Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"I remember when the candle shop burned down. Everyone stood around singing 'Happy Birthday.'" Comedian, Steven Wright

Today is the last day of April, the 30th, 2013. Twenty years ago today, on a Friday, I walked out of the offices of the big company for the last time. I had served faithfully that enterprise for nearly twenty four years. I have no regrets as I treasure the wonderful opportunities I was able to be a part of there, along with so many folks who were almost like family. Time does have a way of getting away from us. Speaking of that, today is our Jimmy's 45th birthday. Jimmy has his share of health challenges each day and many of them can be difficult, yet, at the same time he has much to be thankful for as he is blessed with four beautiful children, Jimmy Jr., the twins: Alesha and Amanda, and Alexander Benjamin (Alex), (photo below). Those kids are something else! Happy birthday Son and may God be with you as you continue your journey. Love, mom and dad.

April is a big month for celebrations in our family. It is our first grandchild Tiffany's birthday. The wife's birthday. Rodney and Mitzi's wedding anniversary. Jimmy's birthday. My dad was born on the 28th. He died on January 2, 1954. Had he lived he would have been 90 this year. My granddad McMillan's birthday was on Monday, the 29th. He was born in 1900. We also have nieces and nephews born in April. One of my faithful blog readers made the comment recently that we sure do celebrate a lot of birthdays in our family. And, that we do. But, it is good to know that we have the opportunity to recognize the value and joy associated with those near and dear to us, those we can still feel, touch, and love on, and those who have gone on to their reward but who were so much a part of our lives.

I've been involved in a number of pension schemes throughout my years of working. Most of these plans send out annual notices regarding all the financial terms that relate to the funding of current and projected future liabilities. I received these notifications for years before I actually paid much attention to them. What changed? It may have something to do with a stipend that shows up each month with my name on it. This has caused me to become somewhat of a fan of these fund managers. Most pension plans, including some of the billion dollar plus plans, are not in that great of shape, especially in terms of meeting future liabilities. My reading says it mostly has to do with the lack of investment income that had previously helped to build plan value. With interest rates so low and only a certain portion of the portfolio allowed to be hedged into stocks and other financial instruments, well, the future retirees will face some issues, if that doesn't change. Or, it may be sooner rather than later. One small fund that my wife receives reads very ominous indeed with hints that it may have to be taken over by the agency that covers pensions. Funny how these letters never seemed to be such hot reading back in the day, but, I do rip them open now. Old people. You just have to love us because when it's all said and done, we did do the time to get here. And, I do know that many of you know exactly what I mean. Have a good one and may God add His blessings to your day. Amen.   ...More later.

Monday, April 29, 2013

"There is more to life than increasing its speed." - Mohandas K. Gandhi

"Welcome back, Your dreams were your ticket out. Welcome back, To that same old place that you laughed about." Those are the lyrics from the TV show, "Welcome Back Kotter." We did like that show and I do welcome you back to my version of where the rubber meets the road, at least as I see it, here on this Monday, April 29, 2013. Last week, Gallup, the long standing polling company, published the results from their just completed Well-Being reviews for the different states that make up our great country. I suppose the surf really is up in Hawaii because it once again registered the lowest stress levels in our nation. My birth state and where I spent much of my early life, Louisiana, reported the second lowest levels of stress. Maybe my fellow Louisianians aren't plugged in enough to know how stressed they should be. The next three lowest were Mississippi, Iowa, and Wyoming. The top five with the highest stress levels were West Virginia, Rhode Island, Kentucky, Utah, and Massachusetts. Utah? Where over 60% are Mormons? What's up with that? There's more good news for those of us who live here in the Lone Star State. Texas was number six on the list of the least stressed out masses. One observation in passing. I think Louisiana and Mississippi are typically on the lower end of the scale when it comes to income and prosperity. Maybe it's true folks, money can't buy you a stress free life, or something like that.

I was able to catch most of the opening dedication ceremony for the Presidential Library of George W. Bush. Seeing five presidents together is not something that happens every day. The presentation was elegant and special. It reminds us all that we have a connection to those who lead us and the uniqueness of the freedom we stand for was very much on display. Seeing President George W. and Laura sitting next to his mom and dad, President George H. W., and Barbara, was very special indeed. I know many decisions made by President George W. have been the subject of much scrutiny, debate, and criticism. I said early on and continue to believe that when the entirety of the record is completely understood he will fair much better than many of his critics will acknowledge at this time. One way we know this to be true is how the current administration after loudly castigating any and all things George W. Bush chose to retain and continue unchanged most of his important policies. Think about that. And, already the polls are showing improved appreciation for him and his service to our nation. The wife and I look forward to visiting this new facility as soon as we can. May God bless the Bush family and may God bless America.

American Idol, sorry. Survivor, not this night. Duck Dynasty's final episode of this season was the most watched TV program on any and all channels last Wednesday. That's right, of all programs. I didn't get to see it that night but I did watch it early Friday morning on the A&E website. It's about the Robertson clan taking a vacation to Hawaii. There are parts of it that are get-down-on-the-floor funny. Uncle Si is typically involved in the funnier stuff. At the end of the one hour show, Phil, the head of the family, worded a beautiful prayer to the Lord God of heaven, in Jesus Name, Amen. While the show lacks some of its original freshness and I think the writers who suggest scenes may be moving too much towards staged events, it is still some of the best stuff to watch on television. Think about it. How many television shows have families that are bent on honoring God through their commitments to one another? How many do you see that openly acknowledge God's presence and His provision that brought them the means and success they have enjoyed? And, let's face it, many of us know some of those same people. No. Not the ones on the show but those we have rubbed shoulders with growing up. I say: More power to them! Now have yourself a good Monday and I'll catch up with you again tomorrow, Lord willing. Amen.    ....More later. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Pastor: "I now pronounce you husband and wife. You can now update your Facebook status."

