Cautiously Hopeful . . .

It is 12:45 am on Tuesday morning, December 16, 2014, and I have much going on in my heart and mind. In a few hours I get up, shower, shave, and dress and go to San Antonio . . . hopefully, to get some answers, perhaps find some relief, and prayerfully, to learn that something can be done to improve my dilemma.

The story goes back to the time when I was a child, probably 1956 or ‘57. I recall waking up one morning, getting out of bed and immediately falling to the floor. I raised myself again by pulling up on the bed, and again I fell back to the floor. I was terrified and cried out to my mom. We lived in a rural west-Texas area with limited medical facilities. We were there because my dad was working in the oil patch. Moves were frequent, friends were few, and moves were expected in that line of work. That was who my family was . . . it was what we did. As a 64-year-old man on “this early morning,” I am amazed that I can so vividly remember and recall the fear, feeling, and confusion of the little 6- or 7-year-old boy that morning so many years ago. The human mind is an amazing thing!

My mom put me back to bed, and told me to wait until she could get my brothers and sisters off to school. I have often thought what went through her mind as she left that bedroom that morning. There was a dreaded disease called polio that was affecting both children and adults across the nation, and it had already crippled her oldest living child. I remember her coming back, helping me dress, and then carrying me out to the old brown car we had at that time.

She drove me to a small neighboring town that had a small hospital . . . it was actually a doctor’s home with a number of rooms set up for patients. I am not sure of what medical facilities, if any, were even available there, but it was all she could do. She had eight children and probably didn’t have enough money to even fill the tank of that old car with gasoline at 25-cents a gallon. I know she was afraid . . . and there was no one to whom she could turn to share her troubled heart. Much of her life was like that.

I recall the hushed tones of the conversations, and mid-afternoon she came and sat by my bed and told me that she had to leave me so she could go be there for the other kids when they returned from school. I knew she had to leave me . . . that was an amazing thing about my family . . . there was not a single one of us who was selfish. We just understood how things were and what needed to be done. In spite of that, I was a frightened little boy of about seven . . . and I knew something serious was going on . . . I could not walk anymore, and now I was all alone. As I recall, that was a dreadful and long night. I knew about God . . . but didn’t know I could cry out to him . . . I always had the impression that he was angry at me because I was a sinner . . . and now I couldn’t walk . . . so I knew how to do the math and I came up with that my situation was such . . . because of me being who I was, and God being unhappy with me.

The whole thing just made no sense at all. I lay there in that place a few days . . . My sweet mother making daily trips to check on me . . . I can still feel the sharp pain in my soul from watching her wipe the tears from her eyes with those calloused fingers, while trying to put up a brave face for me. I remember my dad coming over one night. I can still close my eyes and see him sitting on the side of my bed and with his old rough hands rubbing my legs. He didn’t talk much, but it was the most tender moment I would ever experience with him in my entire life. Then, one morning, I could just walk again. The verdict was that I must have had a brief bout with polio and it seemingly just left my body. I was sent home with my mom, and life soon returned to normal . . . well, everything except that I had some physical limitations on my left side, but I soon learned to live with them.

No one ever talked about what had happened as time passed.

Then, I was in high school and we were living in El Paso. I wanted to play football, but all players were required to pass a physical. The doctor who was giving the physical (honestly, the first time in my life to ever see a medical doctor since being a patient in that doc’s home ten years earlier) asked me about my left leg being so much smaller that my right side. I am not sure what I told him, because I was a quiet kid (even reserved), and I had learned that was simply something not to speak much about . . . hey, I was no weakling and sure didn’t want any sympathy. The doc contacted my folks, and I spent a few days in a large hospital. I honestly don’t remember much about what was done or determined, except we were told that I had “most likely had polio back in ’56 or ’57.” Honestly, the main thing I remember about that was the sacrifice that was made financially to buy me a couple of packages of pj’s for the hospital stay.

Through the years, I have experienced significant pain in my left leg and foot when I worked long hours, or spent large amounts of time walking, or on my feet (seminars). But, over the past two years, I have experienced terrible pain in my lower back, and the pain reached down into my legs. In October, I began to lose leg strength and soon found myself in a wheelchair . . . simply unable to walk again.

