Monday, May 25, 2015


Shep here.

                I was riding back from somewhere with Andrea before we were married.  I told her it was about to rain.  She scoffed at me and asked how I could say such a thing with such certainty.  I told her I was part Cherokee and that I was in touch with the elements.  She thought I was full of it…until it started raining.

                The truth is that it had little to do with any Indian blood and more with living a life outside and paying attention to the signs.  FYI- if you are outside, or riding down the road, and see the underneath side of the leaves- get your raincoat.  It’s about to storm. 

                I am not sure about the science of it. But when the cool air swoops in and lifts the leaves so that you can see the bottom of them, there is about to be a storm.  I learned that as a boy.  I remember being out in our back pasture.  Maybe I was fishing, or cutting hay.  Maybe it had been as sunny and warm as it could be…but when I began to feel that cool breeze, and saw the underneath of the leaves, I knew it was time to head back.  And sure enough, pretty soon the entire sky would turn black and the rain would begin to pour.

                In north Georgia, when a thunderstorm blows up, it covers everything you can see.  One minute all is sunny and beautiful, the next minute you are looking for a place to hide.  And when it blows up, it blocks out everything else.  Because of the terrain, your horizon is limited.  Trees and hills keep you from seeing anything except what is directly above you.

                I assumed that it was like this everywhere until I made a trip out west.  My brother and I loaded up one evening in Rocky Face and began heading north.  We went through Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, and watched the sun come up over Chicago.  We kept driving into and across Wisconsin and Minnesota and finally stopped to sleep in Fargo, North Dakota.

                The next morning we struck out again, headed west.  Now, the land in North Dakota, just west of Fargo is flat as a pool table.  We were headed due west on I-something, when I looked off in the distance to my north and I saw something I had never seen.  There was a thunderstorm raging.  Lightning was popping and thunder was crashing.  And it was miles away.  Above us was nothing but blue skies.

                Then I looked to the south, and there was another one.  I could see the storm miles away, ripping across the landscape.  Above me, and all around me, there was nothing but blue skies.  We rode all the way across that state and into Montana that day, and I saw no less than 5 thunderstorms, but never had a drop of rain hit our windshield.  Underneath the black clouds the rain was falling in sheets.  I’m sure the wind was howling and the lightning crackling and I’m sure that the folks underneath those clouds felt like there was nothing above but black, smothering storm.

                I remembered this just a few days ago, and was shocked by the voice of God in it.  I was having the type of day that I couldn’t see out of.  It was black everywhere.  Now, I started the day in prayer.  I willed myself into a better frame of mind.  I tried my best to have an attitude of thanksgiving.  I served my family as best I could before I left for work, but somehow by about 9:15, everything just clouded up on me and I couldn’t see out. 

On the way home, though, everything changed.  This North Dakota memory blew into my thoughts, and I know God was reminding me that there were blue skies ahead.  If I could have seen as God sees, then I would have known that this despair would not last forever…and probably not even for very long.  When you are in the storm, you can’t see out.  You run for shelter, oftentimes, too late.  You feel the wind, see the lightning and hear the thunder.  Your whole world is enveloped by forces that no one in this world can even hope to control. 

                But take heart.  The sun is still shining.  It may be just over the horizon, but it is there.  If you could see as God sees, you would know that the storm is temporary.  It came to pass.  It came to blow fear and chaos into your life and to teach you where to hide.  Sure, it may be dark and gloomy where you are.  If it is a true storm, it will be completely out of your control.    But the one thing you can’t do, is quit.  Pull up from the tailspin.  Remember the storms of days gone by and the deliverance that you received.  Thank God for the sun and for rain boots.  If you can hold it in the traces for long enough you will eventually find the sunny slopes of tomorrow that were there waiting on you all along.  And if, by God’s grace, you manage to negotiate the tempest, you will learn a new song.

