The Reformation . . .

Do you ever consider the great liberties we have today relative to what we believe about God and how we choose to express that belief? Each one of us ought to do so and to do it with a grateful heart. Many who went before us did not enjoy such liberties, and some of them paid a great price so that we might.

It was on this date, October 31, in the year 1517, that one, Martin Luther, nailed his 95-point challenge to debate on the door of the All Saint’s Church in Wittenberg, Germany.
His theses reflected the growing struggle that thinking men had come to have relative to the teaching and dictates of the Roman Catholic Church. Each of the 95 points challenged one such teaching.

Reports are that Luther and others had begun thinking about and discussing what the Apostle Paul meant in Romans 1:17 . . . “for therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, the just shall live by faith.” A meaningful perusal of that bold declaration by Paul prompted a bold challenge by Luther and others, who would later be called “Reformers.” Their challenge would be directed toward those who sought to control people through dogma, vain philosophies, and man-made traditions—the very things the Pharisees had used on the people of Israel. Scripture declares that Jesus came to “set the captive free,” and these thinking men began to question why religion was working tirelessly to hold them captive.

Through their studies, discussions, and struggles they developed some terms that served much like battle-cries in this spiritual war in which they found themselves. Here are a few of those terms:

Sensus literalis . . . meaning: The literal sense (meaning) of the “Scripture” . . . and they were confident that they could know it, and even more confident they could depend upon it.

Solo scriptura . . . meaning: with the Scripture alone

Solo Christo . . . meaning: Christ Alone!

Sola gratia . . . meaning: by grace alone

Sola fide . . . meaning: through faith alone

Gloria . . . meaning: to God alone be the glory!

The efforts of Luther and other good, thinking men brought the historical era known as the “Reformation” about. Of course, it was much greater than simply a man-made resistance or a period of religious unrest and civil resistance/disobedience. In truth it was an awakening prompted by the Holy Spirit himself. Things were about to speed up . . . It would just be another
short 100 years until Columbus would discover the new world (100 years sure seems like a long time to a human, but remember that 1,000 years is like a day to God)!

This awakening that came through the Reformation would help drive people by the thousands and thousands across the Atlantic . . . Believers determined to worship God as they felt right and proper, and not as dictated by one wearing a white collar . . . and as ordered by an unseen group of Church officials.

It all began on this date in history . . . a long time ago!

Personally, I believe there are still some thinking folks around today . . . Folks who have quietly been mentally putting question marks down about some new things that are showing up today and being incorporated into Baptist a Life and our corporate worship, under the label of “Normal, progressive, and good.”

Honestly, and frankly, there may well be another awakening ahead of us. It Seems to me . . . that the way Baptists have behaved and worshipped over the past couple of hundred years just can’t have been all that wrong and off course!!! History verifies that God greatly used Baptists in an amazing way through that era, and He typically does not use for His purposes . . . those who are doing wrong.

It Seems to me . . . that we, as modern day Baptists, are being influenced by a modern leadership that keeps waiting on . . . promoting and working toward . . . The Next Big Thing! And I fear there is danger in that for us as a denomination. The Scripture is clear on the subject of the only “Next Big Thing” we are to anticipate . . . and calls it the Second Coming! Regardless of what our leaders may believe, insist upon and promote, the absolute truth is that after the Day of Pentecost, (the indwelling of Believers by the Spirit of the Risen Christ), there is only one big thing for which the Church is encouraged and instructed to look for . . . and that is Jesus coming in great glory!

The simple truth is that much of what is being introduced today only serves to make us look like, behave as, and emulate the world around us. The tragedy is that the Scripture cautions that this very thing will occur as the REAL “Next Big Thing” approaches! Are we asleep at the wheel? God forbid!

 

What a genuine blessing looks like . . .

I have been struggling of late, and am far off of my “A” game.

I have a right knee that is shot . . . and it has been shot for several years!  Today, I only have one option . . . that being total knee-replacement.  Of course, I should have taken care of it years ago, but truth be told, I simply had not run out of excuses.  Today, I am flat out of excuses.

Last week, I finally submitted to the reality of my situation and went to San Antonio to see an orthopedic surgeon whose specialty is knees.  As I sat in his office with Sandy, there were a number of show-offs who offered testimonials of what knee-replacements had done for them.  I felt pretty dumb as I listened to them over why I had delayed the inevitable.

Unfortunately, last Sunday morning I took a step and my knee buckled and I went down on both knees . . . and I messed them both up . . . even more!  Now, I have swollen, injured knees and am unable to take a step, unaided.  Sandy called Chris and he dropped everything and came running.  He has been a great help and a wonderful source of comfort and encouragement.

This afternoon I received a text from Sarah . . . wherein she included a letter Ali had written to The Lord . . . on my behalf!  As I read it, I got a tear in my eye and a big lump in my throat.  I immediately thought of Matthew 12:16, wherein Jesus said, “Out of the mouths of babes thou has perfected praise!”

Here is my sweet little granddaughter’s letter:

She is a brand new Baptized Believer, too!

 

 

 

Aftermath . . .

