We were never bored at Mama’s house. How could you be? There were seven of us children, spaced two years apart. Three girls and then four boys. Our lives ran in seasons. There was rubber gun time when every piece of scrap wood was converted into a pistol, rifle or a ‘Tommy gun’. Old inner tubes were cut in strips and used as ammunition. Batches hung from our belt mainly for show in case of a long protracted ‘war’. Since I grew up during World War II, our favorite game was WAR. This meant armor of every kind. Forts were constructed and runners were used to spread the news of how the war was going.
The rules were easy to understand. When war games began, no one burned their draft cards. Sides were formed, generals appointed, and the chain-of-command respected. On display were toy guns, six shooters (some with live caps), bullet proof vests. rubber knives, red bandanas, hats and helmets of every description, etc.
There were two basic laws of survival. If you were ambushed and shot (bangedy-bang-bang) you must fall with drama and a flare that would have put John Wayne to shame. Another way to die was with the use of the rubber Bowie knife. “Stabedy-stab-stab”was the call. If you were stabbed or shot, you were legally dead until the game was over. Sides were chosen and with these two rules in mind, the war began. To capture the enemy’s flag was the ultimate victory.
Within minutes, shouts of “bangedy-bang-bang” and “stabedy-stab-stab” were being answered with the traditional (and over dramatic), “Aaaarrgghhtt”. Then it happened. A new neighbor boy wanted to join the group. He was from the north and we knew right off that he knew very little about warfare. He had no idea about makeup or camouflage. But he begged for a beginning and we agreed. We ambushed him coming down the driveway. He was out in the open without cover and making a deep funny rumbling noise. We sprang from the bushes and shouted“bangedy-bang-bang” and “stabedy-stab-stab”! He didn’t fall but just kept coming with his eyes set and his back bent and making this funny noise.
“You’ve been shot and stabbed forty times”, we cried. “Why don’t you play fair and fall down dead”. “Tanked-tank-tank” came the reply. He had envisioned himself as a Sherman Tank! We all fell down dead laughing.
The apostle Paul wrote, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. When I became a man, I put away childish things” (I Corinthians 13:11). Paul continues to admonish the Ephesian church. “Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the Devil. . . . above all, taking the shield of faith with which you are able to quench the fiery darts of the wicked one . . . and take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:11-17).
It’s no childish game when it comes to conversion. Climb inside. Put Christ on and around you (Galatians 3:26-29). Then face Satan and let the war begin. Now here’s the secret. When you are inside of God, Satan does not know that you are God for you have on his armor. Triple protection. “Therefore let no one boast in men . . . whether life or death or things present or things to come – all are yours and you are Christ’s and Christ’s is God’s (I Corinthians 3:21-23). What power! It’s all a matter of reality and image.
When a man works an 8-hour day, and receives for his efforts an 8-hours’pay, that is a wage. When he competes with an opponent and receives a trophy for his superior performance, that is a prize. When he receives something in recognition for his meritorious service or achievement, that is an award.
When a man can earn no wage, win no prize, and deserves no award yet receives an unspeakable gift – FORGIVENESS (Acts 2:36-38). That is UNMERITED FAVOR, undeserved kindness. That is GRACE.
The old lady was on her deathbed. She had been in the service of her master for a lifetime. She spoke to her close loved one and said, “when they lay me in repose, just tell the mortician to put a fork in my hand’. It was such an unusual request, her daughter said, “But why would you want the undertaker to put a fork in your hand?”
The Mother seemed to reflect on the past years of her life and recalled many a dinner that she had hosted for her family and friends. She said, “I would always say, now everyone keep a fork in your hand, for the best is yet to come”. So when I die, please put a fork in my hand because I believe the best is yet to come.”
When my Dad’s will was read, they included these words, “I believe God rules over the universe and that His holy city exists for those who love righteousness. When the saints go marching in, we will meet our mother and all faithful loved ones who have gone on before. There will be no war, no pain, and no sorrow but will live on with peace, joy and happiness, without end” (Will read – January 3, 1961).