The Real Deal . . .

January 25, 2013

The Real Deal is a term used quite a bit today.  It is used to distinguish the genuine article from something which is just not quite up to par.  The first time I heard the term used was by John Madden during a halftime commentary of a football game.  Madden used it while praising a particular NFL football player he considered to be the best in the league at his position.  The way Madden used the term, and the manner in which he described the player, gave the term a deeper meaning for me.  I like John Madden and always appreciated his commentary and honesty in his assessment of both players and teams.  I always thought John Madden was the real deal as a sportscaster. 

I know another man who is the real deal.  His name is Mr. Robert Sweet, of Sweetwater, Texas. I have seen Robert deal with some really heavy stuff . . . I have seen him carry some heavy loads . . . I have seen him falsely accused . . . lied and gossiped about . . . slandered . . . and back-bitten by those who claimed to be his friends.  Yes, indeed, I have seen some stuff about and around this man . . . but there is one thing I have never seen . . . I have never seen him be anything other than a gracious, true gentleman . . . a genuine servant of the Lord.

Robert is always quick to: agree with his adversary . . . forgive those who trespass against him . . . love his neighbor . . . assist a stranger . . . visit the sick and those incarcerated . . . carry other’s burdens . . . find an olive branch to extend when friction raises its ugly head . . . try to find a way to make others right . . . forgive any debt . . . and to hold his head up and look everyone in the eye.  That is just the type of man he is . . . and that is rare in this day and time.

I once witnessed him deal with a really ugly situation.  A situation filled with strife, controversy, and bitterness in a very heated, public situation . . . and he did it with a measure of grace, charm, and dignity which I had never witnessed before.  I was simply amazed as I watched him calmly and masterfully defuse the situation with love, kindness, and respect; yet, he did not compromise what was right or diminish the truth during the process.  That event took place about ten years ago, and I still remember it like it was yesterday.

I saw death strike his family . . . up close and personal (and totally unexpected); and I saw this fine man humbly accept it with amazing grace and dignity and weather the storm.  When I offered my condolences before the funeral, he looked at me and calmly stated, “Everything is going to be ok . . . the Lord is good and He knows what He is doing.”

I have seen him quietly struggle with financial stress . . . and never once complain.  In fact, the financial stress was caused by him being too generous with others when he could not afford to be generous, but he did it anyway.  He continues to do that . . .

I have seen him struggle with personal health issues . . . without complaint.  He just continues on and does the best he can (and his best is really good).

I have seen him deal with racial discrimination directed at him . . . without complaint or becoming angry.  The discrimination occurred in the work place . . . in an environment expected to be extremely sensitive about such foolishness.  He could have found an attorney, asserted his rights, and really caused some serious action . . . but he did not.  He just went on and did his job—quietly and efficiently. He simply left the judgments to the one true Judge.

Robert is a prime example that one can endure bitterness . . . without becoming bitter; can be confronted with ugliness . . . without behaving in an ugly manner.  That good man has had to deal with much bitterness and ugliness in his lifetime; yet, there is not one ounce of bitterness in him, and there is never any ugliness in anything he does.  He is always happy and encouraging and will always see something good in every situation.

For many years, Robert served as Pastor of several small West Texas churches.  He would leave home early every Sunday morning and hold a number of services at various locations and then return home, exhausted, late that night.  To my knowledge, he has pretty much always been a bi-vocational Pastor, as the churches could not support a full-time Pastor.  In fact, I doubt that the financial support he received from the churches was ever enough to simply cover his fuel bills for his travels to the services, to perform funerals, to visit the sick, to make hospital visits, and the many other responsibilities of a Pastor.  Of course, never a complaint from Robert over any of that . . . he just went on quietly about the Master’s business, delighted he had been called to serve.  You can bet that good man will hear those precious words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant . . . Come, you who are blessed by my Father . . . and enter into your inheritance . . . the Kingdom prepared for you . . .”

