Most Definitely Not Cool Thor, or Back In Line

“This line is trash, this ride is trash, and I hereby…forsake it!” I yelled.  Thunder rolled through the sky when I said ‘forsake it.’  It was epic.  I was Thor.  Okay, admittedly not cool-Thor, no.  I was most definitely not cool-fit-handsome-Thor.  

I was sad-Thor, like in the ‘Endgame’ movie, and I was raging against the long line at an amusement park.  It wasn’t moving fast enough.  The music on the other rides sounded cooler.  The people in the other lines looked happier, cooler, more sophisticated.  So, I got out of line and I walked away.  There were other rides to ride.  Faster lines.  There’s always a faster line. 

Donnie’s Rule about Lines:  The fastest line is the shortest, and you can be sure that the fastest line is the line I’m not in.  This rule is in effect particularly at grocery stores.  I’m sure to pick the slowest line.  There could be one dude ahead of me with only a candy bar and a 2 liter of pop.  It’ll take him ten minutes to check out.  He’ll look like a normal dude, but then he gets up to the cashier and he starts trying to haggle on the price of a candy bar, or he’s using all nickels to pay.  Who has all their folding money tied up in nickels?  Then there’s price checks, and checks on the previous price check.  Oh, there appears to be some kind of secret handshake and passphrase being used…I’m not sure what all happens up there, but this is no mere snack run for the guy in front of me.  Ten minutes for two items.  Every time.    

The line for the ‘better’ ride was worse.  Way worse.  It looked better.  The people seemed to be moving along; they looked happy.  It looked like the ride for me.  Everyone looks happier when they’re far away don’t they?  It wasn’t smiles I saw from far away.  It was grimacing; it was the smell.  Ughhhh.  The new line was trash.  

Deuteronomy 4:29-31 (CEV) “In all of your troubles, you may finally decide that you want to worship only the Lord. And if you turn back to him and obey him completely, he will again be your God.  The Lord your God will have mercy—he won’t destroy you or desert you. The Lord will remember his promise, and he will keep the agreement he made with your ancestors.”

Honest Donnie Time:  We’ve all stepped out of line, left what we should not have left. Me included.  In my past I’d walked away from what I’d been taught, and I found something surprising: the other lines stink. They may look fun, but there’s a steep price to be paid for staying in those lines. There’s still time to get back in the right line. Every time, every single time I’ve come to my sense and come back to Him, God has accepted me back.  It’s never too late to come back to Him.  Jump back in line. 


A Boisterous Corrector of Other People’s Poor Driving, or Borders

“Can you believe this guy?” I asked aloud, though I was the only person in our car.
“Three lanes of traffic. Three. Look at this goober! Pick a lane, dude! Any lane, just pick one and stay in it,” I said.

Okay. I didn’t just ‘say’ it. I may have yelled it. But I mean, come on. There’s three lanes of traffic. How is it that the guy is driving in all three at the same time? I’m getting better about it, but I used to have a small road rage issue.

I wouldn’t even really call it road rage. I was…a boisterous corrector of other people’s poor driving. “Stay in your lane, dude.” It’s not too much to ask.

Numbers 34:12 (CEV) “…The land within those four borders will belong to you.”

Stay in your lane. The lines on the road aren’t there to keep you from having fun while you’re driving, or even to keep you from getting to where you want to go. They’re there to keep you going the right way, to get you to your destination safely, and to help others get there as well. Stay in your lane.

God has created borders for us. Stay in your lane. I used to think that those borders were keeping me from fun, and life, and adventure, and good things. I think a lot of younger folks get God’s borders twisted like that. So we swerve all over the road, we go the wrong way, we create chaos just like that guy who was swerving all over the road in front of me.

I used to think that I had to bust out of the borders that God has set in His word. I thought the ‘rules’ were there to keep me held down. I wanted to bust out and be free. But what I found blew my mind. The borders weren’t there to keep me prisoner at all. The borders were set up around life, real life, full life. When I got outside those borders, I found that everything outside that I was rushing to get to only led to loss, and pain, and destruction, and death.

God didn’t give us rules to live by to be cruel or to keep us from life. I’ve found that the opposite is true. He sets up borders so that we can live life, real life. Stay in your lane.

You may run into some folks today who are ‘outside the borders’ and swerving all over the road. You have a choice to make. You can yell, and fuss, and tell them what a bad driver they are. Or, you can show them Jesus, and be kind. Be kind. Who knows, maybe they’ll see that you’ve got what they’re looking for, or that you’re headed where they want to go, and they’ll get in the lane with you.

