius had seen this man’s son light up. Honestly, the kid used a 3-pound-coffee can in his car for an ashtray.)

To which the man answered, “Oh, no, Mr. Cash. My son doesn’t smoke.”

Later on, as I was recounting this story to my older son, I said, “Spencer, it’s the oddest thing. After the man said what he did, I heard a roaring sound in my ears. It was such a thunderous thing that I was afraid everyone in the room could heard it.” Spencer (who was wise beyond his years and also knew the young smoker) said, “Dad, I know what it was. It was the sound of all the truth being sucked out of the room.”

yosemite samThis story still makes me mad when I think about it. (Susan just proofread this story. She said she would not have been so pastoral in her reply. If the man had said it to her, she would have turned into Yosemite Sam and started shooting the place up. But I digress.)

People who think your kids are always bad and that their kids are always good are the worst — because those parents are stupid, and it’s always a lie. But I tell it to you because you’re going to go through a similar situation some day. There are people in this world who insist on pointing out the unpleasant realities in your life. The best thing you can do (in my opinion) is to tell them the truth. Beat them to the punch line. It ruins all the fun for the haters in this world.

There’s one more thing to realize. The haters who insist on pointing out the unpleasant realities in your life often refuse to tell the truth about their own situations. In that case, your strategy is different. Don’t point out to them that they’re lying. It’s quite enough just to know the truth in your own heart.

There’s an ancient Jewish story about a king who had a contest to figure out the “strongest thing in the world.” And at the end of the story, the winner is truth. The older I get, the more I believe that. Most of all, I remember that Jesus said that God’s Word is Truth.

So, parents everywhere, get ready for the haters. There are just three things to remember:

1. Tell the truth.

2. Know the truth.

3. And most of all, believe the truth.

john l cashDr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 29 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days has a desk-job at a public school, where he used to teach Latin on closed-circuit-television.)  He and his lovely wife, Susan, live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where the Preacher’s son, Seth, is no longer a smoker because it gives him a migraine.) Their kids include Spencer (age 23), his wife Madeline (age 23), and Seth (age 20).

Devotion in Motion: It Came to Pass

Note from the mamas: Brother John is on Spring Break vacation this week, so we’re publishing an “encore performance” of his very first Sunday devotion ever published here on nwaMotherlode. (His kids were teenagers at the time.) Nearly seven years later, we think his first column still inspires weary, overwhelmed parents everywhere to hang in there and keep the faith. It really does get better.

¶ And it came to pass, that, when Jesus was returned, the people gladly received him: for they were all waiting for him.Luke 8:40

By Bro. John L. Cash, “Country Preacher Dad”

clock2.gifIf you turned your back for an instant, my son Spencer ate the coffee grounds – sixteen years ago, I mean, when he was a year old. I remember one morning when I was drinking my first cup of coffee, watching the “Today” show, trying to recover from a long night tending to a teething baby, when I heard the distinct splat of a used coffee filter slapping the floor.I rounded the corner to find my little son using both hands to smear a work of art on the linoleum with both of his tiny hands. Seeing me, he crawled through the soggy Maxwell House to attempt to escape and began to hide the evidence by shoveling the coffee grounds into his mouth. After that, he smiled at me because he was so delighted with his efforts. I hoped he wouldn’t black out from caffeine poisoning.

I told this story to some of my parishioners at church who had older children, and they said, “It doesn’t get any better.”I remember thinking, “I don’t know if I want to go on living.” I mean, if children never sleep all night, and if you always have to be on alert like a human home-surveillance system to keep them from snacking from the trash can…well, it just seems like too much!

But then, my piano player offered me a glimmer of hope. She said, “Brother John, it DOES get better. I mean, kids don’t always swipe the coffee filter out of the trash can.They get older, and they can dress themselves, and run their own bathwater, and they get to where they can fix themselves a bowl of Cheerios in the morning.But as they get older, you have a DIFFERENT set of problems. But the present set of problems does go away.”

Time has passed, and the piano player was right. I no longer think about the waste bin, but I am always thinking about a new set of problems…things like learner’s permits, and cell phones, and curfews, and MySpace.I love the phrase in the King James Bible, “It came to pass.”I know that’s only an old way of saying that “It happened”, but I love the sound of it. “It came to pass.”All those bad situations in the Bible didn’t “COME to STAY”, they “CAME to PASS!”

