Thursday, May 31, 2007

Thanks for Giving Into My Life!

Sad to say but far too many of us fail to consider the lasting impact others have had on our lives. In the “self-made” world we live in, it’s hardly something most people ever think about. But it is something I think about often and have thought about for many years. I am so very grateful that I recognized this early enough to be able to personally thank most of the people who gave of themselves that I might be able to experience all that God has brought my way. If you have not done this, I highly recommend it because time will not wait. Someday I will talk much more about many individuals within my family circle, but for today I want to remember a few people in the community where I grew up who cared enough to interject themselves into my life as I sought to find my way.

There’s no way to do justice to this type of effort, therefore, a few highlights is all that time and space will allow. While I am not an expert on the whole concept of being able to inspire others, I will say there are special people who see in you more than you would ever believe, and they take action based on what they see that you can’t, therefore, you end up becoming much more than you would have otherwise. Sounds confusing but in my case it is very true.

Let me also say it’s so much more than the common stuff around today about building self-esteem where people are made to think they are wonderful no matter what they do. This latter approach is building a society of narcissists where a recent study found that 62% of college students now put the concept of me, myself, and I, first, above any and all other considerations.

As for those who impacted my life, there was a teacher who also was our neighbor. She was a legend in our small town as a model of dedication and commitment to excellence. She taught in the local schools there for over 40 years. Unfortunately, I never was her official student; but because she believed in her heart of hearts that reading was one of the keys to success in life, she, as our neighbor, spent considerable time with me, and gave me books to read, and encouraged me. Looking back I now can say: “Wow! Was she ever right!” She died many years ago but I thank God for her time spent with an 11 year old boy where she opened her personal library and gave to me the gift of reading, and inspired dreaming, and the ability to travel to places far and wide through the printed page.

I also remember a pastor who allowed myself and a friend to tag along with he and other preachers in traveling to out of town fellowship meetings. These were truly men of God but by allowing us to go with them we learned that they were also men with families, and while they were men with a special calling they were also very ordinary men who loved to kid, laugh, and joke with one another. The meetings were hosted by different Churches on a rotating basis, some as far as 100 miles away from our small town. Typically, as many as a dozen or more preachers showed up. Each preacher always brought his best new sermon and the moderator would randomly choose three or four to preach. We heard some powerful sermons and then we heard them discussed all the way back home. I’m thankful for this because it helped spark a life long desire in me to study and know God’s word which has led to my more than 40 years as a Bible teacher. I’m sure having us along was not the most convenient for these men, but they did it. I still remember well one night when our group drove all over Shreveport because one of the pastors thought he remembered a hole in the wall where he once bought 5 hamburgers for a dollar. We laughed, we listened, we enjoyed, and returning sometimes in the wee hours of the morning, we knew it had been time well spent!

If you have read my Mother’s Day tribute blog dated May 11, 2007, you read about how we lost my dad in 1954 which was a cataclysmic event for us. Looking back, having relocated into a small sleepy rural town, there’s no way we could have been anything other than pitiful. My mom was 30, widowed with six children and having to live with her parents. The odd thing is that we never knew we were pitiful. It was as if the entire community conspired to not let us know the reality of our situation. I know many helped in different ways. Yet, I never knew of anyone who made an open show or big deal about what they did. Lunchroom workers piled up the food on my plate as they bathed me with their loving support. In a low key and natural way folks went out of their way to let me know they were on my side.

Okay, maybe I was just a naïve kid. Maybe I am reliving my past and seeing it all through rose-colored glasses. I don’t think so. Could it be there was a time when a spirit of Mayberry was alive and well somewhere other than in a fictional TV series? I think so, and I thank God for the people who made it a reality for me! This is only a very small sampling of a few remembrances of people from my early life and that was only the beginning; therefore, you can be sure there will be much more later…………

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Old folks are okay, and I should know!

Last week I was invited to speak to a group of older Church folks who call themselves “Onward Christian Seniors.” I had a wonderful time with them for they are a very lovely group. In preparing to speak I read quite a lot of information about the demographic statistics on our aging population. Wow! The stats are very impressive. We now have 40,000 Americans who are ninety or older and some predict this number will grow to one million by the year 2080. Think about it. In 1900 the average combined life span for women and men in our country was 48 years. Today, it’s 78 years. It sure doesn’t take a mathematician to know that the boomers (babies born after WW2, typically between 1946-1964) are beginning to muck up all the categories because there’s so many of us (76 million)!

Yes, that’s right. Us! I’m one of them. I’m sort of a fringe boomer, born in 1946, therefore, it’s like I’ve got one foot in the prior generation and one in the boomer lot that brought us the 1960’s revolution. Don’t you think it’s somewhat weird when people don’t know they are a part of something so monumental that it has many government officials losing sleep over it? But, that’s always the way it has been for me. I found some really good jokes for my opening last week but it finally dawned on me, they were about ME!

