What About Bob?

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What about Bob?

Many years ago I was sitting on the stoop of a small neighborhood pub called Gene’s Beer Garden. One of the local yokels was pontificating on the evils of labor unions and after I’d heard enough of the unchallenged diatribe I jumped into the conversation with both feet. We argued, he bought us a beer (a full on pint!). We argued some more, I bought us a beer. We kept up this routine for far too long and both of us ended up the clear winner of the dispute.

This is how I met my dear and trusted friend Robert C Anderson Junior. We had no idea then the roads we would travel together. Together we would venture from Morgantown to have some of the most trying and memorable times two folks can share.

Here is your only warning. This story is told in the style of Bob. Therefore brevity is an impossibility. Get a fresh beverage or two, take out the dog, take off your shoes and settle in. Oh, and this story isn’t about two missionaries either. By that I mean our time together included a lot of beverages of the hops and barley variety.

Sometime after we met at Genes, Bob came to work with the same firm I did. I’m not sure how either of us managed that but we were/are both vets and it was a jobs for vets company.  The job required quite a bit of travel so we were off to see the wizard.

On one trip together we were doing a whirlwind European flyby. Kaiserslauthen, Pirmasens, and Monchengladbach, Germany, then  Zutendaal Belgium and finally Burtonwood.

You may have guessed from the way we met that Bob and I were largely opposites.  He was big and tall, I was short and skinny. He was neat, me, not so much. He was organized and all planned out, I was and still am more of a fly by the seat of the pants sort of guy. A genuine Odd Couple.

Bob was so organized I’m sure his picture is right there with the definition of obsessive-compulsive. Folks in the office used to rearrange the things on his desk just to watch him mumble profanities as he carefully placed every object back in its rightful place. The grumbling mumbles were even more entertaining after Bob had all of his teeth pulled.

When Bob and I shared a hotel room it was obvious who was bunking on what side of the room. My room, depending on how many days we’d been there, looked like a stiff breeze had been blowing or a full forced hurricane had just gone through. Bob’s socks were folded.

Bob taught me how to snore. Seriously. Dude could rattle the windows. As long as I got to sleep first or had consumed a fair amount of the amber beverage it didn’t bother me. Otherwise I simply didn’t sleep. One night in Monchengladbach we paid for my fly by the seat of the pants traveling style by finding a hotel room at the very top of four flights of stairs. There was no air-conditioning  and we shared a common bathroom with the other two rooms on this level.  The heat was terrible. No breeze dared to enter the solitary window in our room. Out the doorway, across the hall was another window. We discovered that if we left our door open and opened the window in the hallway that we could coax a small breeze into our sauna.

That night as Bob slept, he had beaten me to sleep, neighbors came to the door to complain about his snoring. Yea. I wasn’t sure what they wanted since my German language skills only included words like beer, good morning, two beers please and thank you. You know, words you need to know to get by. Once they pointed at Bob who continued to saw away blissfully unaware that the villagers were out with their pitchforks, and then to the door, I knew what they wanted.  They actually wanted me to close the door. This of course would have stifled the tiny breeze and amplified the noise even more. I declined the neighbor’s repeated requests as humbly and apologetically as I could given the language barrier.

On to Zutendaal, Belgium. Our mission here covered several days and nearing the end of the trip we were nearing the end of our funds too.  We were staying in a nice hotel near town that had a restaurant, pool, beautiful 18 hole golf course and most importantly a guest bar. As the cash ran out the beer nuts and other condiments offered at the bar became the main stay of our diet.  When the hotel hosted weddings or private parties they usually made us leave the area while the guests were arriving. We were welcome to mosey down later and join the party. Food, glorious 5 star restaurant food, champagne and of course, beer. Did you know that Belgium has more beers than Germany?

After a while Bob had established quite a rapport with the kitchen staff. They had never heard of a cheese platter so Bob quickly educated them on the finer points of preparing one. The finest point being that the more cheeses there were the better the plate. After a while heaping plates of various cheeses were frequently deposited in front of us without even asking.