The Time My Son Turned Into Chuck Noland From Castaway, or Time Check

“It’s 2:07, dad,” he said. He was strapped into his booster seat, and still barely big enough to see out the window of our car. How can someone be so little and so big all at the same time?
“Cool, bud. That’s a good time check,” I replied. I didn’t know what else to say. It was like he was a little version of Tom Hank’s character, Chuck Noland, in Castaway– “We live and we die by time. And we must not commit the sin of losing our track on time.”

I had just given our son a watch, and he was determined that we weren’t going to lose track of time. So we got random time checks. Frequent, random time checks. It was never on the hour, or on the quarter. Whenever he happened to remember he had a watch, that’s when we got a time check.

Mark 1:15 (CEV)- He said, “The time has come! God’s kingdom will soon be here. Turn back to God and believe the good news!”

Time check. Jesus’ message was essentially, “Time check. It’s time to turn back to God.” It’s time. For the sinner, it’s not too late. If you’re looking for the right time, the time is now. It’s time. But also for the believer, the time has come, too. It’s time Go deeper. Surrender more. Love more. Believe more.

Quick Bites: Taking a Minute To Remember

Numbers 31:54 (CEV) “So Moses and Eleazar placed the gold in the Lord’s sacred tent to remind Israel of what had happened.”

The Lord has healed me. I have been sick, yes. I have been injured, but He brought me through it all. He has provided for my every need, and He has provided well. He’s fed me, very well. He has encouraged me when I felt like giving up. Honestly, when I gave up, He pursued me. He has stretched me and put me in positions I wouldn’t have chosen for myself, but I’m grateful that He knew better than me. He has been kind to me when I least deserved it. He has protected me from countless dangers, and likely countless more that I’m not even aware of. He’s given me victories that I otherwise couldn’t have won. He’s given me a beautiful family and a wonderful church family who genuinely care for us. He’s given me a good job. On top of all that, and I could definitely keep going, He forgave me and restored me and is restoring me.

My story isn’t really all that unique. I’m sure you could say much the same, so, say it. Take time to remember all things The Lord has done for you, and if the opportunity presents itself, share those stories with others.

Quick Bites: Good News

Mark 1:1 (CEV) “This is the good news about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

I just wanted to remind you today that ours is a message of good news. There is an answer to the question- Jesus. There is a healer- Jesus. There is a Savior- Jesus. There is a comforter, a redeemer, a rock, a shield, a liberator of captives, a love that we desperately need, someone who hears us and sees us- Jesus.

I Plead the Fif!, or Silent

Most of my criminal past is behind me. Most of it. I have a skill-set. And I may, one sunny day, exercise that skill set from time to time. Part of it is curiosity. Can I get away with it? Have I still got it, or am I losing my touch.
I know. I know. Some folks who know me now probably wouldn’t believe the things I’ve done. Some have suspected it all along. So, I’m setting the record straight and bringing the truth to light.

Jaywalking. I’m a serial jaywalker. Compulsive, really. I just have this…thing in my brain that drives me to cross the street wherever I’m at. Walking up to the crosswalk? Pfft. Ain’t nobody got no time for that.

“Donnie,” you say. “You hardened criminal-cool dude, you. Aren’t you afraid you’ll be arrested?”
I guess now that I’ve posted this to the internet, it complicates pleading the fifth. Or as Dave Chappelle would say, “one, two, three, four, FIF!”

Matthew 27:12 (CEV) “And when the chief priests and leaders brought their charges against him, he did not say a thing.”

Sometimes the hardest thing in the world is to keep silent.

Jesus was perfect. In every situation, in every argument, He was on the right side. If ever there was someone who deserved to stand up and speak His mind, or tell it like it is, or give someone a double portion of ‘here’s the truth and you can get some,’ it was Him. But even Jesus didn’t fight every fight or argue every point.

There are some fights worth fighting, and there are some that aren’t. Choose wisely.

Neil deGrasse Tyson Keeps Stealing My Keys, or Looking

“The keys were just here! What the world? They can’t have just disappeared…or could they?” I said. If I’ve learned anything from the Discovery Channel, it’s that physics can get weird, and all sorts of weird things happen every day.