So enjoy your children, whatever age they are. And treasure the period of life where they are now because they grow up too fast.I have found that God is always with us, if we look for Him. And He sees to it that the troubles didn’t come to stay, they came to pass.

john l cashDr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 29 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days has a desk-job at a public school, where he used to teach Latin on closed-circuit-television.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where the temperature dropped from 72 degrees to 28 degrees within a few hours this week.) Their kids include Spencer (age 23), his wife Madeline (age 23), and Seth (age 20).

Devotion in Motion: How Lloyd and Rose built their forever love story

10 For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice…”   ~  Zechariah 4:10a (RSV)

By Bro. John L. Cash

Well, sometimes when you’re a columnist you hit a nerve—in the best possible way. And last week’s story of “Lloyd and Rose” was met with a very sweet lloyd and rose slider2reception from my readers. (Click here if you missed it.) That’s probably because the desire to live a long life with the ones that we love is a universal longing. After all, it’s the closest thing we could have to heaven on earth.

I don’t have a long column today. There’s just one footnote that I want to add to last week’s piece. And that’s okay because most of the time it’s a single idea that changes everything for us. A thought always does more good than a thesis.

As I told you last week, Lloyd and Rose spent their last years of life in side-by-side hospital beds in a nursing home. One day they told me that they were glad to be together, even though they were bed patients. “We can’t walk any more, John, but we can talk to each other,” Rose told me. “We woke up at two o’clock this morning and talked for a long time. We were making plans about what we were going to do today.”

Well, this made me very curious. I wondered what kind of “plans” this ancient, bedridden, still-in-love married couple might we discussing in the middle of the cranberry juice2night so I asked them about their early-morning conversation.

Lloyd said, “For one thing, there’s a girl who comes around with a cart at 2:30 in the afternoon. She gives everybody something to drink. There’s coffee, tea, juice, milk, and Ensure. Yesterday, Rose and I got cartons of chocolate milk. But today we’re probably going to get cranberry juice. There’s always a lot of things for us to talk about.”

I tell you that story to say this: True love that lasts a lifetime isn’t made of huge, major things. Instead it is built moment by moment from all the little daily things.

Fred Rogers (of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” fame) said it like this: “Growing happens little by little. It’s tempting to think ‘a little’ isn’t significant and that only ‘a lot’ matters. But most things that are important in life start very small and change very slowly. And they don’t come with fanfare and bright lights.”

Last week’s post shows us where we want to end up. This week’s story shows us how to end up there. Oh, that the Lord will bless us on the journey!

john l cashDr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 29 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days has a desk-job at a public school, where he used to teach Latin on closed-circuit-television.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where the temperature dropped from 72 degrees to 28 degrees within a few hours this week.) Their kids include Spencer (age 23), his wife Madeline (age 23), and Seth (age 20).

Devotion in Motion: The Lloyd and Rose Scenario

lloyd and rose slider12 ¶ So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom.  ~  Psalm 90:12 (NKJV)

By Bro. John L. Cash

I’ve always heard that when their children grow up, married couples either get divorced or fall in love again. The latter must have happened in my case because this part of my life with Susan seems to me to be very, very sweet.

Susan and I have always said that we hope that things work out for us like they did for Lloyd and Rose. Lloyd and Rose were members of our congregation.  They were a married couple who stayed deeply in love for their entire lives. When they were in their 60’s they lived in a house together. When they were in couple on benchtheir 70’s, they moved into an efficiency apartment at an assisted living facility.

Finally, when they were in their late 80’s they were patients in a nursing home, where they lived in hospital beds, side-by-side. Their bodies grew steadily weaker, but, as ever, their love for one another grew stronger.

Today their bodies share a headstone in the little cemetery across from our little country church, and their spirits are alive in the kingdom of God. In my way of thinking, you couldn’t ask for anything more than a life like that.

Susan and I have talked about the “Lloyd and Rose scenario” for many years, with a wish that this would be our destiny in life. But lately I’ve come to a realization. Sometimes it works out that way, but not always. And if it doesn’t work out that way, one of us will pass away before the other one. And then the other one will be alone.

I don’t say that to be morbid or dark. If you read the Bible, it’s not a morbid thought at all. It’s just a realistic description of life in the world in which we live.  In some sense you can even call it “the will of God.” Even though it’s painful to think about, the sooner we think about it, the better. If you love Jesus, you’re going to live in the next life forever. But not in this life.

My realization of that fact doesn’t fill my life with dread. Instead, it fills my life with hope and the greatest joy. When I wake up in the morning, well, I realize that each day is limited time opportunity. Just like the infomercial says, if you’re gonna use this day, you’ve got to “act before midnight tonight” and “supplies WILL run out.”

