Telling It Like It Is Is Overrated

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People who really like Donald Trump always say the same thing.

“I like Donald Trump because he tells it like it is.”

Good. But is telling it like it is really all the qualifications one needs to become president?

One time I was walking through a church when I noticed a teacher and what appeared to be a group of kindergartners standing out in the hallway. One of those kindergartners had his eyes locked on me the entire time that it took me to walk the 30 feet or so to where he and his classmates were standing. It was hard to ignore. I couldn’t just keep on walking while some kid was staring at me. What if he wanted my autograph?

I walked up to him, patted him on the head and said, “Hey, buddy.”

His eyes were still fixed on me.

Finally, he spoke.

“You’re ugly.”

That kid told it like it is. But, under no circumstances, do I want him to be our next president.

What we need is someone who can tell it like it is but in a nice, graceful way. Almost every woman at my childhood church is qualified to be our next president.

None of them ever told me that I was ugly. They just said, “Bless your heart.”

“Bless your heart,” is southern lady talk that is loosely interpreted as, “You’re a big idiot but I’m too nice and you’re too sorry for me to tell you.” Now that’s what I call grace.

Imagine how that would work out on the world stage.

Iran: “We would like for you to give us all of your weapons and allow us to make more powerful ones for ourselves. If not, we will blow up the sun, Cobra Commander style.”

President Sunday School Teacher Lady: “Bless your heart.”

Iran: “What is this heart you speak of? And why am I crying? Here, take our weapons.”

See how that works? No bombs. No sanctions. No Donald. Just a lady saying, “Bless your heart.” And sometimes, the really good ones don’t even have to say the phrase. They can just make the Bless Your Heart Face. When done properly, it is just as effective at crushing overly-confident men.

Trust me on this.

I see that face almost every time I try to use the self-checkout line at Wal-Mart.

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The Terribly Offensive Truth About Our Monuments

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Every American, it seems, is offended by something. It’s our new national pastime.

Each day, someone new wants to do something to Stone Mountain. Last week the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP announced that they wanted the image on the side of the mountain sandblasted off or somehow torn off and sold to the highest bidder.

This week, Michael Julian Bond, an Atlanta city councilman, has joined in on all the fun. He suggested that other famous Georgians should be added along with the image that is already there.

Some call the image of Davis, Lee and Jackson offensive. Others call it downright racist. One commenter who relocated to the south from the enlightened city of Chicago called it “backwards.”

Here’s the thing we forget about our monuments and statues. All of the men they honor are terribly flawed. All of them. Terribly.

Consider just one of those terribly flawed men.

He imprisoned thousands of citizens, clergy and journalists from his own country simply because they spoke out against his policies.

He censored communications between private citizens.

He used the military to interfere with elections.

He confiscated firearms from citizens.

He had a political opponent deported.

He said this. Read it very carefully.

“I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and black races. There is a physical difference between the two, which, in my judgment, will probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of perfect equality; and inasmuch as it becomes a necessity that there must be a difference, I, as well as Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position. I have never said anything to the contrary.”

And, finally, you can ask any surviving members of the Santee Sioux Indians how they feel about this man and his monuments. But good luck finding any because he had a few hundred of them killed.

There appears to be quite a significant difference between Abraham Lincoln and good old Honest Abe that you learned about in school. Even still, I’m not expecting the Lincoln Memorial to be removed from Washington D.C. and sold to the highest bidder anytime soon.

Robert E. Lee was flawed. So was Honest Abe. So is your grandfather. You are too. And so am I.

Scratch deep enough through the bronze, clay, granite, plaster and mythology and, just as sure as the devil, you’ll find the dirt. It appears as though no human being can live up to the allegedly high standards we have set for our monuments.

Well, there is one human being worthy of such honor. One who lived his whole life without sin.

But we could never put up a monument devoted to him in front of the capital building.

