Thursday, October 23, 2008


My seventeen-year-old son works at Kroger. He recently got promoted from being a cart pusher to a checkout artist or whatever they title people that work the cash register. I call him a checkout artist because I watched him checking out a young lady while adding up her groceries. He didn’t know I was checking him out though. We had to have a talk.

Anyway he tells me really funny stories because like his old man, he talks to everybody and pays attention to things.

Not long ago several people were in line at the supermarket when he noticed the rather attractive lady behind some guy cautiously wanted to get his attention. The guy was a little surprised and his wife had just left to get something she had forgotten. So he looks around to see if his wife is coming back yet and says, “Hey, don’t we know each other, I think we’ve met, maybe?”

She replies, “I may be mistaken, but I thought you might be the father of one of my kids.”

Ben said the guy’s blood left his face and suddenly in a very hurried voice said, “Look, my wife is going to come back here in a minute and I don’t want to talk about this now. But you’ve got to know, when I got out of the police station I went back to the hotel room and you had gone, I swear.”

“No,” she replies with disgust, “I'm your son's English teacher”.

The Getaway
Nobody really gets away with anything. I mean we think we do but we really don’t. It’s always out there trying get back to us. That’s why we need redemption.

Did you see the movie with Harrison Ford called the Fugitive? A great movie where you really root for the guy because number one, you know he is innocent and number two, you want to see somebody get away. People can’t help but be attracted to a guy on the run. Remember OJ in the white Bronco with a hundred police cars behind him. All those dummies running out to the highway holding up signs, “RUN OJ RUN”

Though he isn’t the least bit Scottish, OJ got off Scott-free for the horrible murder of his wife and the other guy. It’s just the hand of the Lord that 13 years latter, to the day he was found guilty for another crime. No doubt ending his 13-year search for the real killer on golf courses everywhere. OJ got away, but he didn’t find redemption.

Still there is something intriguing about people escaping out of terrible places. Some year’s back a movie came out called The Shawshank Redemption where a man escaped from a terrible prison. People will pay big money to set through two hours of horrible prison scenes if they think that the last five minutes of the movie will show his escape. There is just something about a man escaping from bondage that you can’t help but like.

Redemption is all about escaping terrible bondage. Shawshank or not, I love redemption.

Redemption can also be a do-over. I think God is in the do over business and loves to give us third and fourth chances; or however many times we need to get things right. For instance, the Bible says a guy named Peter stood by a fire and because he was overwhelmed by terrible circumstances, said he didn’t know Jesus three different times in a row. Not long after, Jesus took that same guy to another fire and asked him three different times if he loved him. He reset the whole scenario for Peter’s success.

The only difference was that this time Peter was overwhelmed by the presences of God instead of by the circumstances.

So if you find yourself having to go through a do-over, it might be the Lord setting you up for success where you’ve always failed before. That’s how redemption works. This time I hope you can find yourself overwhelmed by God’s goodness instead of the junk you are having to deal with.

Arise for our help, and redeem us for thy mercies' sake.
Psalms 44:26

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Success Story

When Taylor was a kid, he dreamed of being an Astronaut. The thrill of blasting off into dark places and coming home to thundering crowds of applause was a common theme for his young life. As he got a little older he modified his dream but it was still about having guts and confidence. It remained to be about significance and doing something honorable. That’s why he thought he would end up a cop or a fireman. I remember when he was considering a career in the military.

His musical skills went through the roof so he traded those dreams for blasting off into the world and seeing different places. The applause might not have been thundering but at least it was gratifying. However, the road took its toll and with terrible choices came terrible relationships. The Siamese twins of indulgence and addiction took over and before long Taylor went into survival mode.

Dreams are murdered when survival exhausts us. As years went by he saw himself more in the mirror of failures and disappointments. The more he looked at it, the less he became until finally he and I sat across from each other at a local restaurant.

I used to know this person (who I’m calling Taylor) well and I remember when he thought his life was full of promise. I am calling him Taylor because he plays a Taylor guitar. He doesn’t actually have a guitar now. He has pawned or traded in every instrument and every good thing he has ever had. He’s lost it all including his family-several families in fact.

He’s a beautiful soul but a mere shadow of whom he is supposed to be. Our time together was sweet and sad. Inevitably our conversation turned to the Lord and he said, “You might not believe it Troy, but I really am a Christian.”

Without batting an eyelash I said, “If you say you are, then I do believe you.”

I guess it surprised him but he went on. “I keep messing everything up and God keeps on forgiving me. I know he loves me and I know his forgiveness is there for me.”

With that, I leaned across the table and said “Yeah, that’s cool that you’re forgiven but Taylor, forgiveness is not the same as promotion. Your going to stay in that septic if you don’t make a change, forgiven or not.”