One night while sitting at the bar I mentioned that I was looking forward to the next leg of the trip to Burtonwood Army Depot. I talked about how I was looking forward to going to England, a country I had never visited before and where at least I could understand the language. Bob, having been there several times before, just laughed. Finally he said “Good luck with that language thing”.

Within 5 minutes of him saying that two huge tour buses pulled up and unloaded a battalion of Brits. All of them eager for the loo and of course the pub which is where they found us. Upon discovering Yanks in the ranks they were eager to converse. So much for the same language thing.  Were I to fill my mouth full of marbles and attempt to talk while being poked in the ribs at odd or infrequent times I would still speak more clearly than these blokes. Bob was in heaven. He had so much fun watching me ask folks to repeat themselves over and over and over again. He never tired in the re-telling of this story.

Burtonwood Army Depot came to be a favorite destination . Situated 2 miles northwest of Warrington, Lancashire, England, Burtonwood had been the largest airfield in Europe during the war (WW2) with the most USAAF personnel and aircraft maintenance facilities.

There was a small family owned hotel we always tried to stay at because the price was right, the food was terrific, they loved Yanks and yes, they had two bars. One for the general public and one for quests of the hotel. The guest bar was open until the guests got weary of the good company or too intoxicated to make out what their brilliant English hosts were trying to say.

Our room was on the second floor in the back of the building. It was a huge room with high ceilings but without air conditioning. It overlooked a grass and dirt courtyard complete with a goat for weed control.  One night I was lying in bed reading while Bob took a shower. The tall doorway into the bathroom had a magnificent wooden header. When Bob came out of the shower room he stopped just inside the room to ask when I wanted to go to dinner. As we were discussing it that huge door header came loose and fell to the floor with a loud and solid crash. Had it hit him it would certainly have killed him. Not to be outdone by the near miss’s failure to undo him he jumped so quickly that his wet feet nearly sent his head to the floor at the same speed the door header had just encountered it. I had no idea he could move so fast.

This being my first time in England I initially refused to drive. At some point on the way to our hotel from the airport I opened my window and presently something paper like flew out. We had no idea what it was or that it might prove very important. It didn’t, but it could have.

One Saturday while driving around looking at the sights I became concerned that Bob was drifting too far to the left as he drove. You might think you’d be prone to drift to the right but that wasn’t the case with Bob, or me as it turned out.

I mentioned that he was getting pretty close to the parked cars but this did nothing to influence Bob’s operation of the vehicle. Wham! We hit a parked car.

Bob stopped the car and got out to have a look. I opened the glove box and started looking for the rental agreement. Remember that piece of paper like litter that went out the window?  This is when we figured out what it was.

As I got out of the car a troupe of huge guys were filing out of a pub on the way to where we were. Meanwhile we were looking at the bumper of the car we’d hit. It was lying on the ground. I, we, thought we were in for it. These dudes were huge. All as big as Bob and some larger. Bob started explaining what had happened when the guy leading the pack said “Yanks? Owh, don’t wurry bout it matey. Appens all da time.”

He and another guy grabbed the bumper, snapped it back on the car and invited us in for a pint. I love that country!

A last cheese story. We had been at the hotel’s guest pub for too long and I had excused myself to go to bed. Sometime later I was awoke by dogs barking in the courtyard and banging against the wall. Then squeak, squeak, thump, squeak, bump and finally “Hey Brother watcha doin?”

Bob was climbing in the window trying desperately not to spill a tall pile of cheese chunks and other cheese plate stuff.  When he left the bar area with the cheese plate he realized too late that he didn’t have a key to get upstairs.  So he went around the building and found a ladder that he had to fight the goat for to use to climb in the window. If you know Bob’s grin, that’s what he was wearing. The Cheshire cat had nothing on Bob. I wish I’d seen him battle that goat.

