Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Key Point

I had bought my first brand new vehicle, a shiny black pickup truck. It had been washed umpteen times since I drove it off the dealer’s lot, but now that the odometer had surpassed the 3000 mile mark, and it was time for my baby’s first oil change. Loading up the family, we took off for a nearby shopping center. After I dropped the wife and kids off to shop, I headed for the center’s tire and lube garage and drove into the bay where the technicians started immediately going to work on my pride and joy.

Watching from the customer waiting area as my truck was hoisted into the air, I saw the old oil draining from the crankcase. Although it didn’t have the blackness of used oil I was accustomed to seeing from the old heaps I was used to driving, I was glad to be following the manufacturers’ recommendation and having the job done as prescribed. I anxiously observed every movement the workers made until the job was finished, much like a new father taking his son to the barber for his first real haircut.

I went to pay for the work as one of the technicians drove my truck out of the garage area and parked it in the lot beside the garage. Settling the bill and having an extra set of keys made for the truck, I went out, got in the truck, wouldn’t start. The engine cranked and cranked and cranked, but as if it was out of gas, it would not fire. Completely baffled, I went back inside and spoke to the manager, who promptly went out to start my truck himself and got the same results.

The service manager and I then began to exchange viewpoints on the responsibility of the non-starting condition of my practically brand new truck. My thinking was the truck was perfectly fine before his mechanics’ hands laid their hands on it. He made the point that his mechanic drove it out of the bay area and the trouble seemed to occur after I got behind the wheel to go home. We became mutually infuriated, standing nose to nose, eyeball to eyeball, lashing out at one another. I finally said something like, "Look bub, all I did was pay for the job, have an extra key made for the truck, and get in it, and now it won’t start." "You had a new key made inside?" "Yeah!" The manager looked suddenly like he’d been revealed the hidden secrets of the universe...

Several Bible passages comment on the situation I found myself in with the service manager that day. James 1:19 tells us clearly we "should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry" (NIV), which neither one of us followed on any count. Both of us could have benefitted from the advice given in Proverbs 15:1, which says, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (NIV). There was plenty of wrath and harsh words being spewed that afternoon, let me tell you. And of course, I must confess, both parties violated "In your anger, do not sin" (Ephesians 4:26, NIV). The worst part for me was my children witnessing the entire fiasco.

...The manager asked me for my old set of keys, which I dug out of my pocket and handed him. He climbed back into my truck and proceeded start the engine, using my old keys. He shut the engine off and got out. "These new trucks have a special micro-chip in the key. The keys we make here will turn the ignition, but without that micro-chip, the engine won’t turn over. Only the dealership can make you those kind of keys" We both looked at each other foolishly, our faces still red from the anger in which we’d been entangled. He turned to leave. I started to get in the truck, but turned back toward him, shouting, "HEY!" "Now what?" he replied, the blood starting to reenter his face..."Do I get my money back for the key?" Neither of us could contain our sheepish grins.

Friday, January 13, 2012

You Gotta Have Friends...

The other night, Teri asked me, "How many Facebook friends do you have?" I really didn’t know, exactly, so I looked and found I had 364 friends. I lack one friend of having a friend for every day of the year! I started looking down my list of friends, and I realized that practically every aspect of my life is represented on Facebook through these 364 individuals. Not counting immediate family, I have FB friends that I’ve known since I was seven years old to the present, covering the last 45 years of my life.

 Those few I knew way back when, I’m still very close to (funny how that works, huh). I started categorizing the list and found that my hometown is responsible for a great many of my friends, having more than a few that grew up or still live in Fort Scott, Kansas. Several were people that I’d worked with over my career with the Bureau of Prisons. I have many FB friends that are or were named Povenmire whom I’ve never met. The name is unusual and I try to keep a family tree. Thus, I’ve reached out and made contact with these distant relatives. There are, of course, immediate family and their spouses and extended families on the list, as well as relatives of friends. I’ve met some friends through other friends on Facebook. I have friends from Ecuador and Peru that I met last summer on a mission trip. All in all, Facebook has assembled quite a diverse cross section of my life.

I’m a big fan of the movie we watch every year at Christmas time, "It’s a Wonderful Life." My favorite line from the movie is when George Bailey’s guardian angel Clarence tells him "Strange, isn’t it. Each man's life touches so many other lives...In this instance, looking at my list of friends, I got to reflecting how each one of their lives had touched my own.

The Book of Proverbs has a lot of useful thoughts on the relationships we should maintain, and a few about the ones we should avoid. Proverbs 12:26 says "One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray." I hope I have been as good a guide to others as many have been to me. I’ve also had those in my life lead me astray, but I’ve probably been guilty of that with others, too.

Proverbs 13:20 says, "Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm." I’m afraid I’ve been on both sides of this passage, as well.

One area that we could all improve on, to some degree, is found in Proverbs 19:20: "Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future."