It might offend someone.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)

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I Sure Am Going To Miss That Old House

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When you live in San Francisco and people come to visit, they want you to take them to the Golden Gate Bridge. Every town, no matter how small, has it’s own Golden Gate Bridge, the place where you take people when they come from out of town. In the tiny town of Warm Springs, Georgia during the early morning hours of Wednesday, June 10, the Golden Gate Bridge burned down.

It was called the Bulloch House. And for the better part of a decade, it was my second home.

I was a single man living in rural midwest Georgia. I knew how to cook two things, cereal and hot dogs. Occasionally, as you might imagine, that got old. Several times a week, I went out looking for food. But it was more than just food that I was looking for. In some small way, I was looking for home. When I first walked in to the Bulloch House, I found what I was looking for.

Home.

I had a lot of meals there over the years. I ate with preachers there. I went there for lunch after church on Sunday afternoons with what seemed like everyone else in midwest Georgia. But mostly, I ate there with friends.

Chris and I talked about everything that was wrong in the world of music while we ate fried chicken.

While the country was still trying to figure out who would be our next president after the 2000 elections, Merv and I went over the worst case scenarios while eating mashed potatoes. The lady who wrote The Hunger Games must have been listening in on us.

Rob and I spent hours there trying to sell Kyle and Charlie on the excellence that is Georgia Bulldogs football while eating six layer chocolate cake. We were unsuccessful. But the cake was good.

Not everyone liked the Bulloch House as much as I did. As they saw it, there was no point in going out for food when Grandma and Mom had cooked something better at home with what Dad and Grandpa had grown in the garden. Maybe they had a point. But geography, Parkinson’s Disease and the grave made it impossible for me to get one of those home cooked meals that went straight from the garden to the table. That’s why I went to the next best thing.

My second home.

The Bulloch House.

It’s been almost ten years since I left midwest Georgia. My first place of residence after leaving was the big city of Louisville, Kentucky. It didn’t take long up there before I went on another search for food. I found a couple of restaurants that featured authentic southern cooking. But it wasn’t the same. The food was overpriced. It didn’t taste as good. And the people weren’t as nice. For the most part, authentic southern cooking in a big city is along the lines of fresh lobster Missouri. It’s just not possible.

Eventually, we made it back down south. One of the first trips that I went on with my friends from church was a long drive halfway across the state to eat at the Bulloch House. This time, instead of talking about sports and politics, I was sitting next to my wife, cutting up chicken for my two sons and sharing laughs with new friends.

Things have changed a lot since the days when I called the Bulloch House my kitchen. I don’t eat out that much anymore. As I see it, why go out when my wife can cook what I grew in the garden. I have become my grandparents. I don’t need a second home anymore.

But back then I did need a second home. And I’m happy to say that it was the Bulloch House. I sure am going to miss that old house.

It’s been said that you can’t go home again.

Now that the Bulloch House is gone, that’s never been more true.

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Happy Monday: I Never Got To Meet Martin Luther King Jr.

The world is on fire. Everyone is mad at someone. Riots are all the rage. Tensions are high. Wars are trendy. And it’s Monday.

With all of that, it’s hard to find a reason to be thankful. Unless you stop to take a look at the things you’ll never see on the news.

1. At dinner earlier this week my son said the blessing. He thanked God for Martin Luther King standing up for what’s right. While he was praying, George Strait was playing on our radio. I’m thankful for that small but significant piece of diversity and the conversation it produced.

2. A friend at church is a retired cop from a major American city. When he was on the force he answered to a sergeant who did not like him. My friend is white. His boss was black. Both assumed that the other was a racist. One day my friend waited outside of his boss’ office. He wanted to make things right. His boss finally came in wearing only half of his uniform. His plan that day was to get dressed in his office. Instead, he had to deal with my friend, the man he didn’t like.

“How can I make things right so that we can get along?” my friend asked his sergeant.

“We’re okay,” the sergeant replied. And then he hugged my friend.

My friend was worried what people might think if they walked by and saw him hugging his partially clothed boss.

