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My first encounter with a Global Positioning System was in the late 1990s in Annapolis, Maryland. Our son, Coleman, was a patient at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda undergoing protocols of treatment and study in their Infectious Disease and Genetics departments. One weekend, we made a trip to Annapolis to visit Bob and Allene Stoddert whom we had come to know and love during our time serving with the church in Honolulu. The Stodderts lived in a beautiful home right on the water. On Saturday, “Cap’n Bob” took us for a cruise in their boat, and, while I certainly enjoyed the time on the water, I was most enamored with the electronic device mounted near the wheel. The display screen featured a map of the harbor, kept track of our precise position, and even left a line showing where we had been on our jaunt. Amazing! It easily surpassed the euphoria I had experienced earlier in life with things like VCRs and microwave popcorn. This was totally futuristic! Since then, our culture has become GPS-saturated. They have become almost standard on golf carts these days. Kim’s GMC Acadia came equipped with OnStar. And, just last week, we bought Hannah a Garmin for her car as a very late graduation present. The latter purchase was under $200; no monthly service fee, no per-use fees; just unlimited access and directional assistance anywhere in North America. Wow!
While I know that GPS has many complex applications, both military and civilian in nature, for most people it just provides answers to simple but extremely important questions like “Where am I?” and “How do I get to where I want to go?” Spiritually speaking, that is what Scripture (God’s Positioning System) is all about. It is God’s story of who we are (in relation to Who He is), where we are, and how we can get to and spend eternity where He is. Our journey to that destination is described a road, a path, a walk, and a race. Since there are roads that would lead us away from God, we frequently find ourselves in need of guidance and direction to ensure that we are walking in “paths of righteousness.” God has given us His Son, His Spirit, His Scriptures, and His saints to enlighten, guide, convict, correct, and encourage us on the journey. When you feel that you are losing direction and purpose, devote yourself more fully to the disciplines of prayer, fasting, and feeding on the Word of God. Tap into the spiritual resources of our Divinely inspired GPS. When all else fails, ask for directions!


A couple of weeks ago, our family enjoyed an awesomely refreshing vacation in Navarre Beach, Florida. I first visited Navarre in 1983 when I was a college student, and Kim and I took the kids there one summer several years ago when Hannah and Coleman were still quite small. More recently, this significantly less-populated stretch of the Florida Panhandle has become an anticipated destination for our family for the last three summers. I’ll have to clarify that last statement a bit, because, last August, Kim and the children made the trip by themselves. I reluctantly, but needfully, stayed behind in Dallas to give attention to some challenges and struggles that I was facing in my life. To date, that was about the hardest thing I had ever done: seeing them off early on a Saturday morning for a 13-hour drive without me, Father Unit, Navigation Man, Defender, Protector, and Designated Driver of the family. With periodic driving relief from Hannah (and a couple of conversations with OnStar), they made the trip just fine.

My absence last year made this year’s trip that much sweeter. We saw family on the way to Florida, and even got to visit with friends who were vacationing nearby while we were there, but mostly we just chilled for a week. With only a few highrise condo buildings and some rental houses (no strip of restaurants and bars, no go carts, bungee jumping, water parks, or putt-putt), your two main options on Navarre Beach are: 1) relax on the beach, or 2) relax in your room. The sand is white; radiantly white! This year there were very few jellyfish, the water was clear and calm, almost like a lake one day. In addition to the dolphins, crabs, pelicans and other sea birds that we usually see, we got to encounter some new sea life this year. We found live sand dollars by groping around in the sand about 50 yards offshore and we encountered sea slugs for the first time; awesome, fascinating, amazing creatures in my Father’s world. I also caught a small, bony, snake-like creature with a long, pointed snout that absolutely did not like the idea of captivity. I didn’t hold it for long! I will share an entire post sometime about Coleman’s love for the water and the sand.