I have known Robert for a long time . . . I have always known him to be The Real Deal.  I wish many others could be more like Robert . . . I wish I was more like Robert.

Hey, Rev . . . I got your back.

Today, Monday, January 21, Martin Luther King, Jr’s Birthday is celebrated

I think Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of the great men in American history . . . I also think he was one of the most misunderstood men in that same history . . . but, honestly, I haven’t always thought that.

I am a product of the South . . . the battleground for so much of the nation’s struggle that took place during the years of Dr. King’s life.  As a boy growing up, I was taught certain things, I was influenced by certain things, and formed certain beliefs and opinions.  But unfortunately, many of those beliefs and opinions were not based on truth . . . sadly they were mostly based on what other’s said.

I remember the first time I heard about Martin Luther King, Jr. and his work with the Civil Rights’ movement.  I recall that it all frightened me as a twelve- to fifteen–year-old boy.  I saw some people (who I believed different from me) coming together and marching in protest . . . I didn’t know to where they were marching, or how long it would take them to get there.  I didn’t even have a clue what they were protesting.  I am embarrassed today that I accepted many of the untruths I heard during that time. No one ever told me that Dr. King insisted on non-violent civil disobedience as a means of protesting how people of color were disrespected and discriminated against.  All of the violence I watched on the evening news during that era which seemed so troubling and unsettling to a young boy was actually state and local governments trying to disrupt the peaceful protests.  I was too dumb and inexperienced to get it at that time.

Dr. King was born on January 15, 1929, as Michael King, Jr.  He attended Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta, where he skipped both the 9th and 12th grades, and entered Morehouse College at the age of 15, without formal graduation from high school.  He earned his B. A. from Morehouse College, his B.D. from Crozer Theological Seminary, and his Ph.D. from Boston University.  He became a Baptist Minister (Progressive National Baptist Convention).  Early in his career, he became a civil rights activist and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  He led the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott, led a struggle against segregation in Albany, Georgia, and organized and led protests in Birmingham, Alabama.

He became Pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.  In 1964, Dr. King and SCLC joined forces with a non-violent student group which had been working on voter registration for several months, where they encountered resistance from pretty much everyone, including the court system.

It was during the 1963 March in Washington that Dr. King delivered his famous I Have a Dream speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial.  Part of that speech went as follows:

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.  It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.  I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men were created equal.”  I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of opposition, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.  I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.  I have a dream today.  I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, little black boys and girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today.

That speech has come to be regarded as one of the finest speeches in the history of American oratory.

As a young father, I saw a film containing a segment of Dr. King delivering that famous speech.  I recall thinking to myself, “He didn’t really want anything different that any dad wants for his own children.”  I began to change my mind about some things, and doing a better job of filtering things I heard said.

Dr. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on October 14, 1964.

Dr. King was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004.  Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was established as a U. S. federal holiday in 1986.  There have now been 730 cities which have named a street in his honor.  A monument has been erected in his honor . . . The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial located on the National Mall, in Washington, D. C.  It opened in August, 2011.  He is the first non-president to be honored with his own monument in the National Mall area.

He was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis. He is believed to have been shot by one James Earl Ray, who was convicted of killing Dr. King, but there has been a great deal of suspicion and speculation about a conspiracy.

The day before he was assassinated, he addressed a rally and delivered his speech:  I have been to the Mountaintop.  It has been said that his last words on the balcony that dreadful evening were spoken to his friend and musician, Ben Branch, who was to perform that evening.  It is said that Dr. King said, “Ben, be sure and play ‘Take My Hand, Precious Lord’ in the meeting tonight and play it real pretty.”  Quickly afterwards, a shot rang out in the early evening and Dr. King lay on the balcony.

Dr. King was pronounced dead at 7:05 p.m., on April 4, 1968, at St. Joseph’s Hospital.  His biographer, Taylor Branch, said that the autopsy showed that “while Dr. King was only thirty-nine years of age, he had the heart of 60-year-old.”  Branch attributed that condition to the stress of thirteen years in the civil rights movement. We do know that it was, indeed, a stressful era.