But those worries were no match for the peace that came with that small reconciliation between the races.

We could use another Martin Luther King Jr. these days. Until someone like him comes along, we can celebrate the seemingly insignificant.

I’ll probably never give a memorable speech from Washington D.C. But, at my kitchen table, I can teach my sons about men who stood up for justice.

I never got to meet Martin Luther King Jr. but I’m glad that I know a former cop who has been so impacted by the gospel that he can’t settle for the same old racial tensions that King stood against.

I’m thankful for Dr. King.

But I’m also thankful for the thousands of others who are seeking to live out his dream – one seemingly insignificant moment at a time.

Happy Monday!

The Unwritten Laws Of The South

The trouble with unwritten laws is that you never know about them until you break one. Until now, that is. Here are a few of the unwritten laws for the southern part of these United States of America.

Section III, Article 2, Paragraphs 3 and 4 – Beverages

All drinks shall be referred to as Coke or, if you’re one who likes to take things to the next level, Coe-Cola. When you are drinking Dr. Pepper and someone asks you what you are drinking, you are to respond by saying, Coke. When you’re sister is already up and standing by the refrigerator and you want a Sunkist, you need to say, “Lurlene, get me a Coe-Cola.” She’ll know what you mean. Trust me.

If you’ve got a craving for a Pepsi, never, under any circumstances, ask for one of those in public while in the south. Again, just trust me on that one.

Section IV, Article 9, Paragraph 6 – Sports

While watching a college or professional sporting event not involving a team that you regularly cheer for, you must always cheer for the team from the south. If neither team is from the south, or even worse, one of them is from Florida, you should cheer for the team that is geographically closest to the south. If the only game on is between a team from Florida and a team from New York City, turn the TV off and go enjoy a nice, cold Coe-Cola with Lurlene and them.

Section IX, Article 13, Paragraphs 1 and 2 – Shopping

If you can’t buy it at a store with a name like Sky City, Hoochie’s Dollar Basket or Da’ Nite Owl, it’s probably not worth buying.

Also, before entering these fine establishments, you must make sure that you are wearing pajamas and your kids aren’t wearing anything. Upon leaving, employees will examine the bottom of your children’s feet. If they do not look like they’ve been working barefoot in a coal mine, they will be immediately shipped up north and forced to watch Syracuse football games while drinking Pepsi.

Section XXXIV, Article 3, Paragraph 8 – Music

Any song written and/or performed after 1990 by someone not named George, Dwight, Willie, Waylon, Cash or Robert Earl is not a country music song.

Section LI, Article 1, Paragraphs 6 – 9 – Pets

Cats were not created to live indoors.

Dogs were not created to have their nails painted or to wear sweaters.

Acceptable names for dogs are ‘Lil Bit, Bear, Herschel Walker and Hank.

Cats are not to be named. Naming a cat could lead to said cat moving indoors which would be a direct violation of Section LI, Article 1, Paragraph 6.

Section LXX, Article 7, Paragraph 185, Church

If you have attended the same church more than three times, you are officially allowed to refer to it as, “my church.” It matters not that you haven’t attended your church in the past 28 years. It’s still your church. This gives you the privilege to show up every few years or so, if you’re so inclined, and vote in controversial business meetings.

Hopefully this will help all of you out of towners as you seek to navigate your way through the unwritten laws of the south. Should you have any questions, there’s always someone at Da’ Nite Owl who is willing to help.

Just ask for Lurlene.

And a Coe-Cola.

Heaven Ain’t A Lot Like Dixie

Here in the south, we have this old saying that’s supposed to help you if you should ever find yourself in a situation where you need to pick up a snake.

Yellow and black will kill Jack. Black on yellow will be kind to a fellow.

No wait. That’s wrong. Here’s how it goes.

Yellow and black is a good friendly snake that loves Jack. Black on yellow means don’t walk away or even say hello. 

No that can’t be it either. You’ll figure it out. Good luck and may God have mercy on your soul.