Abi helping Pappy

I have seen a host of doctors and have been through an array of tests. Nothing is conclusive and no one has been willing to offer a diagnosis; I am hoping that today will be different. My MRI was sent to Dr. Donald Hilton, the neurosurgeon that save my life with the miraculous neck surgery last year. The other Doc’s had us scared over my neck injury, while Dr. Hilton calmly assured us that he could certainly fix the damage, and he did!

His assistant called last week to say that Dr. Hilton wanted to meet with me today. This is a doc who has earned my respect. I have faith that I will learn something for certain today!

Relationships . . .

Most Saturday nights I hang out with a group of alcoholics and drug addicts for a while. I love those folks, and I love hanging with them. I do that at a drug and alcohol rehab facility in Corpus Christi; I go there along with a group from my Church. The place we go is called “Charlie’s Place” . . . and the leader of our group is also named Charlie . . . Charlie Williams; however, our Charlie is not the guy for whom the facility was named. Our Charlie has been laboring in this type ministry for many years in the D/FW area. After he moved here a few years back, he looked for an opportunity to start such a work in this area.

The truth is the administration at Charlie’s Place was reluctant to allow our group access to their clients/patients and to allow us space and time in their facility. They are trained professions in human behavior and fully believe their clients/patients struggle with addictions is either mental or psychological. We, on the other hand, believe the struggle is a spiritual matter.

When Charlie first visited with them and made the request, he was denied permission, but he didn’t simply take no for the final answer. He continued to pursue it in a polite and respectful manner. Finally, the head guy told him, “Look, it’s not that we are opposed to a church group being involved, it is just that the last group that was here was loud, rude, confusing, and constantly told the clients: ‘You don’t need Charlie’s Place, you don’t need any 12-Step Programs; you just need Jesus’ . . . and they were always trying to cast demons out of the clients and laying hands on others and they often left our clients confused, humiliated, hurt, and further damaged.”

Charlie offered assurance that we would not behave in such a foolish and reckless manner . . . further that we would always remember and respect that we were guests in their place and would always be respectful of the clients and accountable for what we did and said. Charlie explained the agreement to our team and asked for everyone to agree with and abide by his commitment. I was just blown away by what the previous group had done and the foolishness of it.

Since I was to be the teacher/presenter for our group, I challenged the team to be mindful that we would be working with individuals who were already fragile . . . people who did things they hated and then . . . struggled with crippling feelings of failure and guilt afterward. I reminded our folks there was no healing or setting free in condemnation . . . and that guilt and condemnation simply make the addict’s problems seem more overwhelming. I also cautioned them to remember that religious condemnation is both man-made and destructive . . . and no individual, group, denomination, or religion has any authority by which to condemn anyone . . . Believers and the Church have a calling to “Love . . . and operate in love and to reflect God’s love into a dark world.” That is our sole purpose in going to Charlie’s Place.

For my lessons/presentations, I search the New Testament regularly looking for events, stories, and situations where Jesus encountered an individual or a group who struggled with a life-altering, life-impacting problem, handicap, issue, or pain. I always try to get a sense of what life was like for that person, at that moment in time, and then watch and see how that situation changed as soon as Jesus entered the equation. I am amazed; it seems there is an endless supply of such Biblical illustrations about the life-changing power of Jesus. Last night I used the two blind men sitting by the road in Jericho as Jesus passed by. Their encounter with Jesus radically changed their lives.

In this I have learned something about relationships. Let me try to explain:
I think there are four levels of any and every relationship, as follows:

Legal (law);
Moral; and

I also believe that God created and fashioned relationships. He created Adam and established a relationship with him. He then created Eve and instructed Adam about the relationship he was to have with Eve. Each of those relationships were ethical, moral, and spiritual in nature. Then Adam and Eve sinned . . . and their relationship with God and with each other turned to a legal relationship . . . it is interesting that of the Ten Commandments . . . one is Ceremonial (Keep the Sabbath) . . . and the other nine address the relationship we are to have with God . . . and with each other.

The tragedy of it all is that the legal level is the weakest and poorest level of a relationship . . . that is why Jesus rescues a broken, hurting, and troubled person from the curse of the law and places the person into a spiritual relationship with God (which is simply not possible without Jesus) . . . a relationship governed by love, grace, and mercy! That is what Jesus came to do . . . and it is what He will continue to do until the trumpet blows . . .