Many years ago my wife and I were part of a Church family that reorganized the Bible study program. We were not closely involved in the reorganization; therefore, when we received our new class selection we nearly fainted. Hello? We had been notified officially that we were no longer in the young ‘marrieds’ class. How shocking. It reminds me of a friend who was very premature gray and we always enjoyed a good laugh when he was offered a senior’s discount. But when it began to happen to us, it wasn’t the least bit funny!

This doesn’t mean I am unaware that time is slipping away and I will confess to keeping up more with retirement options at this stage in my life. But I’m talking about a mindset. I didn’t realize I was part of this category because my focus is on being who God wants me to be each and every day (that my friend is a fulltime job and then some). I am very much aware that older people are one of the most marginalized segments in our society but I will tell you what I told the group last week. Every one of us are exactly who God says we are, and we can do what He says we can do, and He has a plan and purpose for each of us. Society may say our time has come and gone but what does God say? Even our Church might view us as less able to contribute, but what does God say?

Read THE BOOK for yourself. God is no respecter of persons. Throughout time He has used people of different ages including many very old folks to accomplish His purposes. If you do read, one of the threads is unmistakable, that would be God’s perspective on how wise and faithful people of age should be the most revered and the most influential within His family of believers. The fact that we have it completely backwards does not change the truth! There are so many biblical examples it’s hard to know which one is best. But I’ll share one that really intrigues me.

Many Bible scholars believe the Apostle John was very elderly when God inspired him to pen his Gospel, his three letters or epistles, and The Revelation of Jesus Christ. Some believe he was in his late eighties or early nineties whenever this inspired text came gushing forth from his heart. Just think about it. We have a world today given over to fortune, fame, celebrity, and youth. But people are still totally knocked down by John’s writings, especially the prophetic visions contained in The Revelation. It has become a billion dollar business as people seek after novels, stories, music, movies, and attend conferences and seminars, trying to grasp the meaning of John’s words.

Somehow I find it ironic that a culture that has little appreciation for older people would be flipping out over the 2,000-year-old words of a ninety year old man. He was the last writer of the New Testament era. What is really sad is how people fail to see that the Bible contains much more than just fantastic images about the future. It contains words to live by each and every day and those words tell us that God cares about every person regardless of their age, color, nationality, or status in life. This means we should honor those who are older in our society, and especially those who have proven themselves in their walk with God. We should respect them, and seek out their counsel and their input because this is what God tells us to do, period, end of story. This means you can also be nice to me as well! More later…………

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Facing the Vicissitudes of Life!

Hang in there. You’ll get through this. Keep on keeping on. We are pulling for you. We’re here for you. These are some of the slogans we use to encourage one another as we deal with the ups and downs faced in life. Perhaps you’ve had mostly placid pools of peace and tranquility, but for the rest of us, life can and often does confront us with challenges and storms. As we deal with these and observe others going through really tough situations, it is nothing short of inspiring to observe the strength found within the human psyche. God did a good job when He created the human family because that ‘something’ that tends to come forth when circumstances demand it, is remarkable to behold.

Often I hear people who lean on God during times of great challenge say out loud: “I just don’t know how others who do not know God make it during this kind of trouble.” They make it because God made us with inner strength and a tenacious will. It certainly is not His will that we go it alone or face trials by ourselves, but my way of seeing it says that even when people do it alone it’s only because of what He provided in them, and the evidence of their strength demonstrates, without acknowledging Him, His creative genius at work.

A few years ago I read a review of a book written by someone called an evolutionary anthropologist. The book was widely criticized because he put forth the thought that no one should be held accountable for doing what essentially is part of his or her natural design. Rape, murder, assault, and all other forms of aggression fit into this model that reflects how people conduct themselves in order to survive. In his view, society has somehow suppressed these instincts in most people but when they do show up, we wrongly punish those who are only acting out their innate urges. If nothing else I applaud this writer for painting a clear picture of exactly what it means to view life without God.

No God, no accountability. One of the greatest witnesses to God’s existence is conscience. Where did it come from? There’s literally no rationale for it to exist as part of any model of human development. On the other hand there’s much evidence that shows all people innately have some sense of right and wrong, even in isolated regions in far-flung places. The Psalmist declared: “The fool has said in his heart there is no God.” I can think of no better example of this than the book described above.

Yes, we can lean on human strength and depend on our own faculties which I believe to be formidable, but in so doing, in the end we will miss out on the part of our design that yearns to have fellowship with our Creator. He’s there whether we acknowledge Him or not and He desires to be our help in time of trouble. I’m thankful that He is real in my life and is always there. I can call on Him anytime and He will hear. A Gospel song written by Frederick Lehman in 1919 was one I heard quite often growing up. It will be corny to some but the message is what really counts. Since God is always ready to answer when we call, why not give Him a ring?