For a number of years we have owned a lovely boat, actually a Cruiser. By virtue of price and size it is described by the Coast Guard and our BoatUS insurance policy as a “Yacht.”  We bought her as the “Chili Pepper,” and I later renamed her “Aftermath” . . . with Sandy being a math teacher.  (“After Math” we can go have fun on the boat!)  We have always had a boat, but never anything close to “Aftermath.”

The kids were grown and off in school, and we decided that we could afford a large boat. That decision sets us on something like a two year search for the right vessel. Finally, I got a lead on a Bertram in Kemah so we drove up for the weekend.  We had reservations at the South Shore Harbor Resort Hotel for the week-end and I had an early-morning appointment with a yacht broker on Saturday morning.  We drove in on Friday evening feeling like we were part of the jet-set!  I found an upscale restaurant and we had an elegant dinner.  We made our way to the hotel and got checked in after 11 pm. We just sat and talked about where we had started our journey, and where we were at that moment.  We thanked The Lord for his blessings in our life . . . we thanked him for how he had blessed, rewarded, and increased our hard work through the years.

The next morning I woke at the crack of dawn, like a little boy on Christmas morning.  I started the coffee maker, went to the lavatory and rinsed my mouth and brushed my teeth, and went back and stole a cup of the brewing coffee.  I walked over the drapes and pulled the cord on the wall that was completely glass and looked down on the harbor below.  I was absolutely wowed . . . several acres of water and marina . . . packed with the most beautiful yachts in the world.  With the firm belief that before the sun set that evening, one of them would be ours!!  Sandy tends not to be quite as excitable at that hour, so she was still in bed stretching and grumbling about Saturday mornings were made for rest . . . and in a couple of instances, she used the religion card with referenced to the Sabbath.  I urged her to get out of that darn bed and come and behold.  I exclaimed, “I believed I died last night and went to Heaven, and I knew it would look just like this!!”

Finally, I roused her out of bed with the promise of a fancy breakfast and Starbucks.  We arrived at the broker’s office on the dock below on time, got acquainted and went to look at the Bertram we had come to see. Wow, it was, indeed, a ‘fixer upper,’ and actually needed more fixing than I was able or willing to do!  I decided to pass, so the broker and I headed back to his floating office.  Sandy stayed behind and walked around ‘kicking tires’ . . . so to speak.  The broker and I looked at the photo journal of a number of vessels, and I made a list of a few I thought had potential . . . which proved to be a complete waste of time.  Sandy walked in and announced that she had found our boat!  So we followed her down the dock where she pointed out the Chili Pepper and announced that was the boat she wanted.  I was speechless . . . the vessel was clearly beautiful and even elegant, but good-grief, it was a girl’s boat!!  It didn’t even have a tall tuna tower, for Pete’s sake.  The broker saw the dilemma and decided he ought to lend me a hand, and said, “Sandy, this is truly a fine boat, but it is a pleasure, luxury cruiser, and Johnny wants a fishing boat.”  She smiled ever so sweetly and replied, “Johnny has a marvelous fishing boat . . . Bamonitias!  This will be a fine week-end boat, with the comforts of home!  It didn’t take long to check her out, and we made an offer on the vessel, all subject to survey (the term used for a professional marine inspection).  I checked around and located the absolute best “Buyer” surveyor, and engaged him.  That good man taught me more about a yacht in a couple of hours than I could ever imagine possible.

We spent the next couple of weeks walking through the long process (which is much like buying real estate — at least for vessels documented by the Coast Guard and the Department of a Homeland Security.

When we finally had everything completed, and had a closing scheduled for mid-afternoon on Friday, Sandy, Walter, and I loaded up and drove to Clear Lake.  We also had my friend Capt Charles Clark along to act as Captain . . . we figured out that as a tug-boat captain for 30 years, he had made the journey through the inter-coastal canal (ICWW) over 5,000 times.  My darling little sister, Dorothy, flew into Houston Intercontinental airport for the weekend. We spent the night at the hotel and had a planned departure from the marina at first light to bring our new vessel home.  While we were at the hotel checking in, we encountered a most polite, well-dressed black fellow offering limo services.  I thought, “What the heck?” and sent him after Dorothy, and scheduled him to drive us to dinner (but, of course, I negotiated a rate).

The girls took off in the suburban and went and bought provisions for the trip home, and returned and stocked the fridge and set it up with cookware and dishes.

We had a lovely dinner at the famous Landry’s Aquarium on the Boardwalk.  I insisted that our driver park the limo and join us for dinner, and he reluctantly did so.  After Walter said the blessing over the meal and thanked The Lord for his goodness, the driver . . . almost in tears, told us that his dad was an immigrant Baptist preacher from Africa and spoke of his own faith, and thanked us for being genuine people of faith.  We enjoyed a delightful dinner, filled with laughter, stories and love.  Afterward, we returned to the hotel to get some rest.

The next morning, we were on the boat by dawn and began a two-day journey home.  What a grand trip . . . what a great learning experience . . . What a sweet time of fellowship.  A trip and a weekend I will always remember.  What a great vessel!