We never really know what is accurate and what is romanticized in such tragedies from history, but here are a few things we do know:

  1. It is tragic that a nation having been as great as the USA ever had a period in which it behaved in such a wicked manner; that it ever passed and maintained laws which permitted such foul treatment of any of its citizens;
  2. That Christians should never have needed the Congress to pass laws that required proper treatment of other humans . . . Jesus had long ago commanded us to “Love one another” . . . and said, “It is in doing this that others will know you are my disciples . . . “
  3. That Dr. King and a few other brave souls were bold and brave enough to stand for what was right and proper . . . regardless of the personal cost to them; and
  4. Shame on all of us . . . shame on those who did the evil things in that era to hurt other Americans . . . shame on those who knew it was wrong, but were cowardly and remained silent . . . shame on those of us who were too ignorant to see the truth of the time.

It seems to me . . . that it is fitting that we have a national holiday to honor the birth, life, sacrifice, and example of this good, brave, and decent man.


Things can happen in February that we can’t even imagine in July . . .

Last July, boaters were out on the water . . . enjoying their vessels, fishing, laughing, and enjoying family and friends.  A boat is generally a relaxing thing . . . but there can also be trouble.  An old, seasoned boater once told me that a group aboard can go from a glorious experience to an absolute nightmare . . . in about five seconds.  Sometimes it takes a little longer.  It did take a little longer for a bunch of Oklahoma boat-owners . . . but the end result was still a nightmare.

Being a boater, I like to read about boats and boat owners.  I recently read about a freak snowstorm that dumped two feet of snow in the Grand Lake area of Oklahoma (near Tulsa).  There is something like 5,000 boats on the water in that area.  When the snow finally stopped, the roads were impassable . . . and no one knew how the boats and the marinas had fared. There was great concern over the floating docks that are scattered all around the lake . . . there are many such docks . . . Well, perhaps I should say, “There were many such docks.”

Days later, the time came when the helicopters could fly in and check on things.  It was not a pretty picture . . . many of the metal roofs had caved in.  The reports were gloomy; yet, the real damage was discovered when the docks could be accessed by marine surveyors . . . the reports were bleak, at best.

Fourteen marinas and a large number of private docks were damaged or destroyed, and over 600 boats were damaged . . . many of which were sunk.  As the snow load increased on the roofs, the floats simply could not support the weight and eventually the snow-covered roofs settled down onto the boats, forcing many of them underwater . . . what a nightmare.

As I read the story, I wondered how something as lovely as snow could do such damage.  Of course, the majority of my experience with snow has been looking at it on a movie screen . . . but like with most things, it seems the reality of snow is often times not as pretty and gentle as it seems on the silver screen.  But still . . . snow sinking a bunch of boats?  C’mon . . . boating is huge in Alaska and there is a lot of snow in Alaska.  I have seen and experienced both in Alaska . . .

I did some research and discovered that snow can be really heavy . . . and the weight can vary greatly.  I learned that a dry, fluffy snow can weigh as little as five pounds per square foot, but a wet snow can weigh as much as fifteen pounds or more.  Another discovery was that warmer places get the heavier snow, while the colder places tend to get the lighter snow. Yet another discovery . . . marinas do (even in the warmer climates) consider snow during the design phase . . . but generally only consider it at the roof-strength and never on the float strength . . .

I suppose the message here . . . if there even is one . . . would be . . . Be Careful where you park your boat!






The Start of Another Year . . . 2013


A couple of weeks back I looked at the calendar as I hung it up and was amazed at the (seemingly) endless possibilities posed by that new, empty calendar . . . 365 days of upcoming opportunities! What was I thinking?  With the whirlwind of life today . . . I am already getting booked up again . . . and find myself back on the treadmill.  In another couple of months, I will trying to squeeze in just one afternoon of fishing . . . or just a quick weekend trip to see Ali and Abi . . .

