“If there is a load You have to bear That you can’t carry, I’m right up the road I’ll share your load If you just call me.” (1972) “Lean On Me” Recorded & Written By: Bill Withers
Sometimes in life, a picture truly paints a thousand words. At other times, a picture is not so much a canvas painting, but rather a mirror, reflecting the depths of one’s very soul.
Before you scroll away, just know this isn’t a political post, or even a blame-game for pundits to chew on. Keep reading.
In case you’ve been living in a cave, you might not know there are literally hundreds of cargo ships anchored off the coasts of the United States. Some have been there for many weeks now, while others just arrived yesterday. Their holds are far from empty.
They are all loaded down waiting to pull into our various ports to shed their cargo. Unfortunately, they sit out on the waves unable to come alongside our docks. Stacked up on these ships are everything that’s imported from other countries, toys, clothing, wine, lumber, cell phones, furniture, hardware, etc. Experts, with their heads in commerce and economics, tell us how this issue is a combination surrounding the degrading of supply and demand, inflation, backlash of COVID vaccine mandates, politics, lack of workers to receive and transport the awaiting goods, and more I won’t list here. So, in the end, everything becomes slow and pricey. Supplies become missing from the shelves. Retail businesses, factories, and restaurants are forced to lay-off workers, or shut down. And of course, we, the consumers, feel the pinch. It’s truly a first in U.S. history.
There are moments in my life when a visual grabs me. Does it seem possible that one can feel emptied by a full load of heavy burdens? Yes, at the risk of creating an oxymoron, when emptied, heavy cargo seems to be the cause.
Like the loaded down cargo ships, my burdens tend to keep me out to sea way too long. How about you? Yet, unlike the vacant commercial ports keeping the captains waiting within U.S. waters, there is one dock waving His arms with the invitation to pull up anchor and head for land,
When I am so loaded down with depression, anger, sadness, anxiety, uncertainty, uneasiness, unrest, and tons of inventory which doesn’t belong on my back, Jesus reminds me of His everlasting arms. He has the eternal ability to not only guide my ship into port, but unload the poundage which keeps me adrift.
When needing a safe haven of rest, look no further than fuel for the race.
“Come unto me, all of you who labor and are forced to bear burdens, and I shall give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am peaceful and meek in my heart and you will find rest for your souls.” -Jesus- Matthew 11:28-29 (Aramaic Bible In Plain English(
“If the sky that we look upon Should tumble and fall Or the mountain should crumble to the sea I won’t cry, I won’t cry No, I won’t shed a tear Just as long as you stand, stand by me” (1961) “Stand By Me” Recorded By: Ben E. King Composes: Ben E. King, Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller
Did I catch you singing? Yeah, me too. WARNING: You’ll be singing it all day now.
The song, “Stand By Me” was inspired by, and derived from, a Christian song from the great, Sam Cooke & J.W. Alexander. The original was entitled, “Stand By Me Father”, and was written based upon Psalm 46:2-3. Sometimes a music hit is more than meets the ear.
Imagine for a moment that your world, and everything you built your life upon, crashes down all around your head and shoulders, where all things, seemingly solid, tumble and fall. Deep depression settles in like a thick black velvet blanket, with the exception of the fact it’s cold, not warm. Have you ever been there? I have, a few times.
During 2020’s COVID-19 crisis, many across the world have lost everything. Many are now without health, family, loved ones, houses, property, businesses, churches, neighbors, and so much more. It could be one of your trusted neighbors called 911 on you due to how many cars showed up at your house on Thanksgiving. (Truly joyful, grateful people, aren’t they?) If you are one of these smitten by the virus, you know the dull ache of loss due to something you could not control, nor could you escape.
An old friend of mine was bamboozled, broadsided, and bombarded by a tsunami of forces he didn’t see coming, nor could he escape the swinging demolition balls, nor could he control their power and pain. Steamrollers have a way of flattening you…not the curve.
I call this old friend, “old” because his story comes from the oldest biblical manuscript known. The poetic Book of Job is lengthy, and full of sorrow until the end of his ordeal. In a nutshell, Job was a wealthy, honorable man, full of righteous ways, and a full house of children, 10 in all. His marriage was solid, and had a list of many friends. Everyone looked up to Job. God was very pleased with Job and his life.