We have loved and enjoyed her greatly.  Every 4th of July, we loaded her up with friends and family and went out into Aransas Bay and enjoyed dinner and the fireworks show.  We have had as many as 50 folks on her for that event; yet, at other times, we had smaller groups and simply cruised about and docked at a waterfront restaurant and enjoyed dinner. We would chuckle that with marine fuel being over $5 a gallon and Aftermath using over 2 gallons of fuel per mile, we were having a quite expensive meal.

We just sold Aftermath this afternoon to a ranching family from Laredo. They seem as proud and excited as we were that first evening.  I hope and pray that they will love and enjoy her and have the great family time as we did!  Aftermath . . . a great vessel . . . a yacht in a class all by herself.  One of my fondest moments was as I was returning home from a trip, I stopped at a Stripes in Sinton for fuel.  I was wearing a polo shirt with Aftermath and the ship emblem monogrammed on it.  The guy getting gas on the other side of the pump looked over and asked, “Sir, is that Aftermath docked in the Key Allegro marina?”  I said that it was and he smiled and said, “She is the prettiest vessel in the marina!”  I felt like a proud new papa!

Thank you, Lord for allowing us to own and enjoy this great vessel through the years!

 

 

 

Our Solar System continued . . . Mercury: The Iron Planet (one small, simple piece)

The first planet from the sun is said to be Mercury, believed to be 40% larger than the moon and a heavily cratered ball of rock and iron.  An interesting thing about Mercury is that it has no satellite of its own, and is huddled to the searing sun . . . more than 2/3rds closer than is the earth. On average, Mercury orbits the moon about every 88 days. Almost beyond comprehension, its daytime surface temperature peaks at about 430 Celsius . . . which is 806 F (using the conversion formula of: subtract 32 and multiply by .5556 (or 5/9ths); and then at night the temperature drops by more than 600 degrees Celsius, and is then something like -500 degrees . . . all this simply due to its proximity to the sun!  No other planet exhibits a more extreme range of temperature.

Another interesting thing I discovered about Mercury is that no other planet has a more eccentric orbit.  In fact, most all of the other planets, except Pluto, have a mostly circular orbit.  Its significant iron content also gives it a very high density, which is thought to be comparable to Earth’s.  Based on its odd orbit and high density, some astronomers argue that Mercury might just be an accident . . . e. g. the outcome of some cosmic collision deep in the planet’s past.

Astronomers report that it appears as a battered world, much like the moon.  They report that the color is slightly different and appears more coppery than the grey that characterizes our satellite. They report that it, surprisingly, has no volcanoes, is devoid of an atmosphere, and that it does on occasion capture some gas — helium and hydrogen — both from the solar wind; however, the density is far too low for it to be considered as “air” in any real sense.

Mercury has never had water in any form because it is so close to the sun that such volatile compounds could not condense. Thus, lacking volcanism, air, and water — which are powerful forces of erosion on earth — Mercury’s surface is a fossil, geologically dead, and no part of its surface is ever moved by air and/or water from one place and deposited in another.  Mercury’s surface has not changed since astronomers began studying it.

Craters appear over almost its entire surface and they are in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, forming a mountainous terrain, known as the highlands. Astronomers explain the rugged surface as the result of the planet’s heavy bombardment it endured as it was being formed.  Mercury is an interesting planet . . . which appears to be wealthy in various ores, but it is clearly protected from man’s touch, and based on common reasoning, it will always be . . . in that humans have not discovered how to deal with a temperature swing of 800 above to 500 below in a 24-hour time frame.

As I ponder all of this and realize that the sun, Mercury, and the earth are simply part of God’s vast creation . . . It Seems to me . . . that from our perspective, these are a huge part of God’s creation . . . but from God’s perspective, they are only a rather small part of His handiwork!

In Isaiah 40, the Prophet is comparing God to his creation and says some amazing things. Some of which are:

vs 18 . . . to whom will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare unto him?

vs 21 . . . “Have you not known?  Have you not been told from the beginning?  Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?

vs 22 . . . it is he that sits upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are like grasshoppers; that stretches out the heavens as a curtain, and spreads them out as a tent to dwell in.

vs 25 . . . to whom then will you liken me, or shall I be equal? says the Holy One.

vs 26 . . . Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that brings out their host by number; he calls them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one who can faileth.

vs 28 . . . Have you not known? Have you not heard, the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, never faints nor grows weary? There is no searching of his understanding.

Astrologers say there over 150 billion stars in our galaxy . . . the Milky Way.  How many galaxies are there?  Just last year they discovered an unknown galaxy . . . only 5.7 million light years away from us.  They tell us that this galaxy produces more stars in one day than ours produces in an entire year!

Now, here is something amazing . . . up close and personal . . . my God, my Redeemer calls each and every one of them by name.  Hey, he made each of them and placed them there to declare His glory!

Jeremiah 33:22 says that no one can number them . . . but God is able to call each one by its name . . . Duh, actually the name HE gave it!

It Seems to me . . . that if God knows the star’s names . . . He certainly knows your name!

