With all the innocence of a six-year-old, I asked, “Bob, are you prejudiced?” Never looking up, he replied, “Everybody’s prejudiced–black, white, men, women–everybody.” Not to be disregarded that easily, I continued, “Well, what are you prejudiced against?”
“Sin,” he said as he shined his customers’s shoes to a mirror finish.
Somehow, I sensed that our conversation was finished. Bob must be weary, I thought. And when Bob was weary, he didn’t want to talk–not to me, not to anyone.
No matter. My attention had already been diverted to the popping sounds of the razor strap as the barber sharpened his blade to a fine edge. The broad smile on the barber’s face clearly said, Bob get the best of you again, didn’t he?
I ignored the stupid barber and returned my attention to Bob. Looking up at this customer, who had just handed him a half-dollar and turned to walk away, Bob said, “Too much , sir. The tip’s got to relate to the price.” Back then, the price for a shoe shine was fifteen cents. Bob handed the bewildered customer a quarter and thanked him for his business.
My conversations with Bob Watkins continued with some regularity over the next several years. During that time, Bob became my friend, my confidant and my teacher–quite a different relationship from the one evident from our first meeting.
My first trip to the barbershop–sometime near my fourth birthday–was a total disaster. The fear associated with my first haircut was more than enough to unnerve me. Then I saw Bob. I burst into tears and was about to run from the barbershop, when a soft, deep voice summoned me to the shoe shine chair. I looked slightly upward into the most radiant face I had ever seen. The sparkling eyes and toothy grin, beaming from the coal black face erased all my fears.
Instinctively, I was drawn to Bob despite his appearance. His ebony face, with the large indentation in his upper body, giving the appearance of a man on the legs of a child. But his feet-those huge feet encased in giant black shoes—turned backward, and this was more than I could comprehend. And, when he sat back in a resting position on the tops of the shoes, Bob looked forever like a giant frog, ready to leap at any moment.
I later learned that both Bob’s feet had been amputated, just above the ankle, in a railroad accident–the same accident that left the ugly indentation in his forehead. It then became clear. Bob’s feet were not backward; he had not feet. He stood, and even walked, on his knees and lower legs which were covered with the large, cushioned black leather shoes, giving the appearance of abnormally large feet turned backward.
From time to time, I tried walking on my knees and lower legs, but after a few minutes, the pain was unbearable. I then realized that Bob must have been in severe pain, each day of his life. Some time later, it occurred to me to wonder why Bob spent his days quoting Scripture and praising God, the same God who allowed the accident, the pain and the suffering. I was even more perplexed.
Evidently Bob sensed my confusion, for one day when the barbershop was empty, Bob motioned me to sit in the shoe shine chair. There, he described in detail the railroad accident and his hospital recovery. Bob said he had been a bitter young man, unhappy with life and seemingly unable to change his destiny. He claimed that he had been a drunkard, a gambler, a womanizer or a whore monger. I didn’t know what a womanizer or a whore monger was, but I guessed that they must have been pretty bad, being listed with drunkard and gambler, terms familiar to me even at my early age.
Bob explained that he had spent the night with another man’s wife, leaving during the early morning hours before her husband returned. Drunk, without money and totally disgusted with himself, he attempted to board a freight train for the short ride to the railroad station. He lost his footing on the side ladder or the railroad car and fell to the tracks. A few minutes of excruciating pain were followed by total darkness.
A week or so later, Bob regained consciousness in a hospital bed–without feet. Bandages covered the ugly indentation in his forehead as well as the cuts and severe abrasions on the trunk of his body. He was at the point of death, with no will to live, cursing God and everyone around him.
After a while, as he regained is strength, he noticed a Bible on the bedside table. For some inexplicable reason, Bob started spending his time looking at the Good Book. Then, one day he noticed that the Bible was open. His curiosity aroused, Bob picked up the Bible and began reading about a man called Job. He was intrigued by Job–and later by other men of the Bible who had endured great hardships, yet remained faithful to God. Bob could relate to these men–at least to their hardships.
His reading was slow, lingering a moment on each word. Later, he bought a dictionary, and much later, biblical reference books. But for his long hospital stay, Bob was content with reading slowly. Sometimes he read all day and well into the night. In his condition, at this point in his life, time meant nothing. He had nowhere to run.
