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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sunday Fishing Lesson

Fishermen have always been known to spin a yarn or two about "the big one that got away." I've got a few of them myself. Jesus called four fishermen to follow him and be disciples, Simon, Andrew, James, and John. I'm sure they had their share of fish stories to tell, too. In this picture you see a couple of family heirlooms of mine that my grandfather had hanging on the wall in his house until he sold it to move out of the city to a small town near my dad. They now hang proudly on my wall, and I never pass up the chance to tell about them. The fish on the left is the first crappie (speckled perch) I caught when I was 6 or 7 years old. The fish on the right is a 6-3/4 pound largemouth bass that jumped in the boat with us. YES! Jumped in the boat and landed at my feet! And that, my friend, is no fish story! It's the absolute truth, just like the story I'm about to relate to you here. This true story is a humorous lesson in faith, integrity, and keeping one's word.

As a young child in the early 70's I lived with my grandparents in Tennessee. My dad was a single parent in the navy and had to deploy at sea a few times in a place called Vietnam. Every spring my grandparents would take a week's vacation and go fishing at Ross Barnett Reservoir in Mississippi with another couple with whom they were very dear friends. They would head home on Saturday so they could attend church on Sunday morning. I was with them this one particular time when they decided to stay and fish on Sunday. Now, my grandmother couldn't swim, but as long as she had a life jacket on, and the fish were biting, she'd head out in the boat. It was shortly after we'd eaten lunch, as I recall, when the sky started getting dark in a hurry. We'd been caught in rain showers before, but this day things would be a little different. The wind started picking up very quickly, and the water started getting pretty rough. We tried to head back in to the boat ramp but it was too far, and the weather was worsening too quickly. We saw a highway bridge over a side creek and headed toward it to try to get some shelter from the storm. The other couple was in a little bit smaller and lighter boat than we were, so my grandpa was leading the way, trying to smooth it out for them a little. The swells were so high we kept completely losing sight of them behind us. I remember seeing lightning hit the water maybe 150 to 200 yards from us. It was a very scary ride, for sure. We finally got up under the bridge and tied off to wait it out. My grandma was a very faithful, God-fearing, Christian woman. Her father and grandfather were both Southern Baptist preachers. I owe her a tremendous debt of gratitude for much of the foundation of my faith. In the midst of this storm she prayed to Jesus. She told Him that if He got her out of this alive then she would never go fishing on Sunday again! Well, I'm here telling the story, so we obviously got out of it ok. Now I know God's not in the exactly in the deal-making business, but He does make promises. God always keeps His promises, though we tend not to, no matter how well intentioned. God did make the ultimate deal (promise) though. He sacrificed His only Son on a cross 2000 years ago, that if we only trust Him that He conquered death for us, then we can have eternal life with Him. My grandma kept her focus on Jesus in the middle of the storm, just like Peter did when he walked on the water to Jesus. He didn't sink until he took his focus off of Jesus and let the storm around him overtake him. As for my grandmother, she kept her side of the "deal" she made with God that day, all the way till the day Jesus took her home some 20 years later. There was no way she was going to go fishing on Sunday again. The Bible says to let your "yes" be yes and your "no" be no. My grandma was indeed a woman of integrity, and she kept her word to God to the very end.
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