Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Caution: It's not the mirror that adds all those years to your image.

It's Wednesday, March 29, 2017, and I send out a hearty hello to everyone joining today's episode. I think we all have, at one time or another, had that cold water in the face wake up call during our sojourn here on the planet. It is a part of life, especially as you get up there in years. My wife will soon be 70 years young. While that seems impossible, I can truly say that she carries her years as well as anyone I know. She continues to be a beautiful woman. The other day someone put a posting up on Facebook. It had some people in a photo. One of the people in that photo was a lady that I had a crush on as a freshman in high school. I had to check closely to make sure that was the girl that used to cause my knees to wobble. I suppose I had the image of her putting her books away stuck in my mind. I last saw this lady in 1978 at the visitation to honor my baby sister who had passed away. Even in 1978, she had changed a lot from what I remember in 1961, but, fast forward to 2017, and how she looks today was hard for me to take in. I'm not knocking her. It's the reality of life, however, it did take me a few seconds to realize this is what the aging process does. Let me make it a little more clear. When I saw that picture my first thought was that she reminded me of my grandmother. And, with the same breath, I have to know that someone might be saying the same about me. Whatever happened to that boy? He looks like my grandfather. Or, better yet, if I didn't know better I would think he has become Santa Claus. As the old comedian used to say, "I resemble that remark."

I do have before and after photos but I wouldn't even think of sharing them. Not even with the disclaimer that said the names have been changed to protect the innocent. My beard, now white naturally, covers up a lot of wear and tear, along with the ravages of having made it to my present age. Then we have the fantasy versus reality issue. People buy a new dress or a new suit and when they wear them they have a mental view of how it makes them look. How we think we look doesn't always square with how we actually look. A number of years ago they came out with a mirror that was expensive but it used technology to show someone a realistic view of themselves. It made a big splash but I don't hear much about them anymore. Maybe we don't want to have a more realistic view of our appearance. I worked with a fellow once that had achieved a fairly high position, but, he had trouble speaking in front of audiences. Our Company bought out another smaller firm and we had to fly to their headquarters and speak to the staff there. He represented our technology group. He told me that he had bought a new suit because it was one of the only things that helped prepare himself to speak. I'm not being cruel here but the suit didn't help him at all. He could have saved the $500 and done the same lousy job. The good news is that God doesn't judge us based on what we look like, He loves each of us in the frame that we have. He proved His love by sending His Son to die on our behalf. We don't need to figure out ways to pump up our self-esteem, we need to learn how to live out a life reflecting our esteemed identity in Christ. I know. A little preachy at the end, but, that's how it came out.

All of that from the photo of an aging lady posted on Facebook? I suppose I am in good company since I might be reflecting the great insights given by Vice President Dan Quayle, "What a terrible thing to have lost one's mind. Or not to have a mind at all. How true that is." My wife is out of town. She is over in Louisiana helping to care for my mom. (Maybe part of her beauty is found in her servant's heart.) You may know that old adage, "When the wife is away all bets are off." You never heard that one? I'm not sure I have either, but, her being gone might help to explain my scrambled prose of late. Don't blame it on her? I tell you all the time, this is a tough audience. I suppose I should be glad I'm not close enough to get all that fruit thrown at me. Just joking. I had better quit before I get even further behind. I do hope you will have yourself a great rest of today. May God bless us all is my prayer. Amen. ....More later.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The late Andre Crouch's great song, "Through it all, through it all, I've learned to trust in Jesus, I've learned to trust in God. Through it all, through it all, I've learned to depend upon His Word."