Ultimately, Bob Watkin’s life was transformed from drunkard, gambler, womanizer and whoremonger to servant of God. And with this transformation came a radiance–a glow–that masked the ugliness of his injuries. Together with an uncanny understanding of both the Bible and life itself, he blamed his accident and injuries not on God, but on his sinful ways. He claimed, without reservation, that the accident was his blessing. From that accident, Bob had found God, and with God at his side, he had a life with fullness and meaning.
At the close of each business day, Bob struggled to slide his heavy shoes, one in front of the other, down the main street of town on his long journey home-a furnished room in an old, deteriorating building a half mile from the barbershop. He stopped every so often to look toward the surrounding mountains, particularly Keeny’s Knob, the highest and most majestic of all the mountains surrounding this quiet, rural valley town. According to Bob, “God is everywhere,but he likes the mountains best–that’s where he gave Moses the Ten Commandments and allowed him to see the Promised Land; that’s where Noah’s ark landed. Most of the great events of the Bible happened on a mountain or at the foot of a mountain.”
Bob rarely walked or shuffled more than a block from the barbershop, though. Passing motorists, often by design, almost always stopped to give Bob a ride home or to work and, on Sundays, to church. It didn’t make much difference to Bob which church he attended, as long as God was inside and God’s people filled the pews. To no one’s surprise, Bob was welcome in every church in town–black and white.
Nevertheless, Bob was somewhat partial to one of the white churches. The pastor of that church often huddled with Bob on a regular basis in a corner of the barbershop deep in private conversation. The barber invariable laughed and whispered to his customers, “The preacher’s getting his sermon for next Sunday.”
Of all the people I have known in this life, Bob Watkins was the only person totally without prejudice. He was also loved and respected by everyone he met, regardless of race, color or religion. Even the worst sinners were welcomed by Bob with love and kindness. Bob reasoned that he was commissioned to do that which Jesus would have done, including offering love and kindness toward the most despicable of humankind.
To me, Bob Watkins was without fault, except maybe for the times he claimed he was “weary” and didn’t want to talk. On those occasions, he seemed almost to be in a trance, transfixed on someone, or something, or someplace far away. My father said that Bob knew so much about heaven he was forever homesick.
Sometime before midnight on a clear summer night, our Heavenly Father called Bob Watkins home. Bob was found the next morning by his landlady–slumped in his dilapidated easy chair–with a smile on his face. His tattered old Bible was opened which read, “…..looked up to Heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” On the floor, beside the easy chair, lay a small white feather.
The frog finally got his wings.
The righteous also shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger.
Me: We always share about books, but this is an amazing book!
Prodigal: Yes, it is.
This is from another book Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard J. Foster
The grace of God is unearned and unearnable, but if we ever expect to grow in grace, we must pay the price of a consciously chosen course of action which involves both individual and group life. Spiritual growth is the purpose of the Disciplines.
It might be helpful to visualize what we have been discussing. Picture a long, narrow ridge with a sheer drop-off on either side. The chasm to the right is the way of moral bankruptcy through human strivings for righteousness. Historically this has been called the heresy of moralism. The chasm to the left is moral bankruptcy through the absence of human strivings. This has been called the heresy of antinomianism. On the ridge there is a path, the Disciplines of the spiritual life. This path leads to the inner transformation and healing for which we seek. We must never veer off to the right or the left, but say on the path. The path is fraught with severe difficulties, but also with incredible joys. As we travel on this path, the blessing of God will come upon us and reconstruct us into the image of Jesus Christ. We must always remember that the path does not produce the change; it only places us where the change can occur. This is the path of disciplined grace.
It was another night and I was quickly looking for food when a surprise showed up. The surprise had me lose my appetite and forget the urgency that food was needed. It was not something that was major. Most people would not have noticed, but my spirit and emotions did notice. It had to do with a specific prayer I had prayed last night about something that God seemed to be holding from me. Then the next day I saw it in front of me.
I was a jumble of emotions and a little confused. I was unsure of what this all meant. I did not panic and I did not change my direction. I did make sure that I spoke to a close friend and then the next morning it was nothing but God and me. It forced me to ask a couple more questions.
Now I did not get the complete answer. What I got was what my spirit needed. That God has a plan, He is working in out. That I cannot even try to figure out all the details because I do not have all the information and all the social networking and internet available will not give me the information that is needed.