The Royal Telephone

Verse 1) Central’s never “busy,” always on the line;You may hear from Heaven almost any time;’Tis a royal service, free for one and all;When you get in trouble, give this royal line a call.


Telephone to glory, O what joy divine! I can feel the current moving on the line, Built by God the Father for His loved and own, We may talk to Jesus thru this royal telephone.

Verse 2) There will be no charges, telephone is free, It was built for service, just for you and me; There will be no waiting on this royal line, Telephone to glory always answers just in time.

Repeat Chorus

Verse 3) Fail to get the answer, Satan’s crossed your wire, By some strong delusion, or some base desire; Take away obstructions, God is on the throne, And you’ll get your answer thru this royal telephone.

Repeat Chorus

Verse 4) If your line is “grounded,” and connection true Has been lost with Jesus, tell you what to do; Prayer and faith and promise, mend the broken wire,’ Till your soul is burning with the Pentecostal fire.

Repeat Chorus

Verse 5) Carnal combinations cannot get control Of this line to glory, anchored in the soul; Storm and trial cannot disconnect the line, Held in constant keeping by the Father’s hand divine.

More later…………

Friday, May 25, 2007

Remembering Floyd and Roland!

Those of us coming of age during the sixties are well aware of just how tumultuous these times were. I am not ungrateful that I personally missed out on much of the so-called rebellion that characterized those days. But we all had to deal with the reality of our eligibility for the draft and the almost certainty, if drafted, of serving in Vietnam. Somehow my number did not get called, and after being married and having our first child I received a different draft status which no doubt played a big role in me not being called up. This was not the case for two of my high school friends.

In our small community people usually were informed of their name being on the list and were given the opportunity to enlist instead of being drafted. Floyd chose the Army and Roland signed up for the Marine Corp. Both were deployed at near the same time and both were killed within 30 days of each other after only being in the conflict for less than 90 days. I say killed, but Roland was for many years listed as missing in action and presumed dead. I was able to attend both their funeral services. To say the least, it was chilling.

I knew Floyd well but Roland and I had spent a lot of time together. We along with others had camped out, fished, done teenage mischief, and even double dated together. He was a cut up and a character. At the time of their deaths, being young myself, it did not impact me like it has over the intervening years. A number of years ago the replica ½ sized moving Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall came to this area and I was able to go and find the names of my friends etched on the wall. It was a very sobering moment as I thought about my life and all that had come to me and how their lives had been snatched away so early.

While the experts and pundits continue to engage in endless debates over how we became entangled and lost this war, I tend to weigh it all through the remembrance of my buddies. They did not choose to volunteer but enlisted after knowing they were going to be called, but I can assure you, they were more than willing to go. There’s something about being raised up to believe in something greater than yourself and while we all had our wild times, these fellows were grounded in that attitude born from respect and love of God and country.

A couple of years ago I was in a little café in rural Louisiana having lunch with my parents when a lady came in. It was Roland’s mom. I likely had not seen her since Roland’s funeral nearly 40 years earlier. Flash back: After being out on the creek bank for a couple of days, many times the entire crew showed up at Roland’s house where his mom made a pile of homemade biscuits and served them up with mayhaw jelly (Never heard of it? Look it up in Wikipedia). I stood up and walked over to her and extended my hand and said my name. She dropped my hand, grabbed me, and held on to me tightly for what seemed like a very long time. Tears were streaming down her face as she blurted out all she had gone through trying to find out about Roland’s capture and death. It was a remarkable moment, sad but at the same time uplifting as together we walked down memory lane.

It’s Memorial Day holiday weekend (the official observance is next Wednesday, May 30). My family has a long legacy reflecting military service all the way back to the Civil War, (confederates, of course). Yet, I live with a profound remembrance of Floyd and Roland. May God bless their memory and all those who have heeded the call, taken the oath, and paid the ultimate price, by shedding their own blood. While it is human nature to ponder how things might have been different, I confess I often think about all that I have been blessed to enjoy and the fact that they never had the opportunity. This causes me to count precious and appreciate even more my blessings, while at the same time pledging to always cherish the memory of my hero buddies. More later…………

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Thank God for unforgettable people!

I’ve been privileged to know a variety of people during my sojourn here. Most have fit into a standard type of mold, give or take a little here and there. But thank God for those who didn’t fit any mold because they lived life with a zest and an outlook that produced behaviors quite different from the so-called mainstream. Some called them eccentric or a little off but what a contribution they made to otherwise dreary days! They typically were just who they were and that’s what made them amusing, exciting, and fun. The Readers Digest once had a reader submitted column devoted to “The Most Unforgettable Person I’ve Ever Met”. Thank God for unforgettable people!