It also Seems to me . . . that the stars and the universe are clearly under God’s management . . . and God’s control!

More to follow . . .


 

Our Solar System . . . continued

In my quest to try understanding the creation of the solar system and how it is arranged and functions, I have learned that scientists tell us that they have identified five (5) distinct zones within our solar system. This is what they report:

The First Zone: is thought to lie within 1.7 AU (astronomical units—the distance from the earth to the sun . . . each unit being estimated at 150,000,000 kilometers of the Sun . . . with 1,000 KM being equal to 0.621 miles) and the home to what is referred to as the four terrestrial planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars.

The Second Zone: is the expanse from about 2-3.3 AU and is said to be made up of asteroids (a heavily-cratered stony or metallic body). These asteroids are found through the solar system, but especially in the “Asteroid Belt” which is said to be located between Juniper and Mars.  Asteroids range in size from dust-like particles up to large massive objects that measure hundreds of kilometers across.  Hollywood has recently made a few movies about an asteroid breaking out of orbit and headed toward earth at a frightening rate of speed. Scientists believe the asteroids are debris from various bodies within the solar system.

The Third Zone: is much larger, and is viewed as “the realm of the giants.”  Its innermost boundary is marked by the planet Jupiter, which is almost twice as far from the Sun as is Mars and its outermost boundary lies at Neptune, fully six times further from the Sun than even Jupiter.  All of the giant planets are far bigger than the terrestrials, with compositions of ices and gases — and comparatively little rock.

The Fourth Zone: is the Kuiper belt of comets, or the so-called trans-Neptunian objects. This extends from roughly the orbit of Neptune to some unknown place, suggested to be as far as perhaps 1000 AU.  This zone is said to be an icy wasteland; home to the “tiny worldlet known as Pluto.

The Fifth Zone: is the largest by three orders of magnitude.  It is the spherical shell of icy comets called the Oort Cloud that surrounds the sun at a distance that might even exceed 50,000 AU . . . which is a large fraction of a light-year (which is said to be 5.878625 trillion miles . . . which is computed by this formula: 286,282 feet per second x all of the seconds in a year)!!!  It is believed that the comets on both the Oort cloud and the Kuiper belt owe their presence in the solar system to the gravities of Neptune and Uranus.

Through this research, I have a better understanding of the Sun and its family. One interesting quote I encountered along the way was: “Everything flows . . . and nothing stays” by Heraclitus, Cratylus (Plato).  His quote is clever; but, of course, it is simply wrong.  It is true that everything in the universe . . . within the solar system and also upon earth . . . is moving . . . and nothing stands still, but in a way that is far beyond human comprehension, reasoning, and understanding, God holds it all together and it does stay in place, regardless of how it may seem to us.

Here are some Biblical declarations which I believe coincide with the truths of our solar system:

1 Corinthians 15: 38 . . . But God gives it a body as He has determined, and to each kind of seed He gives it its own body.  Not all flesh is the same: people have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another, and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another, and the stars another; and each star differs from the other stars in splendor.

Genesis 1:16 . . . and God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; he made the stars also. 17 . . . And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth. 18 . . . And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good.

Psalms 8:3 . . . When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou has ordained

Job 26:13 . . . By his spirit he hath garnished the heavens.

Amos 5:8 . . . Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The Lord is his name.

 

Psalm 104:24 . . . O Lord, how mainfold are thy works! In wisdom has thou made them all; the earth is full of thy riches.

As I try to take it all in, I am simply overwhelmed by even my simply comprehension and assessment of the greatness and power of the Lord God.  It simply makes me feel small and ignorant.  Moreover, I am just dumbfounded and frightened for those confused people who deny that God exists.  I believe that is the group of which Paul spoke of in Romans 1:22 when he said, “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”

 

The entire story of creation and God’s activity is full of mystery . . . and perhaps one of the greatest parts of that mystery is found in the old question, “Who is man, that thou are mindful of him?”

This pursuit of the solar system will be put on hold for a few days, as I make another pursuit in San Antonio . . . that pursuit being to flesh out an able doctor who can help my back, my knee, and help me feel normal again!

Pssssssssssssss (I am also going to sneak off afterward to see Ali and Abi . . . and that always puts me in another world!)!

 

 

Sweet and Sour . . .

The first time I ever encountered the term “Sweet and sour” was in a Chinese-food restaurant when I was a young guy.  The term appeared on the menu concerning a variety of dishes being offered.  For some reason, the Sweet and Sour pork dish is what I tend to recall more than any of the others.  Of course, that is not what I ordered.  The truth be told, I rarely ate in ethnic restaurants—but when I did eat Chinese, I always ordered Chow Mein.  I am not sure why because I never particularly liked it, but I suppose I did simply because it was basically safe . . . in that I could both properly pronounce it and could also eat it.