So I am left with that God loves me so much, and He is allowing me to see that something is happening. Do not focus on negative. Instead focus on His love. Do not focus on timing, instead focus on time with Him.
Lord your answer always brings that peace and I thank you for keeping me on the path and allowing me to grow again in your love.
Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
Prodigal: I am tempted to take this watermelon away.
Me: You have to watch out for temptations.
This is from the book A Man Called Peter by Catherine Marshall
“But it’s no sin to be tempted,” Peter loved to say. “It isn’t the fact of having temptations that should cause us shame, but what we do with them. Temptation is an opportunity to conquer. When we eventually reach the goal to which we are all striving. God will look us over, not for diplomas, but for scars….”
Temptation is here, but I pray for you. Jesus prays for you too. Do not pretend that it does not exist but instead know that you have support. Know that this will be a battle won. Take out the word of God, remember to pray and stand firm against the plans of the enemy.
Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.
Me: We might have sin that needs to be dealt with.
This is from the book God Works The Night Shift by Ron Mehl
What is sin?
It’s me trying to meet my own needs.
It’s me trying to walk without help.
It’s me trying to satisfy my own soul.
It’s me stubbornly refusing to let God, by His strong and gracious hand,
save me, keep me, and sustain me.
Lord, Help me today. I do not need to do this own my own. I can already tell that this will not work today. No, what I need is to surrender to you and for me to allow myself to be directed by you. I need to have love in my heart, forgiveness and a humble spirit. I need to have my focus be on you and not the past. Lord please guide me this day.
The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.
Bob was in his driveway, working on a friend’s 1971 Dodge Dart. The car was facing up a slight incline. Bob was lying under it in the gas-tank area, feet pointing toward the front. His friend had gone to the store to buy a replacement part.
“I had forgotten that removing the drive shaft gives you, in essence, four freewheeling wheels,” Bob explains. “Though the car was set in “park,” it started to roll backward.”
Bob attempted to scurry out from under. He almost made it, but the front wheel caught his left foot, pinning it be bending it forward toward the shin. His heart dropping. Bob saw that the slant n the driveway was enough to make the car roll, but not enough for the wheel to complete its revolution over his foot. He was stuck.
Pain exploded in waves. His foot felt as if it were being crushed into bits. Alerted by his shouts, Sandy and a neighbor woman came running.
“We’ll lift the wheel, Bob, and then you can get out!” Sandy cried.
But their efforts only made matters worse. Because of the incline, every time the women tried to shift the tire, they only pushed it farther up, resting even more weight on Bob’s whole leg. If the wheel could have turned completely over the foot, Bob could have gotten free, but it wouldn’t move far enough.
Soon there were at least seven other neighbors surrounding him. Some tried the same type of lifting, to no avail. “Everyone should have pushed the wheel from behind,” Bob says in retrospect, “but none of us was thinking clearly,” It seemed as if he would be trapped forever. Through a haze of pain and fear, Bob cried out, “God help me!”
Immediately, Bob saw a large man running toward him. The man reached the front of the car and quickly lifted the bumper high enough to raise the entire chassis off Bob’s foot. Bob groaned in relief and rolled free.
Everyone crowed around.
“Are you okay?” someone asked. “Should we take you for an X ray?” “No,” Experimentally, Bob wiggled his toes and flexed his ankle. The foot had no apparent injury. “It feels fine,” he told his relieved neighbors, getting up slowly.
Then Bob looked around for the large man who had so effortlessly lifted the car. “I was beginning to realize just how strong he would have had to be,” he says. “Allowing for the ‘springiness’ of the car springs, lifting a car ten to twelve inches would still leave a tire on the ground. You’d have to lift it a lot higher than that to get a wheel completely off a foot. And there was no one else lifting on that side when he came.”
There was no large man for Bob to thank, either. And no one remembered seeing him dash to Bob’s aid. “The tall guy, the one who came running across the lawn….?” Bob asked everyone, but was rewarded with stares and head-shaking.
“There was no one here but us,” the neighbors insisted, ” and we could certainly have noticed a stranger.” Nor did Sandy remember seeing anyone she didn’t know.
There was no service vehicles around, no deliveryman or any outsiders on Bob’s street that afternoon. No one had seen a car stop. More significantly, no one had seen or heard a car leave. There just wasn’t any explanation as to why the car had suddenly moved off Bob’s foot. Any logical explanation, that is.
by Joan Wester Anderson
Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me.