It's Friday, April 26, 2013, where the weather the past couple of days seems to be having more trouble making up its mind than a teenager buying clothes at the mall. I can only imagine what the thermostat on our home central system is thinking. "Heat to cold, cold to heat, repeat and repeat, you guys are wearing me out!" It's been that kind of year thus far but I still favor the cool so these brief interludes have been happy ones for me. I'm also glad to report the Community Coffee is holding up quite well under any and all challenges. My wife had a most wonderful birthday tour. She went shopping last Friday. On Sunday, we took a birthday field trip to Goodrich, Texas for a catfish luncheon with family. She received numerous cards in the mail, phone calls, text messages, and she's also gotten gifts as well. Rodney was not able to be with us on Sunday so he carried his mom to lunch yesterday. Meanwhile, she literally lit up Facebook with so many giving credence to her testimony, along with their warm well wishes. And, to top it all off, I took her out Tuesday evening for a steak dinner. Now you know what it's like to be a part of a celebrity's family. Because she is our celebrity and that's a fact Jack, and I don't need Uncle Si saying it to make it true!

On top of all of that, she's also our celebrity chef as she occasionally lays out a table filled up with home cooked goodies. This would not be thought of as cuisine by the food elite, but I'll take me some field peas, fried okra, mustard greens, cornbread, fresh tomatoes, served up with pork chops any day of the week. Slap some homemade pepper sauce drizzled over it all and it will make Colonel Sanders ashamed of calling anything he ever had anything to do with, 'Finger Lickin Good'. What's that you say? What about my diabetes? You will take notice that I made sure the word occasionally was well positioned in my opening sentence. Coming home in the evening and walking through that back door with all these goodies on the stove top, well, it very much represents what that old song says about the memories, oh, so precious, and how they do flood my soul. I do thank my mom for giving us some of their homegrown garden produce out of their freezer. And, for Marilyn's sister who has done the same along with making the pepper sauce. Because of health concerns they've change the finger lickin to 'So Good' but even that is an insult to the kind of meal I'm talking about. 'So Good!' Who ever heard tell?

I've spoken often about my disdain for chain letter types of emails. I have one wonderful older fellow friend that sends me tons of them. They usually have a pretty good message but those dire indictments at the end always leave me a little disappointed. "If you don't forward this, then you don't love God, or Jesus, or children, or those serving in the military, or those who are in need", and new ones are included all the time. Thankfully he doesn't originate these and I know he is not one that would hold those beliefs about whether one chooses to forward it or not. But, it still bugs me that I get a steady stream of these types of communications. Yes, I do know how to delete them. Faster than a speeding bullet. It's like some folks that try to shame others into supporting their particular ministry when there are dozens of others that people are already plugged into. They could be sending that individual who is shaming them the same types of 'How can you say you love Jesus if you don't.......(fill in the blank.) Okay. That's my pet peeve, for the moment anyway, so it is time to say farewell for now. Have a great Saturday and Lord's Day Sunday, and I look forward to seeing you again real soon. May God bless. Amen.   ...More later.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

"A difference of opinion is what makes horse racing and missionaries." Will Rogers, American Humorist, (1879-1935)

My eldest son gave me another new watch. He has given me several over the years. This one has more dials on it than Carter has liver pills. (If you get that one, you have probably come to the right place.) But, I have not yet figured all of them out, therefore, I consulted the wall calendar, and it confirmed that today is Thursday, April 25, 2013.  Hello folks and welcome to my daily visit where I do my best to give you and others an opportunity to say out loud, "Huh?", scratch your head, or perhaps just throw up your hands in angst. It gets you going. Maybe my real calling is as an exercise guru. Joking only. I am well aware that many of you are inclined towards conservative thought, therefore, we end up on a lot of subjects being birds that do more or less flock together. However, there are areas where we likely don't see it the same. Throughout my working life I've been mostly on the business side of things and operated almost exclusively with a management perspective. You know, free market and all of that. Yet I've rubbed shoulders with folks who are wonderful people and they are connected at the hip to a labor union of one sort or another for their entire working life, therefore, they see my persuasion towards business as a bias and in many ways somewhat adversarial to their interests. We know that we hold different opinions about this subject, but we don't let that keep us from sharing together in our worship and in our serving of the Lord. That's just one difference I thought of and I am sure there are many others. My point is this. We don't have to agree on every little detail of every little item in order to function as brothers and sisters in Christ. Our Savior is, after all, the Common Denominator as it relates to our connection and our bond. I think I have arrived because this opening paragraph has me scratching my head. Go figure.

In a quotation attributed to Augustine, the challenge of Christian practice is well enunciated: "IN ESSENTIALS UNITY, IN NON-ESSENTIALS LIBERTY, IN ALL THINGS CHARITY." Essentials would be the God ordained clear precepts for life as found in His revelation to humanity, the Holy Bible. I mention this because I read an opinion piece this week where the writer tried to tie the bombers in Boston to those who stand against the social mores that have become accepted in our modern world. In other words, if you take a Biblical stand against a practice like abortion, then, that writer would say you are no different than those who, in the name of religion, detonated bombs that killed and maimed innocent people. His solution calls for the world to rid itself of all of the above, those that would blow up others as well as those who take a stand that goes against the will of the modern age. You might think that to be an isolated absurdity but I would suggest that we all pay attention because if those who embrace Biblical teachings don't go along to get along, one day this fellow's solution could very well become a reality. I am not fear mongering, I'm only giving you my thoughts on the matter.