Valuable Living

Lots of Christians are forgiven and worthless at the same time. Yeah, you read that right and if you don’t know it, you haven’t been around many Christians. If I were an atheist, I would look at most who profess Christianity and jump on a different bus.

I can’t imagine living a forgiven but tragic life. Biblical Samson was a lot like that. While he was full of supernatural strength, he lacked the guts to be who God had called him to be. Consequently he only began to deliver Israel and David had to finish it hundreds of years later. He didn’t have the character to finish anything. The Bible says he did more damage to the enemy in his death than in his life. So basically it was better for everybody if Samson was dead. I don’t want that said about me.

Israel suffered for an extra 175 years because of Samson’s failed but forgiven life. There is great collateral damage when we refuse to steward our lives. Failure in my stewardship from God will cost me effectiveness for God and you can take that Shreveport.

I don’t think for a minute that forgiveness should be the primary objective for Christians. I think living a life that glorifies Him from a position of forgiveness is. That’s living life on the right side of the cross.

Christianity should be full of success stories. God doesn’t just change us for the heaven of it but a key part of God getting glory for changing us is we should become world changers. Not dependent, struggling, limp-wristed failures that constantly pull out our forgiveness cards. Who cares?

We ought to be full of vision, hope and accomplishment. Accomplishing vision is all about fulfilling Gods heart. We ought to be on a mission. Jesus Christ was born the Son of God and he wanted to be the fullest potential of whom God called him to be. You know why? So that he could reach the fullest potential of doing what God had called him to do.

I think its time for us to see ourselves as Gods family and actually live like royalty.

Taylor is seeking help for his addiction and I’m pulling for him. I am hoping both of us can be set free enough to actually be effective in the freedom business.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Perfect Day

When Leanna and I came back to our car last Tuesday, we first thought we were on the wrong street. No, my car was no longer there and somehow that dawning revelation affected my internal organs. It was a sick feeling.

We only had one day in San Francisco and having my rent-a-car stolen was not what I had planned. When I turned to Leanna she smiled and said, “That’s what God invented insurance for,” and we both hugged each other. I had a real adventure on my hands to see how we would get back to Sacramento.

In another minute or two I remembered my journal and Bible were in that car. My smile changing as my big fat lip poked out in a pout.

“Our books,” I groaned.

Convinced my grandkids will read my journals; the loss began to sink in. Millions no doubt would some day have flocked to my own wing at the Smithsonian in hopes to glimpse the personal Bible of Troy Brewer. This theft was totally unacceptable.

Enter Homer. The 360-pound African American homeless brother with 5 layers of clothes, dreadlocks like the Predator and a sign around his neck that reads, “A cigarette would help.”

“You think your car been stolen? It was…by the city.” Homer started laughing and when he did he coughed up half a lung. His bright yellow teeth made me smile too because it was funny that he thought it was funny. So there we were, me laughing at him laughing at me. I saw the sign he pointed to with a worn out glove. It said no parking from 3-6. I had parked at the meter sometime around 2:30 and now it was 3:40. My car had been impounded.

We chatted with Homer for a while and had coffee together. He had squatted in Dallas, Austin and Ft worth for a time. He resides now near the piers.

After 2.3 miles and a $20 ride with Amin the Ethiopian, we enter the environmentally friendly office of impounded cars. Amin was a neat guy and if you think about it, pray for him. He’s here legally and trying his hardest to make things happen. 22 years old, full of promise and wanting to live the dream of an American. He said he had always wanted to see a rodeo.

I was seeing a side of San Francisco that’s most folks don’t. This was the park-in-a-no-parking-zone tour.

On the other side of bulletproof glass loaded with Obama stickers and something that said, “Send bread not bombs” sat Erica. Erica was the 5th daughter of Mexican immigrants. I learn things about people because my hillbilly accent triggers people to ask me where I’m from. She had family just south of San Antonio. Around us people screamed and protested but it was all blurry.

After a few minutes chit-chat she regretfully handed us a recycled piece of paper with a fine of $244.00 printed on it.

We began laughing again, the way men would laugh after they came out of Vietnam. I said, “C’mon Erica, help us. Were nice, your nice and nice people help each other.”

She wrote down an address and said if we hurried to the courthouse we could catch a judge before five. We might get it dismissed.

We thanked her and went looking for our rented Mazda 6. There it was, with another ticket on the windshield for an additional $70. What a wonderful racket this city has. I scanned the eco-friendly processed paper for any sign of mercy. With none there, we were driving around looking for the courthouse.

A few minutes later we ran up the courthouse steps past 2 men going through a mock gay marriage and looking for the right office because the judge leaves at five. The judge, who was Croatian, granted us the last hearing of the day. In a thick Eastern European accent he dismissed the $70 ticket but didn’t the other. He had however, once bought an authentic pair of Cowboy Boots at DFW airport.