There are so many many stories I could tell but you have to know this one. During the first Gulf war Bob and I deployed to Saudi Arabia working on separate missions. He went first. Vesta, Bob’s dear mother gave be a box of homemade peanut brittle to take to Bob. It was so long before we managed to be in the same place at the same time the only thing left of the peanut brittle was the box and some crumbs when we finally met up. I don’t think there was even half a peanut left. He laughed and hugged me anyway.

When the war started Bob’s work ground to a halt and he and the team he was with came to the Sheraton hotel in Riyadh where I was already well established. They sat in the hotel drinking coffee all day.  I was a one man team working every day unloading hospitals from the trains, staging them and coordinating their movement forward.

From our rooms high above the city we noticed fairly quickly that the Saudis always seemed to know missiles were incoming long before the alarms went off.  We’d see them running for their cars and scurrying out into the desert. They became our early warning system.

Bob was frustrated. Sitting in the hotel every day watching me go to work for 12, 14 or more hours a day and not allowed to help was getting to him. So Bob gave himself a job. Every night while I slept he would keep watch on the activities below. When they ran for the desert, he would wake me up and we would seek shelter until an all clear was sounded or we just didn’t care anymore.

Several times I would wake and look toward the windows. There he was, sitting in the dark, silhouetted against the lights of the city with the red ember of his dangling cigarette flaring up when he’d take a drag.

I will never lose this image.

If Bob had your back, sleep was easy.

Bob died on September 23rd, 2013. I found out just a few hours ago. Sleep will be elusive and troubled tonight.  Bob’s watch is over.

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Runaway Bride

Typically I oppose religious litmus tests for political candidates. The words that follow make no argument for such a test.

I have long feared that the Church, voting in US elections with a single minded focus on abortion, had aligned herself with forces contrary to God’s will for the people. That the pro-business right was dropping pro-life breadcrumbs designed to lead patriots, with religious passions enraged, on a pathway laid out to have them willingly, if not joyfully, commit themselves and the nation to a life of servitude to corporate interests whose sole goal is the pursuit of wealth.

Many Christian’s of that Party reject any governmental role in feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, inviting the stranger in, healing the sick, clothing the naked or visiting the prisoner. This despite the fact that the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States indicates that one of the goals for the document is to provide for the general Welfare of the citizens of this country. Ignoring the Constitutional arguments Christians often argue other points that have no basis in the scripture but are typically rooted in their own personal beliefs concerning the role of government. Inevitably the arguments point to the absolute surety that any social programs helping the needy are taking away from the treasures they themselves are working so hard to store up on earth.  Jesus told us that the location of our treasure is also the location of our heart (Mat 2:21).

With Christian voters by and large solidly supporting Mitt Romney, a proud member of the world’s biggest, most influential cult, the adulterous affair between church and Satan has become undeniable. The marriage is scheduled for consummation this November.

Friends I have known for years who freely acknowledge that the Church of Latter Day Saints is a cult impersonating Christianity are poised to endorse a member of that organization for President of the US. Ironically these same people typically and proudly proclaim that the US is a Christian nation. If that were so, a man who wholeheartedly believes that Christ Jesus is the brother of Satan and who has invested a large portion of his own personal wealth to advance that heresy would not enjoy the support of the Bride of Christ. Support which leaves me with a shamed head bowed low.

I’m ashamed because of the double speak coming from my Christian brothers and sisters. It is speech that says from the heart that we, the US, should be a Christian nation when abortion is the topic but not so much when healthcare or the poor is the topic. The Bride has left her first love and now serves mammon or worse.

Grocery Shopping

(2007)

Like countless other folks I went to the grocery store after work today. It was a viciously hot and humid day and the cool air inside the store felt nice. The produce section with its earthy smells was particularly cool. I lingered here.

Ah, there’s the Bar-B-Q sauce I like. I snatched up a bottle and promptly deposited into the cart. The produce section and the cooking sauces are at the entrance to this store so the BBQ sauce was the first item into the basket.

Yep, I had passed by all the fresh veggies and fruits to get to the bar-b-q sauce.  Thing is, I had done this very purposely. It was as if the sauce were in danger of rapidly disappearing. Once my visual cortex had locked onto the sauce every tracking/targeting system in my body had been engaged and mission failure was not an option.  Am I alone in thinking this odd?

