. . . an adjective meaning . . . A disease affecting many persons at the same time, and spreading from person-to-person . . . extremely prevalent.

The current epidemic? Text messaging . . .

Look around . . . anywhere you go you will see people with their phone in hand and texting up a storm.  Many of them didn’t even know what a text message was a year or so ago.  I am certainly an example of this. The truth is that I am amazed at how much I text . . . both for fun and for business.  I text with Sandy, Courtney, Chris, Sarah, Dorothy, and other family members about family matters.  I text with employees about business matters – and it saves both time and the expense of using the “landline.”  I am able to text with them at times when I would not be able to talk with them on the phone.  I even text with members of my Sunday school class, my buds, and with guys about fishing.

I just learned some pretty interesting facts about texting.  This morning I received an advertisement directed to people in the apartment business.  It was for a service called TEXT ME MOBILE.  It was short, brief, surprising, and I was amazed.  Here are some of the points it made:

…. 98% of all text messages are read and responded to in less than 90 seconds (Sandy, Chris, and Dorothy excluded)!

….. More people now have cell phones than computers.

….. Cell phones are usually always at arms-length during waking hours.

….. Text messaging now makes e-mail seem like snail-mail because one must read a text in order to delete it . . . whereas an email can be deleted without being read. (So, that is how they got us addicted to texting).

…. The ad says that I can send rent-due notices, pest-control service dates, general information messages, etc. to my residents by text; thus, saving the time and cost of printed notices that have to be mailed or hand-delivered.

Another amazing thing . . . the firm sent the ad to me by e-mail . . . Perhaps they don’t have my cell-phone number.


Abi . . . has arrived

A couple of days back I changed the tone on my text to “swoosh” so I could distinguish texts from other events. I am glad I did . . . I like the sound . . .  it makes; it sounds like something really important!

At 12:58 p.m. today, I had a swoosh . . . and it was, indeed, something really important. In fact, it was the very swoosh I have been waiting on for some time . . .it was a one word text . . .saying “Baby” and followed by 3 exclamation marks.  Chris had set up an MMS with Sandy, Courtney, Aunt Dorothy, and me earlier in the morning and we had been doing some chatting off and on . . . waiting on Abi to make her entrance.  I actually tried to work this morning, but was just so distracted that I finally decided to just go do my banking and run errands.  Afterwards, I stopped by Whataburger, picked up a sandwich, and stopped by the boat to run the engines.  I was on the bridge when the swoosh arrived . . .

As I read that one word, it made me cry . . . cry like I haven’t in many years . . . I sat on that bridge, looking out over God’s creation, and I just cried.  What a precious event!  A new baby . . . and a precious little girl seems to make it really special.  Thinking about how Chris would be feeling, I remembered another special day and the birth of another special little baby girl.  That made me cry even more.

Five minutes later another swoosh . . . This one included a photo of Abi bundled up and the message said: “Presenting Abigayle Grace Melton . . . ” . My old heart melted . . .  There was a series of swooshes and comments from Sandy, Courtney, and Auntie . . . all declaring Abi as “precious” . . . she is, indeed!

A few minutes later . . . another swoosh . . . announcing vital stastics: 20.5” long and weighing in at 7.9 lbs . . . and included a photo of Chris holding Abi . . . Wow!

Another swoosh . . . a photo of Mom, Dad, and Abi . . .

Another swoosh . . . it was Nana chiming in that she had already shown Abi’s photo to the entire faculty at Rockport Fulton High School and was busy passing out “It’s a Girl” breath mints.

And then it arrived . . . A video . . . A video showing Abi yawning and stretching . . . and then, she put her little fingers in her mouth and began to suck . . . It all came together in an instant . . . this is a real, live human being and she is my Granddaughter! I am not the first guy to experience the birth of a grandbaby . . . but it is my first time to experience it.

Of course, I only had to make about 50 phone calls and send 100 texts . . .

Sandy and I will drive to Waco on Friday . . . we get to meet Abi in person . . . we get to see Ali . . . we get to see Chris and Sarah and really hope we get to see Courtney . . .  her birthday is just a few days away . . . October 4th.

Can life get any better? Oh yeah, I caught a box full of Redfish yesterday too . . .

Kids . . .

9/22/2012 Art Linkletter, a good, wholesome, friendly, and funny man was a TV host years ago. He used his wit in hosting two of TV’s best loved and longest running shows – “People are Funny” and “House Party” during the 50’s and 60’s.  Americans loved this good man and his programs. He caused a great deal of laughter.

He was born Gordon Kelly in July, 1912, in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Before he was even a month old he was abandoned by his parents. He was adopted by a middle-aged couple who had lost their two children.  At the age of 12, he discovered that he had been adopted. In his autobiography, “Confessions of a Happy Man”, he wrote about this experience.  He was a happy man and he made others happy too.

“House Party” included a segment in which Mr. Linkletter would take five children, visit with them, and get them comfortable and relaxed and then interview them. The most often result was the parents wished TV had never been invented . . . while American roared at their answers.  In one such episode, he interviewed a boy who said his father was a policeman. The boy went on to say that his dad arrested a lot of burglars. Mr. Linkletter asked if his mother worried about it and the boy replied, “Naw, she don’t mind . . . because every week he brings her a bunch of rings and necklaces and junk.”