It’s important to understand, Lucifer, the adversary, was restricted from wrecking Job’s world. I love that! Obviously, the man was guarded from satanic schemes of destruction. It’s an odd scene for us, on this side of the stained glass, but this fallen angel challenged God, using Job as the subject. He wanted the Creator to allow him to tinker with Job’s life. God’s enemy swore that when he was finished with Job, he would no longer worship Him because of bitterness, rage, and a broken faith. I’ve always found it a mystery why God agreed to the experiment concerning Job. He did lay down a line that was not to be crossed. Job’s divine Shepherd gave a stipulation that Satan could not take Job’s physical life. The agreement was inked and off went the unshackled fallen one to do what he wished. Did he send his minions of shadow people to haunt and scare Job and family? If only. Nope. No Halloween tricks for Job, but rather authentic exploits of fright and terror.
If you know the record of Job’s onslaught of destruction, then you know well the hell-on-earth the poor man took on the chin. I won’t list all of the arrows which pierced Job’s existence, but I would say most of humanity never saw what Job experienced.
His vast property was shredded and burned. All of his offspring met a violent tornado, perishing under a collapsed house. Job was robbed of his numerous and varied livestock, way up in the thousands of all kinds, was gone by fire or sword, leaving him in poverty. His hired hands were slaughtered by thieves and marauders. He became very ill, close to death himself. Racked in pain from huge boils which covered his body, his friends urged him to confess his hidden sins for relief from the devilish curses, even though Job was not guilty of gross sins. Their narrative went so far as to accuse him of being godless. (With friends like that…) His wife’s eroding spirit broke, causing her to demand that he curse God and die. He refused her shameful advice. Although Job questioned God in his torment and grief, the poor man held to his love for his Creator.
“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him…” Job 13:15a (KJV)
If Job’s story ended there, I would hang up my shield of faith forever, but there’s more.
God’s amazing personal encouragement to the battered Job reads like nothing else penned by mankind. Although God’s response covers many chapters, it is so worth the gleaning. It serves a 2020 generation well. Truly, there is nothing else like it.
Eventually, the demonic realm could not prove their projected case. God put a stop to the waves of anguish. He rewarded the faithful Job with all he had lost, and then some, by multiplying over and above what he once held dear to an abundance none had ever witnessed. He was the wealthiest man alive in his times. For Job’s day and culture, he was a billionaire…without all the corruption.
Being the earliest manuscript in the Bible, Job gave us the first human view of Christmas while sitting among the ruins. It came in Job 19, after a couple of so-called friends berated him in chapter 18. As Job responded to their emotional word-salad, Job spoke the following words which are now rich in the writings of scholars and composers across time and space to this very day…
“For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God…” Job 19:25-26 (KJV)
Did you catch it?
This man of antiquity speaks of a faith in the hereafter through a resurrection which includes his own physical body. Most astonishingly, he mentions something his friends must have been floored by. “…and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth…” WOW, says anyone who once read where God walked in the Garden of Eden in Genesis. Job knew of the event of Adam and Eve, and God physically walking in the garden at will, but THIS was an advent to come. Job had the audacity to speak of God’s feet standing, once again, on the planet in Job’s “someday”. Job, in his day, was envisioning the future, but for us, it’s already occurred.
Thousands of years later, about 3 BC, Job’s prophecy came true. Most date the birth of Jesus around 4 BC. Certainly, by 3 BC, a baby Jesus was learning to use his feet and legs to stand and walk. We know this because after the account of His birth, the scripture states…
“… And as Jesus grew older He gained in both wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man. …” Luke 2:52 (Weymouth New Testament)
(Biblically, outside of His infancy, we only have one scene of His childhood written down for us.)
I wonder if Jesus ever visited Job’s graveside. If so, I can imagine Jesus “standing” at the tombstone and saying something like, “Job, blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
Because Job’s twofold prophecy was unveiled at the first Christmas, we also wait for the promised second unveiling as His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, just across the valley opposite the Jerusalem gates. In fact, circumstances will be different. When Jesus’ little feet toddled about the house, in His meekness, it was more of a silent event. Zechariah’s prophecy details how His feet will touch the Mount of Olives in the future before walking into Jerusalem. The very act will create an earthquake, splitting the ground beneath His step. Incredible to picture it without a good dose of CGI. (In biblical times they had no way of knowing about the fault line running straight through the Mount of Olives, just east of Jerusalem.) It’s then, the ruins of life will be made new. My ruins, your ruins.
Christmas was wrapped first by fuel for the race.