Last Saturday.
I suppose Sonny and Cher's big hit from 1967 made a point, "The Beat Goes On." Another day has dawned and we wake up to all that it holds for us. This one happens to be cataloged as Tuesday, March 28, 2017. The beat does go on, but I'm aware that it is only by the grace and provision of God. Not in some morbid or fatalistic way, but, it's a realistic view based on trust and confidence in our God. This is true, by the way, even when I'm so distracted by all that is happening, I fail to fully appreciate His abiding presence. I had many hours of conversation with mom last Saturday. She was remembering a whole lot of history. She struggles to make sense of her situation. I told her that whatever this life brings, regardless of how challenging, it is working for our good. This is what God has given to us, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28) She is one of God's own, therefore, this verse is for her, for me, and for every other person saved by the power of God. I couldn't delineate the actual good things that are being achieved by the very challenging health issues she is dealing with. But, I do know that verse is true, therefore, we know that good is being accomplished. For her. Some people misread that verse and their reading comes out giving the impression that it's all good things. Nope. That's not even close. All things. Good, bad, indifferent, no matter what, they work for good to my mom who loves God and she is called according to His purpose. Amen

On my journey early Saturday morning over to Louisiana to visit mom and dad I had to deal with the traffic that showed up to run alongside me, run over me, hold me up, or a lot of other things to mess with my mind. There's a long stretch that is two lanes only, except for a few spots where an additional lane has been added so folks can pass the slower traffic. When I hit the long stretch of two lane I saw a pretty sad sight up ahead. It was a convoy following one of those super sized 18 wheelers headed to the big box store in Jasper, Texas, about an hour away. The speed limit is 75 but riding behind that truck put me at about 60 or less when the big truck went up a hill. Finally, we came upon one of those additional passing lane places. Thank the Lord! There was only one problem. The first car behind the truck must get into the other lane and speed up. She did. But not fast enough. She was essentially riding beside the big truck at about the same speed. The convoy was behind her. We all let out a collective sigh when the lane ended and we all had to get back into line behind the big truck. I called the wife and told her what had happened. I think she may have said, "Bless her heart." Okay. That was a nice sentiment, but, that one didn't come to me when I was thinking about her passing approach. Just so you know, I did reach a spot and I passed them all. How fast? That information is currently unavailable, but, I will tell you my old pickup shuddered a little as we did our slingshot. (Hint: You learn a lot by watching NASCAR.)

Settle down. Don't be forming a posse to come and serve me a notice of citizen's arrest. I'm sure I may have embellished that account just a tad. Well, maybe a smidgen. Or, would you believe a teeny tiny bit? I didn't even mention the rain storm and bad visibility, but, they didn't seem to add anything to my story. I had better move on before my phone lights up with messages from 'you know who'. I think my little experience is covered under the covenant that says, "What happens on US Route 190 stays on Route 190." What? You never heard of that one? All I can say is you need to get out more. I feel compelled to confess something. I sometimes come up behind a person on the roadway and I can't help but think, "My oh my, isn't it just my luck to end up behind someone observing all the traffic signs?" If it helps any, I typically feel bad after thinking something like that. Whew! Being me really tires me out. I guess I had better quit for today so I can spend some time in reflection or deflection, I forget which one. Take care. Enjoy the rest of your day. May God bless each one is my prayer. Amen. ....More later.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Blessed beyond measure with the family I became a member of when I married.

Remembering Mom Rawles
Good morning out there wherever you happen to be situated on that expansive, all-inclusive, world wide web superhighway. You didn't sign up to be on that highway? Sorry. I think everyone gets to be on it these days, by default. The old song said, "There's an all-seeing eye watching you." It was referencing our Creator God. I think an attempt to duplicate that ability might be a part of this technological marvel where we can be found and identified, literally, pretty much wherever we happen to be on the globe. That might be a little over the top, but, not much. At any rate, I do bid you welcome to today, Monday, March 27, 2017. Yesterday would have been my mother-in-law's 100th birthday. She left this world to enter her eternal bliss back in 1998. She was a part of my interconnected family for nearly 35 years. She was a remarkable woman. Simple. Unassuming. A pastor's wife. A prolific writer of letters, quips, and poems. A master at sewing. A musician and lover of Gospel songs. A devoted believer in her God. A housewife, and simple but interesting cook who always took care of her family. She had a quirky sense of humor and she did like a good laugh. Those of us fortunate enough to be in her sphere had no qualms at all in associating her with the spiritual giant of a woman described in Proverbs 31. Her children have continued to mirror many of her traits. They have carried on the legacy she laid out before them. I come away thinking how blessed I am to have been loved, mothered, and prayed for by her. May God bless her memory as we think about her impact on all our lives. Amen.