He used material from that segment to write a best-selling book entitled, “Kids Say the Darndest Things.” I always loved the book’s title “Kids Say the Darndest Things”  and even more I love the truth that kids do, indeed, say the darndest things. I suppose a result of my watching that program as a kid I developed a love of listening to kids talking and hear how funny they are.

Today, my friend, ,Zach, sent me a text message in which he told me about a text message he had just received from his wife. It seems Zach was at work and the other boys were in school, and wife, Kim, took their young son, Pierce, shopping with her. Pierce needed to go to the bathroom, but he refused to go in the ladies’ room. He told his mom, “Mom, I can’t go in there, I might see girls!”

An hour later, he sent a follow up text labeled:  More from Kim & Pierce. It read like this:

“We were standing in line and Pierce was in “la la land.” He had his arms wrapped around this large ladies’ leg for quite a while. We tried not to laugh. Once he noticed what he was doing and whose leg he was clutching, he turned bright red” . . .

I can just see Pierce reacting like that . . . Pierce is a cool kid.

Kids not only say the darndest things . . . sometimes they do the darndest things.

Am I bored? You better believe it . . . I am sitting here patting my foot waiting on Abi to make her appearance . . . That little skunk hasn’t shown a bit of interest in leaving the womb . . .

At this moment in time, I am very interested in kids! Hey, I am about to become a Grandfather . . . AGAIN!

The Meeting . . .


The guy who walked to the podium was a very large fellow – probably 6’4” and over 350 lbs. He was dressed well and was well-groomed.  Actually, he looked a bit out of place in that smoke-filled room.

As he arrived at the podium, he gripped each side with his huge hands, paused a moment to collect his thoughts and clear his throat, and then he began to speak. He said, “My name is Ray, and I am an alcoholic.”  There was a mummer of response from those in the meeting.  As he spoke, the group was visibly moved and several wiped tears away as he continued on.  He simply told his story . . . but his story was by no means simple.  As I recall, he told it in the first person and it went something like this:

I grew up in a very poor, rural area of Alabama.  I often tell people that I got my education at UCLA – the Upper Corner of Lower Alabama.  The group chuckled.  He said he grew up on a poor farm with a large family that tried to scratch out a living from the dirt.  He told of meeting a man during his teenage years who gave him some advice . . . “If you want to make money and do well in life, find something no one else wants to do and you do it, and do it well.”  He said that stuck with him.  A couple of years later, he saw an advertisement for a school that taught students how to become a mortician.  He said he remembered what the man had told him and it seemed to him that being a mortician would qualify as “something no one wanted to do.”  He said he hitchhiked to the school and went inside to inquire. He was soon accepted as a student and began his training.  After completing school and getting the licenses required to practice his profession, he got a job.  He didn’t like the place where he worked or the man he worked for, but he worked hard, learned, and saved his money. He had a plan . . .

After a few years he had saved what he considered enough money to move forward with his plan.  He bought a bus ticket to Dallas, Texas, and set out on his journey.  Arriving in Dallas, he applied for a job at several places and was quickly hired.  The man who hired him was getting on in years and needed a hardworking, bright, young man to carry the load.  Over a couple of years, he and the old man became friends.  One day he approached the old man about buying him out.  The man was agreeable and the deal was struck.   Now he was the owner and he had a plan . . .

Business was good and he was really good at saving his money.  Now, he was able to save even more and start moving forward even more with his plan.  A couple of years later, he identified another funeral home like the one he now owned.  He bought it and his plan was moving forward just fine.  A few years later, he had a string of funeral homes scattered around the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

He met a nurse, fell in love, and got married. He bought a nice house and life was good.  Soon, they started a family and in a few years had two children.  He was on top of the world . . . he had come a long way from that poor-farm back in Alabama.

His success was noticed by the leaders in the community, and he was being invited to things and events he had never even thought about.  One day he was invited to a Chamber of Commerce mixer by the C of C President himself.  He certainly couldn’t turn down that invitation . . .

He said that when they arrived at the mixer, the C of C President introduced him around and led him to the cash bar and offered to buy him a drink.  He had never tasted alcohol in his life and didn’t have a clue how or what to order.  The C of C President ordered a “shot of Jack Black” and Ray thought that sounded pretty good, so he ordered the same.  He said, “I fell in love in a second . . . and my decline was set in motion.”

He went to every event he was invited to, and even crashed a few others.  He was quick to get to the cash bar.  He said that for some reason (probably his country upbringing) it never occurred to him that he could drink anywhere except at these type events.  Then one day, a vendor invited him to meet at an upscale, downtown lounge “for cocktails” . . . He accepted the invite, and a new door was opened to him.  Soon, he was going to the lounge by himself.   Of course, he was never alone for very long — as soon as folks learned that he had money and was willing to buy drinks, they were happy to hang out, be his friends, and swap stories.  Ray loved to laugh.

He then discovered that he didn’t have to be at either an event or an upscale lounge to enjoy a drink – he could simply visit a package store and take a bottle with him.  He said it wasn’t long until he had a bottle in his desk, one under the seat of his Lincoln, and another in his cabinet at home.  He was learning to really like his liquor, and enjoyed experimenting with a variety of drinks.  He discovered that he had fine taste and could soon order with the best of ‘em . . . He viewed that as an accomplishment!

He said as he looked back on the time, he could see two lines that had once run parallel to each other had now begun to move closer to one another, and then intersect, and ultimately cross over each other in different directions.  One line represented his success in business and family and the other line represented his new love – liquor.  He saw that the quality of liquor and lounges gradually became less important, and that was a good thing because his money became less and less . . . soon, not much mattered except just getting another bottle . . .