We heard growing up after someone shared something to be mulled over, this little ditty, "Put that in your pipe and smoke it." I think the more often times I heard it was at the end of a lecture of sorts. It actually has been a colloquial saying that has been in use here in our country since the early 1800's. Some experts think that it tied meditation to pipe smoking where one might be told to "take that information and give it some serious thought." I think you get the gist and we also have a similar admonition attributed to Mickey Mouse where he advised, "Take that smoke and pipe it." I'm not attempting to be trite over serious matters but today's thoughts reflect a few of the gray cell machinations that percolated up as I was waiting on my Community to brew. Now that I know there's a quota, (2.8 billion cups per week), I have to do the proverbial get here early and stay here late just to keep up. I will tell you that we were out to eat one evening and I felt inclined to have a coffee after the meal and asked which coffee they served. They told me. I declined. Am I getting a little persnickety in my old age? Or what? Have a great rest of the day and may God add His blessings to it. Amen.   ....More later.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

"Between the rise of the front porch in the middle nineteenth century and its decline in the post World War II era, the front porch developed a cultural significance. It represented the cultural ideals of family, community, and nature. As these ideals would decline in importance in American culture, so would the porch." (Copied from a web article entitled: The Cultural Significance of the American Front Porch)

Wednesday already? I suppose it may have something to do with my age, but days do tend to slip up on me. Have you noticed that, or is it just me? Oh well, it is April 24, 2013 and I do bid you greetings from my porch to yours. That would be my digital porch by the way because it's been too many years to count since we had an old fashioned porch well suited for visiting. That doesn't mean we didn't enjoy many wonderful times of fellowship sitting in the porch swing, a rocking chair, or sitting on the steps. But that took place in a time-space-continuum that's very rare in today's busy world, if it even exists at all. That's right. We did actually live back at a time when folks would just drop by for no other reason except to visit. It might be in the early evening hours or maybe it would be on a Saturday or a Sunday afternoon. They might even stay for supper. We didn't feel put out when we rearranged our schedule to accommodate our time of enjoying each others' company. The thought alone in today's overbooked society is pretty scary. That's one reason I do my daily visit here, emanating from the ole blogger ranch's porch swing. I know it can't match the human touch and interactive laughter, but given our situation, it will have to do, yep, it will just have to do.

Speaking of those memories from days gone by, we had what was called Hymnbook Sunday at our most recent gathering of our local fellowship. Songbooks were put into the pew-seats and folks were asked to open them up and find the page and then sing along. Did you know we have teenagers that had never used a hymnbook in service? They were a little slow at first but it wasn't long before they too were holding up those green books and singing along. We typically use the big screen and project the words up there for folks to see, but, this little throwback seemed to have struck a cord with a number of our people. There's all kinds of ways that we connect to our experiences in life. For many, they can remember growing up and using a songbook. If you recall, I mentioned last week how my grandfather would stand with that book in his hand rocking forth and back as he made a joyful noise unto the Lord. For him, it was noise, but to the Lord God of heaven, He was pleased because that noise reflected the heart of unashamed worship. I've read a lot about the challenges of modern times in Churches trying to figure out how to reach the emerging generations. Most experts say that upbeat contemporary music is a major factor in being effective. At any rate, it was still good to look around at folks singing out of those books as they reconnected to their roots and were able to relish those cherished memories from the past.

Yes. I am very much aware that we live as people of the present, the here and now. These trips down memory lane are not intended to make us live in the past, but rather, they help us to be thankful for the foundation handed down to us. Thinking about those 'good ole days' also informs our present day living because many of those old fashioned values and ideas are sorely lacking in our present age. In addition to that, God gave us the ability to remember these things, connect to them, and to enjoy thinking about those people and times that were so special to us. I know we could become fuddy-duddies about it and end up not fulfilling the calling God has for us today. Let's not let that happen because this generation and the next still needs our input whether they are inclined to seek it or not. I think sometimes we've become so fixated on what the experts call being relevant that we forget to be real. Maybe we've over compensated so much in giving folks what we think they want that we've not given to them what they really need, an example of genuine faith lived out in a manner that brings honor and glory to God. It would not be unlike us to end up being so relevant that we rob folks of the clear and unmistakable truths that God has entrusted to us. I think I've served up a full plate of food for thought on a day where we are reminiscing about front porches and hymnbooks. Have a great one and may God bless. Amen.         .....More later.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Happy birthday to my wife, a most remarkable woman!

Today is a special day for me and the rest of our family. It's Tuesday, April 23, 2013. It's another birthday for us to celebrate! That's right. Today, I pause to thank God for my wife on her birthday. We've been hanging out together since August of 1962 and as husband and wife since 1964. Wow! You don't have to do the math to know this reflects quite a few years of us tiptoeing through the tulips together. I found this little quote from that famous philosopher Christopher Robin of Winnie the Pooh fame, and I thought it seemed appropriate for this special recognition: "If ever there is tomorrow when we're not together.... there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we're apart.... I'll always be with you." She is a most remarkable woman and I can assure one and all that neither I nor any of our clan have any reservations in fulfilling our response to her as reflected in the passage from Proverbs 31: "Her children rise up and call her blessed; Her husband also, and he praises her: 'Many daughters have done well, But you excel them all.'” My paraphrase over the years sounds like this: "Happy Birthday Sweetheart and always remember that...... Baby, you're the greatest!"

The other evening when they were running that commercial for a die-cast of a 1948 Ford F-1 Pickup truck I asked my wife if it reminded her of anything. She said, "Not really." I told her that it was a pickup truck that looked just like that one that I was riding in the night we chased her and her friends after the singing school was over. We had seen each other one time before in passing but this was the first time we actually met. I was a passenger riding with a buddy, in a 1949 Black Ford Pickup that featured the famous Flathead V8. Then she said, "I didn't know y'all were in a pickup." She was either not very observant or meeting me face to face kind of messed with her ability to remember anything else. Hold on. Don't get all bent out of shape. It's my story and I can tell it anyway I want to. I would not even want to know how fast that old truck could run. But, whatever speed it was, and I can tell you it could flat out go, I was hanging on for the ride. I've also seen it running low on water to the extent that the motor actually glowed in the dark. And, to think, she didn't even notice what vehicle we were traveling in. Girls. Go figure.