But that is how we live today . . . 90 mph . . . and still behind . . . and always trying to get caught up.

There was a time when people weren’t so busy . . . if a neighbor’s barn burned down, everyone simply set their plans on hold and went and helped the neighbor rebuild his barn . . . and turned it into a community event.  Folks would come from miles away . . . work would be done . . . meals would be prepared and shared . . . the barn would be rebuilt and folks would get back to their own tasks.  If my neighbor’s barn caught on fire . . . about all I could do is call 911 for him!

Today, we live in a world with Blackberries, iPads, iPhones, GPSs, satellites, e-mail, fax machines, and all sorts of modern marvels intended to make us more efficient; yet, it seems that we have lost a lot of the flexibility enjoyed by earlier generations, control of our schedules and perhaps even parts of our lives . . . Duh, it is 6:30 and I am still in the office . . . and I am supposed to be the boss around here. Go figure . . .

At 62, retirement is beginning to look attractive . . . and this is just day 17 of the New Year . . .

Greatness . . . January 15, 2013

One day as Jesus and his disciples were walking along, traveling to a very important event which would include an important meal, some of the disciples began to lag behind. It was intentional that they hung back . . . they were in a bit of a dispute and they wanted to discuss something of importance to them . . . but they also wanted privacy and didn’t want the Master to overhear their discussion.  The subject being discussed concerned what they perceived to be their personal value to Jesus, their ranking of importance and the position they anticipated being granted when Jesus became the King and removed Israel from under Roman control. This discussion had been going on over a period of time and some of the Jewish mama’s had even joined in and made specific requests of Jesus on behalf of their sons.

When the group arrived at their destination, they entered into the building and Jesus gave them a lesson on greatness. He filled a basin with water, gathered some towels, and began to wash their feet . . . all the while teaching them about The Kingdom of God.  He put greatness – from a Kingdom perspective – into practice for them to observe.

Jesus made it clear that there is a vast difference in how greatness is measured in the Kingdom as compared to how it is measured on earth.  Jesus’ conclusion was that in the Kingdom, one’s only pathway to greatness is by service to others.  Of course, His teaching was far different from what the Disciples had been thinking, but then . . . their thinking was off kilter well before they ever got onto this discussion.  They were correct in that Jesus would, indeed, become the King . . . they just erred in concluding how that Kingdom would work . . . His would be no political kingdom and nor would it involve His followers being granted lofty government positions . . . His Kingdom would be on the inside . . . people’s hearts would be His throne . . . and His followers would be called to service, rather than placed into positions to rule.

Do you know someone who you consider to be in that “great” category of which Jesus spoke? Someone in that “great” category by virtue of how Jesus defined the qualification?

I do . . . his name is Raymond . . . he is my friend.  I love, appreciate, admire, and greatly respect Raymond. Let me tell you a bit about this good man . . .

Raymond’s story is actually quite simple, all the while filled with greatness.  Raymond never wrote a great novel, he never played professional sports, he never played on the Pro-tour, and to my knowledge, he never led a charge up a mountainside during a battle to defend his country.  I am pretty certain that he never made much money . . . but he has certainly been busy working on that greatness thing.

His story began outside of Augusta, Georgia, born into a lower-income family. He became a ladies’ shoe salesman as a young man, and married his sweetheart, Pat. They had two children, James and Deb. Over time, Raymond was transferred to Corpus Christi to manage a store. There, he and his family joined a small Baptist church and became active.  Raymond felt a call to the ministry and over time, responded to that call. He quit his job, loaded up his family, and set out for Fort Worth, Texas, to attend Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Totally committed to what he was undertaking, he went at full speed, worked hard, and managed to graduate in three semesters. Upon graduation, he accepted a call to return back and join the ministerial staff of his church in Corpus.  He served on that staff there for a number of years.  He later accepted a call from a larger church in Houston, where he served for several years. Later, he would answer a call from a church in Killeen and serve on that staff for a few years. There is no telling how many lives this good, gentle man touched over those years; how many families he provided comfort during times of loss and suffering; and encouragement to people who were struggling with life.  None of those folks would ever forget Raymond . . . with his slow, sensitive manner of speaking, his big heart, and that warm Georgia accent, Raymond is not a man one forgets having known.  Some time back, I was talking with a lady who had grown up in that church in Corpus years ago . . . She remembered Raymond well and spoke fondly of what an encouragement he had been to her and her family.

