Who am I? Well, my name is Lonnie Joe Richardson, but that’s just the name my mother and dad gave me when I was born. Me? I ain’t nobody special by the world’s standards. I’m just like millions of other people on this earth who struggle day in and day out to make a living. No, that’s not exactly true either. Yes, I’m a working man who works to make a living and provide for my family. Family is kind of important to me. If you hang around long enough you’ll understand just how important family is. It is true that I have struggled financially. I’ve struggled with health issues in the past. I’ve struggled with moral issues in my younger years. I wrestle with spiritual issues from time to time. I have had an emotional crisis, or two, in my life from time to time and difficulties in several relationships as well. Like I said, by the world’s standards, I ain’t nobody special and I never have been. I doubt I ever will be.

However, I can report that I am the only one of me that God ever made. A lot of folks I know are probably thankful for that. I am older than many of you and younger than some. I’ve tried to live life to the fullest, albeit a bit reckless at times, and my body exhibits the scars to prove it. In fifty-six years, I’ve traveled a lot of roads. Some have been favorable and rewarding. Other roads have been, at times, rough and rugged, exacting a toll on my physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. I’m no stranger to pain. Pain and I are old acquaintances.

I have a metal plate and four screws that holds my head up. That plate and four screws help lock my C6 and C7 Vertebrae tightly in harmonious matrimony for the rest of my duration on this earth. That plate and screws are trophies of a collapsed disc acquired from years of “taking one for team” and picking fights with thunderstorms. I have an artificial, mechanical knee that never needs oil or grease to maintain operation. It’s a good thing. Add to that the six other knee surgeries I’ve had and I believe I have acquired expert status in having knees rebuilt.

I have a wicked scar in the middle of my chest where a doctor cracked open my chest, took my heart out and played table top football with it before making some plumbing repairs and performing the re-installation process. He hooked thumper up, threw the switch and ol’ thumper started thumpin’ again. That’s a very good thing. Who am I? I’m no stranger to pain but I am not defined by the pain that I have endured. That’s not who I am.

I’ve known heart aches too. Lots of heartache. I’ve buried the only two grandparents that I’ve ever known. I’ve buried my mother and dad, all my aunts and uncles, and all but four of my first cousins. I’ve also buried a child and a grandchild. As I mentioned earlier, I’m a working man. I work as a nurse as my vocation. I’ve watched lots of people die. I’ve spent a lot of time in the presence of the angel of death.

I’ve done stupid stuff too. I’ve stepped off into stupid way over my head more times than I care to admit. I’ve been shot, once, and cut with malicious intent (without the benefit of anesthesia). I’ve walked away from more brawls than any one man has a right to survive. I’ve drank more alcohol, spat more blood, known too many women, and crossed more lines than can be recounted. I’ve been known to use drugs, in my formative years, in such a manner that could be described as beyond recreational use. I have a grandson who is incarcerated in prison. Daughter pregnant out of wedlock? Got that one on my resume too. Divorced? Uh huh, once. Who am I? Well, I’m not defined by my heartaches or the mistakes I’ve made in my past. That’s not who I am.

Life, however, has not all been bad. I’m married to my best friend whom I lovingly refer to as “Swede” because of her Swedish ancestry. She is my rock and keeps me on the narrow track. When my foot slips, and I do slip from time to time, Swede is there to make certain I regain traction pretty quick. Occasionally, I step off track, as we Irish are prone to do, and she will issue a Swedish ultimatum.

Now, if you’ve never been married to a Swedish woman before, allow me to enlighten you regarding the Swedish ultimatum. A Swedish ultimatum is an ultimatum where the end results are one and the same. It’s just that you may have choices as to how those results are to be obtained. For instance, when I was having chest pain with the heart problem that I told you about earlier and had eaten a total of seven nitro glycerin tablets in an eight-hour period, an ultimatum was issued. I was going to go to the emergency room. That end result was not negotiable. My choices were that I was either going by car or ambulance. But, the choice was mine. That’s a Swedish ultimatum. Sometimes the Swedish Ultimatum is a Swedish Intervention.

I have a wonderful wife. She is beautiful, intelligent, and at sixty-one years of age, is still the hottest little thing any man could want for. She is far better than I deserve. God gave me a second chance. God looks out for fools and renegades too. Maybe, just maybe they live long enough to learn that living a foolish or rebellious life has no lasting rewards. I’m living proof.

I have two wonderful daughters. They live with me and Swede. The eldest daughter has the cutest little girl who is my youngest grand-daughter. The younger daughter is a high functioning autistic who is a joy to all who have the good fortune to meet her. Oh yeah, my mother-in-law lives with us as well. She came three years ago to visit for two weeks. The third day she was here, she fell and broke her ankle and a bone in her leg. She’s been here ever since. For those of you who are wondering, no, I didn’t push her down and break her ankle and bone. She managed that just fine on her own. Shame on you for thinking that of me.

