Tag Archive: John R. Ring

As I walked the dog this morning, I realized it was trash day.  Even if I were blind, I would know it was trash day.  The smell was obvious.  Did you know there is a local company that will contract with you to clean your trashcan?  You heard it here first.  If you keep your trashcan in the garage, you might want to give them a call.  

As we walked, it was interesting to observe the trash.  Before you laugh too hard, remember my brain is not wired in the normal way.  Usually I talk with Jesus as I walk the dog at the ungodly hour of 5 a.m.  Today, trash had my attention.  You can learn a lot about people by looking at their trash.  It makes sense that law enforcement looks into the trash.  It’s loaded.  Literally.  Is this making you paranoid?  I hope not.

As I observed the rubbish in my neighborhood, I can tell you who has a healthy, or should I say unhealthy, intake of alcohol.  I can find the smokers.  If we pause long enough, we can tell diets and other habits as well.  It is getting easier to tell the choice of soap or shampoo as well.  It’s not buried in the bags.  The plastic bottles are sitting on top in the recycle bin.  

If the average home has 1.5 bags of trash per person per week (I read that somewhere; just don’t ask where), it would be easy to figure out how many people are living in each house.  Some of the cans are so full each week, forget getting the lid down.  

One thing for sure is we create a lot of garbage.  It is hard to fathom the amount of garbage the entire town of Bluffton creates in one week.  I’m just talking normal bags of trash. Oh, by the way, if I was a thief, I would be able to pinpoint the homes that have new televisions, computers, and sound systems.  Add the “extra” garbage, and our little town creates mountains of trash.  

The Bible talks trash.  It really does.  I feel bad for most of the Bible heroes.  Their trash is out there for generations to observe.  It smells bad too.  Adam and Eve get slammed for being the founding couple for the ultimate trash.  They had to feel horrible as they were escorted out of the garden into a world defined by its smelly refuse.  

David had plenty of family filth.  How would you like to be known as the man after God’s own heart, who first pursued another man’s wife and had him killed?  We will give him credit for killing Goliath, but, then again, as a father, his family comes completely apart.  David is just one of the many men and women whose rubbish defined them.  

I don’t need to go through the list.  It’s pretty ugly.  I realized the other day as I was preparing the topic for our new Saturday night “Come As You Are” service that every person in the Bible that Jesus engages is a representation of me (all of us actually) at many levels.  I’m a leper.  I’m the adulterous woman.  I’m a Pharisee.  I’m the blind guy.  I’m the paralyzed man who needed friends in order to be touched by Jesus.  Every person is a representation of humanity.  The worst one to be is the rich man who wouldn’t sell his possessions to follow Jesus.  I’m him at times.  What makes that one so hard is Jesus said that we can’t serve two masters.  His word use hits this world hard, when he says we love the one and hate the other.  The other night as I conversed with some faithful friends, one of the guys said he hates it when he is hostile towards Jesus.  My first response was “I’m not hostile towards God.  How can he say that?”  But I am hostile at God when I choose to serve this world.  My trash is stinking bad.  

I had to sort out my hostility for a few days.  Makes trash day look good ,doesn’t it?  Just like our physical life, we all have trash.  It’s funny, actually, that we show up on Sunday acting like we don’t have any.  I don’t know about you, but my trash-can tends to be full and overflowing, and boy does it smell.  That company would have to come to my life every day to clean my can it’s so stinky.  

I am reminded that my cleaner does come every day.  In fact, he never leaves me.  Jesus doesn’t look at my trash.  He’s already taken care of it.  I used to wonder why he asked us to confess our sins when he already knows.  It’s not for him.  It’s for us.  It reminds us how amazing his grace really is.  That’s my hope.  That’s my faith that gives me great confidence that no matter how full and stinky my trash can, my Lord Jesus has it covered.  I love the old hymn when it says, “What can wash away my sins?  Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”  He doesn’t clean my outward container.  He covers my wicked heart.  No need to recycle.  It’s been taken care of.