When you get our age, there's value in knowing what you like. And, what you don't. We are popcorn eaters. From way back. Not the microwave stuff. Not the flavored junk. Natural. A number of years ago my gastroenterologist advised me to stop eating popcorn because of her fear it might lead to diverticulitis. No more popcorn! Several years later I confronted her with an article I had read that said researchers had discovered that popcorn was not the threat they had previously thought. She casually said, "Yeah, that's right. You can eat all of it that you want." I am glad they didn't have an exit window on that floor. I probably would have busted through it and landed two stories down on the ground. I could hear Happy Days are Here Again playing in my mind. You remember that one. No? That's the one they played when Prohibition officially ended. I think. At any rate, I was happy. I am the official corn popper in our house and I use an old worn out pressure cooker on the stovetop. I think we mostly use the best stuff that has Orville Redenbacher's name on it. Recently, we began to run low on the seasoning salt we use. The wife searched all around for it but couldn't find it. She bought several that were supposed to be similar. They weren't. We are serious about our popcorn. She sent me a picture. I found the company and special ordered four bottles. She asked why four. I told her the shipping cost was fixed and it was nearly as much as the products, therefore, we now have some extra in reserve. That should be about a six year supply. Now everything is right with the world. She chunked the other stuff. Good girl. Thank You, Lord. Amen

What's that? You hope that was a joke? I report, you decide, but always remember there are things that are no laughing matter to yours truly, and, popcorn happens to be one of them. I can remember sharing a dishpan of the fluffy kernels with my Granny Mac. She too was serious about her popcorn. You know. It was something to enjoy together as we watched Sid Caesar's 'Your Show of Shows'. Did I hear someone say that explains a lot? Maybe you could let me know because it might clear up some things for me. However, I'm sure those sweet memories are a part of the program as well. Okay, enough of that. I did visit mom on Saturday. She is making it but with much distress and difficulty. The wife stayed to help out some. I pray that God will work His will according to His love, mercy, and grace. These series of events have also taken a toll on dad, her primary caretaker. I ask for your continued prayers. I could sure eat a dishpan of popcorn right now. Something must have made me think of it. I do hope you have a most wonderful day and may our Great God add His blessings to it. Amen. ....More later.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Tip: If a telemarketer calls, give the phone to your three year old and tell them it's Santa Claus. ~ copied

It's time to put a bookend on this work week. At least that works for those, like me, who are fortunate to work a Monday through Friday schedule. I am well aware there are lots of folks who work just about every kind of shift and schedule imaginable, and I tip my cap to them. I know the metaphor in the old days would typically have been a hat but I actually am wearing my cap. Right. The red one. Good to meet up again with you on this Friday, March 24, 2017. Speaking of red, yes, red, I remind us all that I am an active participant in the Santa Claus enterprise, therefore, some of my brethren fascinate me with their seemingly endless promotion of their training services, the selling of accessories, and other types of money making ventures. With no disrespect intended, it's like a form of Amway for Santa Claus. One idea that some have had success with involves doing live video visits with children in their homes. I'm not altogether sure, but, for some reason, I think I might be able to do something like that. It would require fixing up a backdrop/set and coming up with the technology needed to make it work. The parents would provide the information on the children beforehand so Santa can make the most of their few minutes together. Let's see. Three minutes for $15 - $20. All credit and debit cards accepted. (I think Mrs. Claus would like those numbers.) I'm thinking about thinking about something in this area. I will keep you posted because I might want to send everyone a test video to get your feedback. I saw one Santa who asked for feedback on what people think when they see the videos he posts on Facebook. One responded saying they thought it was a great example of a con job. Hey. It is, after all is said and done, in the eye of the beholder. Ho Ho Ho!