Maybe I’m not forgetful. It could be that some weird Neil deGrasse Tyson astrophysics wormhole opens up, zapping my keys to some far off location for mere moments, only to return them when my wife starts looking for them. Or, more likely, the keys were in my pocket the whole time. I’ll let you decide.

Honest Sharing Time: I lose stuff. A lot. The laptop that I was just typing on, the book I was just reading, my water bottle I was just drinking from, the elastic band around my notebook. Funny enough, I always know right where my cup of coffee is. Peculiar.

On average, studies have shown that I lose something every 30 minutes, only to find a previous object while I’m looking for something else. More often than not, the car keys are in my pocket. I think someone is playing a trick on me. I really do.

Matthew 28:5-6 (CEV) “…Don’t be afraid! I know you are looking for Jesus, who was nailed to a cross. He isn’t here! God has raised him to life, just as Jesus said he would…”

We’re in daily contact with people looking for something- our next door neighbor, our cashier at the grocery store, the people driving with you in traffic, maybe even our own friends and family. Bono penned the line, “but I still haven’t found what I’m looking for,” and I think that sums up the lot for a multitude of people. They’re looking for something.

They’re looking for an answer, or a way to ease the pain, or a way to forget, or a way to just make it through another day. They’re looking for the reason behind all this. They’re looking for a friend just like you who can help them far beyond what they ever imagined.

We see a world turning to everything under the sun; they’re looking. And we are blessed to know what they’re looking for. The answer to every question I’ve ever had, every pain I’ve ever felt, every desire that’s ever gripped my heart- the only thing that ever satisfies is Jesus. Will you show them Jesus today?

Sandwiches For Dinner, or Suffering

“So, what do you want to have for dinner?” I asked. It seemed like an innocent enough question. I didn’t know that I was about to unleash a torrent of suffering never before seen on the earth.

“I was thinking we could just make some sandwiches,” she said.

“Nooooooooooooo!” I screamed. My chair flipped over as I bolted from the table. I ran out the door and into the street in front of our apartment. Not sandwiches. We’re not animals. Anything but that. I fell to my knees in the middle of the street, the asphalt hot on my skin as I wept, overtaken with grief as thunderclouds opened up overhead, raining down and joining me in my sorrow. What offense had I committed to deserve such suffering?

Okay, that last part didn’t happen in real life, but that was what was playing out in my head. I’m not trying to start a social media war of the wills, but the objective truth, as any sane person will tell you, is that sandwiches do not equal dinner. They’re a snack, or something you eat for lunch when you don’t have anything good to eat.

Matthew 26:42 (CEV) Again Jesus went to pray and said, “My Father, if there is no other way, and I must suffer, I will still do what you want.”

My beautiful wife was choosing sandwiches for dinner. Proof # 1,352 that my wife is a saint. She was choosing to suffer. Sandwiches. Bleck! Kidding.

Jesus chose to suffer. Jesus in essence prayed, ‘Yeah, I’d really rather not, but if that’s what You want, then I’m all in.’ That’s what you do in marriage, sometimes. You have to set aside what you want, and go all in with someone else’s plan sometimes. I think that’s the kind of attitude we have to have in a multitude of situations. Jesus put aside his wants, his preferences, for the glory of doing the will of God. He chose to suffer. Are we willing to do the same?

I Had a Magical VCR, or Keep Away

‘You can do it. Feed me.’
I couldn’t hear the voice, but she could.
“No,” she said. “No, no, no!”
An epic struggle of will was unfolding right before us. Every time she said no, she shook her little finger at the VCR, and her golden baby soft ringlets would bounce a little. She said no like she meant it, but the entire scene betrayed what was really going on.

The loading gate of the VCR was missing by this point, no doubt due to me fishing one toy or another out of the device. This was no ordinary VCR. It was special. There was a certain magic to it. I bought it years before for my then girlfriend, soon to be fiance, soon to be wife. And now our daughter was standing in front of it, vehemently exclaiming ‘no’ like it was trying to steal her purse or something.

This was a magical VCR. It spoke. Not to me. Not to my wife. But to our daughter, it begged her to feed it toys, and snacks, really all manner of things. It beckoned her to push its buttons. We told her ‘no’ so many times that she eventually started telling herself and the VCR ‘no’ whenever she felt the urge to feed it a toy or a snack or just push the buttons.

Proverbs 16:6 (CEV) “If we truly love God, our sins will be forgiven; if we show him respect, we will keep away from sin.”

