A Little after 12 midnight the phone rings, “Mr. Dilmore this is the North Carolina State Police, are you the general manager of Crown Dodge Suzuki?” The stern voice requested.
My sheepish answer, “well, yes.” The midnight call you always worried about as a General Manager in The Crown Automotive Chain, the State Police telling you that one of the Suzuki’s you have out on an overnight test drive has slammed into a Sate Trooper. Fortunately no one was hurt, but what is the owner, Royce Reynolds going to say?
The next morning right at 8am I got a call from Royce’s secretary, Susan Bray. “Robby, Royce wants you up in his office right now.”
My thoughts were surely that it had been a great career while it lasted. I made the short trip across Wendover Avenue in Greensboro from the Dodge store to the Crown Management offices above the Pontiac Store. Climbing each step with trepidation, at the top of the stairs I saw Susan his secretary’s face it looked solemn, she just pointed to Royce’s door.
I walked in the door; Royce had the most amazing office I have ever seen in the car business. Rumor had it that the paneling alone was over 100K, Royce Sat behind a desk made for royalty I’m sure. Trouble was that not only was Royce there but, Ed Hillis the Pontiac general manager, also Royce’s son-in-law, Will Avera the general manager of the Honda store. Those two were quite often Royce’s go to guys when there was trouble.
I figured I might as well get it over with so I spoke first, “I guess you heard about the Suzuki Accident?” I said with great pain.
I can still hear Royce’s shriek answer, “WHAT SUZUKI ACCIDENT?”
“The one that slammed into the State Trooper last night”, I said very timidly realizing that there was No Way to put this cat back into the bag.
Royce’s response was the stuff of Crown legend, “You mean to tell me that I just promoted the stupidest @*#&%@& in the Crown Organization to the General Manager of our Highest Profit Store.”
Ed and Will just shook their heads like, “Dilmore, you are one of a kind.”
That’s the true story of the day I was promoted to the Crown Jewel, ‘Crown Honda Volvo’, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. So the next thing I knew I was commuting to Chapel Hill. I was very career oriented so I left Greensboro about 7:30 a.m. and returned home between 10:30 and 11:00 p.m. six days a week. During the commute time I would buy self- actualization Books on Tape to listen to so I could hone my skills as a salesperson and manager.
Then I bought the series “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale. As I began to listen, Norman Vincent Peale explained that in order to have a positive attitude you needed to get up thirty minutes earlier every morning to read the Bible. Considering my work schedule that seemed insane, but since I had invested in the set, I needed to do what it said.
This plan made no sense to me. I was dead tired already, reluctantly I set my alarm. I still needed a Bible, I thought I had one somewhere, oh yea, I still had the only remnant from my childhood after nearly 30 moves. You know you can’t throw away a Bible, or leave it behind. I didn’t really believe in God, but in case I was wrong, I didn’t want to upset him. It was the Bible that I had received from the First Congregational Church of Naperville, Illinois when I graduated from 5th to 6th grade in 1966. It was black leather with red edged pages, New American Standard Version, presented to me by Rev. Stanley Cox, our pastor.
So I started my “Journey” through the Book that I had carried around for 25 years, but never read.
Genesis was neat, it read like a history book. Exodus started out like Charlton Hesston’s Ten Commandments. The further I read, however, the more I began to question Norman Vincent Peal’s idea that this had anything to do with my positive attitude. It certainly had nothing to do with selling cars. Some things struck me and wouldn’t let me go. The first real puzzle was why God would kill Aaron’s sons for offering incense improperly. This made no sense, yet I was driven to understand. This Book was either right or it was wrong.
Selling cars was what was on my heart so what does the fat around the liver have to do with selling cars? I was sure this was crazy, but deep inside another voice said “read on”. Numbers and Deuteronomy really dragged. Yet I felt I had to read this in the order it was written, in spite of many friends saying that the Old Testament is too difficult, I should have started with the New Testament. I now know that the order the 66 book of the Bible are in is called the Cannon of scripture. For me this was of utmost importance. God had to lay out His story to me to show me that I was in no way smart enough or powerful enough to understand this without help.
That’s why Norman Vincent Peal’s instructions included prayer before reading, so God would open your eyes to the truth. In my case so the “Cannon Ball” could hit me upside my head.