As this transition occurred, things at home became more and more difficult and complicated. His wife finally refused him coming inside the house . . . she said it was just too difficult for her and the kids. Because she loved him, she bought a half bed and set it up in the garage so he would always have a place to sleep.  She told him “if you are hungry, knock on the back door, and I will fix you something to eat and hand it out to you.”

He said there was one special area where he preferred to hang out.  It was a place with several bars along the street and it was a place where his kind of people hung out . . . people who understood a man needing a drink and if he was broke, they would give him a drink from their bottle.  It was understood and accepted that tomorrow the situation just might be reversed.  He told about one man, a little man, that he would see in the area every day.  He decided it was obvious that little man was an alcoholic . . . and while he was becoming a bit concerned about his own situation, he determined, “If I ever get as bad as him, I will quit drinking!”

Some time later, Ray woke up one Saturday morning in city jail.  Of all things, he had been arrested for public intoxication and loitering . . . that was silly, he was a successful businessman.  He said as he looked around the cell, he spied the little guy he knew who was an alcoholic – one of his cellmates! Sitting on the floor, with his back to the bars, he began to cry and recognized that he too was an alcoholic . . .

Soon, the little guy who was a recognized alcoholic crawled over and sat by him and asked, “Big fellow, why are you crying?”  Ray said he told him, “I think we may be alcoholics, and I am afraid . . . ”  The little guy laughed and said, “Nonsense . . . we are nothing of the kind. I will tell you what we are . . . We are good old boys who just enjoy having a drink and letting our hair down.”  In a moment, the guy said, “Now, if you want to see what an alcoholic looks like, I can show you one . . . ”  Ray said he did, indeed, want to see what an alcoholic looked like.  The little guy motioned for him to get up and follow him; he did and crossed the cell. The little guy pointed toward a man lying on the floor two cells over. The man was wearing only a pair of dirty, soiled, boxer shorts; he was dirty and unshaven. He was lying in his own puke . . . The little man said, “Now, that dude is an alcoholic . . . ”  Ray really looked the man over . . .

Ray said he felt really sorry for that poor man . . . but was relieved about himself – he was not an alcoholic after all!!!  As he stumbled back to his sitting place he made a vow to himself . . . “I will cut back some, and if I ever get as bad as that dude, I will quit altogether.”  He said, “I now had a new measuring stick . . . someone else to get worse than . . . ”

About a year later, a cold front blew into the D/FW area and dumped several inches of snow. When the weather turned bad like that all the guys in the area made their way down to an overpass and crawled underneath to get out of the cold and wet.  Ray said he woke up under that overpass during the night and was really cold and needed a drink . . . Just to “warm up.” He said he began to feel around the other guys under the bridge to see who had the bottle . . .  and then it happened!

Ray said he felt something . . . something which he could never forget the feel of – even if he lived to be 100 years old . . . the feel of a dead man’s hand.  Scared, he fumbled in his pockets trying to find his cigarette lighter.  Finally, he located it and flicked it into a flame . . .  He said, “In one second my life changed under that small flame . . . the dead man was the dude . . . the alcoholic two cells over . . . “  He said, “It boomed in my mind . . . there is no one left to get worse than . . . that is now me.”

Broken hearted . . . with his spirit crushed and his eyes full of tears, he hobbled through the snow, in the dark of night . . . all alone. He walked down the highway to an all-night truck stop. He begged a dime from a trucker and called AA and said “I am ready . . . ”  And he really was . . .

He began his long journey back . . . and it has been good and steady.  Over time, he reunited with his family and began the hard work of trying to repair the damage he had caused, but recognizes that that work will never be finished.  He went through a series of lower-end jobs and ultimately went back to school and earned his PhD in psychology . . . He became a Pastor of a small Baptist Church.  He is very effective as a Pastor; he has a powerful story and is a tremendous public speaker.  He can’t talk about God’s love, mercy, and grace without crying.  In Ray, I see the truth of . . . those forgiven much . . . Loveth much.”  He is a much sought-after speaker for AA and is really effective in his work there . . . He gives hope to those who feel hopeless . . . He is an inspiration for many . . .

He called me awhile back . . . just to visit.  He reported that his family was well and he had become an old man . . . it was his Birthday! He said the Deacons of his Church had just brought him a wonderful birthday present . . . a miniature white donkey.  As he chuckled over the gift he said, “I have decided that when folks complain to me from now over silly things . . . I am going to invite them to just come by the house and kiss my little white ass!”

That is just Ray . . .

I really like that old dude!

The Deer Blind . . . Something to think about.


In most places in Texas, we hunt deer from a blind. A blind is some form of an enclosed structure that a hunter hopes will keep deer from seeing or smelling him or her. It is actually a rather lazy way to hunt. The trick is to put an automatic feeder within 150 yards of the blind and make the deer come to you. Today, we use really good-quality rifles with scopes that have optics beyond description.

Our ancestors didn’t hunt this way. They hunted from the ground and relied upon cunning and skill. They generally used what was called a saddle gun – typically a lever action, open-sight 30-30. There have likely been more deer harvested with that simple rifle than with all others calibers combined.

Today, we hunt for big racks; they hunted for food for their families. Of course, we still eat the meat and enjoy it, but for us it is something much different than it was for them.