Over the years I experienced a variety of experiences with both Sweet and Sour tendencies . . . and have always found it curious how they just seem to come together as a package.  A few examples:

 

The pleasure of doing seminars . . . vs . . . the hassle of airports, lost luggage, hotels, away from home

The pleasure of going fishing . . . vs . . . the hassle of cleaning the boat and tackle after saltwater use

The pleasure of a pretty yard . . . vs . . . the time, labor, and expense of maintaining it

The pleasure of loving people . . . vs . . . the struggles that often come in relationships

The pleasure of serving the Lord in His New Testament Church . . . vs . . . the challenges associated with exposure to Super-Christians who spend much time and energy polishing their halos to blinding brilliance—and are so much more Spiritual than the rest of us simple sinners

This past week-end, Sandy and I drove to San Antonio on Thursday morning and returned home Sunday evening. It was a week-end with considerable “Sweet and sour” events!  On Thursday morning, both of us saw an orthopedic specialist for a problem knee . . . mine an old and on-going issue . . . hers a new and recent thing.  The Doc drew a large amount of fluid from my right knee and gave me a shot of cortisone, and announced, “You are about to feel much better” . . . boy was that dude ever wrong!  I don’t have much pain in the knee, but I can no longer trust the darn thing.  I feel it trying to buckle on most steps, and that is unnerving.  In any event, we scheduled a date for a knee replacement.

As part of that scheduling, I was dispatched a few blocks away to my friend, Dr. Martin Wiesenthal (these doc’s are friends and Sandy and I are with the orthopedic specialist only because Wiesenthal set it up for us).  I was sent back to Wiesenthal for pre-op clearance.  He checked me over and announced me healthy and fit, and then had the nurse do an EKG.  He came back into the room after a few minutes and said, “I am not too certain about the EKG, and just for safety’s sake, I would like for you to have a stress test.”  NOTE: Last year when I was having my neck repaired, he also did an EKG and it, too, showed a potential problem, and he sent me to the hospital for a stress test.  The stress test proved that there were no problems, and the neck surgery happened as planned.  My Friend did tell me that he is pretty sure that this time it may not be quite as simple and suggested that the Cardiologist may want to do a stint.  He assured me that it was both a routine and good thing.  I trust him and know that he looks after me well (he actually stayed with me at the hospital the entire time during my previous stress test, and he actually came to see me in pre-op before my neck surgery . . . not as a doc, just as my friend! He likes to come down fishing . . . and I am his connection.

After Sandy got a good check-up and report from her other doctor, we left San Antonio and went to the Hill Country house . . . which we are now calling “205 . . . ?”  That story will appear here later as another blog.  We spent the night at the house and then drove to Waco on Friday.  We had dinner that evening in West with Chris, Sarah, GG, Ali, and Abi.  Unfortunately, there had been a death in Sarah’s family and there was a viewing that evening and a funeral the next morning, so our dinner was cut short.  Then, on Saturday we were invited out to spend the afternoon with the girls while Sarah prepared a family dinner.  She did a lovely job; the dinner was excellent, and we had the best time with the girls . . . they were our focus and we were their focus!  What a sweet time!  Later that evening we said our “Good Nights” and Ali went to the hotel with us for the evening.  Ali and I spent an hour or so in the pool before going to the room for the evening.  I love hanging out with that girl.

The next morning, we played hooky from Sunday school and Church, and enjoyed a relaxed brunch at the hotel.  As we finished up, Ali asked about going to a park so that she and Nana could swing.  We used GPS and located Brooklyn Park, which is located only a couple of blocks from Baylor’s new McClain Stadium.  The girls had a big time, then we drove out to West, stopped at Bush’s Chicken and picked up a family pack, and met the others for a final meal.  Abi was delighted to see us again so quickly.  After the meal, we drove home and listened to the Cowboys and Giants (on Sirius/XM radio) and the Cowboys won in a pretty competitive game. They are now 6 & 1 . . . and I am speechless!

It Seems to me . . . that it was a weekend that had both elements of “Sweet & Sour.”  It just seems impossible to completely separate the two . . . they just seem to run as a pair, or perhaps it is really an issue of Sour chasing on the hills of the Sweet!

I am confident that there is more Sweet than there is Sour in life . . . and It Seems to me that if there wasn’t some of the sour, we might not be able to recognize and appreciate the Sweet! 

Summary:

. . . I have a problem knee . . . but am on a plan to get that corrected!

. . . I may need a stint . . . but my friend says it will make me healthier and have more energy!

. . . I got to spend what was probably my sweetest weekend with the girls . . . and I suspect Nana would agree with that, except that we had very little time with Chris.

. . . The Coyboys beat the Giants for the first time in quite a while, so perhaps they are as improved as Chris claims!

 

 


 

The Solar System . . . Past and Present

I have been amazed at the blood moon that has been displayed recently.  Just the other night, I saw a photo posted on FaceBook of that moon rising over the City of Fort Worth . . . and as I gazed in wonder at the massive body and the awe-inspiring coloring, it occurred to me, once again, that I know very little about our solar system . . . that portion of the universe which we see beyond the earth’s atmosphere.  I have always been curious about it and amazed at the brilliance of it all, especially when viewing it from a vessel in the Gulf of Mexico — where man-made lighting does not diminish its brilliance.  Allow me to explain that statement . . . man-made lighting could never really interfere with the brilliance of celestial lighting, but it does affect human eyesight’s ability to fully appreciate the majesty of it all.

