Funny, the spam software didn’t catch it. As a follower of Christ the subject line, “Your life has been bought” or something like that, caused me to pause. Perhaps it was an inspiration from a friend, a reminder of that great Love; I took a spare moment to look.
What a lovely bit of news: it was from an assassin, saying they had been hired to snuff me out but, for a price, of course, they just might be able to avert the hit!
Really busy that morning with no time for this nonsense, I almost tapped ‘delete’, then caught myself and stopped to think it through a bit.
It was obviously nothing to take serious, sent to me and a zillion other people. The added pictures of an AK-47, bullets and a broken window were probably stock clip-art.
But what if someone else took it seriously? Why was it something to chuckle about and delete, that someone entered my house via the in-box to threaten my life, when it would be something to call the police about if I’d received it by way of regular mail or if this crank came to my door saying this?
The more I mulled it, the more I knew I’d been chosen (by God, not this cracked pot) to receive this e-mail for a wider purpose. What if I had an opportunity to help others and I junked this thing out of impatience?
As usual, I was thinking too much but OK, in I dove. The day had taken an adventurous turn, and I was game, but where should one go from here?
The first call was to my local Sheriff’s Department. They kept looping me to voice mails that looped me back to the receptionist. In frustration, I asked her what to do and after a few questions she finally asked, ‘are you in the city limits?’ and referred me to my city police.
It was a little disturbing to find when I called, they really didn’t know what to, except the receptionist said they could send out an officer… I didn’t need an officer; I just wanted someone in authority to know about it, maybe ask for the information so they could track the IP address from this nut, which should be simple for SOMEONE to do in the 21st Century!
Anyway, after enough of that I just listed them at firstname.lastname@example.org , wrote my assassin an e-mail back and here’s what I said:
I have contacted the Police Department, our county Sheriff’s Economic and Computer Crimes division and I’ve listed you on www.spam.gov so you’re in the national database as a spammer and will be tracked.
As a follower of Christ I believe in his love for me and that he has paid for my life by coming here to take my place and pay for the ways I’ve rebelled against God throughout my lifetime. God gave me my life and Jesus paid for it, so he owns it. He, and only he, can take it, and he is welcome to do it any time, any way, any place, because it’s his. You have no power to.
I am praying for you now. God knows where you are, and exactly what you are doing right this minute. He loves you, just as you are at this moment. He has better things for you to do with the life he gave you. Right now, you can close your eyes, ask Jesus Christ to forgive you for everything you’ve done that is wrong, and you can start a new life, one that makes you feel like a real human being, one that brings honor to God and those that love you, and one that gives you an eternal home once this life is over. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done with your life up to this point, you can start fresh today. I hope you will take this moment to redirect the path your life is on.
We will all die someday. I know where I am going and with whom I will spend eternity. Do you? Write me again if I can be of service to you.
Then, I quit all the drama for a moment and just prayed for the person. There was a real someone behind this silliness, and God had used the Internet to have us intersect in this unique way. I really felt like this was a call, and I answered it; what fun to be part of this odd thing and God was in it, somehow.
Just for entertainment I copied the whole thing and sent it to some associates for a chuckle and a heads up in case they got it too. One of them got back to me with some very useful information:
Turns out the FBI does track these threatening e-mails and needs them to be reported so they can. While most people just delete these as obvious scams, it’s important to report them because some people are terrified and financially hurt by them. http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx is the place to file a report. They do track the IP address of these people and prosecute.
IC3’s mission is to give victims a convenient and easy way to report these incidents, and to refer complaints about cyber-crime to the proper law enforcement and regulatory agencies that have the jurisdiction for tracking them. It’s important to keep the e-mail, receipts, whatever you have associated with the incident and report as much as you can about it.
I learned there had been similar scams that circulated targeting dentists; several of them had really taken the threat seriously, even making contact with the posing assassins to give the deposit required to ward off the hit. It had originated in Moscow!
All in all, another interesting morning here in beautiful Florida…
Azaleas are the show queens of the South. Where the Carolinas and Tennessee may boast their versions of that rhododendron with abundant pride, Florida considers itself the Azalea capital of the world.
Azalea varieties abound profusely, from the petite Duc DeRohan to the spectacular Indica Formosa that grows to tree size. Azaleas come in countless colors and combinations including white, red, every variant of magenta or purple and Florida boasts them all with rightful vanity in a spring to summer display to beat all challengers.
The one thing they have in common is that they are acid loving plants that flourish in a rich, organic environment. The wrong soil will quickly spell an end to the life of the most hearty azalea, where the right acidic soil found under every spreading oak will cause azaleas to thrive even in the wild with no human intervention.
Are you in the right soil? Do you surround yourself with people who challenge you to be your best, confront you when you’re off the path and encourage you when you’re onto something good? Or are you allowing yourself to be drained by others with no end to the flow?
What’s your environment like? Are you surrounded with negativity, by people who continually zero in on what’s wrong or look for problems to steep themselves in?
Do you thrive on drama instead of admitting your contribution to the situation so you can grow up, change and move forward?