My wife often tells me that very few care anything at all about my Santa Claus dealings. She may be right, but, it is an active part of my current profile, therefore, I typically write about things that pertain to stuff close to me. My blog is a personal journal. There are many other types of blogs. Some are commercial in nature. Others reflect a specific subject area. And, nowadays, many of my readers pick up my blog on their mobile phones. Mobile phones are in meltdown mode these days. Nearly everywhere I go I see people wandering around looking for an outlet to recharge their phones.  Our grandkids run into the house holding their cord up as an indicator they are on a critical mission to get their phone actively working again. I read one person's comments who said it's funny to see how much these phones are used and how often they need to be on the charger, she summarized it by saying, it's almost like having a landline again. (Think about it. A phone tied to a cord.) That's even with all the great battery life technology available. I've counted as many as four or five phones being charged in our house at the same time. Oh yeah, that reminds me. Is it any wonder that kids as young as maybe two or three often ask Santa for their own personal phone? I'm not so sure we have to wait a long time to know if this is a good thing or not.

I don't know exactly why but I can tell today's episode is about as scattered and disconnected as all get out. Don't get all snooty about the 'all get out' phrase. It can be tracked back to 1869. See. I'm not only into slang but I'm also preserving history as well. If that don't beat all! No. I didn't look that one up. You can if you like. This has been some week. My mom's recent accidental fall and the subsequent new fracture has been of great concern to us all. She was already close to being mostly incapacitated, but, now almost 100% so. It is very difficult to know where all of this is going. At any rate, God knows about all the burdens we carry, and He does want to help us to bear them. The old song advises that we take our burdens to the Lord and leave them there. I have confidence in Him working all of these things out even while we deal with the day by day issues that come up. Thanks so much to so many who have shown concern for and have offered up prayers for our dear mother. The response of those who care has been greatly appreciated. It is very humbling. Now it is time for me to take my leave for this week. Take care. Enjoy your Saturday and Lord's Day Sunday. I plan to be in my place come next Monday morning. Lord willing. Until then, may God bless us all is my prayer. Amen. ....More later.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

God speaking: Isaiah 49:15, "Can a woman forget her nursing child And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you."

Today. Thursday. March 23, 2017. I will admit there are days when I would like to just pull the covers over my head and try to block out all the stresses that each day brings. But, like many of you, my frame and how I am put together does not permit that choice. I used that word frame intentionally because it is the way God describes His knowledge of His own. In Psalm 103:14, we read, "For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust." The Hebrew word for frame reflects God's intimate understanding of each of us as a person, an individual. It has to do with knowing us even before our conception, knowing us from the inside out, with nothing hidden. He also knows our weaknesses and He is fully aware that we are dust, connecting us to our created ancestor Adam. My take away from these truths is how we can come out from underneath the covers because God knows, God cares, and God will be with us, every step of the way, with every breath we take, and He will never leave or forsake us. Because of this being our reality in Christ, we can keep on keeping on. (Deuteronomy 31:6, Romans Chapter 8, and Hebrews 13:5) I suppose I needed to remind myself of these truths today. Maybe you didn't need it. Keep it handy because experience tells me, you will, sooner or later. 

I have great confidence in that first paragraph. Because it is so well written? Not even close. Any time I can encourage us all with a word from the Lord, I know He can use it to speak to us all. I may have a different need than you, but, we all have needs, and He has chosen to minister to our needs through His Word. Changing the subject, I think the current hearings going on in our nation's capitol to be quite revealing. I've caught bits and pieces of these hearings from time to time. One exchange in the questioning of the nominated supreme court justice caught my attention. Here you have a man with an impeccable background of integrity and professionalism in the conduct of his life as a man and as a judge. He is being needled by a senator about the morality of some of his decisions made in his rulings as a judge. Morality. The person doing the needling is a former comedian who appeared on Saturday Night Live for several years. His comedy was considered to be anything other than examples of morality. The books he has written have been called profane. Yet, he somehow got himself elected and now he sits in judgment on someone whose honorable life makes this particular senator's questions a mockery of the process. Hey. I caught that in a drive by hearing. You may see it differently. That's okay too. 