A few years back, my sister, Dorothy, and I bought a ranch together in West Texas. It is a great place and has some 100’ deep canyons, rolling hills and a creek that runs through one side.  There are many large rocks lying around all over the place and the place just has a real charm. I love being there.

The year we bought the place, I excitedly scouted it out looking for signs of deer and game traffic. I selected several places where I would put blinds and feeders, and then a couple of guys and I set to work building those blinds. I had built many blinds in my life and we followed the same plan – build them simple and light because we will have to move them later.  We spent the first day framing a couple of blinds. That night it occurred to me that I was going about it wrong …. with the wrong mindset. Every blind I had built before was to be used on a lease . . . the blinds we were building now would never see a lease . . . they were going on our place and would never need to be moved. The next morning I told the guys and we changed the plan. We built really nice, heavy-duty blinds that would stand against the weather and endure time.

When it came time to build my blind, the guys decided to make it extra special. It was more like a house than a hunting blind. It was insulated, had thermally-improved windows, carpet, and even a magazine rack. It was larger so I could have Sandy sit in it with me or Courtney could go with me and do her photography.  It was comfortable for two people. It had swivel chairs and it was really a great place to spend a winter day. It had a special enclosed stand for my thermos.  It even had my favorite scripture verse posted on the wall. I really liked it.

Then, last fall the ranch became a victim of the West Texas wildfires. The fire, fueled by 40 to 50 mile per hour winds, swept across 40%+ of the ranch. It was fortunate that the winds pushed the fire and it passed quickly without burning any of the large trees . . . but it sure burned the underbrush . . . and it burned my fancy deer blind.  It did not burn any of the other blinds . . . it just got mine.  As I stood and looked at the shattered glass and the pile of ashes – the only things left from that great blind — it reminded me that no matter what one does there is not much in this life that is permanent, anything we build with our hands can burn . . . in spite of a good plan and hard work . . .the best blind had burned.

I got the guys together a couple of weeks back and we built another blind.  It is just as nice as the other blind and I will enjoy it . . . but I will spend some time thinking about the benefits of building up things that will pass the test of fire . . . laying up things that cannot burn or decay; things that cannot be corrupted by the elements of this world.

It seems to me that is a good thing to think about . . . I suspect that is the spout where the glory can come out . . .

9/11 . . . 11 years later . . .

Tomorrow marks the 11th anniversary of the tragedy that scarred our Nation . . .

I remember that morning . . . It seems like a lifetime ago in many ways.

I had slept a bit late that morning as I was scheduled to leave the next day to do a seminar and just had a few loose ends to tie up.  As I had my breakfast, I flipped the TV on . . . something I almost never do.  When I saw it unfolding, I thought it was a promotion for a new action movie that would soon be released. Boy was I wrong.

Like millions of Americans, I sat glued to the TV . . . anxious for anything that might prove to be good news in all of this. I remember the horror of it . . . I will always remember that.  I wanted to try to understand what had happened, how it had happened, and why it had happened.  How could anyone hate the USA so badly . . . we have been that shining city on the hill . . . the nation that has done so much for the world . . . the protector of the weak, the liberator of those seeking freedom, and the hope for so many without hope.

I may not have it right, but this summarizes what I have come to believe.  I have really tried to discover the truth.

The world changed greatly between the period of 1920 and 1950 . . . The discovery of oil, the building of the automobile, flight, and television made the world suddenly a smaller place and people began to understand things that had not been understood before.

Oil would serve to make life both better and different.  It was warmly embraced.  It heated homes and made travel much simpler.  It changed how people lived.  There was a major race across the planet to make discoveries and it put American oil companies and their people in remote parts of the world, seeking to satisfy an oil-thirsty nation.

Mass production of the automobile began and they were bought as fast as they came off the assembly line.  This enabled a large shift in the population as the Industrial Revolution began. People who had once lived in rural areas and worked in agriculture moved to the cities to work in manufacturing – building something as opposed to growing something.

During this era, the world experienced two world wars . . . both which caused great unrest for many of the people of the world.

Major oil discoveries were made in the Middle East; a region that would prove to be wealthy in oil . . . and would also prove to be filled with corrupt and selfish royal families.  As the oil was discovered, those royal families decided to keep the people of their nations ignorant of the purpose, value, and demand for that oil.  Instantly, the royal families became wealthy; yet, left the population in poverty.  They used the value of the oil to enrich themselves rather than to elevate the people of their nations.

As television came into play . . . people became more aware.  People living in New York City could sit in the living room of their homes and see how people were living in California, Texas, or Colorado—or even across the ocean.

Then came the Viet Nam conflict . . . this even caused great unrest in the youth of America.  The kids of the USA took to the streets in protest of the war, the way our government was functioning, and a host of other issues . . . Parents watched in shock and wondered what had happened to their children.  Why were they so angry and rebellious?

As the Middle Eastern countries saw this event unfold, they were afraid that the behavior of American children might infect the youth of their nations . . . So they blocked television from their nations.  The royal families jetted across the globe in great luxury . . . sipping Johnny Walker Red, visiting Las Vegas casinos, building, and buying up mansions across the world; living high.  All the while, they were leaving the people of their nations in the dark . . . riding camels and donkeys, living in tents, scavenging for food and water, having and raising children without medical services or the benefit of education – totally ignorant of the world.  That would continue to be true for many years . . . and sadly, that condition still largely exists today.