Speaking of commercials, have you seen the 5 Hour Energy ad where they talk about how much coffee is consumed each week? According to that commercial, Americans consume nearly three billion cups of coffee per week. There's somewhere around 315 million of us here in the land of the free and the home of the brave, therefore, that's just shy of 10 cups a day for every man, woman, and child, including newborns. I do know I am doing my part but it's hard to imagine that much coffee being consumed and just think: A whole lot of it is not Community. This huge number likely reflects the huge growth in all of those flavored coffee concoctions being served up at those places that call themselves coffeehouses. I do see those cups almost everywhere I go. At a little less than $5 a pop, well, I suppose they built it, and yes, they did come. Given this much go juice each day, it seems we all should be a little more alert, don't you think? Just saying. So, here's the deal: I want you to get out there now, and have a good day, make it a winner, if you will, one for the Gipper. May God bless each one. Amen.         ....More later.

Monday, April 22, 2013

"Would you bet your paycheck on a weather forecast for tomorrow? If not, then why should this country bet billions on global warming predictions that have even less foundation?" Thomas Sowell

*****We all are thankful for the outcome at this point of the situation in Boston. We do know there is much to be yet investigated but it does seem that the immediate threat has subsided. We also continue to pray for all those impacted by the deadly explosion in West, Texas. May God comfort all hurting hearts is my prayer. Amen.*****

Forecast from: April 19, 2013Partly Cloudy68°F 39°F (Saturday Morning)

Welcome back from your Saturday and Lord's Day Sunday. It is a brand new work week here on this Monday, April 22, 2013. Given the weather since last Thursday, well, I've been humming, "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas." Maybe not, but the windchill in the high thirties this late in the year has been both wonderful as well as surprising. I don't know the precise details of the science behind the global warming scenarios, but, I did see this headline last week, "Scientists at a loss over warming slowdown." That wasn't on my mind last Saturday but to tell you the truth, my jacket felt pretty good in that brisk breeze. We have already had some very clear evidence as to the oppressively hot and humid days that will shortly be our day in and day out reality, however, these little respites are nothing short of Rocky Mountain get aways and I am so thankful for them. Now I will tell you that when the front came through last Thursday, being out in the elements where it was pouring rain with a drop of the temperatures from nearly 80 into the 50's, well, I have been more comfortable before, but even at that, there was something so refreshing about the change. Pardon me while I grab another sip of Community as I savor it and these energizing recollections.

I realize that during times of fluidity in major in-progress events covered by news media, there will be some hiccups. However, the faulty reporting coming out of the Boston attack was not only incredible, but in my opinion, very insulting. These false reports supposedly from high up confirmed sources misled people and caused a tremendous amount of confusion. News quit being objective a long time ago and now the competition for airtime, viewers, and sponsors drive people to grab hold of information and go with it before it is properly vetted and confirmed. Sadly, there were actual individuals who were identified by name that were found to have had no involvement. That can ruin a person's life, period. During this coverage, I saw one ex FBI high muckety-muck embarrassingly denigrating the memory of Richard Jewell who was wrongly implicated in the Atlanta Olympic bombing. He seemed very cheeky about the fact that this man had filed lawsuits based on the personal harm inflicted upon him. Folks, that man's life was for all intents and purposes totally obliterated by this false report. Interestingly enough, many of the news reporters mentioned his name when explaining why they need to be so careful even as they were sharing unsubstantiated leaks. What's the response to this shoddy example of journalism on the part of those who perpetrated it? One media expert used just one word to describe how they were dealing with it: Shrug. You know, "Oh well." Sad. That's all I can say. Very sad indeed.

I listened to our President when he spoke at the memorial service last Thursday. It was a tremendous speech and I think he performed admirably his role as Consoler in Chief. I know he has excellent speech writers but anytime our country hears the President using Scriptures from the Holy Bible to bring comfort to a grief stricken people, that's a positive thing and I commend his people for putting numerous quotations into his remarks. The people in and around Boston are for the most part, reserved and sophisticated, however, while many of them talk very differently from other folks, and while their politics might be different than mine, over the past week I observed multiple outbreaks of what can only be described as good old fashioned patriotism and it made me thankful to be an American and proud to be their fellow citizen. This doesn't do away with the pain and suffering endured by so many but it does send a message to the world. America. A nation of freedom loving people who will not be stymied by those whose ideology is rooted in hate. May God bless them all is my prayer. Amen.        ....More later.

Friday, April 19, 2013

"I'm not afraid of storms for I'm learning how to sail my ship." Louisa May Alcott, Author, (1832-1888)

As I prepare to send out my blog today, we learn of more violence and a very scary situation ongoing in the Boston area. One suspect has been reported as being killed along with two law enforcement officials. At 4 a.m., the other suspect was still being sought. We pray for everyone involved and especially for those who are putting themselves in harm's way to serve and protect us all. May God help them all. Amen.

Friday is here and I do bid you a hearty hello here at the ole blogger ranch. It's April 19, 2013, where I am busying myself as I continue the journey on my way to that heavenly home where I belong. It is a dangerous world that we live in. All of us. No exceptions. Just this week: Bombing in Boston; calamitous poison mailed to the highest people in our government; a fire that leads to a huge explosion here in Texas claiming lives and wounding dozens. I was out on the road quite a bit this week and I saw numerous serious car crashes and one late model vehicle completely engulfed in flames. This tells us that folks get up every day with their own thoughts, plans, and ideas about how their day will play out, but, they, you, and I, never really know. I well remember the testimony of a fellow who lost a close coworker who was killed on his way into the office. This man stood up in a meeting of our local congregation and was visibly shaken as he recounted this loss along with a sincere recommendation. He said that everyone should take the time, every single day, to express love and caring to those close to them and to do so before they leave the house, because, like his coworker, you just never know what a day might bring. And, it's also very much a matter of highest priority to know that no matter in what way you exit this life that you are ready to be 'absent from the body and present with the Lord'. (2nd Corinthians 5:8) Amen.

