Each evening was a pure misery to the man.

He lived all alone in a trailer on the outskirts of a growing town near the ocean in South Carolina. He was much younger than he looked, the bitterness and anger creasing his face with wrinkles and drawing his mouth into a permanent scowl. That made most people shun him, and for that he was glad.

He’d given up on people when we gave up on God. Since that night seventeen years ago, he’d had nothing to do with either. His days were marked by eight hours work at the machine shop, speaking to others only as his work required. Then home to sit in darkness and loneliness until the next morning when it all began again.

As he sat on his back stoop in the early morning light or in the fading sunset in the evening, the only things he hated more than God and people were those “dad-blamed” animals that mocked his misery. A mockingbird would sit in the tree near his door and sing incessantly. It wasn’t that he disliked birdcalls, the tweeting and twittering, but something about this bird’s song brought back memories of days before “that day”. And the squirrel, he would scamper about the yard looking for a seed, a nut or a pinecone. And when he would find it, he would sit up and hold it in his hands like, like he was saying “grace” for that little morsel of food. But why would a bird be able to “sing” in a way that reminded him of songs and choruses way back when he went to church with his wife and son?

And what would a squirrel know of giving thanks for his food. No, they were just mindless creatures, living a futile existence until caught by the neighbor’s cat or the BB gun of the kid down the road. And their existence was so much like his own, meaningless, empty, useless.

It hadn’t always been that way. Once his house was filled with the laughter of a 5-year-old and with the love of his wife. Until “that night” 17 years ago.

That Sunday night after church, after an ice cream cone at the Dairy Queen, on the way home…then the truck, the skidding, the crash…and darkness.

Two days later he woke up to find that they had hit the truck, his wife and child were killed; he alone was left. He cried to God for answers and found none, so he gave up on God. The people in the church and community tried to be friendly and helpful, but they also had no answers, so he gave up on them too.

He moved into this little trailer at the edge of nowhere to be alone in his misery. And he would be, too. All the neighbors had learned long ago to leave him alone; so had the salesmen and Jehovah’s Witnesses. No one came to his house, no one except the mockingbird and the squirrel. And all they brought were memories of happier times, joyful times, memories he’d just as soon forget.

It was another Sunday morning. It was hot and humid, typical July; but today a warm rain was drizzling down. He sat on the porch with his coffee and looked out at the puddles forming around his house. Suddenly, the fluttering of wings and the infernal mockingbird lit on a branch of the pine tree in the yard. And as the bird started his songs, the man’s mind retreated again to the past, thinking thoughts he really didn’t want to think. Memories of God and church, of worship and fellowship. The man shook his head as if to empty it of all thought and then, as if on cue, here came the squirrel, bedraggled in the rain, but faithfully searching for his breakfast. And he found it, a peanut tossed in the yard by kids as they ran through. The tiny animal picked up the nut in his paws, clasped them in front of him, and as was his usual demeanor, seemed to pause in prayer before gobbling the nut. The man got up and ambled down the dirt road; even though it was raining, he had to get away from these reminders. He walked to the main road and without thought, made a right. A couple of hundred yards down the road, he saw the lights, bright and inviting and he heard the sound…the sound of praise to God.

It was that new church, the Bible church that had been built just recently. As he neared the building, he could see the people through the window, standing together, hymnal in hand, singing “All creatures of our God and King, Lift up your voice and with us sing”. All creatures? Birds, squirrels, miserable old men. Then the last verse, heartily, “Let all things their Creator bless, and worship Him in humbleness.” Worship? Worship who, for what? Humble? Not him, not humbled before a God Who’d taken his very reason for living. He wanted to walk away, but the church choir started to sing a song, it was his wife’s favorite. The last time he’d heard it had been at the funeral, seventeen eons ago. But now here it was again, loud and clear in his ears, melting his heart:

”O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder”. Yes, He had been his Lord and God, at one time. “When thro’ the woods and forest glades I wander, and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.” Even a mockingbird? “And when I think that God, His son not sparing, sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in; that on the cross, my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin.”