Thirty minutes later, Leanna and I caught the last boat out for a sunset cruise on the bay.

The guy running the boat was named Paul and had been painting his pots for this months crab season. Paul had friends in Galveston that fish for shrimp. Paul was a neat guy.

My bride and me were on the back of the boat giggling about our whirlwind tour and about to go under the Golden Gate Bridge. We love this crazy journey. Paul picked up my Iphone and took a picture. The end of a perfect day.

You see, you can be mad over things gone wrong or you can have real justice in enjoying the ride anyway.

I think sometimes God gives us victory through slaying the giants in our lives. I love being a giant killer but I think other times we have victory when the giants don’t matter.

It turned out to be one of the most romantic and loving evenings of our twenty-year marriage. Perfect weather, the sun going down into the ocean, a miracle moment.

I learned a long time ago, a move of God delayed is not a move of God denied. Sometimes the miraculous follows the ridiculous.

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Friday, October 3, 2008

Show Of Force

There was a day when a fight was only a fight. It wasn’t an act of terrorism or a violent manifestation of suppressed feminine feelings. It was merely a couple of knuckleheads throwing down because boys used to do that sometimes.

The days of an honorable scrap have gone the way of disco. The used to be common place, meet-me-after-school event, including a hand shake afterwards is as likely to happen as the Ayatollah embracing Israel.

Today if a fight breaks out you can count on a mob or a gun. Should a young man miraculously survive, he might be mandated to spend years in therapy chasing his inner child. If the mob involves girls like it so often does today, and if they put it on You Tube, the young man will certainly need therapy. The possibility of his grandchildren watching a bunch of she-males beat him up is a legacy most don’t want to pass down.

Should it happen at school, he’ll get hauled off to Git-Mo and never seen again.

In my day, a fight wasn’t that big of a deal.

Fast Times…

My mind goes back to the terrible eight-grade bully. This kid was spending his third year in the eighth grade and was the intellectual equivalent of Girls Gone Wild. He was a foot taller than all the rest of us and to me seemed undefeatable. After several months of being his piƱata, my History teacher and two coaches took me aside. They closed the door and announced this was a clandestine meeting. It was years before I learned the word meant secret.

They said they were tired of seeing me get beat up by this Neanderthal. I had to fight back. My coach said I should hit him in the nose and surprise him. That day after school the bully found me and sure enough coach was watching the whole thing. To the bullies surprise I hit him right in the nose. To my surprise, up until that moment he had only been playing with me. The beating that followed is a classic in the annals of Joshua Middle School.

Coach broke it up but not before he got his terrible point across to me over and over again. I would feel his point for days to come.

Soon another clandestine meeting but this one with slaps on my back and encouragement. Why did you stop? Why didn’t you keep hitting him? That was great! Troy you had him!

I wondered if they saw the same fight I had just been in. “You told me wrong!” I said through tears. One of the coaches looked at another and then my History teacher said, “Your right. Don’t hit him in the nose, next time run up and hit him in the back of the head with a stick or a pipe or something.”

That’s when I knew these guys were crazy. I also knew there would be meeting after meeting until I had defeated this brute. Things have changed since the late seventies.

I don’t want to go into details but the bottom line is by the end of the year I was holding my own and the middle school monster was finally thrown out. I didn’t just grow in stature; I grew in confidence through every terrible battle. No longer afraid of being beat up, the bully didn’t want to mess with me. My resistance discouraged him.

Fast Forward

Eighth grade was a long time ago for me but I carry something with me today from that season of my life. It’s about being a warrior. Not that I am one. If I got in a fight today I would have to win in the first five seconds because around the 6th, I’m having an asthma attack.

I learned you don’t become a warrior through one victorious battle; sometimes you become a warrior through a long succession of defeats. It’s all about getting back up and going after victory again and again. If you do that, you discourage the enemy.

Victory grows with momentum. It’s expediential. The Bible calls that faithfulness and faithfulness is all about persistence.

Now as a Christian and 28 years later I don’t fight class bullies anymore. I’ve got a full time knock-down-drag-out going on between my own two ears. I battle darkness with light, lies with truth and overcome evil with God’s goodness. I’m not worried about going to Heaven since Christ fought that battle for me. Basically, I’m all about Heaven invading this earth. If God can do that in me then He can do that through me.

Hold Fast

You might have a history of messy ugliness, but God offers progression though every battle until that enemy is finally off of your radar. I love being a Christian. God doesn’t measure success through every immediate implication but rather through the ultimate outcome.

I lost most of my battles to the middle school monster but ultimately won the war. Sometimes your greatest show of force is to remain in the fight. As a Christian I adopt the attitude of its ok to have lost certain battles in light of the ultimate outcome.

Your persistence and faithfulness to stay in the good fight of faith discourages the discourager. You’re not messed up; you are simply on your way to being a warrior.

James 4:7

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

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