Here’s one I’ll never forget. He was the resident psychologist at the VA Hospital where I worked in 1965 as an administrative clerk. He was there to help vets deal with all their emotional issues but when you dealt with him, it was like visiting another planet. Call it the absent minded professor syndrome or whatever, but this guy was hilarious to be around. Never able to match any clothing of any kind and with a noticeable twitch, he always appeared to be demonstrating the actual behavior he was discussing as a diagnosis. When he told you a patient needed treatment immediately, you always got the sense that if anyone should know, especially from firsthand experience, it was he!

Here’s another one. Back in the 1970’s I attended an interviewing institute at a university as part of a team from our company. The program was customized specifically for us with the goal of improving our hiring skills. One fellow attendee was the head personnel officer from one of our larger field offices. The best way to describe him is for you to picture Don Knotts portraying Deputy Barney Fife on the “Andy Griffith Show”. Our cohort could not fathom why he would ever be chosen to attend such a course. After all, he was the seasoned personnel professional and interviewing was like second nature to him. He had interviewed some of the best and had always come out the winner. Perhaps he was there to show the rest of us how it’s done.

Part of the training included closed circuit taped interviews that were later replayed for review in small groups. The interviewees were students taking their masters in business. They had been coached on how to make their sessions very genuine. The purpose of the small group was to critique each other’s work in a positive way so we all could improve. I was in the group that critiqued ‘Deputy Fife’s’ interview. It’s true that some of the funniest things in life cannot be orchestrated. Just watching the tape turned out to be in and of itself a great challenge just to keep from bursting out laughing. This was made even harder since ‘Barney’ was in the group and we all watched together. Never have I seen anyone so totally discombobulated in trying to interview the young lady in his session. Stammering, coughing, and nervously twitching his way through the interview, there he was, our highly skilled professional ‘Barney’ who proved himself to be just that, ‘Barney’. But what a load of chuckles he provided to us all.

As I wrote about these experiences I realized we all could enjoy life more if we would pause to laugh at ourselves and at the funny things in life. Who knows? I may be the ‘Barney’ of someone else’s story, perhaps many stories. Now you may be one of those who somehow managed never to have this type of experience or you were so uptight you never enjoyed being a part of something so crazy. How sad. Life is too short. I’ve always said that life is all about story telling. I’m thankful to God He’s allowed me to be in so many different stories and perhaps even ‘be the story’ at times. It’s part of the fabric of a blessed life, so enjoy it! Life gives so much material but there’s so little time, therefore, you can be sure there will be more later…………

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

We all have our quirks!

Have you ever noticed the odd things other people do that you think are very strange or downright silly? Maybe you even live in the same house where some of those ‘other’ people there do weird things. What about me? Perhaps people think I am the one with strange habits. No doubt we are all products of a variety of influences including our upbringing and background. I grew up in a very small rural town and that defined being ‘country’ for me. Yet, I once spent the night with a cousin who lived way back in a place called the river bottom. These folks only came into town once or twice a month and their entire lifestyle was odd even by rural standards.

I guess the biggest single hang-up for me is my old fashioned, feather pillows. My typical sleep cycle is 5 to 6 hours each night; therefore, I am determined to make the most of it! The three pillows I sleep on and with have been made, remade, combined, and recovered more times than I can remember. They are covered with the old fashioned blue striped ticking, now very faded. Some of the feathers have to be 25 years or older, maybe much older. I thank God for my grandmother, and my mom who passed down some of these pillows and especially my sweet mother in law, who, before her death, gathered up some reserve stock for me. My wife is a committed foam person and over the years she has purchased many alternatives guaranteed to solve ‘my’ problem. Once she thought she had finally found something to take the place of my three pillows. I’m not sure exactly what it was, some kind of goose something, but my verdict after really trying hard was simply: Not even close! (The pillowcases are a completely different subject that will have to wait for another day!)

Laugh if you will but I once packed an extra suitcase for a couple of my pillows for a week spent in New York City. And, I also once shed a tear or two after I left a couple of them in a hotel outside of Dallas but never was able to identify them and have them returned even though I agreed to pay for all shipping and handling. Obsessed? I wouldn’t call it that but you might. As the years roll by my pillows lose feathers. It’s sort of like the socks in the dryer deal. Where they go no one knows. But with the pillows, they do tend to shrink and that’s why the ongoing repair is needed.

I somehow handed down this trait to one of our three sons. Fortunately he was willing to part with one from his stash after I lost the others. My wife was able to combine all that we had into the three I currently use. The real challenge now is to make them last as long as I do because I think we have exhausted our supply. (If it happens to go the other way and I go before they do, that solves the issue once and for all!)

The point here is we all have our own quirks. We can tolerate these because in the grand scheme of things they really don’t matter. God would have us to put up with each other’s differences that fall into this category. You like your steak turned into leather, I like mine medium rare. Who cares? While there may be a countless variety of these types of peculiarities and preferences, this doesn’t mean there are no ironclad, absolute truths that cannot be changed or altered for anyone or for any reason whatsoever. Those fundamental truths are the ones we live by and the ones that assure us that God is who He says He is and He can be counted on to always be for us and with us, forever, and ever, Amen. More later…………

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Sixty-Plus But Still Learning!