                In 1776 Augustus M. Toplady was traveling in England across the barren landscape when just such a storm blew up.  He found shelter in the cleft of a rock face and there penned the words to a hymn that I remember my mama singing in the kitchen when I came sprinting back just ahead of the rain, barefoot and winded…

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Save from wrath and make me pure.

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shall close in death,
When I soar to worlds unknown,
See Thee on Thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Getting Called on the Carpet

When I taught 8th grade I would start each class with a "cliché of the day." 

A lot of the clichés that I had were from many generations past but I was impressed that most often my 8th graders would still know the meanings of them.  Plus~ it was a fun way to get them warmed up to enjoy my English class.

Of course the student with the correct answer was rewarded with candy. 

But back to the title of this post....

This cliché is most known for "getting in trouble". In days past a factory worker would get called in by a superior and most often the superior's office had carpet floor.  Hence...the cliché.

We are born into this world hating correction.

I am pretty sure we leave this world hating correction.

And there is an entire life lived in between that requires what we hate. 

~Being corrected~.  Getting called on the carpet.

This happened to me recently.

I was called on the carpet.

Someone that I respect immensely had to call me out for something.

Let me not sit here and tell you that I enjoyed it. 

Because that would be a complete lie. was appropriate. 

I had done something that needed to be addressed.  This person had the authority to do it.

Despite the awkwardness of the moment, I was able to receive it and understand the good in it.

I wish I could tell you that I always handle correction in this way. 

 But that would be a lie also.

I simply received it.

There was no need to get angry or indignant.  There was no reason at all to be offended.  There was no additional person to blame.  

The offense had been mine. 
I owned it.
I agreed that it had been wrong.
I apologized.

More than that I walked away with a respect for the one that had to correct me. 

How many times do we brush stuff under the rug instead of appropriately dealing with it?

This person chose the hard but good thing.

This person took the risk of being misunderstood, blamed, and ridiculed. 

This person risked offending and angering me.

This person did the right thing.

Because I love my children~ I correct them.
Because God loves us~ He corrects us.

We get completely wigged out when someone comes to us with an issue to resolve.

Y'all...last time I checked there was not one single perfect person.

We can be rude, selfish, arrogant, mouthy, and lazy.  And this list just describes how I have already behaved today....

God uses other people to encourage and push me in my faith all the time.

But somehow when God uses other people to correct a rebellious root in me I act as if I am above that. 

Do you see the pride in my heart?!?

It is foul and wrong.

That ought to embarrass us me.

But the world tells us to stay angry.  Stay puffed up.  "How dare someone correct you?"

So we do.  We look like everyone else. 

How is this behavior like my Jesus?

I want so badly to be open to correction. To be someone that is not easily offended.

Let me take this even further...I have just described a situation in my life where someone had to appropriately correct me. 

What about when we get falsely accused?  What about when someone corrects something in us and they are just completely off base?

This presents another opportunity to be set apart and different.

Christ would not have flown off the handle and flipped out.  He would not have pouted for days and held a grudge against that person.  He would have said little and prayed much.  How would have turned that cheek and shown kindness.

THIS sets us apart.

So here is the truth that is going to hurt you just as it did me.


We want to be offended.
We want to hold grudges.
We want to talk bad about people.
We want to shift the focus and blame to someone else....
We believe that is easier.

Why?  So we don't have to deal with the root of pride in our own hearts. 

It is that simple.

I am 37 years old.
I am crazy about Jesus.
He has changed my life and set me free.
I love people.
I love God's Word.

But I AM NOT perfect.

I got in trouble.  I got called out.

And here is the truth:  it was good for me.

"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me." Matthew 5:11

"Love is not easily offended." 1 Corinthians 5:13

Proverbs 6:23
23 For this command is a lamp,
    this teaching is a light,
and correction and instruction
    are the way to life,
Proverbs 15:31-33
31 Whoever heeds life-giving correction
    will be at home among the wise.
32 Those who disregard discipline despise themselves,
    but the one who heeds correction gains understanding.
33 Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord,
    and humility comes before honor.