I'm not saying he isn't entitled to be on the panel or to ask his questions. But, at the same time, I can see the disconnect in the forth and back I heard, and, that's how I chose to evaluate what was being said. This senator's supporting colleagues call his former life as being that of an actor, and what he did was edgy humor, therefore, they give him a pass. Given what they claim to stand for, that is a huge pass, my friend, huge indeed! At the same time, they will go to the mat over something that was said about a potential nominee all the way back to his early college days. Or earlier. (Remember them making a big deal out of things that happened when Mitt Romney was in elementary school?) Those in power in Washington often wonder out loud why it is that people have such a low opinion of them. Really? One senator opened his questioning time by using quotes from the opposing side which actually were identical to their reasoning on why this man should be confirmed. Same train of thought. But, it was their person they were promotion. Exact quotes. They said it. It's a part of the official record. But, now, things are different. What's the difference? Nothing but where they are sitting at the table. So much for principled beliefs. Those who ask why people have so little respect, well, they need only tune into this hearing. There it is. And, if you are seeing impaired, or you can't hear well, I can tell you this. Take a deep breath because it stinks to the high heavens. I smelled it again just writing about it. For today, I think we need to get back on a positive track. Here's how: Go back and re-read the first paragraph. I'm going to do the same. May God bless. Amen. ...More later.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

“The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Work is the key to success, and hard work can help you accomplish anything.” – Vince Lombardi

Good morning and welcome to today's fireside chat. I'm not sure if any of my readers are old enough to remember those radio chats done by President Roosevelt during WW2. I believe President Carter attempted a version of the same, wearing a sweater, but very few cared to hear what he had to say. (That was my interpretation.) It is good to be with you once again and this episode comes to you on this Wednesday, March 22, 2017. Today I'm thinking about the subject of what it means to have a productive work ethic. I am out and about quite often dealing with all kinds of businesses, and, I do think one of the resounding and recurrent themes I hear about has to do with the types of younger individuals coming into the workforce and their lack of a solid work ethic. It is a widespread if not universal concern on the part of those attempting to run enterprises of all sizes. I was thinking about an example of someone who has a demonstrated commitment to work and my wife of nearly 53 years came to mind. She is self-motivated, determined, and for the most part, tireless. Where did that come from? I thought about her when I saw the photo of a little girl picking cotton. My wife, as a little girl, picked cotton alongside the rest of her family. Her sister has the same work ethic. That's a photo of them sitting side by side juxtaposed to the young cotton picking girl. I'll not lecture regarding where we lost our grip as a people on this strong work ethic. I do know that it has always helped define the greatness of our nation. However, I will say this. The lack of a commitment to work is real. It is generational. And, it is a serious issue. Maybe that's why so many are considering robotics. Think about it. I know I do.

One of the things I do each week in preparing to teach my lesson on Sunday morning is to listen to audio sermons dealing with the text I will be sharing. I do enjoy hearing from those who take very seriously their role in "rightly dividing the word of truth". (2nd Timothy 2:15) I have noticed some troubling trends in my listening activity over the past several years. Many present their hot button issues, conclusions, viewpoints, or a particular point they want to make instead of letting God speak through the text itself. That may seem like a fine line of distinction, but, it really isn't. I have no problem with any teacher making real world applications from the truths taught from the Scriptures. However, it may be just me, but, I do have trouble with anyone who imposes their viewpoints, no matter how well intended, on thus says the Word of the Lord in order to make their outline work. That may sound like a technicality but it really isn't. When I see this happening, I usually hit the road, turn it off, and find another one to listen to. It is my belief that people today are just like people since the beginning in their need to hear from the Lord God Almighty. Here's how the Apostle Paul challenged his young protege Timothy with these words, " ...preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction." (2nd Timothy 4:2)
Some might be wondering who put me in charge to evaluate in this manner. Hey. I'm just sharing some of my thoughts on the subject. I just think it's somewhat of a troublesome pattern when those who are in positions of influence operate in that way. Their opinions matter, my opinions matter, your opinions matter, but all of that is not even a consideration when it comes to allowing God to speak. There is a warning from the Apostle Paul when he prophetically said the day would come when the stuff coming from the pulpit will be entertaining to those listening, but it will not be from God. (2 Timothy 4:4) Okay. I don't know exactly how I got on that but it's what I was dwelling on this morning and that's how it ended up on the page. Sometimes this is how it works. The good news is that there are still many devoted servants who remain committed to being a vessel to bring the desperately needed water of life to a lost and dying world. I'll leave it there. For now. I do hope you will have a most rewarding day and may our Great God add His blessings to it. Amen. ....More later.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