I told the family we were going to make the trip from Orlando to Weeki Wachee to see the talking mermaids.  They all turned their head in unison and laughed.  “Talking mermaids?” they asked mockingly.  I would have wagered my next paycheck that the mermaids in Weeki Wachee talk under water.  I was sure of it.  I told them I’ve seen them and heard them.  By now, my family thought I was crazy with a capital C.  They also were not very happy I was dragging them away from the vacation capital of the world to see “talking mermaids” a few hours away.  

I won’t bore you with the details of that failed excursion, but we did see mermaids.  The only problem was they didn’t talk under water.  They mouthed the words from a prepared audio presentation.  Let’s just say, I continue to bear the burden of “talking” mermaids, and it was over 20 years ago now.  

It amazes me the perspective we have as children.  My parents, for some reason, took us to see the mermaids about 50 years ago.  That’s how long the Weeki Wachee mermaid show has been in existence.  We probably went because Dad hated crowds. I was mesmerized as a 10- year-old.  As a young boy, I was amazed by every aspect.  

Now, as I think back to that day, I know why everybody else had a weird smirk on their face and never talked about going back.  My mom giggled as we left.  It didn’t leave me scarred or anything.  Instead, I am intrigued with the various moments in life that have left clear precise pictures in our brains and those that don’t.  I wonder how it works that certain times, events, and people are clearly stamped in minds.  

On my office wall there are various displays of art and photography.  There is one picture that is distinctively different than the others.  It is an old print that hung in my parents’ living room for years.  As that same 10-year-old that thought mermaids talked, I would have sworn the picture was as big as an automobile.  I can remember sitting on the steps leading upstairs and staring at it for hours sometimes.  I would make up a story surrounding the event it depicts.  For some odd reason, the Road to Emmaus picture with Jesus talking to two men left an impression on me.  So much so that when mom asked if I wanted anything as she moved, I asked her for the print.  She knew I would make that one request.  

As I look at it today, it clearly is set in a western motif of what was a Middle Eastern setting.  I don’t really care.  That is not the point of the picture.  It’s also not as big and not quite as beautiful as I remember it.  However, the quality of the print is not the point.  It’s the three men off to the lower right side.  Jesus and the two men are clearly talking as they walked.  From the Scriptures, it’s right after the resurrection.  Jesus shows up to these two discouraged and doubting men as they were traveling back home after realizing their hope, Jesus, had been crucified.  

As they walked, Jesus appeared and walked with them for quite some time, talking about life events, and their emotions, and thoughts both good and bad.  The journey was long, but Jesus went the distance.  Why didn’t he just say, “Here I am boys; don’t worry.”  We don’t know, but one thing is for sure, once he ate with them at their rest stop, they couldn’t declare that he was a ghost.  Instead of a ghost, they met the living Jesus.  

So why does this one stand out to me?  On the wall in front of me are picture of eagles, nature, an alligator, my dog, some flower-pots, and the Beaufort marina.  The artist, Sonja Robinson of Savannah, gave me her Talmadge bride painting that sits to my left.   They get attention, but the Road to Emmaus print gathers my heart.

Jesus walking along the road, talking to two men.  Jesus taking the time to comfort weary hearts.  Jesus living out his teachings about walking an extra mile with someone in need.  Jesus doing what he said.  Jesus.  

Here I am of feeble mind having talking mermaids and the Road to Emmaus print plastered inside my cranium.  The difference 40 years later?  One is clearly a fantasy.  One continues to reveal the truth.  Jesus is on my road of life talking to me on a regular basis.  He is still encouraging me when I have days of doubts.  He is still leading me when I can barely see one step in front of me.  He is still walking and talking with me.  It was his promise.  And mermaids don’t talk.

As the grandkids pilled in to the truck yesterday, it didn’t take long till the energetic boy issued his proclamation, “I want to go fishing.”  My blood ran cold.  The weather was perfect.  The tide was running high.  It was later in the afternoon ,and I was looking for excuses to avoid the call to go fishing.  “Well,” I stalled looking for a way out, “you have homework to do, and I’m not sure there will be enough time.”  Because he is only 7 years old, the “homework” routine worked.  He dejectedly replied, “I guess we will have to wait till school is out for the summer.”  “Indeed,” I happily sang, “wait till summer.”  I only have 3 weeks till “fishing season” begins.  