That’s right; God did give His Son. To die for my sins; it was my burden that held Him to the cross. To give me forgiveness and a home in his heaven; where my wife and son are right now; all because He didn’t spare His Son. Oh, God, could He forgive a foolish old man? How wrong He’d been to blame God, the One Who loved him so much!

Now he knew the reason for his misery; it wasn’t his wife and son’s death, as hard as that had been. No, it was his shutting out of God who could have given Him the strength and peace to overcome. Seventeen years without the felt presence of God, without a moment of worship and praise. That’s what brought his emptiness, his bitterness. And after all, life isn’t about him; it’s about God and His perfect and sovereign will and plan and about His Son, the sacrificial Lamb. And oh, God was so good! He wouldn’t give up on him. He sent a simple mockingbird and a squirrel as constant reminders of His own goodness and grace and love, of times of blessing and joy and peace. And right there, in sight of that church, the man bowed his head in confession and repentance. And suddenly, on the little shrub right next to where he sat, the mockingbird lit and that squirrel scampered up. And even though the man had never been a singer, he loudly lifted his voice, with the tiny animal duet joining him, in a song of praise and worship to God:

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation

And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!

Then I shall bow in humble adoration

And there proclaim: ‘MY GOD, HOW GREAT THOU ART!’

Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee,

How great Thou art! How great Thou art!

Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee,

How great Thou art! How great Thou art!

(An original story for your summer meditation!)

Ground Zero Sunday Celebrations

They’re back! Again, this summer, Ground Zero is hosting Sunday Celebrations on the Boardwalk (between Eighth and Ninth avenues North). These free concerts begin at 6:30 p.m. each Sunday evening. Bring blankets or lawn chairs (but no tents, please).

The lineup is: this Sunday: Hollyn with 7eventh Time Down. Each week DJ Pdogg will also provide music. Go online to www.mygroundzero.com.

CEF Softball Tournament

Child Evangelism Fellowship of the Greater Pee Dee will host its first Slow-Pitch Softball Tournament to benefit Good News Clubs.

The tournament will be held Aug. 16-17 at 8 Oaks Park in Georgetown. This is a co-ed tournament, teams of 10-15 players, age 15 and over. Cost is $15 per player.

Go online to www.cefgpd.org, phone (843) 365-4233 or e-mail susie@cefgpd.org.

Volunteers Needed

Holy Lamb Lutheran Church will host a BBQ Fundraiser for Help4Kids on Aug. 24. A lot of volunteer help is needed.

What can I do, you ask? You can pull pork, set up tents and tables, work in the kitchen, serve, clean up and take down. Email to info@help4kidssc.org.

Conway, Loris, Aynor and Western Horry

■ Dogwood Hill Baptist Church, 1040 Mt. Zion Road, Loris invites all ages to VBS In The Wild which is being held through Friday of this week from 6 p.m.-9 p.m.

The church will host Who Am I?, its Second Annual Women’s Conference on July 27 from 8 a.m.-noon (brunch included). Please RSVP to (843)756-3450 or e-mail Sherry Whisnant at bandmamawhiz@gmail.com.

■ Mt. Vernon Baptist Church, 4301 Red Bluff Road in Loris, will have Vacation Bible School through Friday from 6 p.m.-8:30 p.m. Make plans to attend and go In the Wild with games, crafts and exciting Bible stories. There will be classes for all ages. Friday will be Commencement and Family Night at 6:30 p.m. Phone (843) 756-6221.

■ Salem United Methodist Church, 2376 S.C. 90, invites all elementary and middle school-aged boys and girls to Salem Summer Fun Saturdays. The activities will be held from 10 a.m.-noon and parents may either drop off the children or stay and help! (And of course, snacks are provided!)

This Saturday: Splish Splash Saturday: water balloons, sprinkler stations and more (bring a towel!). July 20: Saturday Art Festival: help create a work of art in the church parking lot (chalk art masterpieces) and learn to paint with water guns!

July 27: Saturday Sports Challenge: have fun testing your skills in basketball, horseshoes and an obstacle course. Aug. 3: Saturday in the Park: celebrate summer with balloons, bubbles, hula hoops, hot dogs and ice cream.