My next puzzle came in the book of Joshua, the deaths of Achan’s kids. Maybe I could understand why they had to stone Achan for taking the goods of Jericho and hiding them in his tent, but stoning his whole family, kids and all. How could this loving God whom I had heard about all of my life require such a thing?
Judges and Ruth were great history, but I still saw no secret to a positive attitude, especially not Sampson that was a hair-raising experience for sure…Just sayin. I loved the story of Ruth and was fascinated with King David’s lineage. Still I kept searching for the real meaning of all this. 1st and 2nd Samuel, 1st and 2nd Kings and Chronicles were a great history lesson. I was more and more fascinated as I kept plowing through, but there seemed to be parts that were worthless, like all the numbers of people and the details of every offering. “Why would people read through this?” I wondered.
Ezra was boring at that time in my life. Nehemiah was a little better. Esther was very cool, because, I could really see God is in control.
Then came Job and that’s where the “Cannon Ball” of the scripture blew my head off. I really expected Job to be all about patience. The part where Satan was reporting to God completely surprised me. It was hard for me to understand God’s actually allowing Satan to mess with Job big time (killing his children). Then my patience was tried as the next 35 chapters dragged on and on while Job and his friends tried to explain why God does what he does. None of it really made sense to me at the time. I was very, very frustrated with the whole process. My prayers increased. If there was a God, then show me what this means. Oh! Did he show me!
In chapter 38 God was speaking directly to me. Job 38:1 “Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, ‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct me! Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding.”
”Whoa!” I had no idea.
Then I got to this: Job 40:15 “Behold now, Behemoth, which I made as well as you; he eats grass like an ox. Behold now, his strength in his loins and his power in the muscles of his belly. Can anyone capture him when he is on watch, with barbs can anyone pierce his nose?”
I had no idea even what a Behemoth was. I asked every Christian that I knew, but no one had an answer. One told me to go to a Christian bookstore and buy a Christian dictionary or a commentary. Knowing what I know now I can’t believe I bought, (and still cherish by the way) a complete Matthew Henry Commentary. So my quest continued, somehow I felt all the answers that I was seeking were going to be found in this passage, I couldn’t get it out of my mind.
Getting my new commentary home here is what Matthew Henry said: “God, for the further proving of his own power and disproving of Job’s pretensions, concludes his discourse with the description of two vast and mighty animals, far exceeding man in bulk and strength, one he calls behemoth, the other leviathan. In these verses we have the former described. “Behold now behemoth, and consider whether thou art able to contend with him who made that beast and gave him all the power he has, and whether it is not thy wisdom rather to submit to him and make thy peace with him.’’
I was left to consider just that. Could I contend with this beast on my own? Not only that, but also bring the tide in or make the wind blow. Just as God was saying to Job and his so called friends, he was saying to me. Weak and. powerless as I am, “who am you to God?” I realized for the first time in my life how powerless I am, and that I am certainly not God.
Now here was a totally new concept, “If I’m not God, then I’d better find out who is and what He requires.” My prayer took on a whole new dimension. Instead of questioning whether there was a God, I believed that there was, and was asking that he please forgive my arrogance. I pleaded with Him to show me what I needed to do and understand. Then Show me he did.
Soon I came to the New Testament and Jesus. Now I had a new hunger to understand why He had to die. This was really the question that had always haunted me, “Why would God have to die?” That just didn’t make sense. If He was God, why couldn’t He just fix it?
It took most of the New Testament for me to understand that question. God had said,” If you eat of the fruit of the tree in the center of the Garden you will surely die”. In other words “The wages of sin is death.” If God doesn’t lie then Romans 6:23 is true “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Jesus is that sacrifice.
Romans 5:8 says, “God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us!”
All that was left was for me was to make that decision of my will. Either I believed God that Jesus was His son and died for me, and asked Him into my life to clean up my act, or I put that Book down.
The “Cannon Ball” did it. Talk about a positive attitude! Norman Vincent Peale knew Romans 10:17 and asked anyone who read his book to apply it. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
What is a positive attitude if not faith? Norman Vincent Peal knew that we can hear the word of God by simply reading the Bible after asking God for his understanding of it. Believe me if you’ll try it, God will talk you all the way through it. It really is God’s love letter to us. Read it and grow your faith. Years later I still make every effort to do it daily. Can’t live without it, really…Robby