I was age 7 when we moved from the valley to the top of the hill on our farm in Ash County, NC. Most of our new home was the product of lumber from a sawmill owned by Dad and an uncle. Dad did most of the work with help from family and friends.
While our home was modest, it was comfortable and warm. We were blessed by Mom and Dad being Christian, hardworking, talented and creative.
Across the way and on a higher knoll was a bigger house where the Lyles lived. Do not ask me why but I developed a phobia about Mrs. Lyles. In my mind she was a frightful ogre.
She looked like an ordinary elderly woman. Wore a modest cotton dress that may have been made from bags that had once held flour.
Only God in heaven knows what she did that caused me to do something I should not have done as an offense against her.
Mom found out. I do not believe Jesus told on me. I think one of my siblings ratted.
The look on my mother's face portended wrath when she said to me: "If you do not go apologize to Mrs. Lyles....". Whatever her final threat was my mind graciously has blocked out the memory.
I trudged across the way and made my little feet carry me thru the backyard to the rear door of the house. My path was carefully chosen in consideration of the most excellent escape route.
I did not climb the three steps. I reached up and tapped on the door with a hope that no one would answer. To my dismay the door opened and a nine-foot tall Mrs. Lyles looked down on my doomed soul.
Caught I was. The ogre looking down on me and the greater experiential knowledge of Mom's wrath. I chose the path of least fear and blurted out: "My mama told me to tell you I'm sorry!"
Not waiting for an answer I turned and fled. Duty done. I had been obedient to mom. I had apologized.
Years later my eldest sister Jean told me that Mrs. Lyles stood there and laughed and laughed. She often repeated the story to others who enjoyed the humor.
Years later, too late, I came to understand that Mrs. Lyles was one of the kindest, most gentle Christian women on God's earth.
I do not know why it takes us so long to learn valuable lessons of life. I do not know why we get ridiculous notions about life that are contrary to our Heavenly Father's love and grace.
I do not know why we persist in attitudes and behaviors that rob us of precious friendships and relationships that steal joy and treasures of heart.
"These are times that try men's souls," were words by Thomas Paine, a professed atheist. Odd it is that a professed atheist used the word "soul".
I am not an atheist. But Paine's words ring truth in our times. These are troubled times. Ungodliness is prostituted in public media. Ungodly people claim to be Christians and do abominable sins condemned to hell in the Bible.
Would that our Heavenly Father would give us a spirit of discernment to know truth and righteousness. Would that the Holy Spirit would open our eyes and help us to know the difference between a godly Mrs. Lyles and a real devil.
Open our eyes, Lord, that we may see. I pray. And give us courage that we may do righteously.
And Father of Heaven, we pray that earthly fathers would rise up and be bold in righteous living. Give us men who will lead their families and communities with humility, tenderness, and holiness. Give us men who know how to be gentle to and kind to women and children. Give us fathers of faith who will be strong in Kingdom work.
Thus, my prayer for Covenant Church. For Fathers this week. For families. For the Body of Christ.