This is not to say that the world where a fallen human family exists has not always been a dangerous place, and in many ways much more dangerous in the past than it is today. My grandfather was born in 1900. The life expectancy for his generation was, on average, around 50 years. Today we enjoy the benefits of modern medicine and more healthy foods, therefore, the life expectancy is now closing in on 80 years, on average. Now that is something to think about. One of the greatest areas of growth in terms of percentage is found in the very elderly, those living past 90. So, it's not all gloom, doom, and despair. I always think of that song "Go Rest High on that Mountain" when I think of my grandfather who died suddenly at age 71. I heard Vince Gill talking about that song he had written in memory of his brother. He had no idea it would become such a source of comfort to people throughout our land. You see, I've come to regard my granddad's death as his reward because he had fought the good fight of faith throughout his lifetime. I can see him standing in his pew rocking forth and back with that songbook in his hand as the words of that chorus fill my mind: "Go rest high on that mountain Cause, son your work on earth is done Go to heaven a shoutin' Love for the Father and the Son." (That inscription on his grave marker is from his favorite gospel song: "I don't know about tomorrow but I know who holds my hand.)

Those are precious memories indeed and I am thankful for the many that God has allowed me to experience and remember. Sure, I'm not unaware about the other stuff as well, and, there's been plenty of that too, but, my oh my, how blessed I am to have an overflowing mental file cabinet of those that thrill my heart. I am also very cognizant of that file marked regrets because it's pretty thick also. Most of those are not eligible for a 'do over' but they do inform my life today. What am I saying? Duh? We should be doing our best, with God's help, not to be adding to that file. This has been some week and I know it has brought plenty of sadness and pain to many. We pray for them as well as our nation. We also anticipate the upcoming Lord Day's Sunday where we will gather together to pray, sing, worship, and hear from God. He will be there in a special way and I look forward to experiencing His presence alongside His family. You might want to do the same. And, may He be with us all, until we meet again. Amen. Next Monday if everything goes according to plan.       ....More later.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

"But Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me and do not try to stop them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."" Matthew 19:14

Hello and welcome to the place where we will be dealing with Thursday, April 18, 2013, all day long, or for most of it anyway. A common theme since this most recent bombing: "We do live in a messed up world, don't we?" That's not just from folks who wear their faith on their sleeve, it's a genuine consensus on the part of folks far and wide. So much for those who believe that humanity will one day get it all figured out and we will all then live in a utopian society where peace, harmony, and perfect love reigns. Don't laugh. There's even a theological construct that used to predict how that man would get better and better to the extent that Jesus would see how great the world has become, and then He would usher in His millennial kingdom. My take says we have to consult the greatest expertise available to us. That would be the Creator Himself who spoke through Jeremiah, His Prophet, with these words: "The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9) Hopeless? Again, let's check in with the Creator of all things: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) Some desire more than some Bible talk but at the end of the day, that's all I really have folks, that's all I have.

The Psalmist was inspired to write that out of the mouths of babes God has perfected praise. (8th Division, 2nd verse) A few months ago a young 10 year old fellow in our local fellowship learned that his family was going to visit out of town relatives. He got very excited because he wanted to witness to his cousin so that his cousin could also go to heaven. Another little guy recently surprised his doctor when he was invited to listen to his own heart through the stethoscope. He listened for a moment and then he told the doctor that it sounded just like Jesus knocking on his heart's door. The doctor had little choice but to agree. That kid has been dressing up like a preacher for several years now and I have told my wife before that I notice he has a certain presence on his life. We also have a African American boy in our inner city Bible club who is also around 10 years old. That kid is a theologian in the making. He listens intently and when he speaks he does so with the voice of authority as he expounds on particular verses and their meaning. Uncanny? I don't think so, because God is still at work and one day these kiddos will be the ones who will be providing Bible talk to their generation and beyond.

I shared that so that we can pray for those coming up behind us. If the only answer to the sin problem is God's provision through the death, burial, and resurrection of His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, then we will need those willing to present that message to others. As we look at the pain, anguish, and pure evil that tends to dominate the news cycle each day, I know some who feel disheartened and are ready to throw in the towel, even those who are a part of the faith community. That's exactly how one of God's Prophet's felt one time. In fact, Elijah was so low he wished he could die. He thought he was all alone in his work and ministry for the Lord. God informed Elijah that He still had many who had not compromised their commitment to Him. (Read about it 1 Kings, Chapters 17-19) I mention those kids and I assure you there are many others like them because they will be the ones to carry on after we make our final journey home. Sad story? Absolutely not! That's how it has worked throughout history and it is God's plan in reaching the world with the message of His love. This should give us hope even in the midst of calamity. May God bless each one is my prayer. Amen.    ....More later.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

"One of the more disturbing aspects of political correctness is that impressionable children are being taught they should be afraid to use certain words because someone, somewhere may take personal offense. The stifling of free thought — and with it, the elimination of “precise and forceful expression” of ideas in constructive dialogue — is astonishing in a country which, as part of its foundation, included freedom of speech in the First Amendment of its Constitution." Excerpt from an editorial published in the Sanford North Carolina Herald Newspaper, February 20, 2013

Good Wednesday morning, on this April 17, 2013, where many are counting the blessings of life after another murderous attack against our nation and most likely, against our freedoms and way of life. Hate is a powerful force whether done for personal revenge by an individual or when it acts in response to fanatical religious objectives. While we do not yet know who or the specifics of why, we are aware there are those in the world, both at home and abroad, who seek to harm Americans. Just last year one influential cleric suggested that US sporting events would be a good target in order to inflict maximum damage. How would you like a steady diet of that kind of preaching each week to stir folks up for action? Again, the authorities will do their investigation and we will not know any of the details until they are released, and we know there is expertise that will help to identify the source of this heinous crime. It's hard to listen to the doctors describe the bodily harm that occurred to folks who were maimed for no other reason than their exercise in being a part of a free and open society. I will make one personal comment about this ongoing saga we face that is fomented and financed by hate: Folks, it's time for us as a nation to wake up and quit this insane politically correct posturing when it comes to dealing with evil. We need God's help folks. We most certainly do! Amen.