As I wondered through the store placing items into the cart two things occurred to me. The first is that I am very good at picking out things like sauces. Like the BBQ sauce, ranch dressing, potato chip dip, spaghetti sauce and stuff like that. I am terrible at picking up real food though. I am truly awful at it.

I am so bad at it that it borders on a finely honed skill but really I just kind of fell naturally into it.

The second was this. I was going to prepare and consume all of this food alone. The joy of shopping vanished, the cool air was now hot on my face and I just wanted to crawl into bed and hide beneath the blankets.

I was embarrassed. Could they tell I was alone? Was my emptiness obvious or was I hiding it well?

Eighteen days ago I said goodbye to my family in the parking lot of the BFS gas station/convenience store at the Bruceton Mills exit of interstate 68. It was 5:30 in the morning and I was heading off to Korea.

Eight days ago I moved into a nice house. I went grocery shopping that day too but there were many distractions. I had to meet delivery people, the land lord, the real estate agent and the security service. Did I mention that it was also a work day? It was.

Today was quiet. No people to meet. No rush. I’m in the middle of a grocery store, realizing the barrenness of my life in the absence of my family. If I still smoked I’d leave all these groceries and just buy coffee. I’d survive on coffee and smokes. Smoking alone doesn’t remind you that you’re lonely. No. Instead it releases wonderful little chemicals that make the pain more bearable. I loved smoking. If it weren’t so hard to quit I’d start again.

Did you know that eating does not fill up the lonely? Nope. The lonely can go right on eating until theoretically they just pop.

I’m wondering why I am buying all this stuff. The idea of another meal alone is just plain depressing. Do single people think about this when they go grocery shopping?

I doubt it. Most people have not realized the strong bonds forged when sharing a meal. It’s as intimate a time as you can share with folks and still keep your clothes on.

O, good. The checkout counter. $87!!! You’ve got to be kidding me!!!! I’m only eating for one person here!!!!! Kick me while I’m down!!!

Something less painful

Dec 4, 2007

On most days I pick up my son at his bus stop on the way home from work. Today was just such a day. On the way home Craig and I were talking about a visit to Morgantown during the summer of 2009.

We joked about who we wanted to see and who we didn’t particularly want to see. About places we’d like to visit and how we wouldn’t be sleeping in or just “wasting away” the day. This trip would be a mission. The objective would be to cram as much of home into a short visit as we could.

We were just chatting when he said “That’s when I’ll be starting college.”

I thought for a few seconds and replied “You could choose to go to school here.”

The silence screamed his intention to remain in West Virginia. It was deafening. I thought that my ears would surely begin to bleed.

As I thought about what this meant, about his not being with us, my eyes began to flood and I could no longer speak. I blinked rapidly while turning my eyes away from his and tried desperately to think of something else. Something less painful.

Like cancer,

or castration,

or death.

I cannot bear the thought of being so far away from him. My son, my little buddy is going to leave soon and the notion of it chokes me. I type because I cannot speak of it. It’s not that I refuse, it’s that I am incapable.

He came into our lives in the quiet of the early morning in our home on Arlington street in Morgantown. He was the greatest joy I had ever known. Will he now be the greatest pain I will ever suffer?

Time. Maybe time will help.

It must work quickly though.

There is little of it left.

Immigration Law

We’ve lived in Korea now for just over three years and I’ve become convinced that package inserts may provide a clue to a nation’s immigration policies.

The air in the house is very dry in the winter so I purchased a humidifier. You know how when you buy something in the US that comes with an instruction booklet or pamphlet there are at a minimum two languages written there and frequently up to five languages?

Not so here on the peninsula. It’s read Korean or stumble through on your own.

So now I wonder if package inserts are a commentary on a nation’s regard for those who do not speak or read their language? I’m just guessing here but I suspect that in a country with single language package inserts the immigration laws are tough.

Conversely, immigration laws are probably more lax in countries with multilingual package inserts.