Aware of my ignorance of the universe, I have made efforts in times past to study and learn more about it all. Yet, each time I set out to do so, I encountered a limited supply of educational materials. I found it to be filled and congested with, and influenced by things like the Big Bang Theory, as well as other similar teachings about how the solar system “evolved over a several hundred million year period.”  A brief time with such materials made me weary and discouraged in my studies.  Becoming weary, I simply left it behind and moved onto something else.

I readily confess that I know little of the solar system’s design, composition, structure, function, and placement/arrangement; however, that certainly doesn’t imply that I am ignorant of its origin.  I fully know that my God created it all . . . and as He hung each part in space, He issued instruction that it was to remain where He placed it . . . and to do what it was created and designed to do . . . until He commanded it to do something different.  With that strong belief, I am simply unable and unwilling to learn from, study behind, or accept the teaching, theories, and hypothesis of anyone who is too ignorant to understand and accept the truth that God created it all.  For me, if one is unable to establish the proper foundation, I must put question marks about what it is they propose to build.  I simply reject theories such as the “nebular hypothesis” and others that begin with an event wherein the Sun and the planets condensed from a gargantuan disc of gas and dust that had evolved from a cloud of interstellar material.

With that as an introduction, I intend to blog some for the next bit about what I have sniffed out recently concerning the structure of our solar system.

Here is point one in my discovery, thus far: The first thing I wanted to try to understand and get set in my hard-head concerns the arrangement of our planetary system . . . the structure of our solar territory . . . meaning how it is all arranged.  Always having assumed that the earth is the “center of all things” (how human of me, right?), I was disturbed to learn that, in truth, the center of the solar system is the large yellow star we call the sun!  The truth is that we live in a “sun-centered” or a heliocentric solar system.  That gave me pause.

I am not sure why I first struggled with this new information. As I stop and consider it all on a deeper level, I am able to see a deep spiritual truth in this . . . like a synonym . . . we do live in a world created by God, and His Word, His purpose, plan, and provisions . . . are centered upon and revolve around His “SON” . . .

Perhaps the Psalmist had a greater understanding of the solar system than we have today . . . He sure declared that he was able to see God’s great glory reflected in the skies!

It Seems to Me . . . That one of mankind’s greatest shortcomings is our strong inclination to first think of ourselves and our own desires. The sad truth about us is that it requires discipline to cause us to turn our thoughts toward God and to consider where He has placed us . . . and seek to understand why He did so!

More to follow . . .

 

 

 


 

I am a Dallas Cowboy fan . . . but not the new-style fan

I was a 10-year-old boy in 1960, when the team joined the NFL as an expansion team, and I watched and yelled over the years as it became one of the most successful teams in the history of the NFL, as well as in any and all American sports teams.  I enjoyed watching the team win 20 consecutive years (a record), win the most playoff games (33 of 58), have the most appearances in NFC championship games, and played in eight Super Bowls.  I saw them win three super bowls in a four-year period.

I have watched and loved this team since it was Lamar Hunt’s AFL team named the “Texans.”  I watched it go through a series of names: Dallas Steers . . . Dallas Rangers . . . and ultimately it became the Dallas Cowboys.  I watched on as the original Cowboy owners, Clint and John Murchison, along with a group of minority investors, bought Lamar Hunt out, hired Tex Schramm as the General Manager, Gil Brandt as Player Personnel Director, and Tom Landry as the head coach.  I watched on as this trio proved to be the stuff from which legends are made.  I watched on over the great years as they built Texas Stadium, installed the Cowboy Cheer leaders, and built the team up to become the highest valued sports franchise in the history of the world . . . and evolved into “America’s Team!”  The Cowboy’s were my team . . . Hey, I was a Texan!!

The team’s first stadium was the Cotton Bowl, and that first year they went 0 – 11 – 1.  But that was OK, I just knew it would change! Then the next year, they picked up one Bob Lilly from TCU in the draft, and players such as Don Perkins, Don Meredith, Chuck Howley, Lee Roy Jordan, and Mel Renfro were signed and began to make the team competitive.  Then these football masterminds added Dan Reeves and Bullet Bob Hayes.  My friends and I watched and yelled in ’65 as the team went 500 at 7 & 7, and in again in ’66 as they went 10 – 3 and 1 . . . their first winning season!  I proudly watched as they appeared in the NFL Championship game. Then, in ’67, they finished at 9 & 5, and that year met the Packers in Super Bowl II in Green Bay.  I, along with my brothers and pals, sat on the floor and watched the game that would become known as “The Ice Bowl.”  It was the coldest game in NFL history with a chill factor of something near -40 degrees, and we shivered as we looked on at our heroes. That game forever changed the location of Super Bowl sites.  I remember later reading about Jethro Pugh removing his shoes after the game and some of his toes actually breaking off inside the shoes!!