I do share President Obama's thoughts about how that when our nation is under attack we are first and foremost not identified by our party affiliation, but rather we are connected through our common heritage as Americans. I haven't forgotten how we as a people came together after 9/11. I don't necessarily think it was a bad thing that we had a shortage of United States flags in the aftermath of that unprecedented attack on our homeland. Unashamedly, we felt a desire to show our common resolve as a free people that we would not be cowered in the face of terrorism. Some would come to criticize this show of patriotism but for me it was a time punctuated by shared grief, shared community, and shared Americanism. We can debate the issues and do so with fervor and passion. We can stand in opposition to that which we believe to be wrong. But, when it comes to any threat against the common welfare and good of our nation, we proudly stand shoulder to shoulder in saying to any and all foes that we are united in our commitment to our great nation and what she stands for. May God lead, guide, and direct our nation is my prayer. Amen.        .....More later.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"I have made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make it shorter." Blaise Pascal, Inventor, Mathmatician, (1623-1662)

I know we all are shocked by the senseless killing and maiming of innocent people in yesterday's Boston Marathon. I do hope you will join me in praying for all those impacted by this attack. I pray for the families of those who were killed and for the ones whose lives will be forever altered by this heinous act. I also pray for our nation, our leaders, and those in law enforcement who will be seeking to bring to justice these who have perpetrated this despicable and savage bombing. May God help us is my prayer and may God help our nation. Amen.

Good morning and welcome to the day after tax day. It is Tuesday, April 16, 2013, and I welcome you once again to my daily dialogue where I can hear my wife putting forth this assessment: "Why do they have to be so cotton pickin long?" She has credibility because she did pick cotton as a child. However, answering that question might take a while so I will put it on the back burner for now. If it makes you feel any better, the President's tax return indicates that he paid an effective tax rate of 18% on income of nearly $700,000.00. I guess that fits his idea of shared pain because if I'm not mistaken that's close to the rate I pay and I can assure you I do not have the $700k to work with. I was glad to see the first family increasing some in their deductible contributions since taking office, but it is still only a smidgen of what they make. Even more telling is the Vice President who obviously either gives anonymously or he is a tightwad because they hardly gave anything claimed as a contribution. Let me be clear, I fully agree with everyone having the right to make up their own mind about where they will contribute their resources, or not to contribute at all. However, when you are at the proverbial top of the food chain and you are preaching shared sacrifice and a need to help those who are less fortunate, it might be more effective if your mode of life matched your message. That's a little front porch analysis here in my cotton pickin long essay for today.

I wanted to thank all my readers for their prayers on behalf of my sister, JoAnn, who is undergoing treatment for chronic leukemia. She has finished her first round of chemo and other drug therapies and is preparing to start the second round. The tests thus far indicate good progress in dealing with this disease. We first and foremost thank God for answered prayer, even in this preliminary stage, and secondly, we thank every person who has thought about and uttered a prayer on her behalf. Our family has quite a lot of experience in dealing with life threatening illnesses and as many of you can testify, it can be a very challenging and stressful time. This past Sunday evening our class looked at some of life's toughest questions and discussed Bible passages that helps us to deal with them. It's not surprising that the 23rd Division of the Psalms was highlighted. The sense of David's inspired song tells us essentially, "Because the Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing." That's big folks, very big indeed! It's good for when we are dealing with adversity and it will help us even in the good times to keep us grounded. Amen.

I was up at our local fellowship for a little while on Saturday where several showed up to do some work projects. I had my work clothes on along with my cap. One fellow observed that with a little work I could pass for Uncle Si off of Duck Dynasty. While I like Uncle Si and I do watch that program when I can, although I typically miss parts of it because of this sleeping illness I have, I'm not sure that was a particular compliment. This sleeping related ailment is an illness that seems to grab hold of me anytime I put the recliner into the lay down position. I've not talked to my doctor about it because my wife and grand kids have way too much fun talking about how I look all sprawled out and how much noise I make. See there. You didn't know how much I try to help others to enjoy themselves, did you? But as far as me imitating Uncle Si. I don't think so. I will tell you that he and the others on that show do have a testimony of having placed their faith in Jesus Christ, and that's something we all need to do. Amen. See you next time.   ....More later.

Monday, April 15, 2013

"I'm proud to pay taxes in the United States; the only thing is, I could be just as proud for half the money." Arthur Godfrey

Today is the 15th. Need I say more? As in April 15, 2013, Monday, federal tax day, and many folks are still shuffling their papers trying to make the deadline. We received our refund in early February. It was somewhere close to $25. I signed the back of the check. Next thing I know, I come home one afternoon and my wife puts $12.50 into my hand. My half of the payout. I think that may be the first time we worked it like that. I could have probably come up with a few more deductions but once I got into positive territory I decided to take the money and run. By the time we reached that territory I was pretty worn out. (Is it any wonder? I just read how the Federal Tax Code is now 4 times longer than the entire Holy Bible.) Believe me, I was thankful we didn't owe but also weary from the journey through the process. When I first started imputing numbers into my tax preparation software, early on it showed that we owed $6,000.00. Even though I knew it wouldn't be that much when everything was accounted for, having that number flashing in the corner of the screen was annoying at the least and stressful had it not changed dramatically before the process was finished. I don't know if that feature can be turned off or not and I know it's probably a useful tool to many, but it just seemed to keep the pressure cranked up on me. Here's a little lame ditty to lighten the mood: If a tax collector or a lawyer were both drowning and you could only save one, would you: (a) go to lunch or (b) read a newspaper? It's only a joke. Don't get all bent out of shape.