Please email name and age to salemumc@gmail.com, leave message at (843) 347-3045 or just drop in!

Contact Jenny Johnson at (843) 340-5185.

Salem UMC will have its annual golf tournament at Myrtle Beach National-South Creek Aug. 17; register at 8:30 a.m. This is a Captain’s Choice Format; cost if $60 per person, $240 per team. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Epworth Children’s Home.

There will be lunch provided and door prizes. Phone (843) 251-8409 or e-mail to salemumc90@gmail.com

■ Macedonia Baptist Church, 2360 Red Bluff Road, Loris, will have VBS July 14-19 from 6:30 p.m.-8:45 p.m. (commencement will be on that Friday). There will be a meal each evening. Phone (843) 907-8616.

■ Good Hope Baptist Church, 6101 Privetts Road, invites you to hear “Johnson Edition” in concert July 21 at 6 p.m.

Johnson Edition is a sibling group from upstate South Carolina. They grew up on the small town of Salem, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Their blend of progressive country and southern gospel strikes a chord with people of all ages, walks of life and musical interest. Plan to attend and bring your family and friends.

■ Brown Swamp UMC, 4725 U.S. 501 W, is offering a Free Music Camp as VBS for ages preschool-middle school. This will be held from 6 p.m.-8:30 p.m. July 29-Aug. 2 (with dinner served at 6 p.m.). Check the Facebook page for registration information or phone (843) 283-8261.

■ Bethany Bible Chapel, 1668 Four Mile Road, will have VBS Aug. 4-8 with a meal beginning at 6 p.m. Boys and girls will learn the interesting and inspiring story of Corrie Ten Boom. And High School/College and Career age young men and women will have a special class.

There will be a “kickoff” on Aug. 3 at 10 a.m. Phone (843) 369-7729.

■ St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, 3449 S.C. 65, will be distributing food on the second and fourth Fridays of each month from 11 a.m. until all food has been distributed.

■ Loris First United Methodist Church, 3507 Broad St., has a Blessing Box in the church and it is available each Friday from 4:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. This box contains nonperishable food items and individuals in need are encouraged to come to the church at those times. Also, if you would like to donate items, please place them in the box.

■ Dogwood Hill Baptist Church, 1040 Mt. Zion Road in Loris, has a food pantry on the third Saturday of each month from 8 a.m.-10 a.m.

■ Salem Baptist Church, 4008 Salem Road in Aynor, opens its Food Bank on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month from 9 a.m.-noon. The mission: “We serve Christ when we serve people.”

Myrtle Beach/The Coast

■ Knitting Hearts Ministry will sponsor Unleashing the Signs with Chuck Smith of Gateway Prophetic School in Charlotte. This will be held at Socastee Church of God, 4475 Mill Pond Road, July 20 at 10 a.m. (Also enjoy music by Trista Smith, Psalmist/worshipper.)

■ Temple Emanu-EL by the Sea, 65th Ave. North and N. Kings Highway invites you to Friday night service at 7:30 p.m. (Kosher Oneg), Shabbat Service at 10 a.m. (Kosher Kiddush).

Current Second Nature Project: we are collecting individually-wrapped snacks and juice boxes to help both the Community Kitchen and Helping Hand. Place in the basket by the front door of the Rosen Center. All Mitzvoth greatly appreciated. Questions? Contact Karen Osborne at (843) 446-1060.

Annual Indoor Yard Sale: Aug. 4, 8 a.m.-1 p.m. (rain or shine). Browse treasures galore, toys, clothing, books and much more. Phone (843) 748-0612 or (843) 685-6100.

Camp Judaea: Israel, Judaism, Nature, Community, Individual growth. For boys and girls age 7-15. Phone 1-404-634-7883.

■ Myrtle Beach Christian Church, 1226 Burcale Road, opens its Thrift Store each week, Thursday-Saturday from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. You are encouraged to come out and browse and buy and in so doing you’ll be supporting this community outreach. Phone (843) 236-1121.

■ Temple Shalom, 4023 Belle Terre Blvd., invites you to Shabbat services each Saturday at 10:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Phone (843) 903-6634 or go online to templeshalommyrtlebeach.net.

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