We all have things that really float our boat. We enjoy them so much. Maybe it’s reading a terrific book or seeing a special movie or being a part of some type of club, playing some sport, or spending time with someone who is special, and the list could go on and on and on. We are all different but we all are passionate about something. Typically when we do enjoy something so much we devote a lot of time and effort to it. Everything about it causes us to be motivated to make sure we will be able to fully experience and enjoy it.

I know some of the things I’ve been very passionate about in my past were not good things but that did not keep me from devoting thought, time, and attention to it. It’s funny how as you make your way through life that God speaks to you with new and fresh perspectives regarding truth. This thing about passion is one of those. Several of us in our local Church have been enrolled in extension seminary classes for a number of years. My wife and I finished the course several years ago but stayed in it to keep the enrollment up so others could participate. One recent night the instructor was dealing with our past life compared to our new life in Christ.

He was teaching from Romans chapter six. I’ve heard him teach this before and I’ve heard it taught by many others many times before, and I’ve actually taught this passage myself many times. However, on this particular night God had something to say to me from this text that really got my attention. The passage talks about the reality of our having Christ Himself living in us and what that should mean to our day-by-day living. Towards the end of this chapter the Apostle Paul spoke to the issue of how we once served unrighteous pursuits with devotion and effort but now at a minimum we should use that same devotion and energy to serve righteousness! Hey, God is the potter and I am the clay! He’s always at work shaping His own into what He desires them to be!

I had not seen it exactly this way before. Whatever we are passionate about that causes us to be excited, interested, actively engaged, and dedicated to it becomes an example of the minimum we should show in our desire to live out the life Christ has given to us. This was like a splash of cold water in my face. Looking at what God did to provide a way for me in sending His Son to die for me, and looking at any and all faculties I have as a result of His blessings, it just makes sense that I should at a minimum show enthusiasm and exuberance in pursuing the calling He has placed on my life.

Maybe they are wrong. You can teach an old dog new tricks. The song is right: “He’s Still Working On Me”. More later…………

Thursday, May 17, 2007

We are the CHURCH!

Recently we attended our daughter-in-law’s baptism during the services of a fairly large Baptist Church in our area. They have three Sunday morning services attended by more than 3,000 people. To coordinate and accomplish the turnover involved in these three services requires a large number of people dealing with everything from traffic control and parking to getting first timers to the right place. Here’s the thing that was most impressive: The folks involved in serving were all over the place and they were literally running with a smile and a hearty welcome to assist any and all who needed help. We were thrilled just to be there for the baptism, but I left realizing the powerful testimony being heralded by those who reflected a willingness to cheerfully serve somewhere, wherever, or anywhere, and in so doing they were demonstrating exactly what God intended when He established His Church. This got me to thinking.

Many talk about going to Church, attending Church, and many times we think about the buildings, grounds, and facilities when we use the word Church. Looking at it from a biblical perspective tells us the Greek word translated Church is Ecclesia which simply means a called out assembly of people. That’s right. A Church is not the building, that’s only where the Church (called out assembly of folks) meet! The New Testament does give a sense of the institution of The Church that Christ established, but that institutional Church is always demonstrated in the Scriptures as being in real towns and cities, made up of real people working together to use their differing callings, gifts, talents, and abilities to pursue the work given to them by the Church’s founder, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Why is this distinction important? I believe it to be crucial because of how easy it is for us to dodge personal responsibility in serving God in His designed way, that being taking our place as a member of a local congregation and joining with others to fulfill our purpose. It’s much easier to go to a service than to be a serving member in a local Church. It’s much easier to attend Church than it is to commit to fulfilling a role in God’s local body of believers. Statistics over time consistently show that on average only 20% of those identified with a local fellowship ever give themselves totally to serving through their Church.

You do not have to be a theologian to know that this sad statistic is not what God intended for His very own when He sent His Son who died and resurrected to bring us life. According to New Testament teachings, we find His plan is for us to develop and grow in and through our connection to, and participation in the work and ministry of a sound, bible teaching, actively working Church. When we really get a handle on this truth we begin to appreciate the meaning behind the Church signs that read, What’s Missing: C H _ _ CH. We may chuckle when we fill in the blanks with U R, but the truth is often right there in front of our eyes.

Whenever we begin to grasp the significance of our responsibility as it relates to this truth, it changes our focus and attitude about the Church. We begin to know that when we complain about how the Church is not doing this, that, or the other, it’s no longer a “them” but it really is a “we” issue. You want your local Church to do more in a particular area then perhaps your concern over this matter is God’s way of telling you to get involved in becoming a part of the solution instead of complaining about it. I know it’s much more convenient to be an observer rather than one involved in the doing part of ministry, but this is what we are called to do. The good news is that He gives us exactly what we need to accomplish exactly what He would have us to do. Wow! What a great God we serve! More later…………

It's out now; I'm a NASCAR fan!