During his years of service on the staff at the Killeen church, Raymond got the vision to start up a Service Center to serve low-income families and assist them with clothing, food, and various other needs. The need was a great need in that area, being close to the largest army base in the world – with military families coming and going.  Raymond ultimately resigned his position at the church, leaving the security of a steady pay-check and benefits, and went to work full-time at the food bank.  I know that a large grocery chain was so impressed with his good work that it offered to provide all of the food the food bank needed.  Yet, Raymond declined the offer believing that keeping the ministry working as it had since its inception was critical . . . He said, “I don’t want it to ever grow so large, that I can’t personally tell each family about Jesus and His love . . . ”

When the time came that Raymond had to retire, he and his darling wife, Pat, moved to a small area outside of Rockport . . . But he wasn’t finished with his work for the Kingdom and his service to hurting people.  He organized a non-profit group called “Operation Santa Claus” and recruited some good people to help.  Through Raymond’s vision, the organization’s mission is to see to it that every low-income child in Aransas County has useful things wrapped and delivered to his home for Christmas.  The things provided to the kids have always been new school clothes, shoes, underwear, and the like. You can believe that every child and family touched by Raymond and Operation Santa Claus have been, clearly and lovingly, told what Christmas is about.  The results of this year’s effort are now in.  Operation Santa Claus raised close to $40,000 in 2012 and served about 300 children. You can bet on a few things:

. . . Not one cent of the money raised was ever spent on salary;

. . . Each and every year, Raymond spent hours at the schools in Aransas County working with teachers and counselors gathering the names, sizes, and addresses of the lower-income students in the County;

. . . Each and every year, Raymond spent many hours raising money for the cause;

. . . Each and every year, Raymond spent untold hours in Wal-Mart buying each kid’s clothes;

. . . Each and every year, Raymond wrapped hundreds of Christmas presents;

. . . Each and every year, Raymond spent a great deal of time praying for those kids and their families;

. . . Each and every year, Raymond made most of the deliveries to the kids and spent some time with them;

. . . There hasn’t been a low-income child live in Aransas County, Texas, in the past 10 years who didn’t know and love Raymond . . .

Raymond is truly one in a million . . . and he is, indeed, a great man.  Everyone who knows him knows this to be true . . . But if you asked Raymond, he would humbly tell you that he is just a simple man . . . but he would be quick to tell you that he has a great God.

Of course, such humility is part of the greatness test . . . and Raymond demonstrates it quite well. If you try to brag on Raymond, he deflects it and quickly turns the attention elsewhere . . . He runs from the praise of man . . . His heart is set on something far better than that!



The Father of the Year . . . January 16, 2013

An organization which calls itself “the National Father’s Day/Mother’s Day Council” recently made a shocking announcement.  It is their selection of the Father-of-the-Year?

This organization states on its website that the organization is “dedicated to the celebration, observation, and preservation of the holidays such as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.  It goes on to say it does this by focusing on the value of good, sound parenting.

The organization has just announced that its selection of this year’s Father of the Year title goes to none other than former President Bill Clinton.

To say the least, I was shocked by the announcement. When I think of what a father is supposed to be, Bill Clinton just doesn’t come to mind.  In fact, I see his selection as one more red flag of concern about the value and judgment that influences our culture today. It wasn’t all that long ago that this year’s “Father of the Year” embarrassed the nation by his behavior with a young intern . . . only a few years older than his own daughter, and made our highest office a joke.