Anyone looking for a doctoral thesis should feel free to use my hypothesis.

Calvin Cotten Brister

Jan 9, 2009.

I wrote this one week ago. Kelly and I were in separate rooms of the house weeping quietly while grieving privately. It was a quiet Saturday morning and the only sounds in the house were our sniffles and my keyboard. It is pretty much my custom to write when deeply troubled. You’ve probably seen better eulogies but you will not find one more sincerely meant. For that reason and in order that you too may know our friend Calvin I invite you to read on.

David

Three days ago, nearly 7,000 miles away a spirit escaped the vessel of flesh it dwelt in and departed earth for the heavenly realm.

Calvin Cotten Brister was my friend. I have known few friends like Calvin. Calvin was plain spoken yet elegant, direct without injury and love in action. To Calvin love meant action. Those he loved, he interacted with and we are all the better for it.

Calvin was very educated and yet as plain as a clear stream flowing gently by. You didn’t have to wonder how he felt on a matter as he was sure to share his thoughts with you. Not in an angry way, or an in your face, how dare you way but in a way that even if you disagreed, well, that was just it. You disagreed. He never made you feel unworthy, unappreciated, uneducated, un-anything except un-alone.

When I was out of town on business there were two people my wife Kelly knew she could call for help and depend on it being there. One was Dan Waitz, the other Calvin. When asked, Calvin would drive the 25-30 miles to our house and provide whatever aid Kelly and Craig needed. Occasionally he’d just show up to make sure we were doing OK.

After long periods of silence he would call out of the blue to let you know that he was thinking about you. When I went to visit him in the hospital for a time of fellowship and prayer he acted as if I had just awarded him the publishers clearing house prize. He wasn’t just a good friend, he valued friendship.

Before my family moved to Korea some 18 months ago he made sure that we shared a time of fellowship together. Our families shared a great meal, lively conversation, quiet reflections and laughed together at memories and hopes.

I pray his family will see in death what they frequently failed to see in life. Calvin Brister was a great man. He was a man of faith, a man of humility and a man of honor. I am grateful to have known him in this world and look forward to seeing him again in the next.

We miss you Calvin.

Dad

When my Dad died I didn’t trust anyone else to be the Preacher presiding over the service. It had to be me. Dad was a flawed man. Just like me. Just like all men. Dad’s friends had to know of the Grace of the Cross and the security found in being a Child of the King. But it wasn’t just Dad’s friends, it was important that my family be reminded too.

Joel Howard Parry

Eulogy.

Many of you know my Dad. Most of you though came to know him only after the alcohol he consumed began its consumption of him. In addition to saying good-bye to Dad today I wanted to share with you some of the memories I have and other memories shared with me by some of you.

1965 was a different time. Socially accepted mores were much more tightly defined then than now. An individual’s certainty of what was and what was not permitted was much clearer than the atmosphere of situational ethics which pervades our society today.

In Richmond, Virginia, in 1965, Joel met Becky. I have no idea how they met but that meeting would forever change many lives. In 1965, we lived in a society which adamantly condemned divorce and especially a divorced woman. Lower still on list of folks to shun were the women who had born children out of wedlock. Those children were labeled as illegitimate. Juanita DeRemer and her daughter Becky though would never dream of labeling life as illegitimate. As it turns out, neither would Joel.  Joel, the butcher at Koslows grocery, took Becky, the unmarried mother of three, as his wife and her three children as his own.

We spent several years in the Richmond area. Each summer we’d spend a full week and several weekends at a favorite riverside campground. It was during these camping trips that I learned to fish, had my first summer crush, and sang along with “Alice Cooper” about school being out for the summer. I learned a little about the sad plight of Native Americans through the pop hit by Paul Revere and the Raiders called Cherokee People.

We camped at another place regularly too. A place called “Herring Creek”. Here people lined a creek and using nets fished for herring. I cannot tell you how herring tastes and wouldn’t know a herring from a bass today but I do remember staying up very late with the lanterns glowing checking the nets frequently. Although I’m sure he must have said it more than once, I have no memory of Dad chastising us kids about scaring away the fish.