I have to admit somewhat sheepishly, I am not a big fan of fishing.  Here I live in an area of our country surrounded by water, and I don’t care for fishing.  Not only that ,but I stink at fishing.  I have no idea how to get that fish to jump on the hook.  So far I have taken the grandkids fishing 3 times.  We have caught a stick, turtle and alligator but no fish.  Earthworms have given their life for us, and we have nothing to show for our effort.  It’s not that we don’t try.  We just don’t know what we are doing.  

My father did not fish.  My grandfather did, but he only took me out once or twice.  It wasn’t in our normal life.  Baseball, soccer and just about all other team sports were but not fishing.  I think the other problem is that there is a difference between fishing and catching.  We really don’t understand that fishing is one thing, and catching is the other.  We don’t like spending time without results.  It’s the American way.  Somebody can be a great fisherman and yet not catch a single fish.  But, we only pay attention to the catchers.  

It is this context that I open the Bible and find Jesus talking about fishing.  Early in the earthly ministry, Jesus called his first followers that were called disciples.  His first four were actually fishermen.  Jesus then said, “I will make you fishers of men.”  Honestly, I wonder what was going through their minds.  Regardless, they dropped their nets, left the security of their families, and followed him.  

We often take certain stories and forget the dynamics around them.  This story of being called to be fishers of men comes right after Jesus calls out to them in the boats and tells them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat.  They catch so many fish they have to call in a second boat to handle the amount of fish.  So, what were they thinking when Jesus said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men?”  Andy Stanley, popular minister,  points out that he doubts they heard the second part and only heard “Follow me.”  Of course they would follow.  This carpenter’s son knew how to catch.  

Along the way, Jesus is left with a few followers, including these fishermen, and he turns to them and asks them why they stayed.  Not a one said, “You said you would make us fishers of men.”  Peter, one of the first ones, did say something to the effect “You are all we got.”  In other words, we put all our eggs in your basket, and we have nothing outside of following you.  

It’s interesting that later, after the resurrection, these guys were not out looking for Jesus but rather returned to their nets.  Guess how many fish they were catching.  None.  Zippo.  Zero.  Jesus again shows up and calls for them to cast the net on the other side.  Again, fish are everywhere.  It was Jesus’ way of reminding them that they are not here to fish for the ones with scales and gills but rather the ones that walk on two feet.  

Now, here we are two thousand and some years later.  Their call was our call.  I’m sure as Andy Stanley also agreed, we often accept Jesus as our Savior for selfish reasons.  Few came to believe to fulfill the calling to be fishers of men.  

But, Jesus calls us to fish for men.  We tend to leave that to the professionals.  It’s those who teach and preach who are the fishers.  Sorry, being a follower means God is making us into fishers of men.  

The disciples had to drop their nets and put all their eggs in Jesus’ basket.  Then their training had them following the same Master.  Jesus was right, “one cannot have two masters.”  In all of this, we might be missing the point.  Jesus is the catcher.  All he told them is he would make them fishers of men.  Remember the boat scene.  Who caught two boatloads of fish?  Not the professional fishermen but rather the carpenters son.  All we are called to do is fish.  

So I take the grandkids fishing.  My grandson will tell you we love to fish.  He will tell you his Poppie takes him fishing.  It isn’t about the catching.  That’s out of my hands.  The fishing with the kiddos, that’s something I can do.   

With Jesus, fishing can be quite an experience.  It’s easy.  All we have to do is put the hook in the water.  Where do we fish?  Anywhere.  When do we fish?  All the time. 

It is hard to believe that I have had the privilege of writing a weekly article for the Bluffton Today for close to 8 years now.  It all started on a kayak trip.  The then editor of the paper was part of our kayak group called Lowcountry Unfiltered.  