Sin is a lot like that VCR. And a lot of times, we get too close. We get close enough to hear it speak. Instead of keeping away from it, not even entertaining the thought of it, we get closer and closer. It pulls us closer. And sometimes the temptation pulls us under.

I want to remind you: stay away from the VCR in your life. Don’t feed it. Keep away. Sin, just like that VCR, is magnetic. It’ll pull you in. It’s best to stay as far away as possible, and keep your snacks for yourself.

Sometimes You Get Stuck On A Rock, or Kayaking With A Pocket Full of Beef Jerky

“No, I’m okay. Don’t worry about me. I’m just…stuck…on a rock…in the middle of a river…with a pocket full of beef jerky.” Admittedly, I have a flair for the dramatic. The water was as clear as the mountain air. It was a beautiful day to be out on the water. It hadn’t rained in a few weeks, so the river was slithering along its pathway a little lower and a little slower than usual.

I thought I could make it through this little route over some rocks that were hiding just below the surface. I thought wrong, my friends. I thought wrong. I’d like to blame it on the water being low, but honestly, I’d been hitting the chocolate chip cookies pretty hard, so maybe my boat was sitting a little lower in the water than usual. My boat was stuck on some rocks, which meant that I was stuck on some rocks. This is not where I wanted to be. This is not what I planned to happen.

One of my favorite things to do when we go up north to see my parents is to go kayaking. But it seems like no matter how diligent you are, no matter how watchful, sometimes the river has its own ideas about where it wants your boat to go. You can make your own plans when you go out kayaking. You can paddle, and set the path you want to take. But sometimes the unexpected happens.

Proverbs 16:9 (CEV) “We make our own plans, but the Lord decides where we will go.”

Life is kind of like that. We make plans, and sometimes they work out. We make plans, and sometimes we find ourselves nowhere near where we thought we’d be or wanted to be. ‘The Lord decides where we will go.”

I read this verse and I thought about the Israelites when they left Egypt. The Lord led them with a cloud by day and a fire at night. God led them, but it wasn’t always an easy journey. Sometimes He led them to places that had no water. Sometimes He led them through desert places. He didn’t always lead the Israelites to places they would have picked themselves. I mean, come on, I wouldn’t have picked to walk through the sea with walls of water on each side and one of the world’s greatest armies chasing me down. He hasn’t always led me to places that I would have picked myself.

What do we do when we find that we’ve made our own plans but the Lord has decided that we go somewhere else? You could pout. It’s an option. I’m pretty good at pouting. But I can’t honestly say that it ever really helps me feel better and it definitely doesn’t make the situation any better. You can complain, though I wouldn’t suggest taking that route. If you read the Israelite’s account, God got rather tired of their complaining. What to do, then?

Pray and believe.

I believe that sometimes God leads us to dry areas, scary places, dark places, to see how we’ll react: will we react with faith believing that God will provide for our every need, or will we pout, or panic or try to find our own water, our own food, our own way through?

I don’t know where you find yourself today. Maybe it has all gone according to plan. Awesome. Enjoy those moments. Savor and celebrate them and celebrate them for others. But maybe you’ve found yourself stuck on some rocks and not nearly as far along as you’d hoped. Maybe you feel like armies have chased you down, and you’re looking at walking through a pretty scary path. Wherever you find yourself, I want to reassure you that God’s got this. He’s got you. He knows right where you are. If you’re following Him, then He’s the One who led you here. And He’s led you here for a reason.

Believe that He’ll guide you through and provide for you.

I won’t sugarcoat it. The world is a wild place, and it always has been. Just in the United States, there’s a pandemic and social unrest- turmoil at every turn. And God Himself has led us to where we are. Let me be say it very clearly: He did not bring us here to destroy us, but rather for us to be a light in the darkness. Pray and shine a light of goodness, of Godly love, kindness, and compassion.

A candle set outside in the bright noonday sunlight doesn’t make the outdoors any brighter. You can blow it out and it won’t make the outside less bright. But set that same candle in a dark room, and it shines light everywhere. Your light is needed in dark times. Wherever you find yourself today and in the days to come, be a light. Don’t pout…for very long. Don’t complain. God has a plan and a purpose for your life.
Jeremiah 29:11 (NASB) “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'”
Believe that God has anointed you for this season, and this time, because He has. You won’t be stuck on a rock forever, and overturned boats can be set aright and continue down the river.

Keep your paddle in the water, and a snack in your pocket. You’re going to reach your destination.