After having lived in seven decades . . . two centuries . . . and in two millenniums, I finally get two really important truths in all of this:

1. There is only one right and proper role I can play in that work Jesus came to do . . . and that is the role of a messenger (tell what I know and what I have experienced); and

2. A messenger cannot be very effective when dragging a load of judgment around.

Perhaps, that is why we do well to develop an attitude of: “except by the grace of God, there go I.”

The Condo . . .

In 1978, Sandy, Courtney, and I sold our house in Burnet, loaded up a U-Haul truck and moved to Beeville. Chris would be born in Beeville the next year. From our new home, we were only an hour’s drive from the coast, and whenever we could, we drove down and looked around. We loved the water, but we didn’t have a boat at that time, didn’t know the water, or even know what to do. We would just go to the beach in Port A mostly.

When we had a little extra money, which wasn’t often, we would stay at a hotel, but most of the time we just drove over in the morning, and back home at night. Over time we began driving to Rockport more and more, and we really enjoyed the town and the people. On occasion, we would rent an area condo for a few days and we greatly enjoyed that. After some time, I bought a boat and left it at Key Allegro Marina.

I don’t know why, but for some reason it quietly became a goal that we would one day buy a condo in Rockport. I would chuckle and call Aftermath, our big boat “Our condo on the water.” As previously discussed herein, we recently sold Aftermath, so we no longer have a “Rockport condo.”

Some time back I met an area real estate agent while in the pool and in conversation told her we would be interested in buying a 2-bedroom/2-bath, downstairs condo. That lady is on the ball and went to work on it. It wasn’t long until she emailed me info on just such a place. We went and looked at it, liked it, things came together; we made a reasonable and fair offer, which was quickly accepted. We closed last week, and now, finally own a condo in Rockport!

Now, the question is, “What in the heck are we gonna do with it?”

I think that soon after the New Year, we will get busy doing some updates on it and make it like we want it. Of course, by then we will have finished with the bathroom remodel at our home and will be ready for another project.

Long range plans for us are certainly not nailed down but we have talked about selling our home in two – three years, both retiring, living one semester at the Burnet house, and the other semester in the condo. Sandy is really close to earning her PhD, and thinks she would enjoy teaching one semester at Texas Tech’s new Marble Falls’ extension campus, and then the next semester at Texas A & M – Corpus Christi or Del Mar College. I am thinking I could enjoy hunting season in the Hill Country and spring fishing on Redfish Bay.

I like the plan, but I must first work through some of the health and physical struggles that have come upon me over the last year. I think I am up for that challenge and feel confident it will all work out oksy, but if it doesn’t . . . my best home for certain will be ready for me. It is actually being prepared especially for me . . . “I go to prepare a place for you . . . ” John 14: 1 – 6!

I love the realization that Heaven is a prepared place . . . for a prepared people. My true home is there and it is being prepared, while I am here being prepared to live there! One day, the preparation for me there . . . and the preparation of me . . . and in me . . . will be complete and will then come together! What a Day that will be!

But you can bet your last dollar that my home there won’t be a condo! I have a mansion just over the hilltop! So, it is all good!

Chemita . . .

He was among the first people I met in Eagle Pass, and he would become my dear and trusted friend. He was about 5’5″ and weighed about 270 lbs, and just sort of rolled and bounced along (well, he just kind of looked like that as he walked). He always had a big smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye. He was a happy fellow, in spite of it all. Let me tell you how I managed to be in Eagle Pass at that time and become friends with Chemita.

In the early 80’s, as a young husband and dad and with small kids, I left my steady job, cashed in my retirement plan, branched out, and started a new development company . . . I was chasing my dream. I planned to develop senior-citizen apartment complexes in rural Texas and do that by participating in USDA’s direct rural-housing loan program, designed to develop rural America. I searched across South Texas and identified a dozen rural towns that needed senior housing, got acquainted with local officials in those communities, and got their blessings on my planning for their community. With that, I optioned a suitable building site in each town, conducted a market study to test the need, and began developing an application for funding. In my first year in business, I had loans approved for three apartment complexes, and built two and placed them in operation. The next year I had four complexes approved for loans, and built two more. By the end of my second year in business, I had four complexes fully occupied and under management, two more approved with loan funds obligated, and seven others in various stages of the process. One of the attractive features of my new business was that each of the complexes generated huge tax benefits, and there were many high-income individuals and firms ready to buy all or part of those tax benefits. I created extensive tax shelters, sold them to sophisticated investors, and structured my payments for the same over a staggered period of several years. I was doing exactly what a successful business is supposed to do . . . generating a nice cash flow, retiring debt, and creating long-term wealth. I was a happy young man. I bought a great, partially-completed spec house on the Gulf Coast for my family and finished it up; we moved in just prior to Christmas. The next spring we built a great back-yard swimming pool. Life was good . . . then the oil glut hit Texas and the bottom fell out of the real-estate market and pretty much everything else! Along with many other Texans, I found myself on hard times . . . and, frankly, I was uncertain about how to handle this adversity. My deals that were in the works appraised at 50-cents on the dollar, and I had to abandon each one of them. I suddenly owed a great deal of money (it had not been so large when I had a big cash flow working), but suddenly money became terribly tight, and my syndication payments began to dry up as my investors no longer needed to honor their commitments to buy my tax shelters . . . suddenly, they had a ton of losses of their own to write off, as their oil and gas income dried up.