Okay, I guess its time to admit it. I am a fan of NASCAR. It’s taken me a long time to come out with this declaration. About 8 years ago our middle son was a follower of the sport and when we would have our family gatherings he would put it on the screen. We have one son who loves baseball and one who loves golf and they all follow football so actually what takes place is more of a channel surfing between whatever games or race or tournament happens to be on. Given what I knew at that time, my opinion of NASCAR was that it consisted mostly of a bunch of rednecks riding around in circles for several hours.

On one particular day I was challenged to choose a driver. I did not know much about any of them but there seemed to be quite a bit of trash talking about this fellow named Jeff Gordon, therefore, I identified him as my driver. From then on I began to pay nominal attention but was pleased the fellow I chose appeared to be doing quite well. Of course when I spoke about my choice it brought forth a barrage of criticisms and complaints from my son and others about how Jeff was not a “real” NASCAR guy and while he was a winner, no one liked him. The first few years I had some interest that was slowly increasing as reflected by my checking the race results and standings each Monday. Pretty soon I was watching more races and the family began buying me Jeff Gordon stuff. I thought it all mostly a joke since I was not a real fan.

I’ve only been to one NASCAR race in person and it was at the Texas Motor Speedway. Attending that event made me aware that watching it on television is a better fit for me. There were just too many people, too much walking, too much drinking (others, not me), and way too many people making it clear they did not care for my favorite driver. I still do not consider myself to be fanatical about the sport. I will watch it if I can. I also usually watch some of the post race programs and read a variety of websites and blogs to keep up with what’s going on. However, I never miss anything to see a race and I often leave for choir practice or some other Church activity right in the middle or near the end of the race. Usually someone shows up later for the services and they typically give me the final results.

How did this change take place that brought me from being not even the least bit interested to now paying quite a lot of attention? For me it was learning more about what is behind the racing itself, the engineering, the engines, the training, the teams, the pit crews, the strategies, and the variety of issues that come into play week after week. Obviously, it’s become a huge success today but had it not been for that one day many years ago I most likely would still be snickering whenever the subject was mentioned. So there you have it. I am a fan, at least at some level. I do follow it and I do enjoy it, and yes, I am looking forward to Jeff winning his 5th championship this year! More later…………

Did someone say GRANDCHILDREN?

Grandchildren! You knew sooner or later it had to come up, right? We are so blessed to have ten of them and they are spread out from college age down to toddlers. What a joy they are and what a privilege to see them through an older set of eyes. I often tell people that when my three boys were growing up I was much too busy making a living instead of concentrating on helping them to build a life. Somehow they got through all that and today they have given me the opportunity to pour myself into their children’s lives. No, I can’t go back and change the past but I can do today the best I know how to influence them, and make a difference in their children’s lives.

You have heard of the stay at home dad but what about the stay at home granddad or Poppy as I am called? My time between work assignments coincided with the birth of our little Alex, (he’s our number nine). Since Poppy didn’t have a regular job I became the 8–10 hours per day caregiver for this little guy from the time he was about a month old until he was one year. Wow! What an experience! The photo is of me teaching him how to drive. Who else is going to do it? In the summer I also took care of his 9 year old brother and 7-year-old twin sisters. Some days I had their cousin also so the total crew was 4 supercharged kids and one infant. Challenging? You bet! Exhausting? Certainly! But looking back I believe it to have been a blessing from God that provided for them the care they needed and also allowed me to experience great joy.

Yeah, it’s true that I now probably act like “Poppy knows best” on all subjects regarding childcare and childrearing. I catch the looks of the parents as I give them my informed opinion on these important subjects. My wife, (the grandmother known as MiMi), is always reminding me that in the end it is their decision on how and what to do. This doesn’t typically bother me because all of my advice comes from down in the trenches, learned on the front line. If nothing else it makes for lively and entertaining conversations to say the least.

This photo is of our number ten just after he was born. He is a remarkable child and he’s now 16 months old and his dad calls him, “a one man wrecking crew”. I call him and all the rest jewels in a crown God has allowed us to have in this life. Some people live far away from their grandchildren and only see them occasionally. We typically see all of ours at least once or twice a month and sometimes even more. There are days when things are going bad and trouble seems to be brewing all around and you think perhaps it would be better if you didn’t live so close or know so much. But, when it is all said and done we wouldn’t trade anything for the blessing God has given to us in being able to be smack dab in the middle of the life and times of our kids, their wives, and all our grandchildren! The Bible makes it clear, they are a blessing from Him and we thank Him for them all. More later………………

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Power of the Gospel

I received a phone call Monday night from an African American pastor friend of mine informing me that a young man in our inner city Bible club had been tragically killed. While I was talking to him the local news came on and I saw a picture of the eleven year old on the screen. I immediately recognized his bright eyes and broad smile. The pastor was telling me that at our last Bible club meeting this young man attended he had prayed with one of the coaches and confessed Christ as his Savior and Lord. According to the news account, this young man had been with a group of boys hanging out around a neighborhood and a homeowner thought he would scare them by pointing a shotgun at them. He said he didn’t know it was loaded but it discharged, shooting the eleven year old in the back and killing him instantly.