There are other sayings here in the south. Some are spoken while others are quietly believed. But all of these sayings are dangerous. Much more dangerous than any snake bite.

These religious myths have been around for a while. 2000 years ago, a preacher named John addressed them head on. In the Bible Belt, the land that I love and where I live, we need to hear John’s words again so that we won’t believe another old myth that could kill us.

“I am a good person.”

I don’t kill. I don’t cheat on my wife. I pay my taxes. I give money to Lottie Moon. I take my hat off when they sing the national anthem before Monster Jam. I am a good person.

Pharisees thought that they were good too. They paid tithes, not simply off of their income, but even from their spice rack. When’s the last time you tithed your fennel seed? They prayed. They fasted. They were good people. Or so it seemed.

John saw through all of that and into the heart.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. Matthew 3:7-8 (ESV)

As far as morality and even spirituality goes, the Pharisees would put us to shame. And what does that get them? John calls them, “a brood of vipers” and tells them to, “bear fruit in keeping with repentance.”

At first glance, the Pharisees did bear fruit. They tithed their spices, remember? But their alleged fruit bearing wasn’t the result of repentant love of God. It was a means to win the approval of both God and man. These were not good people. They needed a Savior.

The same is true of us. There is no amount of money that we can give away to make us good. Only Christ can do that.

On your own, you are not a good person. But Jesus is. And that is enough for you.

“I come from a Christian family.”

The following verse is not in the Bible.

And Jesus said unto the man, “Verily, you are a sinner but I hear that your grandfather was a pastor. That’s good enough. Enter into Paradise.”

In fact, John says quite the opposite to the religious elite who thought that having Abraham in their family tree was enough to make them right with God.

“And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.” Matthew 3:9 (ESV)

Jesus does not need you. Or your grandfather, the pastor. You both need him. The Pharisees forgot that and we can too. While a Christian family is a beautiful thing, we must remember that salvation is by grace through faith, not by genetics through family ties.

“Joining the church saves me.”

Somewhere in our religious history, we’ve convinced ourselves that walking an aisle and joining a church while continuing to live in rebellion to Christ can save us. But an atheist can walk an aisle and join some churches, even while staying an atheist. Have you ever heard of Ray Stevens? Even a squirrel can walk an aisle.

The mark of a true Christian is not his t-shirts, bumper stickers, voting record, aisle walking or church membership. It is his fruit. At the top of the list of that fruit is love. If you don’t love other people, it doesn’t matter how many churches you have joined, you don’t belong to God (1 John 4:7-8). Sadly, some of the most hateful, racist comments I’ve ever heard have been by church people.

John’s warning to the Pharisees standing by the river Jordan, applies just as much to us today.

Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Matthew 3:10 (ESV)

“I’ve made my peace with God.”

In the Bible Belt, you’ll hear that one a lot just before a funeral. “He’s made his peace with God.” Usually what that means is that the person has finally decided that he likes God and wouldn’t mind moving into his pearly mansion after he dies. No mention of repentance, faith, sin or even Jesus. Just peace with God.

Here’s something better to consider.

Has God made peace with you?

Many people in the south, and I’m sure all over the world, think that they are living in peace with God while continuing to live as his enemies.

Peace with God doesn’t come by a change of mind or behavior. It can only come through Jesus (Romans 5:1). Without repenting and believing in his gospel, there is no peace with God.

John, in his own bold style, was kind enough to give that warning to his critics.

“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Matthew 3:11 (ESV)

“It’s all going to work out in the end.”

We’ve all had the math teacher who gave us two extra points so that we could pass tenth grade Algebra. Okay, maybe that was just me. But you’ve gotten your free passes. Maybe it was a warning instead of a ticket. Whatever the specifics, you’ve gotten the easy way out before. Surely God wouldn’t be any different, would he?

He is.

Hell wasn’t invented by a sweaty Baptist preacher in a bad suit somewhere back in the 1950s. Jesus talked about it a lot. But before Jesus ministry officially began, John gave his own warning.