What does such a selection say about an organization?  What does it say about a culture?

Is old Bill really Father-of-the-Year material?  I am pretty certain that God doesn’t think so.  I believe He has a different standard by which He measures and evaluates what a father of the year should be.

I am studying/teaching the book of Amos, a man with a difficult message . . . to be delivered to a difficult people . . . and delivered at a difficult time.  In fact, the task was so burdensome, the man chosen to deliver that message assumed and used the name Amos while he did the task put before him by God. The name Amos means “Burden” or “Burden Bearer.”

Amos was assigned his task at a time in Israel’s history when that nation and its culture seemed to me to be much like what our culture is becoming today.  Just a bit of history and explanation: His experience was in the 8th century B.C., a time when the nation Israel was divided and functioning as two autonomous nations — the ten Northern tribes retained and used the name Israel, while the two Southern tribes used the name Judah.  Amos was a citizen of Judah, but called to deliver a message to the Northern tribes.  The message was harsh, but it wasn’t  Amos’ message . . . it was God’s message; His message . . . to His people.  A people He had delivered from 400 years of slavery in Egypt, delivered from threats . . . time after time, a people He had led by day with a cloud and by night with a pillar of fire . . . a people He had entered into the covenant relationship with . . . a people He had given a rich and fertile land.

At the time Amos stepped onto the stage of Israel’s history, the nation seemed to be in a period of prosperity and political security. The culture was being influenced by a rich and idle upper-class, and there was a mood of carelessness and pride. The social life of the nation was characterized by adultery, robbery, and murder.  The luxury of the wealthy was built upon injustice and oppression of the poor.  It was a period of spiritual corruption . . . religious formalism . . . rock-bottom morality . . . and social injustice . . . but the economy was good, so folks were happy, for the most part.

Amos was a man who might be described today as a man who was “the salt of the earth.”  He was a rural man and a sheep producer.  He supplemented his income by taking care of wild fig trees, but he was by no means a peasant.  He had a good understanding of the lifestyle of the upper-class . . . and the world around him.  He was a man who would have strongly believed in the values of rural life, resisted encroachments on those customs and upon his property; he had a distrust of the upper-class.  Amos was a man who would have related to Naboth in 1 Kings 21, a common man who refused to sell his ancestral land to King Ahab.  His refusal was based on his clear understanding that the land was not his personal possession to sell at his own pleasure . . . he understood that it was a gift from God to his family and it was his responsibility to see that it was maintained and passed on to his descendants . . . just as it had been passed to him.

Amos was a man who looked across the landscape of the day, saw things, and recognize some truths.  Here are some of the things Amos saw about the time in which he lived:

  1. He saw that the strength and prosperity of Israel was merely an illusion;
  2. He saw that the nation was morally corrupt;
  3. He saw that the nation’s middle class of farmers and shepherds was vanishing . . . while their lands were being confiscated by the aristocrats; and
  4. He saw that Israel’s military power was beginning to decline . . . and her great enemy, Assyria, was gaining strength.

In short, Amos looked at the culture of his day and saw it for what it was . . . a culture that was tragic when laid alongside God’s standard for His people.  What would this insightful man, Amos, see if he looked across the landscape of our culture today?  What do you think God sees?  What do you see?

It seems to me . . . the things that a few of the things which ought to qualify a man for consideration of the title, “Father of the Year” are:

A guy who loves and honors his wife and children;

A guy who always puts the needs of his wife and children above his own desires;

A guy who gets up every morning and goes to work and earns a living for his family;

A guy who spends time with his children, modeling and demonstrating integrity for them to see up close and personal . . . letting his children see his love and respect for their mom and the family in action;

A guy who answers his child’s question, “Daddy, why do you have to leave and go to war?” with the calm assurance . . . “Because I love you.”