The summer before I entered the fifth grade, our family moved to extremely rural Pennsylvania. We moved into the biggest house I had ever been in, onto property that stretched as far as the eye could see. Looking at the house from the road there was a large field to the right, a spruce tree farm to the left, and fields upon fields behind the house.

Pennsylvania would be cruel to the family though. Dad’s work was a long way from home. Keeping our cars running proved nearly impossible and the winters were severe.

Dad would chop wood after work and on weekends preparing for winter. He could chop wood! Trees would tremble when Dad walked by with his double-bedded ax in his hands. Ok, maybe I embellish a little but, well, he was my dad and I’m allowed.

If Dad wasn’t chopping wood, he was usually found under the hood of a car. At one point he had built a tripod from small trees in order to lift the bad engines out of the car and hoist the good ones in.

When the snows came they came hard. It was common for us to have a six to eight foot snowdrift outside the kitchen windows. Ambulance and police service were provided by snowmobile. If your house caught fire, it burned to the ground. In fact this did happen to the local VFD. It burned to the ground with all of the equipment inside.

Amid all of this treacherous snow, Dad still made it to work. He fully understood our dependence on him to provide for us. Providing for his wife and now four children was an undertaking he took seriously and succeeded at.

Once, shortly after our arrival in Pennsylvania Dad performed a rescue operation that was worthy of the television show 911. Our collie dog “Bow” had fallen into a well. I have no idea how he got Bow out of there but I do remember his concern for the dog and for his children that so loved that dog. It seems like everyone had an idea how to get Bow out of that well but Dad just sort of made it happen. One second Bow was deep underground struggling to keep her head above water and the next she was on solid ground spraying everyone as she shook the water from her coat.

When the family moved to Charleston the summer before my seventh grade year we kids were excited. Granny and MawMaw would be frequent visitors at the house. While this was good for us kids, there are times I wonder about the effect it had on Dad.

He continued to drive many miles to and from work and he worked very hard while he was there. Dad burned metal in the junkyard. I still don’t quite understand the nature of the work but I do remember that it put him in the hospital more than once.

I’m not sure when it was that the alcohol turned the tables on him. But I do know that the giving nature he possessed was a part of him well before his evil disease possessed him.

Dad had a talent for carpentry. He would take plain wooden pallets or fruit crates and turn them into coveted shelves. He would sand them, cut them, assemble them, preserve them and give them away. They were beautiful.

Mom told me about the time someone here in Rand was stuck in a ditch on a cold rainy night. The man had asked someone in the community to help him out of the situation. That person referred them to our house saying “Go see the fellow that lives there. He’ll help you out.” People unknown to me, knew my Dad would help strangers in trouble.

I remember that while Charlie and I were members of the fire department here, that dad too would volunteer. He didn’t fight fires or run ambulance but he did work on the vehicles that allowed the firemen and ambulance personnel to complete their missions.

That giving nature of his attracted many people. Many more than willing to share in dad’s bottle and in turn to share theirs with him.

Please don’t misunderstand me. My dad was not the best dad in the world. There were times he was far from it. He was not an affectionate man. Not a man that I would call sensitive. I don’t remember ever seeing him cry. He was also not, not the worst dad in the world. Having spent a significant amount of time with abused and neglected children, working with foster children and their parents, I can tell you with some authority that my dad was always far, far away from the worst of dads.

Sure, he was dirty a lot. His job left him covered in an oily filth. As children concerned about the external appearance of our home and parents, we kids found that embarrassing. It wasn’t cool or warm and fuzzy, or “attractive” to have as your dad the man known in the community as “dirt ball”.

That was then. Paul wrote in his first letter to the church at Corinth “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man (an adult), I put childish ways behind me.”

Ones inability or choosing not to see beyond dirt, the inability or choosing not to reach beyond social stereotypes, the inability or choosing not to see the man on the other side of the disease which consumes him, is not the trademark of a mature adult.