“As it has been written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those proclaiming good news of good things!'” Romans 10:15b (Berean Literal Bible)
“…You know, feelin’ good was good enough for me Good enough for me and my Bobby McGee.” (1969) “Me and Bobby McGee” Composer: Kris Kristofferson
(This is my first time using the new block editor. Forgive me if this post falls short in format.)
It was August of 1961 in Berlin, Germany. My uncle, 21 year old, Bobby Atherton, guarded his post as a proud American Army soldier, keeping an eye on the barbed wire, followed by the concrete. Piece by piece he observed the Berlin wall being built, separating east and west Germany. It was a horrific time for the German people, and others. His heart broke when individuals ran across areas not yet walled up only to be captured or shot dead where they stood. When ordered, he was often the driver of the jeep transporting the generals from one place to another during this world-shaking event. With his rifle slung over his shoulder, he would daydream about his home back in Texas, his wife and his baby boy, Woody. He spent 3-4 years there before coming home safely into the loving arms of his family.
Some thirty years later, my mom (his baby sister) and I, gave him a ping-pong ball sized piece of the Berlin Wall. It was a part of the rubble left behind when the wall came down in November of 1991. I will always recall seeing his eyes fill with tears as he held his gift and thought back on those trying times in Berlin.
I don’t remember his army days as I, and his son, Woody, were just toddlers at the time. That is not to say my mind and heart isn’t full of precious memories of him. I could spend a few pages writing down mental video clips with Bob Atherton as the headlining star. Most of them surround his willingness to serve. He knew what servanthood meant when the rubber hit the road. He was incredibly intelligent, especially in the arena of mechanics, electronics, and computers. He brought those talents to his parents house whenever something needed repairing, replacing, or removing. You could say he was the handyman for my grandparents, especially as the years took their toll. He was always there at a moments notice.
Although he had a soft heart, most just witnessed his well-known rough exterior. I remember being a bit afraid of him when I was a kid. He was loving, but he also knew when to lower the boom if he thought the boom should be lowered. He was tough on his two sons, Woody and Little Bobby. Frankly, as I got to be a teen, I felt he was too tough on my cousins. But let me be clear, he was never abusive. Being without a dad, I always looked up to him. He always made it easier hearing him call me, “son” all my life.
Once or twice the very blunt pastor of their church offended him. At some point, he made the decision to abstain from church services, but never leaving his personal faith in Jesus as The Savior. So, it was the norm to see him drive my Aunt Ellen to church on Sundays, then waiting in the church parking lot for her to make her exit when services concluded. You might say he was always a sensitive sort, much like me, which often caused him to run from the church and its pulpit politics. Jesus wasn’t into preacher’s politics, and Bob wasn’t either.
Through their 61 year marriage, my Aunt Ellen developed many, many heath issues. Her husband, Bob was incredibly loyal, with the heart of a nurse. Throughout the decades he took great care of her, tending to her every need. Those needs were many. From doctors visits, to cooking meals, whatever she needed, he was Bobby-On-The-Spot. Around 1988, or so, she was hit with a stroke. They placed her in a Dallas hospital just a few blocks from the radio station I worked for at the time. I recall getting off the air and rushing to the hospital where I would find Bob sitting in her room, or outside in the hallway all by himself. I returned each day she was there, spending some excellent quality time bonding with my uncle for the first time ever. It was a dark time in their lives, yet our relationship brightened.
A few short years ago, he grappled with throat cancer. Not too long after he won that battle, he began to slip into dementia, followed by full-blown Alzheimer’s, just like his mom before him. Suddenly he was the one in need. While in the jaws of this long-goodbye disease, his throat cancer returned to my already weakened uncle. The family had watched my grandmother go through the stages of Alzheimer’s over a span of some 14 years. We knew what to expect, what to look for, what to prepare for. The disease is so unkind, and certainly not a respecter of persons. It was so hard watching this strong, healthy, old soldier waste away.
Yet, at the same time, his loving kindness broke through the shackles of this disease. It was amazing to witness. One of the aspects was his displays of affection. He so loved just holding your hand if you were within reach.
Over the last couple of years Bob enjoyed sitting out on the front porch just watching the cars go by. He had a couple of Harley Davidson motorcycles over the decades, taking cross-country road trips. Any time one rumbled by, his eyes would sparkle and shine.