One day I told him the spiritually-based articles were so heavily minded I didn’t find them any earthly good.  Little was I prepared for his response.  He said, “I agree; how about you write one weekly?”  Since my mouth often works faster than my brain, I told him I would.  It has been an interesting journey.  From time to time, I look back on some of the early articles and wonder how the Bluffton Today kept me on.  

Over time, I have been honored by various community members mentioning they read these articles every week.   I am often surprised.  I have learned a lot over those years about the readers.  They tend not to be church based.  They tend to have pain and suffering in their past that is hard to get over.  Often that pain and suffering hasve come from their church experience.  

When we are suffering and the wounds are fresh, I have learned that Sunday morning just doesn’t do it.  When I mention this to most weekly church goers, they seemed surprised.  A word that I heard today from a past church-goer is “real.”  Those suffering don’t find church to be “real.”  The issues that cause pain and suffering are minimized, and the idea that Christ followers are to have a happy life is wrong as wrong can be.  So they feel marginalized on any given Sunday morning.  

What happens over time is that nobody in the church reaches back out to them, and they don’t want to go back to the scene of the crime.  That is totally understandable.  The problem is we need the “church.”  We don’t need the expression, but, rather, we need an “authentic” church experience.  It can be hard to find our current expression in the Bible.  The suffering church struggles to find significance and its place.  

Something has to change.  

For the past 8 years, I have avoided using this column for self-promotion of my church or ministry.  There have been a few ministry ventures I have mentioned, such as Family Promise of Beaufort County and ACTion Mentoring at Hardeeville Elementary School,, as well as the Backpack Buddies sponsored by Crossroads Community Support Services.  These programs reach out to those in need and need as much print as possible.  However, today I’m going to talk about a new venture that I would like to invite readers to consider.

On Saturday nights at 6:30 p.m. starting May 4th Grace Coastal Church has supported me in sponsoring a service called “Come as You Are: Healing for the Broken-hearted.”  It is stripped of most elements of Sunday and focuses on an authentic experience based on Acts 2.  In Acts 2, we see the early church devoted to 4 elements.  They are:  the teachings of the Apostles on Jesus, Prayer, Fellowship, and Breaking Bread.  That’s what we are going to do.  

On Saturday nights, we want to BE the church, not just attend church.  We won’t leave Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  We want to be focused on Christ and Christ alone.  Who needs the gospel? I do, and so does everybody else.  There will be a lot of prayer.  Without question, prayer is a game changer.  So, let’s pray and let’s pray a lot.  The church is not about weekly attendance.  It’s about people.  As we gain traction, we anticipate having many participate and share their lives and their Jesus.  That’s fellowship.  After the 45 minute meeting time, our service does not end until we enjoy a simple meal together.  At that time, I will entertain a Q and A time for issues that come up during the service.  No use having a service and sending anyone home confused.  Let’s walk through this journey together.  

I don’t think of how we are going to make this work.  I’m not even sure what it means to have something “work” in ministry.  All I know is it’s Biblical.  It’s real.  I know many people who are hurt, struggling and broken and need a place to heal their broken hearts.  

If you are broken hearted and just can’t seem to find Christ on a typical Sunday morning, I invite you to Grace Coastal Church on Saturday nights at 6:30.  Talk to me when you come.  Wherever Jesus went, he touched and healed people.  Hearts need to be healed.  We don’t know if we are aiding healing unless we talk about it.  That had to be the end result of Acts 2.  Looking for an authentic expression?  So am I.  

I know without question a lot of readers are nursing broken hearts.  All I can offer is an opportunity to walk together looking for Jesus to provide his healing touch.  He said he came “to heal the broken-hearted and set the prisoners free.”  It’s time we did so as well. Let’s keep it simple.  Let’s look to Jesus.  He is our only hope for sure.  

Ask a really good mechanic what he values most in life and he should reply, “My toolbox.”  There is something about a mechanic and his toolbox.  Yes, the tools are important, but what we kept them in was more important.  Don’t mess with a mechanics toolbox.  Your life might be in danger if you do.