Do you get enough fresh air and sunshine, taking time to get outdoors to praise God for whatever beauty you find around you, and thank him for what you DO have instead of whining for more?
What do you focus your thoughts on? Are you enriched with the nutrients you find in the Word of God and input that uplifts and challenges you, or are you sluggish and isolated because you don’t know what God wants for you or expects of you?
Maybe you need a soil check. Ask yourself those questions and examine where your head and heart have been lately. Next, admit to God and others where you’ve been off the mark, ask Christ to forgive you and get moving in a new direction. It’s not as hard as it seems, but it takes humility to look honestly at our soil and make the changes we need to thrive and not wilt.
It was as if he was going down for the last time. How long he had suffered I could not tell but from the looks of his movements he’d been long at it.
Padding out to the poolside each morning I almost always saw one. Somehow in the night they had fallen overboard by mistake or perhaps had been lured by the shimmering stars reflected from the crystal sky above.
But then they were there, first to swim with delight and abandon, to dive and float to their tiny heart’s content, only to find that once they’d reached their fill, there was no way out.
The sheer face of the tiled wall leads to a bull-nosed precipice over which they could not jump, swim or crawl. And so they swam and they swam and they swam unto exhaustion, finally to sprawl ready to sink for the last time to the black depths below.
One avenue of escape arrived with the morning, a woman in flip-flops and moo-moo, possessing a coffee cup and kind heart.
His struggle tug at my compassion for things living and on instinct I ran for the pole and skimmer, hoping against hope that I would not be too late to save him from his watery prison.
Still, as my redeeming net approached from above, he suddenly took on new vigor, dashing with all his might to the bottom of the pool, using every millimeter of his instinct and strength to elude the only help that could free him!
Time after time I dipped in the net with which to scoop him from certain death and equal to my efforts to save, he eluded me.
How often we dance out this same scene with God. Drawn to the glitter or the gratification of a toy or a desire, we chase a phantom, one that only leads to our damage.
Yet we continue to try to elude God; we resist his net of safety. Because it means we must trade our will for his, we choose to keep our rebellion, even if our choice causes such misery.
When we finally give what we call ‘freedom’ up, give in and let go, oddly enough it turns out we don’t lose anything we don’t need to. We become freer than we were, on a new plane, our eyes open to the reality that the pond was the chain that pulled us down. The freedom to do it our way leads to death, the bow to obedience leads to life.
Nothing gives so fine a touch to landscaping as edging. The whirring metal blade carves a distinct line, making every planter look crisp, every driveway or sidewalk appear clean and orderly.
But all Southern landscapers know that just one touch of that blade’s tip on a piece of Spanish moss and instantaneously, the moss will be drawn in and wound tightly around the blade housing.
The smart landscaper knows this to be an inescapable reality and will humble her (or him) self to bend down and move the offending moss out of the way of the blade before the consequences come due.
But, over again, I would say to myself, “This time, it will be different. Just this once, I will be the victor; I will do it my way without the same outcome, without the same result…”
And every time, without exception, I would have to relearn the lesson. No matter how fast the blade turned, no matter how much I revved the motor to plow through the moss, the moss always won.
The moments I intended to save by refusing to bend down and collect the moss were lost, and the payment was minutes wasted picking out every tiny piece of moss wound tightly around the blade and housing, sometimes so tightly I had to stop everything and get a pair of needle-nose pliers to pick away at the tighter strands.
Why do we continually think we can get away with something we’ve already seen won’t work; that somehow, even though we do the same dumb thing, this time it will be different, somehow WE are different and we won’t pay the penalties?
God puts consequences in place so we’ll do the smart thing, the right thing, the good thing, for us and those in our lives. Why do we choose to go back to that thing we know is wrong for us, hoping somehow this time it will be different? How many times do we have to do the same thing and get the same result until we choose to plug in a different move or humble ourselves and do it his way instead of ours?
What is that one thing you refuse to give in over and give up to God’s sovereignty?
What foolishness! With too much on my mind and without giving attention to what, in reality, I was doing, I turned left, thinking I needed to hit the bank before 4:00 p.m. But in heading left, I bypassed the post office and another quick stop I could have knocked out had I gone right and then to the bank. I wasn’t really in the car at all but off someplace in my head, disconnected from what I was supposed to be focused on. Now I’d have to waste more time I was already pressed for. In my head I heard, “You can turn around any time.”
What is repentance, but to turn around, do a you-turn? Many times the thought begins to creep over us that we’re heading in a direction that’s not in our best interest, or we get caught in the fallout of a poor decision or choice, yet we refuse to get it; too prideful to make the you-turn it takes to get back on the right road.
Did you take a left today when you meant to take a right? Did you head in a direction you were too proud to admit you shouldn’t go? That’s just the stuff the Christ came to move us through, to help us get off the pride train and make the U-turn we need to go in a direction God has laid out for our benefit. To continue on is folly but we often do, too arrogant to say we’re wrong and humble ourselves to make the you-turn to real freedom and peace.