I have one step daughter and a step child who have gone to be with the Lord. I have a step daughter who lives with her husband and family in Mississippi. I have a step son who lives with his wife and family in Missouri. I have a total of eight grandchildren, four grandsons and four granddaughters. I have one great grandson. I am a blessed man. Who am I? I am a man who has a wonderful family whom I love dearly. But I am not defined by any member of my family. However, they are the ones I love most.

I belong to a wonderful church and I have an amazing church family. In that, I have been blessed. I am an Ordained Deacon in The Gathering Church in south Knoxville, Tennessee. I am also an Ordained Minister of The Gospel by that same church. I have a Bachelor of Science Degree in Religion from Liberty University. Some people say I’m a smart man. Sometimes, I wonder how dumb a smart man can be. Certainly, I’m the dumbest smart man I know. All of that is all fine and dandy. But we have several Deacons and the fact that I’m a Minister doesn’t make me special. There are lots of Deacons and Ministers in this world. Who am I? I am not defined by any office I hold, or where I attend church, or by any piece of paper I have hanging on my office wall. No, that’s not who I am.

Who am I? I am a son of the one true, living, all powerful, all knowing, ever present God. I am the favorite son of God Almighty Himself. The Book of Ephesians Chapter 1 Verses 5 through 7 tells me that I am adopted. I am a being of supernatural power that resides in me. Acts 1:8 says that I receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon me. I am a witness to the Gospel of Christ. Acts 1:8 states that too. I am a dead man. Galatians 2:20-21 tells me that it is not I who live but Christ lives in me. I am invincible. Isaiah 54:17 states that no weapon formed against me shall prosper. My words have power. Proverbs 18:21 states that “life and death are in the power of the tongue and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

You know, I could go on and on for days about who I am. The Bible tells me who I am from Genesis through Revelation. So, that makes me pretty special. It makes you special too. Maybe, we’re not special in the eyes of this world or by the world’s standard. But you and I are special and deemed so by a higher authority.

Who am I? I am a man who has lived, and learned, a lot of life’s lessons. Most lessons were learned the hard way. Some lessons came rather easily. I’ve learned that hope is never lost. Sometimes we misplace hope and if we back track a little bit, we find it where we left it. I’ve learned that hopelessness is a lie fabricated, packaged, marketed, and sold by Satan himself. Don’t buy into that lie. Recognizing the lies, deception, and illusion that Satan uses can help navigate the storms of life more safely. The storms will come, but you don’t have to sink into them.

Some of you will say, “Lonnie, if you’ve done everything that you’ve done and been through everything that you’ve been through, why would anyone want to listen to what you have to say?” It’s a valid question. I have several answers.

1. Listen to me because life is sometimes hard, but life is always good. There is no need for life to be harder than it has to be.
2. Listen to me because I HAVE been there and done that! If I haven’t been there and done it then, most likely, I’ve seen it firsthand.
3. Listen to me because I will NEVER lie to you. I’ll tell you the truth and I’ll tell it like it is. The truth stings sometimes. No one, who ever knew what they were talking about, ever said that the truth doesn’t cut. It just doesn’t cut the big, gaping wound that a lie does when the lie is revealed.
4. Listen to me because most people who have done what I’ve done or been through what I’ve been through are DEAD! A large percentage of those left, who are not dead, don’t care about you one way or the other. I do. I care. Most of the people that I grew up with are DEAD! They are dead as a result of their own indiscretions or they have simply blown their brains out. I’m not going to lie, I’ve thought about it on occasion. But not only have I survived, I have THRIVED! You can too.

Who am I? I am a man whom God loved first. I am a man who now loves God and people. All people! My heart breaks when I see someone going down a dark, winding road that I’ve traveled. I want to shake them and shout, “STOP! TURN AROUND! GO BACK!” Sometimes they listen. Sometimes they don’t. Who am I? I am a man who has learned a lot of Life Lessons and I would like to share those lessons with you in hopes to avert the physical pain, the heartache, the emotional distress, the spiritual downfall, and crumbling relationships that I suffered through. I don’t ask that you follow me. I ask you to follow Jesus. For my part, I ask for your attention, briefly, as I share some lessons and truths, along with some biblical wisdom. Add to what I give you some self-discipline on your part, and you will begin making better life choices today so that you will have hope and a future tomorrow. That’s who I am.

Tired of being no body? Tired of being anxious, fearful, angry or depressed. You don’t have to be. Be SOMEBODY! Don’t follow the crowd! Although I am a nobody by the world’s standard, my inheritance in God’s Kingdom is vast.

Here’s today’s life lesson. Proverbs 1:7 (NASB 97)

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

Now, what does that mean? In today’s terms, it means to get off your lazy rear end, open the BIBLE on that cell phone that’s constantly glued to your hand and learn about all the God has for you. By the way, there are glorious promises that God made to you and me if we seek His knowledge wisdom and understanding. A fool sneers at knowledge, wisdom, and understanding of God. If you read a little further in that Bible, you’ll see that things didn’t turn out so well for the foolish!

That’s who I am and that’s a Life Lesson you can count on.

God Bless, In His Grip,

Lonnie Richardson

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