A guy who loves his wife and kids so much that he stays and does the right thing . . . even during times when it might seem easier to just simply walk away;

A guy who wears an old pair of shoes, while buying his kid a new pair;

A guy who views his wife and kids as a gift from God and treasures them as such; and

A guy who loves his wife and children enough to teach them about God and His authority . . . and then let them see that in his own life.

Thankfully, there are still many such men across our nation (but sadly, stats show the number is decreasing). These are men who will likely never be awarded the title “Father of the Year” . . . But there are other, much more important, rewards ahead for those guys. It is a reality of life that fatherhood, and doing it correctly, is an important element that helps a nation produce the next generation of moral, decent citizens.

I know some of those good guys . . . Just to name a few: my son, Chris; my pal, Zach McKinney; my nephews: Cody Swope, Justin Whitsett, and Billy Leon Melton; and some of my friends: Bobby Albin, Bernard Baker, Jeff Groseclose, Homer Hanna, Billy Hembree, Roger Horan, John Jenkins, Ross McElwee, Jerry Mickey, Marty Moore, Steve Roland, Russell Smith, Robert Sweet, Bevans Welder, and Jed Wilshire.

Well done guys . . . keep it up. Your families depend on it . . . our nation depends on it.  

For an inspirational story, read A Father’s Day Perspective on Special Olympics:

A Father’s Day Perspective on Special Olympics

Was I robbed . . . or Was I blessed?





It was January 2, and Sandy and I were headed home from the ranch . . . Christmas and New Year’s behind us.  As we left Snyder, Sandy said, “Let’s go thru Burnet and see Granny. She is out of the hospital and back at the nursing home now.” We had been gone a while, but neither of us was in too much of a rush to get home. School would not start until Monday, and it would be quite a while before we would be able to go anywhere again.  It was the start of a new year; we were about to get back on the treadmill . . . new semesters would begin for her both at the high school where she teaches and at A & M where she is a student.  I would soon be in the middle of paying real estate taxes, distributing 1099’s and W-2’s, and facing both corporate and partnership tax dead-lines, reviewing annual inspections of the apartment complexes, and developing a capital development plan for the year. Between New Year’s and Spring Break is always a busy time for us.

After a nice visit with Granny, we headed home. As we arrived in San Antonio, Sandy woke up and asked where we were. Her second question was where we were going to eat dinner, and her third question was about the location of a Starbucks. Knowing one of her favorite places to eat is Paesano’s, I suggested that we go there. She was excited. As I entered the back side of the Quarry Mall and came up to the restaurant, I made a right turn in front of the restaurant, seeking a parking space close to the door since l have been having a knee problem. As I rounded the corner, a car was backing out of a perfect parking spot. I made a quick U-turn and headed back. As I approached the now-vacant space, a large, extended-cab Ford pickup was at the intersection with the left blinker on. I started to pull into the space and suddenly the guy in the pickup stepped on the gas and rushed toward me like he would ram me. Then, he slammed on his brakes, coming to a rest just a foot from my car. I thought, “If the dude wants it that bad, he can have it” and backed out. He swung around and quickly backed into the space. I noticed a car backing out of a space to my right, so I pulled into it. As we got out of the suburban, I told Sandy to go on in and I walked over to the pickup . . . it just sort of stuck in my craw the way the dude had behaved. As I walked up to his truck, I tapped on his window. He was on the phone, but rolled down the window and hung up. I politely reminded him that he had been sitting at the intersection with his left blinker on and I interpreted that to mean he was exiting the parking lot. He apologized for his rudeness and I accepted his apology and turned and headed for the restaurant to join Sandy.