When I started out working in the family business (automotive repair), I purchased a red Snap-On box.  I could go home looking like I got run over by a car with leaks from every system, but my box, she was clean and polished.  Eventually, I traded my big red for a smaller black Snap-On toolbox with a wood top.  What does a mechanic do with his toolbox when he decides to hang it up?  He takes it home.  The two are inseparable.

We would leave our toolboxes unlocked at night.  Why?  If a thief broke in, they could have the tools.  Don’t pry open the box! That would be a disaster from which no one recovers.      

It made its way to South Carolina with me.  Eventually, it was time to let her go.  Since we don’t have basements on the coast and our garages are small, there was no room for Black Beauty.  Not only that, but I had no real use for the tools that graced her shelves.  

One by one, I sold the tools.  Now, if you own a Snap-On box you must have Snap-On tools.  There is a little room for some “other” ones, but not much.  It’s a man thing.  I loved Snap-On tools.  They fit my hands well.  Not only that but they carried a lifetime guarantee.  I have to admit, I do miss some of the tools at times.  Not that I would use them much.   I think it’s an ego thing.  

Eventually I auctioned Black Beauty.  I admit, it was hard.  If she could talk she could tell you all sorts of stories.  Maybe it’s best she couldn’t speak.  

Honestly, while a mechanic will judge his place in the shop by his toolbox, the value of a mechanic is in the tools.  Tools make the mechanic.  If you don’t have the right tools, nothing is going to get fixed.  There are some tools that only go with certain vehicles and certain models.  Crazy, isn’t it?  That’s why I decided to auction my beloved box.  It wasn’t worth having if it was empty.  

The center focal point of being a believer in Jesus Christ is grace.  Without God’s grace as expressed through Jesus Christ, it would be like having the toolbox with no tools.  As Jesus pours his grace out to us, we are called to pour grace out to others, especially the weak and underprivileged.  

As I, from time to time, think about Black Beauty and the wonderful tools she held, I have come to understand grace a lot more.  It came through my relationship with my dad.

Dad and I were in business together.  Personally, I don’t think that’s a good idea.  We didn’t have a bad relationship, but we didn’t have a good one either.  Being in business together brought out both of our weak points.  Dad and I struggled to be on the same page.

When father and son aren’t on the same page, the relationship gets strained.  Again, it wasn’t like we didn’t like each other.  We just kept our distance and worked more to avoid conflict than actually enjoy one another.  Dad wasn’t a big talker.  I was.  Over the years, I would hold on to some things I should have let go along time ago.

Eventually, as I was packing up my office getting ready to move to South Carolina, Dad, suddenly, without warning, appeared.  He asked if I had a few minutes.  “Sure,” I replied.  Our interaction didn’t take long.  Dad sat down in the lone chair, and with head slightly lowered and almost in a whisper, said, “John, I’ve come to say I’m sorry.”  He caught me off guard.  I was a bit of a jerk (and still am at times), so I asked, “Dad, what are you sorry for/”  wishing I could get details.  He looked up and honestly answered, “I’m not sure; all I know is I didn’t do things right with you.”  “Dad, you are forgiven.”  At that moment in time, I saw my dad in a different light.  Grace came alive.

Dad had a toolbox.  His tools were not my tools.  Too late in my life I realized Dad did the best job he could with the tools in his toolbox.  He was raised by a sheepish mother and one of the worst alcoholic fathers I have ever met.  He wasn’t raised in a Christian environment.  He didn’t have the tools for this model of son.  And for the first time, it was o.k.  

We all have a toolbox.  Sometimes, we, like the longtime mechanic, wrap our ego up in our toolbox.  We think we can fix anything.  Only, we don’t have the tools.  On top of that, some of those tools are broken.  Grace means realizing life isn’t about the size and make of our toolbox.  It isn’t about the tools in the toolbox.  It isn’t even about our ability to use the tools we have.  Grace is about realizing its o.k. even if we don’t have a toolbox and about not expecting someone to have the right tools.  Only Jesus had ‘em all.