I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free! Psalm 119:32, NIV1984

Monday, August 13, 2012

Of Casey Jones, Jesus, and bread for the hungry

I didn't know the story.  I stood in front of that enormous plaque on the wall - the one with the quote from Ronald Reagan that said, "Casey Jones was a real-life hero whose story...is known to virtually all Americans."  But I didn't know.

For nearly two decades now, I had driven through that town more times than I could count.  I had shopped there and eaten dinner there; I had been to the movie theater in town.  But I had never wandered down the sidewalk to the little white house behind the white picket fence.  I had never stepped inside the door where Casey Jones kissed his wife good-bye before he headed out to the train.  I had never peered into the dining room where he gathered his family around the table. I had never ducked my head into the room where children's toys were scattered across the floor and the beds were perfectly made.  I had never wondered if he danced with his wife in the drawing room when music played from the phonograph in the corner or sang with his children while her fingers danced across the keys of the piano.  I didn't know the story.

Until I stepped inside that room that held the photographs and the letters...and the funeral carriage...I didn't know that Casey Jones had given his life for a whole train-load full of passengers who rode the train that day.  I didn't know that he had told his fireman, Sim, to jump - just in the nick of time.  I didn't know that Casey Jones had stayed on board to slow the train that had nowhere to go but straight ahead into the freight cars stalled on the tracks.  I didn't know that Casey Jones' life was the only life lost on those tracks that day.


Disney had turned him into a legend.  A folk song sang the tale.  But I had never heard his story.

No one had ever told me.

So I've been thinking about Casey Jones, who laid down his life so others could live.  I've been thinking about the fact that I had never heard his story.  And I've been thinking about another story and the ones who have never heard.

Like the boy I told about the mission trip in the summer of '91.  He had grown up in my neighborhood, graduated from the same high school as I did, then lived across the street from my parents.  He was working his way through college, driving a bread truck in the morning, taking classes in the afternoon.

We would sit outside as the sun set, and I would tell him about the children...how we had traveled three summers to tell them that Jesus loved them so.

And then one day he had told me that he didn't know the story - the one we told the children.  No one had ever told him.

But he had grown up in my neighborhood, graduated from the same high school I did.  He lived across the street from my parents!  How could he not know?

So I sent him home with a Max Lucado book, a Bible, and instructions to read the book of John.  And he called me the next day and asked why Peter had said he didn't know Jesus!  "Weren't they friends?"

He had read the entire book of John that night!

Then he got his hands on an old set of King James Version cassette tapes.  And he would rumble down the streets in that old truck at 4:30 in the morning, the belly of the truck full of just-baked loaves of bread, while he listened in the front to the story of the One who came to be the Bread of Life, the One who gave His life that we might live.

He had never heard the story.  No one had ever told him.

And I'm wondering today about the ones who live across the street from me now.  Has anyone ever told them?  Have they heard?  Do they know that God so loved the world - that God so loved them - that He gave...?

Do they know the story of Jesus, the One who gave His life so they could live?

How will they know - unless I tell them?

For God loved the world so much
that He gave His one and only Son,
so that everyone who believes in Him
will not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16, NLT

There is no greater love
than to lay down one's life
for one's friends.
John 15:13, NLT

But how can they call on Him to save them unless they believe in Him?
And how can they believe in Him if they have never heard about Him?
And how can they hear about Him unless someone tells them?
Romans 10:14, NLT

Continuing to count His endless gifts and grace . . .

#1411  that God so loved the world
#1412  that He recorded His story so we would know
#1413  that He gives us ears to hear
#1414  that He compels us to go and tell
#1415  that His story is the greatest story ever told!

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Giving Thanks . . . Summer Travel, Family Stories Edition

He never drove a car his whole life.  He drove a red Farmall tractor.  He drove it to work every day, and then he drove it home.  He was the custodian at the elementary school down the road, and even the kids at school called him PaPa.  When he drove home in the afternoons, the children would line up down the road and take turns riding on PaPa's tractor.

With his meager income, he bought a big old piece of land so each of his daughters would have a place to call their own.  And he built his wife a little cinder-block house that some have said is still the sturdiest thing in town.

I never knew him.  He'd already flown away to heaven when I came along.  But his story lives on, and the house he built still stands.  And for one glorious week this summer, I slept again beneath the tin roof of that little cinder-block house.  I listened again to the stories that never grow old.  I sat again around the old table in the kitchen, watched the kids ride the go-kart beneath the pecan trees out front and laughed with them over the sticky-sweet goo of the marshmellows that we roasted out back.

The kids played so hard that their muscles ached in the morning.  We laughed so hard around that table that our sides hurt with the laughing.  And we drove home grateful for the ones who've gone before us - their lives and the legacy they left - and for the ones whose stories the Lord is writing even still.

Continuing to count His endless gifts and grace:

1381  climbing in the van, the four of us, for the trip to Grammy's house
1382  our miracle van making it all the way there
1383  cousins who are BEST friends
1384  boys shooting BB guns and bows & arrows all day long
1385  kids taking turns, riding the 2-seater go-kart
1386  cousins jumping, turning flips on the trampoline
1387  piling on the air mattress for a sleep-over
1388  boy-child teaching his cousin to catch & throw a lacrosse ball
1389  firstborn joining her older cousins, babysitting the younger ones
1390  the 2-mile boardwalk through the woods
1391  all the cousins coming over for pizza
1392  lingering long at the kitchen table, catching up on family news
1393  kittens playing in the yard
1394  boys playing under the pecan trees out front
1395  watching a deer nibble apples off the tree
1396  hummingbirds sipping from the feeder by the window
1397  the light in the trees
1398  hearing the old stories again
1399  learning new stories I'd never heard
1400  Mississippi Mud waiting in the fridge when we arrived
1401  tomatoes on the vine out back
1402  pecan trees hanging heavy with fruit
1403  my mother-in-law's pot roast! Yum!
1404  the comfort of her grace and kindness
1405  her beautiful, amazing laugh
1406  roasting marshmellows, tasting their sticky sweetness
1407  fireflies over the field at night
1408  helicopter fly-over, all the kids waving as he flies back over again
1409  lunch and a game of checkers at the Old Country Store
1410  driving the long road home

Those who are wise will take all this to heart;
they will see in our history the faithful love of the LORD.
Psalm 107:43, NLT

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