I thought how tragic and how sad. At the same time I thanked God for the Bible club ministry we have been involved in for many years. Going every Tuesday evening during the school year and working with children who often are not the most well behaved can be challenging. Being honest, I will admit at times I’ve wondered if we really are making a difference. The children we minister to in this program are well aware of how fragile life is. Most of them live in an atmosphere that’s hard to describe. My way of picturing it is by saying they often live in what appears to be an unending episode of Cops.

We come each week and provide game time competition, songs, a Bible lesson, memory work, and a time of one on one counseling. What a blessing it is to pray with these little ones as they share their struggles, hurts, and concerns! Each week we present the good news of the Gospel as simply as we know how. We tell them that God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son to die on a cross to pay for the sins of every person, and that whoever responds by believing in His Son becomes His very own child and will live eternally with God forever and ever, Amen. I can tell you from firsthand experience there’s power in this message even as it goes forth to an eleven-year-old boy.

We believe the Bible when it says for those who belong to God when they die they instantaneously become absent from the body but present with the Lord. We are grieved as we mourn the loss of this young life. He was said to have been gifted in math and desired to eventually become an engineer. At the same time we rejoice in his testimony and confession of Christ and thank God for people like my pastor friend, who, down in the trenches, are willing to go and share truth with those of whom Jesus said: “Allow the children to come to me for such is the kingdom of God”. More later…………….

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Information Overload

Today I’m going to weigh in on the many news stories that saturate our 24x7 day. The 24-hour instantaneous news cycle has created fanatical news junkies who stay glued to the cable channels, IPOD, cell phone, and internet around the clock. I’ll admit I stay much more up to date on local, state, national, and international events than ever before. But what I can’t assess is the value of knowing all of this up to the minute information. I do know the effort involved consumes time; therefore, it should produce some value.Add to this preoccupation in knowing things immediately the growing number of emails coming at you from all directions and pretty soon you’re covered up with electronic overload. I well remember how that the unbundling of all forms of telecommunications was going to lead to a greater level of competitiveness and lower cost to every consumer. While perhaps the actual cost for a residential telephone line may be less per month in real terms, if you look at the total cost of all forms of telecommunications I think you will find a much larger percentage of the monthly expense pie being spent by each person.

The attitude born mostly from marketing that we can’t live without this being “plugged in and online all the time” has to a certain extent captivated most if not all of us. While I think it’s great my mom and her siblings who are all in their eighties can use email and cell phones to stay in touch, for most there is a certain amount of lost productivity involved in the process. I admire those who have determined not to be manipulated and controlled by technologies. Many of these folks well know how to use the systems available and they do when it suits a specific purpose, but they discipline themselves not to become a slave to the next missed message or the up to the second news flash.

Because the cards are stacked and everyone from entertainment to retailing and business has a vested interest in promulgating this phenomenon, it’s really tough to weigh the value versus cost or the good versus evil inherent in living in the “instant information age”. No doubt there are many wonderful breakthroughs associated with technology advancements while also many pitfalls that must be recognized and avoided. Solomon once said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” He was likely talking mostly about the way in which people utilize all that becomes available for in the end he summarized the test of life by saying it is well lived if one: “Fears God and keeps His commandments”. Something to think about as we blog our way into the future. (Solomon’s quotes taken from Ecclesiastes) More later…………….

Monday, May 14, 2007

Fridays...then and now

Many years ago in a galaxy far far away when I had a staff of 150 I was continually amazed by the way in which Friday was worshipped by most of our people. Thank God It's Friday (TGIF) could be heard all around. For myself and most of my direct reports running a 24x7 technology operation that provided service in nearly every time zone in the world, Fridays typically meant little more than the day before Saturday. There seemed always to be another stack of stuff to review, work on, proposals to read or write, issues to settle, priorities to arrange, and the list went on and on. Looking back I have concluded that a fair amount of this work, which typically denied us any sense of normalcy in life, was self-inflicted. How could this be true given the overflowing in-boxes? It’s quite simple when you look at what did happen in those rare occasions whenever one of us scheduled a few days off for a trip or vacation or family outing. Somehow and in someway we could clear our desks in preparation for being gone. Why we didn't do more of this on a regular basis and not miss so many of our children's important activities is something we cannot now change but certainly we can warn others not to do as we did.