I’m thankful for those who’ve given me wise counsel over the years. I’ve felt the benefits of Proverbs 27:17, which tells us, "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another."

Looking over my list of Facebook friends brought a lot of smiles with the warm memories that existed. God blesses our lives with the people that He puts in our pathways of life. Some walk with us for a short while and others are there for the duration. But, believing God can use all things, all people in any situation, suddenly those that walk alongside us at any given time increase in significance. God is at work in our lives through the people around us and using us in their lives as well. I don’t know about you, but I don’t appreciate that fact nearly enough.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tim Tebow...

By now, Denver Bronco quarterback Tim Tebow is probably a pretty familiar name to you. If not, Tebow is not only the starting quarterback for the Broncos, but also a highly publicized, and often scrutinized player. Tebow is sized up not only for his football skills, but probably more so for his spiritual life. He’s a devout Christian and lets the world know it. He gives glory to God for all his successes in life and there have been many.  In college, Tebow’s Florida Gators won two national championships and he was awarded the Heisman Trophy as the sport’s outstanding player.

This year for the Broncos, he’s taken a woefully bad team and turned them around, winning their conference championship and last week defeating the heavily favored Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round of the NFL playoffs.

The television cameras are seemingly transfixed on the man, especially when he drops to a knee and prays as is often does before, during, and after games.  The posture of him praying has become such a common sight that it has a name of its own:  tebowing. There is a website,, where you can submit a picture of yourself tebowing.   Kids have been cited for tebowing in the middle of their hallways at school, causing undue bottlenecks.

It all looks like a lot of harmless fun, I suppose. But I can’t help but see another side of the tebowing craze. The other night on the local newscast, there was a story on Tim Tebow, the phenomenal success he’s had this year in football, and the whole fad of tebowing. Okay... But at the end of the report, both of the local anchorwomen and the weather man were shown in posed pictures of themselves tebowing. They were all laughing hilariously at themselves in the pictures. I found it bothersome and, at the risk of using a heavily overused term these days, offensive.

Making mockery of Christian prayer is something that I had a hard time getting past. I couldn’t imagine mocking a Muslim on his prayer rug being acceptable behavior, nor should it be. But no one seems to think a thing of an imitative derision of a Christian in prayer.
I began to wonder how we’d gotten to this stage, where prayer was taken so lightly. I thought of times when people suffer difficulties, people often say they’ll keep that person in their "thoughts and prayers." It’s a comfortable expression, almost like it’s okay to mention prayer, as long as it’s coupled with thoughts. It’s not a bad saying, per se, but I find more comfort in "I’ll be praying for you about that," when I’m that person in need. I used to have a pastor who would look me in the eye and say, "I’m praying for you as we speak," in those situations. Anyone who knew the man at all, knew he meant exactly what he said. 

Oftentimes, we hear someone say something like, "Well, the least we can do is pray," when just the opposite is the truth. Prayer is the most you can do, bringing our needs to the highest possible Power. James 5:16 says, "…The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." In 1Thessalonians 5:16-17, we’re told to "Be joyful always; pray continually..."   I’m thankful for someone like Tim Tebow, who despite the ridicule the world tosses his way, practices these verses far better than I do.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Guilty as Sin

Sometimes, my mother had an interesting way of getting to the bottom of something. With three boys in the house, whenever something was amiss, she had three likely suspects. She practiced fair and balanced justice, too. All were considered guilty until the actual culprit was identified through confession or coercion of the other two to confess to the crime. I was the little guy in the group, so the pressure to fess up probably seemed greater to me, I suppose.

 So mom would just wait, and wait, and sometimes wait some more until one of us would step forward and say "I did it." It generally took an hour or so, but usually someone took the blame...usually. There was a time or two, as I recall, that no one came forward. Whether it was because the crime was too great or the anticipated punishment too sizable, none of us three brothers wanted to own up to being guilty. Those times, mom carried fairness and equality to the next level...everyone would receive discipline for the crime. In her eyes, I guess, we were all guilty...guilty as sin.

Some people have trouble fully understanding the reason Christ had to die on a cross for our sins. From Adam and Eve’s fall in the garden, mankind has been guilty of carrying a sinful nature that we just can’t escape. Romans 3:23 states our condition clearly, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," leaving no wriggle room whatsoever for our condition. Our greatest need is a savior to deliver us from the penalty of our sin, because Romans 6:23 tells us plainly "the wages of sin is death..." But God provides for this need as Romans 5:8 states, "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." The reception of this act of grace isn’t complicated, either. The promise in Romans 10:13 is just as clear as the rest of this Roman road, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

My brothers and I sat under a cloud of suspicion as my mother awaited a confession. In her eyes, all of us were guilty until one of us stepped forward. What was unlikely to happen back then, though, was for someone else to step forward for us. Someone who would take the punishment for the rest of us, though they were completely guiltless. I guess it would have been like He who knew no sin dying for the sins of the rest of us.