We were seated in a timely manner and had a wonderful dinner. Afterward, I paid the check and we headed back to the suburban to start the 2 ½ hour drive home. As we exited the restaurant, we encountered a small group of folks in the parking area standing around a San Antonio Police officer’s car. I asked what was up and a guy told me that the parking lot had been hit by a gang of “smashers and grabbers.”  Two of the guys’ cars had been hit. I offered condolences and started toward our car. Sandy had already arrived at the suburban and called out, “They got us, too!”  I hurried over quickly . . . well as quickly as a guy with a knee injury could manage . . . and saw the passenger window scattered over the back seat . . . in about a million small pieces. Ugh

As we looked around, we discovered that they had gotten one of my new, really nice suits, a new shirt and tie, and some other clothes that had been hanging. They got both of our iPads, a bank bag from the console which contained several hundred dollars in cash, and a few other things. I was amazed when I opened the cargo section to discover that they had not taken my deer rifles and other hunting gear – things worth quite a bit of money.

When it was my turn to talk to the police officer, I told him that the guys who did this weren’t too bright . . . they had left the GPS (which is not registered) . . . and took two iPads (which are registered, and thus, useless to them and unsalable); they took clothes that most likely would not fit them, yet left valuable weapons and hunting gear untouched. The cop said they were quite likely crack-users and just trying to score enough stuff to get a new fix.

His comment really struck me hard and made me think. What a sad life those guys are living . . . their primary objective for the day being: to steal enough stuff to get another fix. Once, a beautiful, bouncing baby, full of potential and promise, now reduced to this lifestyle . . . and because of choices made along the way.  My anger over having been a victim faded away and I began to think about how blessed I am. So, I did what the old Hymn suggests, I began to count my blessings. Here are a few of those blessings for which I am thankful:

  1. I was raised in a family that believed and taught me that it is better to work than it is to take things that don’t belong to me; taught me to follow the rules and to respect others. Those are good things to be taught.
  2. I was blessed with a sweet, Christian mother who taught me that I was created by God and that He loves me. She reminded me often that He watches what I do and one day I will have to stand before Him and account for my deeds. That created a very real discipline in my life, which every young boy needs. She would also take me to the wood-shed on occasion, also something every young boy needs.
  3.  I accepted Christ at an early age and my sins have been forgiven.
  4. I am blessed with a love for the Holy Scriptures, and a reasonably good ability to comprehend it as I read it. I am also blessed in that I can do a pretty fair job of explaining it to others.
  5. I have been blessed with a wonderful wife: a good, decent, and dependable woman; faithful in every way. She has been a wonderful influence in my life. She has been a great mother to our children. She has been a delightful companion over the past 40 years.
  6. I am blessed with two great children . . . actually, they are not children any longer, but I suppose I will always refer to them like that.
  7. I have a reason and purpose to get up each and every morning . . . and an opportunity to do something for someone else. Today, I am going to the hospital to see a friend who was recently diagnosed with cancer. I will sit with his family while he is in surgery. I am glad that I am blessed with a heart that wants to serve others . . . rather than hurt them.
  8. I am blessed with a good family . . . we don’t always agree . . . but we always know the others are there.
  9. I am blessed that Sandy and I did not walk out of the restaurant while our car was being vandalized; that could have been a disaster.

It is pretty amazing how the influences in our lives affect the choices we make through life. It is pretty amazing how the choices we make dictate the life we live.

So, I don’t feel any ill-will toward the “smashers and grabbers” . . . well, perhaps still just a little bit . . . there was one thing they took that was really precious to me. They also took a CD case filled a collection of some of the greatest sermons I have ever heard.  The collection included sermons by my dear friend, Charles Fake, my dear friend, Walter Knight, and an assorted group of black preachers whom I really enjoy and learn from. I always loved to listen to them while making a long drive . . . But who knows what might happen? Those smashers and grabbers took the CD case thinking it had value . . . they don’t know how right they were. Now, if they will listen to those sermons . . . they can discover that value and . . . perhaps . . . the path to a much better life. Wouldn’t that be something? Those CD’s are filled with information about God, His great love and His amazing ability to change a life . . . PERHAPS . . . History is full of stories of how God has reached through time and space to touch a life and in many cases in a most unusual way. With Him . . . all things are possible.