“His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Matthew 3:12 (ESV)

People have tried to get around it for centuries but there is no mistaking the facts. Hell is real. We deserve to be there. Jesus came to rescue us from what we deserve. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound!

If there’s one thing that Christians in the Bible Belt love, it’s a good sermon on hell. Say something in a sermon about hell being a real place and you’re sure to get a few amens. But here’s the thing. As much as we check all of the right boxes when it comes to hell, we often live as though it were a figment of J.R.R. Tolkien’s imagination.

The greatest threat to the doctrine of hell does not come from the Ivy League skeptics or the hipster, feel-good pastors who don’t think that it’s cool but from Christians who believe rightly but act as though it’s all a lie. If we really believe that hell is real, we will remember that for our friends and family who do not know Jesus, it will not all work out in the end.

When I was a kid, I heard Hank Williams Jr. sing, “If heaven ain’t a lot like Dixie, I don’t want to go. If heaven ain’t a lot like Dixie, I just as soon stay home.”

For many, heaven is our idea of paradise, whatever that may be. But remember, Adam and Eve’s idea of paradise is what got us all into this fallen world. Thankfully, heaven is much more than our idea of perfection. It is God’s idea of perfection.

I love living in the south. But there’s a better home awaiting. And none of us will get there because we joined a church, were good people, made peace with God on our own terms or had a grandfather that was a pastor.

Jesus is our only hope.

Anything else is just another myth.

A Few Quick Thoughts On Ebola

1. With the virus now hitting New York City, here comes the part where we are constantly told that, “New Yorkers are tough” and that whoever happens to be the mayor at the moment is “America’s mayor.”

When the virus lands in Dump Truck City, Mississippi, the media will insinuate that it’s because everyone down south only knows how to breathe through their mouth. The mayor of Dump Truck City will have to keep his day job, driving a dump truck of course.

2. The infected New York City doctor had just returned from taking some time away from the office, under his own free will, to treat African Ebola patients. Last night someone on Fox News called him, “selfish.”

Exactly! Nothing could be more selfish than sacrificing your time, and perhaps your life, to treat dying people. Wouldn’t we all be much better off if this doctor had simply stayed home and taken selfies all day. Now that’s good old fashioned American sacrifice.

In a world where self is king, selfless acts are considered acts of terrorism.

3. The chances of you getting negatively impacted from Ebola are about the same as the chances you have of getting hit by lightning. The chances of your Constitutional rights being negatively impacted because someone in D.C. decides that it would be a good idea to create a national health swat team are about the same as the chances of the sun coming up tomorrow. Remember, in politics, sometimes the solution is worse than the problem.

4. Moments like these where the government can’t seem to get out of it’s own way give us good opportunities for reflection. The Bible tells us to pray for our leaders not because it is the nice thing to do but because they are often blinded by incompetence, corruption or some combination of the two. So pray for your leaders. This is also a good time to remember that government, while very much necessary and beneficial when functioning properly, makes a terrible god.

5. But there is a real God and, no matter how bad things get, he is always good and always in control.

Have a great weekend!

A Better Test Of Your Southernicity

Last weekend I took an online test that was supposed to tell me if I was a real southerner. I passed with flying colors. But I still didn’t feel good about my accomplishment. Most of the questions had to do with Elvis and Gone With the Wind. There are people who live in Iceland who know an awful lot about Elvis and Gone With the Wind but that doesn’t make them true southerners. In an effort to keep people from developing a false sense of security regarding their southernicity, I developed a better test.

1. What do you do when your cat has a whole bunch of kittens and you don’t want any of them?

a.) Contact the proper authorities and have them come and pick up the precious bundles of joy.

b.) Make a cardboard sign that reads, Free Baby Kittens, take it to a Wal-Mart parking lot on a Saturday afternoon with said “baby kittens” and sit in a folding chair next to your Pontiac. The problem should take care of itself from there.