Times were suddenly very difficult in Texas! I remember folks in the Midland and Odessa area who had fine homes they had been paying on for a number of years desperately trying to get someone to give them $1,000 equity for their houses and take over their payments. Pawn shops in Houston had lots of Rolex watches on sale for $600. A few months into this mess and my resources grew very small compared to my cash demands, and I became very concerned about how I might work it out. Here I had these four, very nice, apartment complexes and I was obliged to operate them. I was in a catch-22 situation . . . the four complexes simply were not enough to support my family financially, yet that obligation and the demands of those four complexes prevented me from pursuing other options. These operations had to have a considerable amount of my time and attention.

One difficult afternoon as I sat in my office and fretted over the situation, three of my old friends from HUD walked into my office. They told me that my old friend, their boss, and south Texas Housing Chief at HUD was taking legal action against the political subdivision that operated the public housing programs in Eagle Pass and he wanted me to go out there and clean up the mess. After a brief visit with them, I called him. The fee he proposed was exactly what I needed. It was not great by any standard, but it would keep me afloat during the storm.

I drove out to the Mexican border and checked things out. It was, indeed, a mess! The FBI had been in the offices earlier and arrested some of the administrative staff for fraud, taking them away in handcuffs. There were a number of federal grand-jury indictments against others, including several board members. This would certainly be a challenge, and I would need to be careful and use discernment in choosing associates. Everything in me said, “Run, Baby, Run,” but the sad truth was there was no place to run. I knew that I was about to enter a pool filled with lots of sharks and other predators . . . a very corrupt arena for sure, and I would set at the top of the heap of one of the largest cash cows in the community, one that everyone wanted a piece.

Eagle Pass/Maverick County was then and continues to be today a vile, corrupt place. It is one of the poorest areas in the USA (third poorest county in the Nation, and when that stat includes the Mississippi Delta area, it is very serious). The political system there is brutal and preys upon poor and elderly people. Many local elections are won with threats over free commodity: cheese, etc. e.g.: “Jesse Benavides does not like free cheese! If he is elected to the school board, there will be no more cheese for the poor people!” Sounds crazy, and of course it is, but that is how things work out there.

As a side bar, I made the startling discovery about why that area is the most corrupt of the entire border; it is actually pretty interesting. All along the border, there are cities/towns/villages on each side of the river. In every other place, the town on the USA side is always larger than the town on the Mexico side; thus, there is a western-world influence into Mexico. However, Eagle Pass/Maverick County had a population of about 100K, while Piedras-Negras had a population of over 500K, and overshadowed Eagle Pass . . . the end result being that there is a strong third-world country influence into the United States. The truth is that in pretty much every way, Eagle Pass struggles about 40 years behind the rest of Texas; and one enters a third-world mentality 40 miles before seeing the Rio Grande.

As I entered the administrative offices of the hi-rise for the first time, I encountered Chemita in the lobby area working on one of the elevators. I knew in just a moment that this was an honorable and sincere man; a person I would be able to trust. Time proved that initial impression to be accurate.

Chemita was the maintenance superintendent over a crew of about 30, and he oversaw something close to 3,000 units of public housing, and he did a magnificent job of it. I was always amazed by his knowledge of all maintenance systems, which included that El Centenario Highrise building which housed 100 elderly apartments and the first-floor housed the central office for the large agency. This was a most complex building which included three elevators, a boiler system for hot water and heating the building, a complex domestic water-purification system, a major sewer-disposal system, a satellite TV system, telephone systems, a fire-protection system, an emergency monitoring system, a surveillance-camera system, and a chiller system. The mechanical room of this building was over 3,500 square feet and packed with technical and mechanic equipment. Chemita was masterful with every component; yet, he could barely write his own name. The agency held a large number of rental property and constantly had some form of modernization, weatherization, or remodel program going on. Those efforts could easily increase Chemita’s crew by 100 workers.