Even in a small company environment like I am today, the TGIF slogan still reigns supreme. In the job I now have I’m blessed to work in a wonderfully positive environment. I arrive at my desk typically by 5:30 a.m. and usually leave each day between 6 and 6:30 p.m. We are located in a somewhat isolated spot off a country road. The 30 minute drive each morning would be idyllic if not for the large number of wildlife that still call this area home. You have to be up on your steering wheel and careful as you make your way along the winding roads that lead to our facility. Wow! It's always something. It's not unusual to see whitetail deer nearly every day. While that sounds wonderful, many days it becomes tragic as they cross at the wrong time and are not only killed but often do much damage to the unsuspecting vehicle that hits them. So there you have it. Great spot, wonderful surroundings, but not without its own set of issues. This reflects life itself. So often people find the adage to be exactly true: "The grass turns out to be greener over there because it’s growing on top of a septic tank!"

It's like the fellow who retires, buys an RV, and is ready to travel and enjoy his remaining days. Yet, while cleaning his new RV he falls off the top and does major damage to his back. This is not a pessimistic view but rather an appreciation for the conundrums of life that makes it what it is. What do we do in response to how things work in life? We trust God, thank Him for the breath in our body, and we get up and seek to serve Him and others each and every day. We do understand that difficulties, trials, and challenges are an ever present part of our days, but we do not lose heart because Jesus told us not to because He has overcome the world and we can be victorious in Him! More later.........

Friday, May 11, 2007

May 11, 2007

With Mother’s Day being celebrated this Sunday, May 13, it gives me an opportunity to reflect on the impact my Mom has had on my life. My mother lives in Louisiana and recently celebrated her 83rd birthday. During her time she has experienced about as much as life can throw at one person but with God’s help she has persevered. The black and white photo is of mom and dad taken in the summer of 1953. Near Christmas of that same year he came down with flu like symptoms, which eventually turned into pneumonia, which eventually led to congestive heart failure, which led to him dying suddenly at age 31 on January 2, 1954.

Talk about turning our world upside down! There she was with six children (I was 7 at the time) ages ranging from eleven down to 18 months and she had never even written a check because dad took care of what little finances we had. We were forced to leave Port Arthur, Texas and relocate to a small rural community in Louisiana where we took up residence with her parents. Somehow she picked up the pieces, went to work, and slowly but surely recovered from this devastating experience. The color photo is my mom and I taken last year when I was there to spend the day with her.

Life has been the worst and best of times for my mom but she has remained faithful to God and to all her children. Since dad left us in 54’she has buried a second husband (1967), her parents, two brothers, two sisters, a son-in-law, and our older brother, (19), and baby sister, (27). In the midst of these continuing traumatic events, I well remember the advice given by a fellow in the small town where we lived. One day he blurted out: “You folks had better straighten up soon or all of you are going to be dead”. So much for comforting words during our time of grief. In spite of all this, today she has a wonderful husband, our step-dad, and they have been married for over twenty-five years. There’s still four of us kids left and we have produced many offspring including three girls from our baby sister who died from Leukemia, and many of these grands have produced many great grands with one or two now providing great great grands as they have begun to build their families. (I have ten grandchildren myself!)

Wow! What a woman! She’s living proof that with God anything is possible. Her and dad have been retired now for twenty years and have a most wonderful life. They love bird watching from their back porch and can go and do just about any and all things they feel up to doing. Yes, they do have some wear and tear and they do spend a fair amount of their time to and from the medical facilities but all in all, God has been good! And, we are the most blessed of all children to have such a champion of faithfulness and love as our MOM! Happy Mother’s Day and may God continue to bless you each and every day!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

May 9, 2007

Well, it took me over sixty years to get here and as Yogi Berra reportedly said, "You sure can observe a lot just by watching". That observation stuff, however, can be both good and bad especially if you are determined not to revise any of it, that is, if that's possible since reflections and memories over time tend to take on a life of their own as they all become fused together. Some days it's "Wow, I can't believe the life I have enjoyed!", while another day might be, "Hey, I'm not sure I can make one more day!". This is how it works in the so-called real world and we have trouble because the roller coaster ride can start without notice at anytime even right smack in the middle of one of those really great days and suddenly you find your heart pounding and breath interrupted by the crashing ride. Okay, maybe not quite that dramatic but with age, maturity, family, more family, relationships, issues, challenges, and chaos all around, it can be quite daunting.

However, I call this blog The View From Here because when it's all said and done, it's the way I see it. You most likely see it differently but that's what blogging is all about. We can speak from our viewpoint, our way of interpreting all the things we have to deal with, and in general, the viewfinder through which we see the world, and especially our world.

One final thought in this opening monologue: I know that without God as the foundation of my life through my identity with His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, there would be little hope in all the ups and downs encountered in this journey called life.