Alas, I have another cousin I don’t talk much about. From his teenage years he turned to drugs and crime for his life. He has been in and out of county jail and/or prison so many times I have lost count. He has been known to steal money and property from his own parents, grandparents, and even yours truly. He is abusive and untrustworthy. He can, and has been been violent. He can be a great con artist when it suits him. He is good at using people. But most of all, now at 50 years old, he has rubbed his life and mind away with his choice of lifestyle. One day, while my uncle sat in his chair out on the porch, along with his loving daughter-in-law (who is one of his care-givers) this particular cousin walked down the street, fresh out of jail once again, and stopped at the house when he recognized his ailing uncle out on the porch. He took the opportunity to cross the lawn to approach our mutual uncle. He asked for a glass of water. At this point of the scene, I should tell you my Uncle Bob was at a stage where he didn’t recognize most extended family members. Not to mention, his crime-ridden nephew had aged a lot, even to the point of being unrecognizable to many of us. When Bob greeted this stranger on foot, he reacted by getting up, went in the house and retrieved a glass of water for his long-lost nephew. I am happy to say, my cousin, for whatever reason, drank the water, handed the glass back to him and walked away without causing any trouble. Shortly after, Bob sat down and went to sleep.
For Bob Atherton, even in the firm grasp of Alzheimer’s, all he saw was a tired, worn man who asked for a glass of water, water he knew he could give. It’s just fascinating to me that even while on his way to the final stage of this devastating killer disease, Bob Atherton saw a need and felt the call to fill it. Even then. Part of me wants to say the Uncle Bob I knew would have recognized his con artist nephew and would’ve briskly shown him the curb. The other part of me wants to say he wouldn’t have been able to refuse his nephew a glass of water. (He might’ve returned to the porch with a glass of water in one hand and a pistol in the other.) Nevertheless, Bob didn’t allow a concrete wall to divide his heart when he saw a need which required kindness, humility, and a helping hand.
We lost Uncle Bob to this disease a few days ago, August the 8th, at 81 years old while asleep in his bedroom. He had an appointment, and he kept it. Strike up the band. Another soldier went home.
This quiet strong man taught this fatherless boy many things without even realizing it. I have seen too much when it comes to the righteous meeting death. I have learned it is possible to show a heart of humility toward others even when the mind is gone.
The day he passed, I wrote a quick tribute on my Facebook page. My cousin Woody read it aloud at the graveside service. It reads like this…
“Some are kind, but stern. Some are courageous, but quiet. Some are loving by action, but sharp when needed. Some are wise, but hesitant to reveal it. Some are highly intelligent, but unwilling to boast or parade. Some have been filled with compassion, but unwilling to showcase deeds. Some are warmly welcoming, but won’t hesitate to show the exit door when appropriate. Some shed tears for others, but do so privately to God. Such a man was my Uncle Bob Atherton. Oh, if I could only measure up.”
A life well lived begins with fuel for the race.
“Does the LORD take delight in thousands of rams, In ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:7-8 (NAS)
“You don’t know me but I’m your brother. I was raised here in this living hell. You don’t know my kind in your world. Fairly soon the time will tell. You – Telling me the things you’re gonna do for me. I ain’t blind and I don’t like what I think I see. (Takin’ it to the streets) Takin’ it to the streets…” (1976) “Takin’ It To The Streets” Recorded by: The Doobie Brothers Composer: Michael McDonald
Oh, but blindness is a secret ingredient in our sour bread today.
A text dinged my phone late Friday night. It was my daughter, Megan. She lives in downtown Buffalo, NY. She informed me about a rioting mob coming down her street and how she was on her way to move her curb-parked car before the mob arrived. Although she found a safer place to park her car, other properties around her didn’t do so well in the wake of the raging rioters. The following morning she explained how the smashing of storefront windows, in concert with the screaming and yelling, kept her awake all night long. In the light of day she left her apartment to find shops, restaurants, and car windows smashed, along with burned-out vehicles from arsonists. Her heart was broken over the businesses she frequents. Many of the owners are her friends. Megan attacked the broken glass on the walkways with a broom to aid in the aftermath. She’s a great gal, if I do say so myself.