I am not an alcoholic. I do not live in filth and squalor. I am called pastor and teacher and I proudly declare that I am the son of Joel Howard Parry.

Service

My Dad liked to fish. Some of you may have been fishing with him. If so you might recall that although he loved fishing, would spend hours fishing, he wasn’t particularly successful at it. In fact some might characterize his fishing prowess as poor. He was such a poor fisherman that when he managed to land a fish I suspect that he must have been as surprised as the rest of us.

This picture of a person fishing hour upon unsuccessful hour is a great picture of the love God has for His creation, man. It is no coincidence that the first disciples called into service were fishermen. Jesus didn’t just happen by that day Peter and his partners the sons of Zebedee, James and John, had had such a bad day of fishing. These were people God was deliberately seeking.

Dad grew up with a Pentecostal mother. While our family lived in Pennsylvania we kids would from time to time attend services with Granny Parry.

Dad spent a fair amount of time here with Fay and the wonderful people of this mission. Fay and her coworkers in the Kingdom cared for Dad providing food, warmth, shelter and most importantly, the Word. Living here Dad assisted with the work of the food bank and other needs of the church.

Given these two very separate settings, Dad as a child in the Pentecostal church in Pennsylvania and Dad here, in this mission, there is more than ample reason to believe that at some point he was captured in a net made from the strings of God’s love. A net purchased with the blood of the King.

It is so easy for me to see Dad and Granny fishing today in the Jordan River. There are people who will no doubt shocked by that statement. Their minds are wrapped in theological or moral arguments against the possibility that a chronic alcoholic might ever make it through the pearly gates.

God’s love is a very misunderstood concept. Religious people are forever trying to limit the depth and breadth of that love coloring it with restrictions and qualifications. When I finally surrendered my life to the Lord the last thing I wanted was to be “religious person”. Today I still do not like being likened to a religious person.

Because to me they are the ones who claim to represent the God of unconditional love but their love many times is based on what you can do for them, or their church. Sometimes the love is based on rules. A little poem about Christian behavior taught to me by Pastor David Smith.. comes to mind. It says that “Christians don’t smoke, drink, cuss or chew and don’t kiss them that do!”

The place God’s love is the dearest is the place religious people are generally the scarcest. It is that place where God’s love is freely shared. Not just with those who dress like us, have jobs or careers like ours, or live in a neighborhood like ours, but with everyone. It is a love shared even with those who dislike us.

The physician/historian Luke records these words of Christ in chapter 6, ”If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?…. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you?… But love your enemies,… and you will be sons (and daughters) of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

One of the single largest disagreements between Christians regards the security of the believer. That is, once a person is saved, once they accept Christ as Lord, can they lose or even refuse the salvation offered them at the moment of their conversion.

Speaking to the church at Corinth in his second letter Paul wrote 2 Cor 1:21-22 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

The Child of God is sealed with a seal of ownership. They no longer belong to the world or themselves but are children of the Most High God. The scriptures tell us that we do not (Rom 8:15) receive a spirit that makes us a slave again to fear, but received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ”Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ. ….

My dear son Craig may someday decide that Kelly and I are no longer his parents. He may declare us dead. He may even claim another man as his dad but he cannot ever really change the fact that Kelly and I are his parents. No action of his can ever really change his family lineage.

Those receiving a “spirit of sonship”, those who may call the Most High God “Abba”, which translated to today’s word is Daddy, cannot change by an act of their will, their family lineage.

In John 10:28-30 Jesus says “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.

“No one!” Not a single person. Only arrogance or pride or ignorance can lead one to believe that they are powerful enough to snatch from God’s hand that which has been placed there.

God knew how unimaginable His love and commitment for His children is would be for legalistic humans. In closing I would share with you again the words of Paul recorded in Rom 8:33-39:

Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: ”For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord

It is possible that some will suggest that I am grasping at false hopes. That this is the message of a grief stricken child seeking hope. You are at least partially correct. I do grieve the death of my Dad but my hopes are in Christ Jesus. A living God who gives true hope and peace to all who will but receive it.