For whatever reason . . . be it conscious or simply a tool of control . . . the royal families began to give small sums of money to religious clerics to be used to help the poor people of their nations.  The clerics used the money to build simple learning-centers and began to teach the youth of those nations.  The royal families surely believed that those youth were being taught religion – love, goodness, and sacrifice—and the youth were in turn going home and teaching their families.  All of that served to make the royal families feel less threatened about the poor people of their nations possibly ever rising up against them.  Think about it . . . what could 100 million peasants do to a royal family of 100 if they ever learned the truth?

I want to emphasize here that the royal families are not Muslim . . . and never have been.  That was the religion of the poor, the down trodden. The royal families are not people of faith . . . they are a godless people.

Then, on the afternoon of November 4, 1979, in the small and insignificant country of Iran — the world learned what the clerics had been teaching the young people of the region for many years . . . hate and Violence.  A madman being called Ayatollah Khomeini and his clerics had successfully incited the youth of that small Persian Monarchy, filled them with vengeance, and unleashed them on Shah Pahlavi and the people of Iran.  He and his family had to flee for their lives.  That event sent a shock wave across the Middle East . . . The clerics had filled the youth with poison.  A poison that toppled a monarchy and changed it to an Islamic Republic overnight . . . That group of college students seized the US Embassy on that date and successfully held it until January 20, 1981, as the world watched on and the royal families of neighboring nations grew increasingly afraid for their own safety.

The clerics had taken the true story of God and Abraham and had twisted and perverted the story and convinced an entire generation that their birthright had been stolen from them.  A bit of history here . . . God had called Abraham to follow him and promised him a son.  On occasions, God would remind Abraham of that . . . God would tell him to try and count the stars in the sky . . . And would tell him that one day his descendants would be like the stars – too many to be counted.  But several years went by without that becoming a reality . . . so, Abraham asked God about it.  God assured him that He would, indeed, have a son.  Abraham went home and told his wife, Sarah.  She laughed and said it was impossible due to their age. She scoffed and pointed to her Egyptian hand-maiden, Hagar, and said “there is your best opportunity for fatherhood.”  Abraham had a son by Hagar and named him Ishmael. This was Abraham’s son by sin . . .

Later he had a son by Sarah and named him Isaac.  This was Abraham’s son by Promise.  These two boys would become fathers of two people who would forever be at war . . . Each claiming the promises God had made to Abraham. See Genesis 16 – 23.

In Genesis 22, we find a disturbing story in the life of Abraham and Isaac.  God tells Abraham to take Isaac to a remote mountain and offer Isaac as a sacrifice. Broken hearted, Abraham, the Friend of God, takes the boy and sets out on his mission.  Of course, the sacrifice is not made as God had stationed an angel there to interrupt the process.  The story weighs heavy in the events that are rocking the Middle East today.  What one sees from that experience between God and Abraham on that remote mountain depends on who you are, the influences that have been in your life, and what you have been taught.  Here is how it works:

The Jewish people: They see it as proof-positive that God loved Abraham and would not require him to follow through with anything so drastic.  They believe that extends to them in every generation.

Christians: We see this as a picture of what God would do on another mountain many years later.  How God would sacrifice His own son to redeem people.  That God was willing to do something Himself; something He would never allow a human to do for Him.

The Clerics (and what they have taught an entire generation to believe): They remove Isaac from the story and insert Ishmael and teach “our Father, Abraham, was prepared to kill for his God, and if you are worthy to be called Abraham’s son, then you, too, must be willing to kill for your God”!

They have taught this generation that Israel has stolen what was rightfully theirs and that the United States has enabled Israel to do so.  They have rewritten the Holy Bible to tell the story that they want believed and call it by another name.  They remove Isaac and his family and replace them with Ishmael and his family.  They remove love and goodness and replace it with vengeance.  The result is an intense hatred for both Israel and the United States.  The truth is that their real enemies are the religious clerics who have brainwashed them and the royal families who have robbed them . . . leaving them to live angry, full of hate, in ignorance, and in poverty. Think about it . . . they are still using wooden carts (with wheels made of wood), pulled by donkeys, for commerce while the royal families fly around in 757’s,  sail the seas in 300’ yachts, and live in great splendor.

Then, on that fateful day . . . they struck a blow to our Nation.

Today, we are a divided nation.  That division is largely caused by corrupt and selfish politicians – people who, like the royal families of the Middle East, are more concerned with their own agenda than they are with the prosperity, goodness, and safety of our Nation. They have wrecked our economy, confused our values, and shred our Constitution.

But perhaps there is hope . . . .

As the crowd will assemble for the Ceremony at Ground Zero for the 11th-year anniversary of 9/11, the politicians have been denied any right to speaking roles . . . and one has to ask, “Why should they be allowed to speak?” “What have they done?” . . . .

An honest answer is that they have only confused the process . . . 2,751 of our fellow citizens were brutally murdered that day . . . and it is estimated that over 1,000 more have died over the past 10 years since from having breathed and ingested the burning jet fuel, plastics, steel, concrete, glass, and asbestos released on that day as the towers crumbled into a pile of rubble and dust.  As another 20,000 others are being treated for respiratory troubles related to the events of that horrible day.

As a side show to the ever-rising loss of human life, the politicians debate billions of dollars of cost overruns, political battles, and “what ought to be done”. . .

