It all started so innocently. We were on our way down after completing a wonderful time at the National Bible Bee. God seemed to ordain every step we took. We were dropping off a co-worker and would pick them up again on the way back up North. It was on our way and not an inconvenience at all and to make matters even better, they offered to feed us lunch. No lunch meat for lunch today! We were having a Southern meal of homemade fried chicken, so tender and juicy. Yum! This home was surrounded by beautiful fields of peach orchards, pecan groves, and peanut farms. Totally foreign to me, they explained that they had just gathered the pecan harvest by shaking each tree and then raking them into wind rows to be picked up by the next machine.
Time for a walk
As our lunch and fellowship came to a close, I asked if there was a good place to go for a little walk before completing the remaining six hour’s drive to Florida. The family kindly offered, “We sometimes walk down the highway, but there are no shoulders. You can certainly walk around our yard… or we know our neighbor and he lets us walk in his pecan grove.”
As we went outside the prospect of a walk did not look so inviting, so we headed to the van, bid our hosts goodbye and took off. Just as we pulled out the clouds parted and the sun beamed down. I quickly looked at Priscilla and after rounding the bend decided to pull into the other side of the neatly planted, mature, pecan-tree grove. After walking along the road I felt it was important for us to head back. As we headed back, I saw a few pecans pressed into the mud. I dug one out, brushed it off and cracked it open, only to find the most delicious, lush, buttery pecan I think I had ever tasted. I handed some to Priscilla. I had a little caution about it before doing it, but I quickly brushed it aside. We thought, “Maybe we should dig out just a few and bring them down for Thanksgiving. That would be a nice treat. After all, they already harvested this field so we are just gleaning the field.” I ran to the van and found our paper Bible Bee gift bag.
The law catches up
After only a few minutes the bag was filling nicely. I glanced up and waved as a blue car drove by. I am not sure it registered in my mind that it was a state trooper until I saw his car return only a few minutes later. This time he rolled down his window and called out, “Hey, what are you all doing out there? Who gave you permission to be out there?”
Motioning toward the red house in the distance I explained, “We are traveling through the area and just had lunch with that family over there and they said we could go for a walk out here.” The trooper asked, “Do they own the property?” I replied, “No, but they said they know the owner and he lets them walk in this grove.” The trooper replied, “Well, I just talked to the owner and he told me he does not want anyone out here. You wait right here. He wants to have a word with you.” Oh, boy, was I in for a surprise.
The farmer arrives
A pickup pulled in a short while later and out jumped a plain-clothed officer. He walked over to talk with the other officer while we waited another fifteen minutes. Finally the owner of the property pulled up. As he got out of his pickup he grabbed a slender fiberglass cattle-prod. As he walked briskly towards us he slashed at the grass back and forth as he walked. He was ANGRY!
For what seemed like an eternity he yelled questions at us such as, “What did you think you were doing? Who gave you permission to be out here? Its one thing for me to be chasing people off during the night, but what gave you the nerve to be out stealing in broad daylight!!! I bet you got a Bible in your car back there too! Don’t you realize that is like stealing money out of my wallet?”
Situation gets worse
Obviously this was not the first time people had wronged him. Of course we felt horrible and wanted to do anything needed to make this right. After the landowner had carried on for a time, he turned back and called out to the officers, “You got your deputy on his way out here yet? You better, because they are going to hear gunshots over their heads in a minute.” After a stern warning from the officers, a few more police came on the scene. Each one seemed to do their best to calm down the land-owner by giving us a stern talking to. Finally, the deputy for the area arrived. God so ordained him to be a large jolly officer. Upon getting my license he went over to get my wife’s. When we had heared the threat of gun fire, I asked if she would be permitted to sit in the van. When he went up to get her information his first question was, “How many months are you along?” She burst into tears and held up five fingers. He compassionately said, “You don’t have to get all emotional about it. I think we are just going to write you up a warning not to go on his property again.” She responded, “Yes sir.”
A sticky situation
One of the other tall officers ended up doing the negotiations. He had to give me “a talking to” loud enough that the land owner could hear to try and appease his wrath. Finally, he asked me what I had to say. I explained that I just wanted to take my wife on a little walk, but that I was totally wrong to take pecans. I told him, “I am a born again Christian and no Christian should ever steal. God and I have a good relationship and I had a caution in my spirit not to do that and I did not listen to God’s prompting. I am really sorry, and I would like to offer this guy restitution. I have no clue what the bag of pecans is worth, but I have $100 in cash right here to give him.”
With that the officer told me to come over to talk. The owner was still upset, but had calmed down some. The officer asked him, “Did you take any time to even listen to these kids and what they had to say?” He stared at the ground and shook his head. “Tell him what you told me” the officer stated.
I looked the man square in the eye and said, “Sir, I am a born again Christian and I do have a Bible in that car and this is no way for a Christian to act. I have been a horrible witness of what a Christian ought to be because no Christian ought to steal. I just came from helping out at the National Bible Bee. I have taught character in the public schools of Oklahoma for years. I am headed down right now to do some ministry in a prison. God and I have a great relationship and when He tells me not to do something, I know better, but I disobeyed His prompting. I want you to know that I am very sorry. Here is a token of my apology.” I stuffed the hundred dollars in the top of the bag and began to back away.
The officer repeated it, “Did you hear that? He violated his inner peace and did what was wrong and now is offering you a hundred bucks as restitution.” He straightened up and looked at me and then at the police officer. He said, “No, you keep your money… I don’t want your money.” After a pause he looked back up and said, “No, all I want is one good picture of you and your Mrs. holding that bag of pecans.” I said, “Yes, sir. Anything you want. I have done you wrong.” After he took a picture on his little flip phone I said, “Sir, could you take a picture of us as well? I want to teach my little boy this lesson too.” We shook hands, and the officer gave us our paper-work and we were off. Wow, what a lesson! Someone once said, “There is no sin known to man that the human mind cannot rationalize away.” I had so many ways to rationalize this at the moment, such as: “We were gleaning the waste from the harvest, our friends know the owners, the pecans are going to just go to waste sitting in the mud, in blue-berry fields of Florida, we have a friend who lets us glean hundreds of pounds of blue berries.” However, it is never worth it to rationalize wrong-doing.
As we drove down the road, I asked God, “Father, why did you allow that to happen?” The answer came just two days later when we went to the Prison and shared this story. It was the day before Thanksgiving and many of the ladies were really missing their families. This story really hit home because of some recent situations that the ladies had encountered. We encouraged them to always listen to the prompting of God’s Spirit.