One glorious week. No rush, no schedule, no meetings, no appointments, no deadlines, no expectations, and no razor; just 7 days of enjoying the moment and playing each day by ear. Rest! Respite! Sabbath! It’s such an awesome concept. God recognized our need for it, and He has prepared an eternity of it for His weary children beyond this life of striving, struggling, and suffering. Scripture is pretty stingy with details about what life in eternity is going to be like, so, naturally, we try to fill in the blanks and “work out all the details” to satisfy our curiosity. There are Christians (whom I love and respect) who have scenario-ed Heaven out into a wide variety of possible existences. Some wishfully and sentimentally imagine it being like the holodeck in Star Trek: The Next Generation: a simulated reality reflecting whatever your greatest interests and enjoyments were on earth (fishing, golf, baseball, etc.). Others suggest that Heaven is just going to be a renewed, refreshed, upgraded, tricked-out earth; oh, and our beloved pets will be there, too! Still others say that we are all going to have jobs, be in charge of things, manage cities, etc. I really hope that they are wrong; not so much for theological reasons, just personal ones. I like the idea of an eternal Sabbath. “So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God,” (Hebrews 4:9). “‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them,'” (Revelation 14:13). Ahhhhhh! That’s more like it. Rest!

And if I’m wrong? No problem! I’ll be in the presence of the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and the saints of all the ages eternally. I think I can cope. Just keep your dog off my lawn!

No, the subject of this post is not the famous Seminole warrior (whose name is spelled Osceola), but rather an African-American washerwoman named Oseola McCarty (1908-1999) who spent most of her 91 years in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. I first read about her several years ago, but her story entered my consciousness again last week. My family and I were driving through Hattiesburg on our return from vacationing in Florida, and, as we passed the campus of The University of Southern Mississippi, I spotted the words “Oseola McCarty Hall” above the entry to a beautiful dormitory building. How did a stately building on a major college campus in the Deep South come to bear the name of a black laundry lady?
Oseola McCarty and her mother moved to Hattiesburg from nearby Wayne County when she was a little girl. She left school during her sixth grade year so that she could care for a disabled, childless aunt. Oseola would never have an opportunity to return to school. As a very young woman, Oseola began taking in laundry to help supplement the family income (her mother worked as a cook) and to support her grandmother and her aunt. Oseola never married and had no children. Her grandmother died in 1944, her mother in 1964, and her aunt in 1967.
For over 75 years, Oseola McCarty washed and ironed the clothing of well-to-do residents in Hattiesburg, working for as many as three generations within some families. Oseola worked hard. She worked and saved. She didn’t expend much income for her own upkeep. She maintained a modest frame house, never owned a car (she pushed a shopping cart over a mile each way to do her grocery shopping), picked up broadcast TV stations on her black and white set, and made do without air conditioning in the steamy Gulf Coast heat. As the years rolled on, bank personnel began to notice the size of her accumulating savings and offered her counsel and assistance in protecting and investing her money.
In 1995, Miss McCarty met with a bank official and an attorney for whom she had worked for years and informed them that, while she wanted to leave some money to her church and a few relatives, she wanted to leave the bulk of her estate to Southern Miss for scholarships, primarily for African-American students who could not otherwise attend due to financial hardship. “I’m too old to get an education,” she said, “but they can. They used to not let colored people go out there, but now they do, and I think they should have it!” What an amazing, selfless, forgiving spirit! The bank official placed dimes on her kitchen table to represent tenths of her estate, and Oseola identified where she wanted the money to go: 10% to her church, 30% to her relatives, and 60% to Southern Miss, a gift of $150,000 to the university!
Oseola McCarty’s gift made international news. In the four years that followed, prior to her death in 1999, Oseola received an honorary degree from Southern Miss (the first of its kind in school history), an honorary doctorate from Harvard, the United Nations’ Avicenna Medal, and the Presidential Citizens Medal, the second highest civilian award in the U.S. The new dormitory was posthumously dedicated in her honor in 2002. The endowed Oseola McCarty Scholarship continues to provide needed financial assistance to deserving students. About her gift, Oseola said, “I can’t do everything, but I can do something to help somebody. And what I can do I will do. I wish I could do more.” Wow! I wish I could have known her. And I pray that I can become a lot more like her!

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August 2009