What have they done? They have confused and divided us as a people . . . gone are the groups holding candles on the night of the tragedy, as a troubled Nation poured her heart out to a merciful God . . .

These people who seek their own agenda and their own good over the need of a mourning nation at a time of remembrance have lost the right to speak!  This is a time to hear from the broken hearted . . . not from the double minded.

Today, I Met the Saddest Man …………………………..

As I pulled up to the Marina this afternoon to check on the boat and run the engines, I paused to check Face Book to see if there was any news about our soon- to-arrive Grand baby, Abi or about our walking and talking Granddaughter,  Ali. There was no news on either of those girls, but what I did see was a FB post by Chris saying, “I firmly believe the key to a happy life is: don’t take things too seriously. As a wise man once said, “Don’t worry, be happy”.

I chuckled at some of the comments made in reply to his post, and added my own: “I would be happier if y’all would hurry up and present Abi to the world”.  I chuckled at the thought about what sort of reply I would get from him and Sarah. Chuckling, I got out of the suburban and headed to the boat.  That was when I met the really sad man …………

As I made my way down the dock, I encountered him standing on the dock, gazing out over the water. I  greeted him like most of us do on the docks. I said, “Good afternoon…” and he replied, “I don’t know what is so ______, ______, good about it”…….. I was taken aback and decided to stop and see if I could at least get him to smile. I failed in that effort …… but did I get an education!

I politely asked him if he was from around here …. He said he was not. I asked if he was on vacation …. He said he had never had a vacation …………… I asked him why ……. He said his _________, ________ ex-wives kept him broke……….  and his ___________, ________ boss didn’t pay him enough to take a vacation. I asked how many ex-wives he had ………… he said 5……….. I commented that was quite a few ……….. he replied, “You ought to meet those ____________’s. I was actually glad that I hadn’t …… I pretty much had my hands full with him …………….

As we talked, I quickly understood that this was a man who blamed others for his problems.  Nothing was his fault …… everything was always someone’s fault.

Wanting to try and help this man, I continued talking with him and we settled on a couple of dock boxes and chatted. It was obvious that he was lonely and afraid …… in spite of his efforts to disguise that. As we talked, I began to see what fear had done to him ……………

It had made him skeptical …….. he didn’t believe there is much good in the world today, or in people.

It had made him doubt …….. he seemed to believe the worse about everything and question the goodness of life.

It had made him cynical ……… he was doubtful about the future or any effort toward a better life.

It made him selfish ……. The main words he used in a 30 minute conversation were “I”, “me”, and “mine”. I bet those ex-wives could tell a story or two of their own …………..

It made him Sarcastic …….. He was a pretty witty guy … but he used sarcastic statements to deliver it. He was critical of every one and everything. He was even critical of several of the boats …….. of all things!

It made him stubborn ………. I tried to speak to him about God’s love for humanity and he scoffed.

It made him obstinate …… the dude wouldn’t budge an inch or let go of his views, in spite of a minor admission that he could possibly be wrong…. But, “he sure didn’t think so….”

It made him self-defeating ………. His mindset and attitude are injurious to his own welfare and mental health, and it showed.

It made him short sighted …… everything we talked about revealed that he was unable to see much of anything clearly. While we talked about our Nation …… everything with him was “that could never work” …….. when we talked of religion…. He could not see any reason for hope …….. When we talked about family …. He saw no future ………. When we talked about football ….. he only saw a rigged system …. When we talked about boats ……. I got the sense he didn’t even think they ought to float……

I left him sitting on one of the dock boxes and headed to the boat. As I walked down the dock I said a prayer …… “Lord, perhaps someone can reach him…… but he is too salty for me”. I also thanked Him for putting good, healthy influences in my life that helped me see life in a better light than did that sad man.

….. and NO, I never got the dude to smile ………………

The encounter made me sad ………………. I wonder what caused that poor fellow to become like that?


The Bachelor Party …………………….

The phone rang just after 7:00 in the morning . . . those who know me very well are aware of the 9-o’clock rule around my place.  I reluctantly answered the phone. The caller was Zack . . . the message was concerning.  Chris and four of the guys had left the boat ramp at Bird Island Basis at 1 a.m., headed out on what was to be less than a one-hour trip to the cabin to unload . . . with a promise that Chris would return shortly to pick up Zach and Russell.  Zack said that he and Russell had waited at the boat-ramp to be picked up and taken down on the second trip so that they wouldn’t overload the boat.  They had been expecting Chris since 2:30 or 3.  He was something like 4 hours over due . . . and they couldn’t get him on his cell phone . . .

Zack told me that a Park Ranger had driven through the parking area and stopped to check on him and Russell.  They made him aware of the situation, and the Park Ranger called the Coast Guard . . . and a search was underway.  Zack and Russell were waiting on information and felt like they needed to get me in the loop.   We ended the conversation and hung up with the thought reverberating in my head . . . “the Coast Guard is searching for my son who has been missing for several hours!”  What a way to start the day . . .

The wedding was just a few weeks away . . . Chris was getting married and his Bachelor Party was a fishing trip at a remote cabin in Baffin Bay with six of his best buddies . . . his attendants. The problem was that none of them really knew the area . . .

The guys had arrived at our house about 8 the evening before.  Chris, Lucas, and Joe had driven down from Waco, while Zach and Russell had driven down from Houston; our place was their meeting site.  They had come here to pick up the boat and would meet up with Derrick in Flour Bluff on the way to Bird Island.  They would have our boat, Bamonitias, and Derrick’s boat for the 30-mile boat trip to the cabin.