If you answered b, you are a true southerner.

2. How would you respond to the following question. “Would you like to come over to my house this weekend? We’re having a barbecue.”

a.) “Splendid! I’ll bring the clam chowder.”

b.) “How exactly does one have a barbecue? I think I’ll pass, stay at my house and eat some barbecue.”

If you chose b, you are a true southerner.

3. Suppose that you are brewing some tea when you suddenly realize that there is no sugar in your house. Which of the following options seems most appropriate to you?

a.) No big deal. Besides, there’s probably a packet of Sweet’N Low somewhere around the house.

b.) You quickly run to Piggly Wiggly to buy a few 5 pound bags of sugar.

c.) You quickly run to Piggly Wiggly’s to buy a few 5 pound bags of sugar.

d.) No sugar in the house?! Not while I’m alive.

If you chose a, you are not a true southerner.

If you chose b, you are a true southerner.

If you chose c, you are a certified, genuine, real deal southerner.

If you chose d, you get to be the governor of the south for a week.

4. Someone asks you if you like country music. When you respond in the affirmative, they offer you four free tickets to see Luke Bryan and Rascal Flatts. How do you respond?

a.) “Splendid! I’ll bring the clam chowder.”

b.) You shake your head and walk away while mumbling something to yourself about Hank Williams never wearing skinny jeans and guy-liner.

Unless you are a girl under the age of 18 who for some reason has a passion for clam chowder, you are not a true southerner if you chose a.

5. When is it appropriate for a man to remove his hat?

a.) Whenever it quits snowing.

b.) Indoors, during prayer, during the national anthem and during a meal.

c.) Indoors, during prayer, during the national anthem, during a meal and during the playing of Free Bird.

If you answered a, you are not a true southerner.

If you answered b, you are a true southern gentleman.

If you answered c and you play your cards right, you just might get a few votes in the next presidential election.

6. Your kid comes home from school to tell you that he learned about King George. What do you say?

a.) “King George was a deeply misunderstood man. We need more like him.”

b.) “Amarillo by morning. Amarillo’s where I’ll be.”

If you answered a, you are likely employed by the NSA.

If you answered b, even if you got every other question wrong, you are a true southerner. So make yourself at home, enjoy a nice glass of sweet tea, some of King George’s music and our southern hospitality. Just don’t offer us any clam chowder or Rascal Flatts tickets or we’ll throw our hat at you.

Southern hospitality does have its limits.

Mercy And Judgment On The Side Of The Road

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I pulled over to the side of the road. My friend was in the passenger’s seat. He didn’t know what I was doing. It’s not his fault. He’s didn’t grow up in the south.

A funeral procession was coming by. In the south, that means that you pull over to the side of the road. The south isn’t perfect. No place on earth is. But it’s home for me. And pulling over on the side of the road during a funeral procession is one of the things I like about my home.

Last weekend I was on the other side of the funeral procession. I was the one who preached the funeral. I was the one driving in the car directly behind the hearse. I was the one watching everyone else pull over.

It was a Saturday afternoon in one of the more highly populated counties in Georgia. There was business to be done and places to get to. But for a few minutes at least, none of that mattered. For a few minutes, everyone stopped.

All for a man they never knew.

Black kids stopped.

Older white women stopped.

Men in loaded down work trucks stopped.

Women in convertibles stopped.

We drove by two different men who were cutting their grass. Both of them stopped.

All for a man they never knew.

No one asked the political persuasion of the deceased. No one asked what color he was. No one asked about his views on immigration or Iraq. They just stopped. Everyone stopped.

I was proud of my home while I was driving behind that hearse. People say that things are slower down here. Maybe they’re right. Pulling over to the side of the road and stopping everything has a way of slowing you down. Slow isn’t always so bad.

Slow makes it easier for you to think.

And nothing makes you think quite like a funeral procession.

For all of the differences between conservatives and progressives, whites and blacks, old and young, we all have one thing in common. We’re all going to die. We may even take a ride in a hearse. Hopefully people will pull over for us.