From that time all the way up through the mid to late 1980’s, I, along with every Cowboy fan, always expected our team to make the playoffs.  I had a son, Chris, in 1980, and I suspect the only clothes he wore for the first couple of years proudly displayed the Cowboy star!  I taught that dude to be a Cowboy fan . . . and for a period of almost 20 years I took him to many games in Texas Stadium to see our team play . . . many of those times I carried him on my shoulder so he could see over the crowd!  I loved to hear him “Oooh and Ahh” at the sight of that great stadium with the large hole in the roof.  I took him many times when I simply could not afford to do so — but hey, this was my son and Dallas was our team.

I believe it was about ’88 when the Cowboys had a 10-game losing streak, and I along with a bunch of other Texans, suffered great heart-ache . . . which would turn to major heart-burn over the next few years. This would prove to be the beloved Tom Landry’s last year.  Soon after, Bum Bright sold the team to a goofy dude from Arkansas, named Jerry Jones, and I was amazed that a danged hillbilly now owned the World Class Dallas Cowboys!  I had visions of the Beverly Hillbillies involved with my beloved Cowboys!  Jones’ first act as the new owner was to hire University of Miami coach, Jimmy Johnson, and there were some horror stories told about him! Jones’ next act was to fly to Austin, track down Tom Landry on a golf course and publicly fire him!  That evil and disrespectful deed brought considerable criticism from all over the Nation. Yet, Johnson drafted Troy Aikman as Quarterback, and then traded the Cowboy’s only legitimate player, Hershel Walker, to the Vikings for five veteran players and eight draft choices.  Soon, he added Daryl Johnson (The Moose”), Mark Stepnoski, Emmitt Smith, Russell Maryland, Darren Woodson, and they joined Michael Irvin, Nate Newton, Ken Norton, Jr.  and Mark Tuinei, Jay Novacek, and Charles Haley.  Then in 1991, the march toward the glory that had faded away began all over again . . . and the Cowboys ended up 11 and 5.  The team went on to win the Wild Card game, only to lose to the Lions in the Championship game, but the Cowboys were back in the hunt again!!

Then it happened in a big way in 1992 as they went 13 & 3 and displayed the best defense the NFL had seen in a number of years. This was the year that they beat the 49ers and avenged our ’81 NFC Championship loss to them. We then soundly routed the Bills in the Super Bowl. There were a number of awards and records for and amongst the players, but Jimmy Johnson became the first coach to win both a Super Bowl as an NFL coach and a National Championship as a college coach.  Sadly, the great injustice to the once great Tom Landry was overlooked . . . but not totally forgiven.  Nonetheless, Cowboy fans were once again happy, satisfied people, and we had a coach who could produce again!

The next season, we went 12 & 4, and again won the Super Bowl!  In spite of the great success, two old enemies of success . . . liquor and human pride/foolishness came into play as Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson had a dispute in a bar one evening over who was most for the team’s success. Jerry Jones declared that he “could take Barry Switzer” and match anything Johnson had done!! Johnson retired and exited stage left, and Jones was not able to do as claimed!

Under Switzer (with the same basic team Johnson had built) the teams went 12 & 4 again, and lost to the 49ers in the NFC Championship game. With a number of key injuries, most Cowboy fans knew the hand-writing was on the wall, and the message seemed troubling.  In spite of that sense of impending doom, the team managed to go 12 & 4 again, and to once again win the Super Bowl!

Then it began to crumble in ’96 with some career-ending injuries and criminal/drug/assault charges and a series of off-field problems.  Hence the old joke, “What do you call a drug ring in Dallas?” . . . the answer: “A huddle.”  The next year they would record a poor 6 & 10, and Barry Switzer was arrested in an airport on a weapons charge. The Cowboys collapsed, Switzer resigned, and the future turned sour.  A series of poor coaches would follow, including Chan Gailey, Dave Campo, and too-old-and-too-tired: Bill Parcells and Wade Phillips.  Every one of them proof-positive that GM Jerry Jones was a nut, knew little about an NFL team, and even less about the game . . . and added to that, he is a difficult and contrary buzzard to work with.

Then with a combination of Jerry Jones, Jason Garrett as head coach, and Tony Romo as QB, the team began a new series of hit and misses.  Showing occasional flashes of potential greatness, but only at times . . . and then self-destructing and causing confusion, frustration, and humiliation for me as a fan.  Romo would play terrific for 3 and 1/2 quarters, then manage to toss an interception or fumble to lose the game.  During this frustrating era, Jerry Jones would construct the amazing new stadium and add to the confusion.

I remained a Cowboy fan . . . but now I had become a fan with an attitude . . . and a strong dislike for the darn Hillbilly, a distrust of any and all things he said and did and, in general, a negative sense about the team.  All the while, Chris tugged at me, pulled on me, encouraged me, pleaded with me . . . and finally yelled at me!!  He wanted his old Cowboy-loving Dad back . . . and he became super defensive about all things Cowboy.  He insisted that the return to glory was forthcoming . . . but I refused to see it!

Chris and I would spend a number of years at odds over the Cowboys . . . me the old fan . . . and him as the new-generation fan.  Me, totally disgusted by anything and everything that damaged the Cowboys image and integrity . . . him, simply doing analysis of the current team and its talent and capabilities.