I read a little blurb about a bench clearing brawl involving the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres. These dust ups typically happen after someone has been hit by a pitch and this was no exception. You've seen them on TV before. They all run out to the mound and start grabbing and grasping. Usually no one gets hurt. But, not this time. The Dodgers may have lost for a yet to be determined amount of time their 150 million dollar superstar pitcher because he sustained a broken collarbone when he and the angry batter collided. Baseball? That's right. One of NASCAR's brightest talents is also out for several weeks after having sustained a broken vertebrae in a wreck brought on by contact with another driver who happens to be in the midst of a flaming feud with Hamlin. This pretty much wrecks, (no pun intended), Hamlin's ability to compete for the championship this year. A few years ago NASCAR came up with a policy that essentially says drivers should settle their arguments out on the racetrack. It's called "boys have at it." I suppose that will need to be amended to "drivers have at it", with Danica now racing with the big boys. Excuse me, she is now racing with the big drivers. My point is this. Fights and feuds drive TV ratings and they sell tickets, however, you can't always predict just how things might turn out if you encourage them.

Letter from a taxpayer to the IRS: Enclosed is my tax return along with payment. Please take note of the attached article from the USA Today newspaper. In the article you will see that the Pentagon is paying $171.50 for hammers and NASA has paid $600.00 for a toilet seat. Please find enclosed four toilet seats (value $2400) and six hammers (value $1029). One screw (value $22). This brings my total payment to $3429.00. Please note the overpayment of $22.00 and apply it to the 'Presidential Election Fund', as noted on my return. Might I suggest you then send the above mentioned fund a '1.5 inch screw' . (See attached article where HUD paid $22.00 for a 1.5 inch Phillips Head Screw.) It has been a pleasure to pay my tax bill this year, and I look forward to paying it again next year. I have just read an article about the Pentagon and 'screwdrivers'. That one is from a few years ago but it does make a point. I also read about the two IRS Agents that showed up to collect past due taxes at a car wash. The amount due originally was less than a dollar but with penalties and interest it was now over $200. It had been an oversight so the owner didn't mind paying the bill but was stunned they sent two agents to collect $200. Yep. That's the way Uncle Sam rolls folks, that's the way he rolls. Have a good one and may God bless each one. Amen.   ....More later.

Friday, April 12, 2013

“Cherish all your happy moments: they make a fine cushion for old age.” Christopher Morely, American Journalist, 1890-1957

It's Howdy Doody time here at the ole blogger ranch. Why don't you grab hold of one of those rocking chairs, drag it over here next to me, and let's talk for a spell. After all, we did make it to Friday and we find ourselves still able to get up and go on this April 12, 2013. Yesterday morning we had a feels like of 39 degrees going on here. That same morning I also ran myself through a fairly intense rain and hail storm on my way in. I was glad for the wet stuff but couldn't help but wonder if my new old flivver of a car was getting any pock marks from the hail. They first said we would have a deluge on Wednesday, first in the morning, then in the afternoon, none of which materialized. Then they said it had missed us altogether but we ended up having steady rain all night long. About the time I had begun to begin to think about giving the weather prognosticators the benefit of the doubt, then I find out they must be using a Quija board to make their forecasts since obviously their computers and radar systems aren't really helping that much. But, in the end, we do need the rain, and we are so very thankful to God for it. Amen. As for the way folks drive in rain slick and slimy freeways in and around the metro area, well, I will tell you that I don't care for it that much. No. Not much at all. I started to say that with all that slipping and sliding around they might be trying out their rain tires but that would mean nearly all of them have rain tires!

I visited a dear brother in Christ the other evening in a long term care center. That, or rehabilitation facility, or what it really looks and feels like, a nursing home. Fortunately for him, he doesn't plan on being there for more than a handful of weeks. That certainly is not true for many of the folks I observed during my visit. Let me say I am thankful there are places where the very elderly can get good care and the support they need. And I hope this place is one that provides that type of care. But, it still is a very sad place. Maybe it's the instinctive fear that we all have of ever having to be in a place like that for an extended period of time. Maybe it's because of my age and my realization that time is slipping away. The staff seemed courteous enough. The place was clean as far as I could tell. But the patients. Many of them are just pitiful and my heart goes out to them. I was glad to be able to have a brief visit and to share a prayer with my dear brother, but, I left with a tear in my eye and a hurt in my heart for so many of our nation's grandparents who exist in such difficult circumstances. May God provide His special touch for them is my prayer. Amen.

The other day at the funeral I attended in Louisiana I ran into a fellow that I have known for over 50 years. He and his wife were dating at the same time that Marilyn and I were. His name is Dale Kelly. He came up to me after the service and said that someone had told him who I was. I confirmed his report and we hugged. I asked if he was ready to apologize for nearly breaking my back 50 years ago. He didn't have a clue. I had worked with him for a couple of weeks. He was a bricklayer. I was his helper. He was a bricklayer that got paid by the job. I was his helper. The helper carried the bricks and mixed and hauled the mortar. The bricklayer was driven to finish as quickly as possible. The helper was hardly able to keep up. He wasn't sure he remembered the specific project but he agreed it was very much possible. I suppose he helped me decide that office work might be better suited to my talents and abilities. Instead of seeking his apology, perhaps I should have thanked him. I'll try to remember that if I see him again in the next 50 years. Have a great Saturday and Lord's Day Sunday, and if everything goes according to the plan, I'll catch back up with you next Monday. May God bless each one. Amen.       .....More later.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Welcome to my world where I typically serve up variety. Defined as: "The quality or condition of being various or varied; diversity."