Sandy, being the sweet Mom she is, had prepared dinner for the guys and insisted that they sit down and eat before heading out. That gang is always hungry and ate like lumberjacks. We had a great time laughing and having fun over a great dinner, and then they set out – excited about all of the fish they were certain to catch and their big adventure. Baffin is the home of the State-record Redfish and Speckled Sea Trout.

As I reflected on the situation, I began to prepare to go searching for my son and his friends (of course, Zach is like my son too), but then I realized they had Bamonitias and I was afoot.  Aftermath was in the middle of having engine repairs at the moment and not available. All I could do was pray and wait . . . Then the question hit me . . . do I call Sandy at school and trouble her with this disturbing news?  Do I call Courtney and worry her?  I decided that I ought not to bother them . . . I had raised Chris on the water and knew he was a good seaman and they were surely okay.  I did call my sweet little sister, Dorothy, my “go to” prayer warrior . . .  and asked her to pray for the guys’ safety.  I began to think about all of the submerged rocks around Baffin Bay . . . those were not pleasant thoughts about the guys in a boat, in the dark of night, in water that was known for its submerged rocks!

About 10 a.m., Chris called and said, “All is well and we are okay.”  Whew . . . What sweet words to an old dad’s ears.  I asked him what had happened. He related the following: “We got to the boat ramp about 1 a. m. and began to launch the boats. As we launched Derrick’s boat, he discovered that his steering cable had broken. Zach, always the engineer, rigged up a chopping hoe with bungee cords strapping the hoe to the motor so the hoe handle would serve as a tiller, but the engine sputtered and died. To top it all off, when we pulled his boat trailer out of the water, one of the wheels fell off.  We decided to leave Derrick’s boat at the ramp and just use Bamonitias and make two trips to the cabin.  All was good, until we got to the area where the cabin was supposed to be. We all had limited cell-phone service and our G4 GPS reception was poor, but the main problem was that the dude who had rented us the cabin had given us the wrong coordinates.  A cold-front blew in and the temp had dropped to 45 degrees and we were all dressed in shorts and Tee’s.  Unable to find the cabin and very cold, we just crawled up on the dock of an empty cabin and got in our sleeping bags and went to sleep.  I woke up when I heard a helicopter flying around.  I woke the other guys and said, ‘They are looking for us’ . . . so I headed back to Bird Island where Zach and Russell were waiting.”  He said that he was there with Zack and Russell at that moment.

I asked him what he was going to do.  He said, “Dad, I am going fishing”!  I asked him what time he would be here the next day.  He said . . . ”by 4 p.m, Dude! We need you to help us clean fish and everyone has to drive home afterwards.”  He had to be at Church – he was the Youth Minister!

The next day I waited for them . . . They weren’t here by 6:00 p.m. and I could not get an answer on any of their cell phones.  Two hours late and it was getting dark.  Again, I became concerned.  Sarah, Chris’ bride called to say that she had not heard from Chris and was concerned.  I shared my concern with her.  Reluctantly, I called the Coast Guard . . . not particularly to report them as missing . . . simply to see if there had been any accidents reported.  The Coast Guard dude had some stuff to say about those guys!

Around 8:00 my phone rang and I was delighted to see on caller ID that it was Chris.  He explained that a dredging crew was dredging the Inter-coastal canal between the cabin and the boat-ramp and had a discharge pipe off the barge, partially blocking the canal.  The guys had run hard aground trying to avoid the dredge and the discharge pipe.  They spent a couple of hours and a lot of energy pushing off.   He was calling from Bird Island where they were loading up.  He said they would be back here in an hour and a half.

They arrived here safe and sound and we cleaned a lot of fish.  They had really done well . . . Ummmmm, well they had done well on the fishing part anyway.  They were laughing and enjoying themselves.  As we left the fish-cleaning station, we stopped at a convenience store for them to pack their fish in ice so the fish would be good when they arrived home.  Each of the guys bought a couple of 5-hour energy drinks, we said our good-byes, and they headed off into the dark.  I pulled the boat back to the shop.

As I washed the boat down around 11 o’clock, I thanked God for each of those good guys and for the great time they had on their big adventure and His watch-care over them. When I arrived back at the house, Sandy was getting ready for bed. I sat with her for a few minutes and told her, “Honey, all over the free world there were many bachelor parties this weekend.  Some of those guys had the cops called on them for their behavior . . . Our son had the Coast Guard called on him . . . And that isn’t all bad”!  They are good guys . . .

Over the wedding weekend we had many laughs regarding the Bachelor Party . . . Well, the guys did.  I don’t think the girls are even able to see much humor in any of it almost a year later . . . but then that is why it is called a Bachelor Party . . . and girls aren’t allowed!

A New Mind Set ……………

This morning, I came across a 2010 article about the miners in Chile who were rescued after being trapped for 69 days. As I read the article, I remembered how the world watched the rescue efforts with an almost sense of hopelessness . . . As I researched the event, I came across some comments that Pastors and Christian leaders had made at the time. Some of those comments were:

  1. “No matter how long you have been down in the hole,  remember that you can get up again”
  2. “Your trap is not your tomb . . . It can become your testimony.”
  3. “Just because you are overwhelmed, doesn’t mean you will be overcome.”
  4. “When you come out, don’t be surprised if you have changed, but everyone else is still the same.”