"You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream." ~ C.S. Lewis

Hello and welcome from me, myself, and I. Contrary to what many might think, I am not coming to you from a hidden, undisclosed location. I actually do the finishing touches on each edition here at my work - workstation. I find myself in the same situation here on this Tuesday, March 21, 2017. I thought maybe I should share a recent photo taken here at the place where most of my blogs are birthed. The one shown was taken way before daylight, yesterday morning. I must have had a good reason to be smiling. It may have been the third cup of Community that put me on the right track. When people ask about my job situation I suppose that Facebook designation might apply. "It's Complicated." Yes. I am retired. I am blessed to draw a pension from my previous employer. I am blessed to receive the benefits from the monies paid into the Social Security system. And, also very blessed to work a regular job, five days a week. I do have some who ask if I ever intend to pause long enough to enjoy myself. How do they know I'm not enjoying myself now? I read the other day that here in our country those still working full time who are 75 or older has increased by 76% in the last two decades. The owner of our Company knows that when he thinks I need to be furloughed to the green green grass of home, all he has to do is to say the word. The wife and I were watching one of those game warden programs the other day. An older fellow had wandered off from the home where he lived with his daughter. They lived in an area surrounded by heavily wooded and rugged terrain. He was 80 years old and suffered from dementia. He had been gone for several hours. They were afraid he would get tired, sit down, and perhaps fall asleep. They mounted an all-out search. After many hours they found him unharmed but very disoriented. I told the wife that could easily be me in less than ten years. She made me feel so much better when she said, "You are so right!"

I read about a sales clerk at a ladies clothing store who dealt with a customer returning some jeans. The jeans had been too tight but when the clerk asked the lady, she simply said she was returning them because they had hurt her feelings. A customer service technician told a caller the person they were looking for would be back in 20 minutes. The customer demanded what time zone the 20 minutes would be calculated in. A painter shared how a mom and her ten-year-old son had chosen one of her paintings to purchase. She asked what they liked about the painting and before the mom could respond, the young boy blurted out, "Yours was wider so it will cover the three holes in my wall." A huge celebration was held for a resident of an assisted living facility. The resident was marking his 100th birthday. Another very elderly resident introduced her son to the birthday boy. The fellow celebrating his birthday asked how old the boy was. The lady said 81. The birthday boy said, "Wow, they grow up so fast, don't they?" A defendant was unhappy to be in court so he decided to cop an attitude. The judge asked, "Where do you work?" He responded, "Here and there." The judge asked, "What do you do for a living?" He responded, "This and that." The judge announced, "Take him away." He responded, "Wait; when will I get out?" The judge had the last laugh, "Sooner or later." These are reported to be true stories from the 'Readers Digest'.

I have some similar stories but too many of them are on me, therefore, I thought I would hold back on them, hoping to preserve the smidgen of respect I still have. I have more or less gone underground on my reporting of the political happenings unfolding before our eyes. That is intentional. I really don't know what to say at this point. I never even thought about counting on the hope and change promised by the last administration, but, I am very much still hoping for change. As trite as it may sound, I think we all just have to adopt a wait and see approach. I am still plugged in and paying attention, however, the entrenched power lobbies didn't get that way by going along with change. I've said all along they are formidable and what you see every day reflects them using all their accumulated influence to oppose the changes promised by our new President. He could sure use some support right now. From his own party. Membership in the 'do nothing' cabal does not require party affiliation. Self-interest and self-preservation makes up what they are all about. I think you've heard all of this before so I will allow you to form your own conclusions. Meanwhile, I recommend we renew our faith and trust in our Sovereign God who will make all things right in His own time. Amen. ....More later.