What a busy last few days. But, here we are, we have landed on the one we have before us, and, we open up the calendar book and there it is, all ready for whatever we are able to accomplish, on this, Thursday, April 11, 2013. I suppose when you are a serial blog writer and I do plead guilty to that charge, you notice things and at times you realize that when you notice them they might just become a good idea for a little observational analysis. Number one object? People, of course. I know. Pets are the cat's meow so to speak but we are not pet people. Just this week I was talking to someone and made the statement that we do not have a pet. Their response: "Why do you hate animals?" That's not even beginning to be the first time I was asked that exact same thing and it is usually said in a very critical sounding manner. Now I could have been crude and told them that to prove I don't hate animals I try to eat me some nearly every single day. However, I was on my best behavior and simply remarked, "Why does not owning a pet mean that someone hates animals?" I'm not trying to stir up an argument here, but come on folks. I don't have a pet because we have more than we can say grace over without one, and, if that qualifies as being a pet hater, well, whoopy-do! Talk about stereotyping. Next thing you know we will have those PETA people protesting on our front lawn. Maybe they will eat the tops off our grass and save us a mowing.

Now that is a bird who loves animals. Yum Yum.
Speaking of animals, the other day in the wee hours of the morning I ran up on a huge owl sitting in the middle of the road. That's the first time I ever saw one that large up close. He or she must have been preoccupied with the fresh kill or road kill because it didn't even move and I had to swerve to miss that bird. I did. See there. I am not an animal hater! We have some that nest in our neighborhood at home and they are loud but rarely have we seen them. This one did not seem in the least to be intimidated by the oncoming vehicle. It did do that weird deal where it spins its head like a Lazy Susan. I've dodged just about everything else. Might as well add the Texas Great Horned Owl to the list. That Texas part is important because we all know things are bigger in Texas. This one probably weighed around 10 pounds. Easily could have fed several meals for a family of four. Just kidding. And, yes, I do know what the book says. Approximately 6 pounds is the maximum, but we are talking Texas. Got it? Good. That was almost as startling as that flock of buzzards grazing under that Church sign where they were telling people to come there because of how alive they are. You cannot make this stuff up. I'm telling you. You can't!

We saw some wonderful friends that we had not seen in a long time at the anniversary celebration last Sunday. One former member who still reads my blog each day said she can't pass the coffee isle where the Community is displayed without thinking of me. Good. You remember it was my sister who said I needed to become a coffee spokesperson for Community. I started to say coffee evangelist because that term has been used like that before. Microsoft coined the term technology evangelist a number of years ago. That would be someone who promotes the acceptance of technology innovations. I didn't use it that way because the common accepted definition restricts it to its connection to the Gospel message. And, the good news about Jesus and His willingness to save any and all who come to Him is in a class by itself. I think it best to keep it isolated because of the overwhelming magnitude of God's love message to the world as carried by those called out to tell everyone about it. I know you are glad I cleared that one up. Now, it's time to get on with it and I bid you God's speed as you go. Amen.   ...More later.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Paying tribute to an early mentor of mine. I was able to attend his memorial service in Louisiana on Monday and I continue to be thankful for all he did to help point me in the right direction.

Funeral services for John Hyman Self, 85, of Hornbeck, Louisiana will be held at 2:00 pm Monday, April 8, 2013, at the First Baptist Church in Hornbeck. Hyman graduated from Anacoco High School in 1945 and LSU in 1949. He received his Masters + 30 in Agriculture from Stephen F. Austin. He was a Teacher and Principal at Hornbeck High School for thirty three years. After retirement from the School Board he went to work at the Vernon Parish Health Unit as an environmental health professional for 12 years. Mr. Self was a Deacon and member of First Baptist Church of Hornbeck. (Excerpt from published obituary)

A blog I wrote over 5 years ago about Mr. Self:

Friday, January 18, 2008

Thanking People Who Have Helped You Along Life's Way

Last week when I attended my nephew's funeral service in the small rural town where I grew up I saw my old shop teacher from my high school days. He's now in his late seventies. Mr. John Hyman Self was a very influential person in my life because he challenged me not only in my studies but in helping me to become ready for life itself. He is always glad to see me and considers me one of his greatest works in progress. I did not say I was, but he thinks I am. A few years ago I tried to identify people who had made a huge positive difference in my life and I prepared special thank you correspondence for each of them. The one I did for him was unique in that it had a special letter of thanks, some pictures of our family, and a brief biographical sketch of all the things I had been able to experience since leaving that small village so many years ago.

Well, let me tell you that card I made for Mr. Self was very special to him. His wife says he treasures that card and reads and re-reads it sometimes several times a week. I know my mom said he recently brought it to their home when they visited because he wanted her to see it. Like they say, it really doesn't take much to make some one's day, especially whenever it is genuine and in his case, very well deserved.

One of the things that hit me whenever I began to consider all the people who had helped me in my life was how that we are not self made. We may like to think that we are and we may go around telling people we are but the truth remains that others influenced us and usually some did in a most significant manner. Mr. Self was one of those who saw much more potential in me than I could see. He told me the other day that whenever I began to really excel it challenged him and he would go home at night and brush up so that he could ready for whatever questions I would throw at him the next day. I do know this, he was an encourager and someone you knew really cared about you and where you were headed.

He worked hard to get me a scholarship and he gave me personal advice that teenage boys need to hear. Other than field trips, scholastic competitions, ball games, or other events like these, I never saw him except at school each day. But he was one of those people who took the time to do some shaping and molding and I am thankful to God that he did. And, I am very happy that he feels so honored because that's exactly what I intended when I recognized his influence in my life. The reason I wrote about this today is to remind us all, first, that we have been helped by others, secondly, time is moving on, and lastly, if we are going to do something to recognize their contributions to our life, better sooner than sorry because we missed the opportunity. Food for thought on a rainy Friday morning. Have a great weekend and may God bless you and yours. Amen. ....More later.