I recalled that a rescuer while helping one of the miners into the tube gave him a pair of glasses and said something along the lines of . . . “Put these on and brace yourself, it is about to get really bright!” I love that.

I was working on my Sunday school lesson and looking for illustrations. The Lifeway series for this quarter is entitled “Living through Hard Times,” from I & II Peter and Jude. I Peter is a letter written as instruction and encouragement to the new Christians who had been dispersed across the Northern area of Asia Minor in the Roman Empire.  At that moment in time, those Believers were experiencing persecution.  Peter wrote in 1:13, “Therefore, with your minds ready for action, be serious and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance.” (HCSB)

As I thought about what Peter was saying, I remembered Israel in the Old Testament (which I had just finished teaching). I recalled that even after the Jewish people had seen, up close and personal, a series of ten progressive plagues that broke the back of Egypt, their oppressor shattered the grip of Pharaoh on them as an enslaved people and gave them deliverance into freedom after 400 years of slavery; it didn’t take long for them to begin complaining.  They had just seen the Red Sea parted . . . yet, they complained (Exodus 14).

With the bondage of Egypt behind them, and with the freedom of the Promised Land in front of them, they complained.

What was wrong? They failed to get their minds ready for action.  The Problem: When you have spent your life incarcerated, there is a struggle in being liberated.  Those folks were set for the stage of their development, but they failed to get their minds right. They were moving through a time of transition . . . a period of difficulty . . . a time of change. We know that change is difficult. They were making the transition from being slaves living in mud huts to becoming the people of God; by design destined to live in the Promised Land.  As they struggled to find their way through that process, they remembered the past as having been being better than it really was and feared the future. They had forgotten the mud pits, the whip of the taskmasters, and the oppression of slavery. They recalled it as a time of free food, and they remembered the food being much better than it had been when they were eating it.

The truth is that we all have a natural tendency to do that same thing. It is interesting that the “good old days” we fondly remember were not the good old days until many years later.  I suspect the reason we tend to do that is because the future can be a frightening proposition.  It is easy to remember where we were and recall what we did . . . especially at times when we are not quite certain about where we are and even less sure about where we are headed.  When the future looks cloudy, that can often make the past seem so clear.  Yet, the greater truth is the future does not have to be frightening.  That is what Peter was saying to those folks living in Asia Minor so many years ago.  His message is that there is no benefit in fearing what is ahead. His point was that we do well to train our minds to remember that our future is secured . . .  and glorious! It doesn’t hurt to remember the past . . . but we must understand that we simply can’t live there.

As they became more restless about their future, they reminisced about their past . . . but they were doing so with a selective memory . . . a memory that kept them fixed on a false path . . . and frightened them about the approaching future . . . and made them inattentive about the present moment.  Their delight over their confused memory of their past made them afraid of the future and even worse made them neglect the present.

Like those people in Asia Minor to whom Paul wrote, we, too, are living at a time in history that can seem frightening with all of the restlessness we see across the world, the unstable economy of the world, and the tensions growing over nuclear weapons and who has them.

As Christians, we have neither the need nor the right to be fearful of the future.  We have a glorious inheritance that is in secure hands . . . reserved for us.

As I thought about what Peter wrote, it occurred to me that:

  1. Everyone likes the idea of being delivered . . . but few want to develop the discipline that deliverance demands;
  2. Everyone wants to be free . . . but most of us don’t want to embrace the responsibility that freedom demands . . . and what freedom entails.

We want deliverance into a “Difficulty-Free Zone” . . . but that is not how deliverance works. Why?  Because every blessing has a unique burden . . . every elevation brings a new obligation . . . and every new opportunity also brings a new obstacle. We have to get our minds ready.

I fear that we as a people have become so accustom to the goodness of God that it has become common, every day, ordinary, to the degree that nothing much amazes us. That, perhaps, we may have become so insensitive to the grace of God that rather than celebrate it, we begin to complain about it as they did.

It seems to me . . . that Peter is encouraging us as Believers to quit looking at the past and to step into our destiny.  To get our minds fixed on Him who had delivered us and set us free.  He told us the key to making this real in our lives is to remember that we are merely pilgrims passing through here . . . on our way home to our real home in Heaven.  The danger is when we turn our attention to the struggles of this life, we forget our mission and our efforts turn to being comfortable here.  It requires a change in mind set . . .

To remember that yesterday is in the tomb, tomorrow is a mystery . . . still in the womb and there is a danger of miscarriage . . . but today is a gift.  Perhaps that is why it is called the present.

To remember how greatly we have been blessed . . . how highly we have been favored . . . to think in terms that God has not just brought us a long ways, but that He had brought us all the way . . . that He has watched over our lives . . . that He has kept us breathing through all sort of difficulties . . . that He has turned our setbacks into come-backs . . . that He has flipped our script . . . reversed our curse . . . and throughout history has turned His people’s sorrow into a song.  So remember that if He never does one more thing for us, He has already done more that we deserve.

The enemy of our souls does not want us to have this mindset . . . he wants to keep us tied to a dead past and prevent us from moving into a living future . . . with a living hope.

I like Peter!  I can relate to him and the struggles he had in his own life.  He went from being the guy who denied his best friend at His deepest hour of need, from being a man who ran away and hid, to become a man who could write something as profound, deep, and insightful as this letter.

Yet, I can also relate to those former slaves and their story.