Somehow, things have taken a serious and immediate turn for the better . . . and the Cowboys appear to be on a roll!  They opened the season on September 7 by losing to the 49ers, but have since gone 4 & 0, and now stand at 5 & 1, and they honestly looked really strong yesterday as they soundly beat the Super Bowl defending Sea Hawks in Seattle, 30 to 23, and the score lies and suggests the game was closer than it was.  The Cowboys out-played them through the entire game . . . and the Hawks failed to make a first down in the 2nd quarter!

The Boys are back . . . and I am back!  I still have a strong dislike for the Hillbilly, a number of question marks about Jason Garrett, and some concerns over Romo . . . and I also have a remote control with a mute button, in my hand!

Thanks for putting up with me, Chris, but you need to know that I am an old, proud Cowboy fan . . . who was blessed to live through the glory years . . . and my threshold for toleration of Jerry Jones and his madness is just very low.  I am thrilled to be able to share Cowboy things with you again!  Just bear in mind, that you will need to be patient with me for a while . . .

“How about them Cowboys?”   Is Chris right . . . Is a Super Bowl really possible?

 The Cowboys and the Spurs both??????

 It sure is great to be a Texan!


 

Fall . . .

 In my neck of the woods, it is beginning to feel like fall!  The temperature is dropping slightly; the wind is gently shifting from the normal prevailing South Easterly breeze, and the wind is now coming more from the north; and the tides are higher than normal.  I love fall, but I love it for different reasons than I did a few years back.

Previously I loved fall because that little dip in the temperature slowly would begin to make the hair on my neck rise as I anticipated hunting season.  It started with mourning dove season, then bob-white quail, and then white-tail deer and Rio Grande turkey.  On good years, it even included a pheasant shoot in the Texas Panhandle with Sandy’s dad.  Amongst all of that hunting was afternoon fall fishing in the back bays, which is one of my favorite and most successful times to fish.  During the summer months, the coast draws many fishermen from far and wide and that crowd puts great pressure on both the Bay systems and the fish. Yet, when school starts those dude’s attention turns to other interests and it removes the pressure . . . it is really cool to fish a back bay on a drift and not see another boat!  That just makes a man very much aware of God and his wonderful creation . . . and it has always given me a sense of ownership in it all.  I think that is right and proper to feel like that, too . . . I mean (Duh) . . . my Father owns it . . . and a son has a familial interest!

At this phase of my life, my interests have shifted and my love of those things has moderated (a bum knee and spinal stenosis tends to do such things).  However, I still love fall, but for different, and I believe for more mature, and noble reasons.  I teach the best Sunday school class in the entire State of Texas, and it will double in attendance over the next several weeks as many friends return for the winter months.  I love those sweet folks and the new energy they bring to our class.

I also love fall because it brings Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year.  All of that involves travel and family, and as my family has expanded with a couple of grand-daughters, and Dorothy has a couple of grand-children, too!  Those kids bring a new level of energy into the family, as well as a refreshing new level of love.  I love the time we get to spend together and loving on each other.

I don’t live in an area where I see a great deal of changes in the foliage, but It Seems to me . . . that I am sure seeing some changes in me!  My heart is ready for fall and all that it brings!


 

Coming and Going . . .

Some people are moving about, and others are staying in one place. Our friends Neal and Donna Burnett arrived here yesterday afternoon. They will stay through the winter; then they will be gone again. In fact, over the next few weeks, there will be a large number of our friends arriving here for a long winter visit. We call them Winter Texans, and others call them Snowbirds.

So, what is it that causes some folks to go searching . . . and what is that holds others in one spot?

Several years back on my birthday I was alone as Sandy and the kids were at school. The next day I would fly to Boston to do a seminar, and I was feeling a bit lonely, and just wanted someone to have lunch with me.

I stopped by Oakwood Village, our senior rental housing complex down the street from our home. There were several residents outdoors. I told a few of them that I was going to the Bakery for my birthday lunch and I would treat any and all who wanted to join me.  A total of 22 of them showed up.  As we ordered someone asked me, “Where are you off to next and when?” I told them that I would fly out the next day. One of them asked if it bothered me flying all over and traveling like that.  I told them that it did not, and, in fact, I actually enjoyed it.  The conversation stayed on the subject of travel during the lunch, and I left amazed. Of the 23 of us at the table, only 3 of us had been out of San Patricio County in the past 30 years!  One fellow said he had ridden to San Antonio with a friend a few years before. Another fellow said he had ridden with his boss to a small town in Oklahoma and then drove a pickup back for his boss about 20 years back.  Actually, 12 of the group had never been out of the County in their lives! That is a great mystery to me.

As a kid, my family moved all the time, and I actually attended 22 different schools in grades 1 – 12! Sandy and I have lived in 11 different houses and we have been in our current home for about 30 years, with a three-year gap in the later 80’s.

Courtney and Chris have different situations . . . she travels all over with her work, while Chris lives in Waco and sleeps in the same bed pretty much every night.

Some are staying . . . Some are going. I don’t really know which is better, but I know which one I prefer.