There is another certainty.

After we die, we will be judged. We will all stand before our Creator to give an account for our life. He won’t ask us if we forwarded that picture of Jesus to ten friends. He won’t ask us if we did a good enough job of getting our point across. He won’t ask us how many followers we had. In his own way, he’ll ask us whose righteousness we had.

There are only two possible answers.

My righteousness, which comes through pride and effort and leads to eternal punishment or Jesus’ righteousness which comes through faith and repentance and leads to eternal life.

If you have Jesus’ righteousness, you know mercy.

And if you really know mercy, you’ll show it to others.

So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:12-13 (ESV)

I live in Jackson, Georgia. It’s a small town.

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I live in Jackson, Georgia.

It’s a small town.

If I want to see a professional baseball team play, I have to drive an hour north. That’s assuming of course that we’re classifying the Atlanta Braves as a professional baseball team.

In Jackson, there are no stores for a woman to buy a $700 calfskin leather Louis Vuitton purse. But we do have a few dollar stores and an Ingles. I’ve bought my wife a handful of flowers from Ingles several times. They seemed to make her happy. She’s never mentioned anything about liking calfskins.

In Jackson, there are no traffic jams. It’s always fun to listen to the Atlanta radio stations talk about how bad the traffic is on I-20 as I drive down a dirt road. You should try it sometime. The closest thing I’ve seen to a traffic jam in Jackson, Georgia was the time when one of Mr. Luke Weaver’s cows got out and decided to have rest time in the middle of the road. I waved at Mr. Luke Weaver when I finally got to drive by him trying to get his cow back. I didn’t stop. The next day he told me that I was therefore unqualified to ever preach on the Good Samaritan. Point taken.

People like to put down small towns. They say that everybody is into everybody else’s business. Maybe that’s true sometimes. But maybe that’s not always so bad. Maybe that’s part of the charm of living in a small town.

A few nights ago the power went out at my house. I didn’t think that it was any big deal. People lose power from time to time. But when I looked outside I noticed that all of my neighbors had power. That was kind of scary. So I did what any reputable Southern Baptist pastor would do.

I asked my wife if we paid the power bill.

She checked our records and we were good.

So I called the power company to tell them that my power was out. I had to tell my story to a computer. The computer promised to get back to me as soon as possible. While I waited for the computer to call me back, I walked outside where I pretended to have some idea of how to restore power to my house.

That’s when my phone rang.

It was the power company. I could tell that it wasn’t a computer because my wife was laughing and saying, “Hold on, let me let you talk to him” as she brought the phone my way.

Justin was on the other end. He works for the power company. We go to church together. He promised to have my power back on in no time. And then he told me that I could not in fact restore power to my home by rubbing two screw drivers together while standing next to the circuit breaker. Who knew? So I put down my screwdrivers and waited for help to arrive.

A few minutes later, one of the big power trucks stopped in front of my house. Seeing as how it was 11:00 on a Friday night, I wondered what kind of person might be getting out of that big truck. And I wondered if he would be angry for getting pulled out of bed on a weekend. The man in the truck turned out to be Ron. Most of his family goes to church with me. He said that he’d have the problem fixed in no time.

He was right.

But I swear that I saw him rubbing two screwdrivers together.

Either way, my power was back on. And there I was, talking to Ron at 11:00 on a Friday night in my yard in Jackson, Georgia.

It’s a small town.

It’s usually pretty quiet in Jackson, Georgia.

The other night my wife and I sat on our back porch and ate cereal. The only lights we saw were from our neighbors next door and the stars up above. The only noise we heard was the sound of dogs barking and kids trying to use up their last few nights of staying out late to play before school started back.

Not a lot happens in Jackson, Georgia.

But when it does, you can count on a friend or someone from your church being around to help out. Well, unless you’re trying to retrieve your cow and I happen to be the one driving by.

I live in Jackson, Georgia.

It’s a small town.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.