Of course, this all helped her to understand just how to honor the family of the late, George Floyd, mercilessly killed at the hands of Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day. I’m certain she will now want to destroy the lives around her the very next time a rogue city employee invokes a racist action. After all, isn’t that what is in vogue currently? Shouldn’t we burn down the local drug store where your son, grandmother, or dad purchases insulin? If you hear one racial slur, or just hear about it second hand, no doubt you will break the windows of a mom & pop clothing store, and loot everything you can grab. While you’re at it, take selfies of yourself holding up the stolen goods so it can be stored in the cloud to find you guilty in a future court of law. In fact, whatever out-of-state wrongdoing we hear about, let’s just drive to the next town over to throw firebombs at the closest law enforcement officer standing on any given street corner. (You know, the officer who has a spouse and three kids waiting at home.) In this way, after accomplishment, we can proudly say, “There! That will teach the *#@%!! wrongdoer I heard about from a state on the other side of the *#@%!! nation!”
It was heart-ripping to watch the brutality which ended in the murder of George Floyd of Minneapolis. Like most, I felt the boil in my belly as shock and dismay were overcome by raw anger. The action of the criminal cops was nothing short of outrageous, evil, and abominable. If the lady who holds up the scales in the courthouse is awake, I am certain justice will be served.
As I write this, there is a planned protest underway at our local police station here in our northern suburb of Dallas, Tx. America’s freedoms allow such peaceful protests. It is the way of our constitutional rights to do so, to speak openly and freely, without fear of governmental reprisals, or any other citizen who may have another viewpoint. It was written long ago in the infancy of our nation to freely assemble, to freely speak, even in “peaceful” protest of our government, local or federal. Our founders believed these rights were given to us by God, nature’s God. This indicates that no person, nor a person’s government, nor king, gave us these rights. We (humanity) inherited them from our Creator from the beginning. If the “peaceful” protesters, a couple miles from me, keep that in mind, maybe my house will not be burned down tonight.
This would be the same God who also put in writing that it is a sin to steal, kill, and destroy your neighbor. In other words, when we review this carefully we can see that if we have these rights given by God, then we certainly can say this God is firmly against viciously raping the rights of a neighbor while stealing, killing, and destroying. Lawlessness has a heavy price tag. It’s important to note in our day and culture the following…
GOD IS NOT SCHIZOPHRENIC!
Check my archives. Many times I have written about the scourge of racism. What we witnessed in Minneapolis was a hate crime, in my opinion. Of course, the courts will have to decide this based on the evidence at hand. However, what we have faced in recent days in our country has ZERO to do with racism, or even the tragic slaughter of George Floyd. I know, there will be some who say it has everything to do with it. But I dare you to be honest in a bout of reconsideration. Follow me on this.
Martin Luther King, Jr knew and exercised peaceful protests. An incredible man following God’s heart for the people of this nation under God. Efforts to “take down” America, using a scorched earth method in our streets, is not the protest MLK approved of. In fact, if you read his writings, listen to his sermons, you will find it would grieve him greatly.
Our peaceful protests have been hijacked by anarchists who have a vision of the destruction of America. And don’t be fooled. Our enemies are circling like birds of prey to see if self-engineered anarchy can leave this nation in ruin, especially so quickly after the COVID-19 pandemic.
There is a great darkness over our land today. This is a spiritual problem. I watch these 20 year old hooded puppets of the anarchists, anarchists who cowardly hide behind a curtain, mindlessly hellbent on devouring America and my heart hurts. Most are teens and up to 30 years old or so. They are full of a rage they don’t even understand, although they are directed to believe they understand. So, like a master instrumentalist playing a flute, they teach the torching of the cafe and shoe store their grandparents helped to build. Most are drunk in the thrill of the flames, the shattered glass, the stolen property, along with bodily harm to the innocent. Not once do these young minds of mush think about what comes next if they succeed. Do you think that they really know? The reality is, they would find themselves enslaved to another form of government that deletes their rights, decays their open future for the better, and defies the God Who gave them such liberty of law for the pursuit of happiness. Endless poverty like they’ve never known. Tyrannic brutality beyond modern-day description. Not to mention, they will be forced to the front lines of a nuclear conflict to come in short order.
I watch them and see they have no fear of God. The fear of a Supreme One, who dictates the times, laws, and steps of nations, is not in these street puppets. The Minneapolis officers displayed no fear of God during the memorial Day murder of George Floyd. Once based on the Almighty, this country suffers from the willingness of ejecting the Great I Am of scripture for the role of a marionette.
A nation without the fear of its Creator is a spiraling one. It’s been proven over and over again. God, help us all.
Hard lessons are rolled up in the scrolls of fuel for the race.
“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people.” – Proverbs 14:34 (NIV)