And because of that, I’m trying to make each day a thing of joy and beauty — especially with Susan. And my children. And all the people that I love. I don’t always succeed making each day a glorious thing. But lately I’m having a lot more good days than bad ones.

In the scheme of things, this isn’t anything revolutionary or new.

I’m pretty sure we all learned a Psalm about this when we were children:

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.

And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

Lloyd and Rose just had the good sense to put it into practice.

Go thou and do likewise.

john l cashDr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 29 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days has a desk-job at a public school, where he used to teach Latin on closed-circuit-television.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where we had a “snow day” with no snow this week.) Their kids include Spencer (age 23), his wife Madeline (age 23), and Seth (age 20).

Devotion in Motion: The power of a praying mom

14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.  ~ Acts 1:14 (NKJV)

By Bro. John L. Cash

Dear Anne,

I wanted to write once more to finish up what I’ve been saying in my previous two letters about the nature of adolescent faith. Did you know that your mother worried about your faith when YOU were in middle school? She wanted you to go to some kind of youth meeting on a Saturday morning, and you weren’t having any part of it. So she called me (the local seminarian/youth minister) and told me to come early to the house and wake you up to make you go. She later told me that you said, “That was wrong, Mom. You trapped me into going into the youth rally. You knew I wouldn’t tell John I wasn’t going to go.”

So you see, Anne, over the years, not much has changed with middle-schoolers or moms. And it’s not just that mothers are concerned about the spiritual condition of the children. Mothers exert a tremendous amount of influence on their offspring. I think sometimes they might exert the most powerful human influence of all.

Anne, you know I’m a sucker for a good story out of Christian history. I’ve found that they’re epic lessons for the Christians of today, if you tell them realistically and not spiritualized like the church lady from SNL would tell them. One of my favorite stories is about the boy who grew up to be Saint Augustine (about A.D. 400). You can look up the details for yourself, but Saint Augustine is considered to be one of the most important theologians in all of the Church.  What’s amazing is that when he was young, he wasn’t much different than so many of the kids I meet today.

And (as I tell it) the story goes like this: Once there was a Christian woman named Monica. She had a son named Augustine, and Monica wanted Augustine to love the Lord Jesus as much as she did. Unfortunately, Augustine had his mind on the things of this world. He was arrogant and flippant. He once stole fruit—not because he wanted to eat it but to waste it and to throw it to the pigs.

Augustine loved to mock holy things. And when he was a teenager, he took up with a girlfriend that his parents didn’t approve of and he got her pregnant. The guilt of her son’s illicit union broke his mother’s heart, but Monica began to pray that her son might be converted. Night and day, with many tears, Monica prayed.

Augustine had a friend who was very dear to him.They loved to laugh and make jokes—especially jokes that ridiculed Christians and the Church. (Meanwhile, Monica continued to pray.) One day Augustine’s friend became ill with a terrible fever. His family feared that he was near the point of death, so they called their pastor to baptize the young man on his deathbed.

And, you guessed it. Monica continued to pray.

augustineSometime later, Augustine’s friend began to recover from his sickness. Augustine teased his friend about how ridiculous it was that his parents had him baptized when they feared he was dying. Augustine thought his friend would join in with his coarse jesting (as he always had in past).

But instead he rebuked Augustine and told him that baptism was nothing to joke about. He said God was to be praised and that He had worked a remarkable work in his life. He told Augustine that, if he continued to joke about these holy things, he did not wish to ever speak to him again!

And meanwhile, Monica continued to pray….

Augustine was shocked and puzzled at his friend’s admonition. A few days later (before the two could discuss the situation again), Augustine’s friend was stricken again with the fever. And then the young man died.

Augustine was inconsolable at the loss of his friend, and his friend’s dying words made him aware of his own wretched spiritual peril. Augustine turned to the Saviour. He served Him faithfully all the days of his life. Monica’s prayers had been answered.

Dearest Anne, at one time or another, parenthood is the most worry-inducing job in the universe. But it’s a comfort to know that so many of the stories in Christian history have happy endings. So don’t ever give up—because God never gives up on any of us. Just keep on being the great mom that you are.

And while you’re at it, don’t forget to be a Monica.

Blessings,

Brother John

john l cashDr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 29 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days has a desk-job at a public school, where he used to teach Latin on closed-circuit-television.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where the Preacher had to cancel a trip to a meeting this week because the roads iced over.) Their kids include Spencer (age 23), his wife Madeline (age 23), and Seth (age 20).

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