My office staff consisted of a dozen women and three men. They all loved and respected Chemita. Everyone in the office chuckled listening to Chemita as he communicated over our in-house radio system; he always identified himself as “Junit One” . . . meaning Unit One.

The first time the accounts-payable department delivered checks for my signature, I encountered a check payable to one “Jose Maria Oyervides.” I chuckled at the name and inquired who that might be and was told it was Chemita. Later that day he came into the office and I asked him why his parents had named him Joe Mary, and went on to say that I understood his using a nick-name. He said, “No, No, Jefe, all Jose Maria’s are Chemita, too!”

Chemita was a really good and decent man . . . he was my dear friend. I trusted him completely even though we were inside a foul, corrupt system and environment in which there were not many who could be trusted. All the while we were in that wicked place, Chemita battled cancer. In spite of it all, he always managed to smile and find something pleasant to say, even when I knew he was very sick and weak. It broke my heart to see my friend so sick, but he was such an inspiration to watch him push ahead and always remain positive.

He lost his long battle with cancer a few years back, but his memory lives on. Recently, at Charlie’s Place on Saturday evening, I encountered Jorge, the son of one of Chemita’s assistants. Jorge remembered me these 20 years later and we spent some time laughing about, fondly remembering, and talking about Chemita and his dad, who had also passed away.

The Texas economy improved over time, I finished my commitment to my friends in HUD, and I returned home and began the work of rebuilding my business.

I loved old “Junit One!” He was my friend . . . and he was an honest, decent man in a place where such men were far and few in-between. He was a big bright spot in that period of my life as I tried to literally drain a really nasty swamp filled with sharks. No matter how difficult the task became, or how sick he was, Chemita stood shoulder-to-shoulder with me. I loved that old dude . . . and I know that he loved me.

I think of him from time to time. I remember him and his wonderful sense of humor and how all of that served to encourage me during those dark and difficult days.

Time Out . . .

Tonight I was the speaker at Charlie’s Place. Charlie’s Place is a drug and alcohol recovery home. I love the place; I love the important work being done there; and I love the poor, fractured, confused, and hurting people living there. My heart breaks for them . . . and it breaks for those who love them . . . and ache for them.

I began my address tonight by telling them that last week Sandy bought Ali & Abi “Time-Out Bears” for Christmas. We chuckled over this clever new tool being used in early childhood development, and I laughingly compared it to my time as a young kid when it was, “You are out of time!”

I challenged those in the audience to seriously think about their stay at Charlie’s Place as them having been placed there . . . in time-out by God, himself. Placed in Time-out:

. . . to have some quiet, still time to think about and to consider and evaluate the poor, dangerous, and selfish choices they had been making; and

. . . to have some time to be still and think about how those poor choices had put their lives at risk, and the lives of the folks who loved them put on hold.

I told them about a place located east of Sierra Nevada known as Death Valley, and more specifically a place called Bad Water Basin where one can stand and see both the highest peak on the continuous continent (Mt. Whitney 14,505′), and also see the lowest point on the continent -282′ below sea level. What an interesting thought . . . “Do I look high, or do I look low?” It is a choice . . . It is a decision . . . that each of us must make as we look at and consider where we are in the life experience.

I read Romans 10: 1 – 12 from the Holy Scriptures to them and discussed Paul’s evaluation of and burden over the sad place where the Israelites were relative to God and His desire for them as the Covenant People. They were in that sad place simply because of how they viewed God . . . how they viewed themselves . . . and how they view what God had done for them; actually, God’s provision for their hopeless state. Paul’s heart was heavy for his countrymen and said that, sadly, they had rejected what God did for them, and tried to substitute their own efforts in its place. That choice . . . left unchanged . . . would forever separate them from God.

I challenged the folks to think about, “Where do I go from here?” and assured them they did not have to move forward alone . . . and they did not have to go off in the dark! They could go forth in the light . . . and be indwelled by a constant, faithful, and dependable companion!

It was a special night. I saw minds changed; I saw hearts changed; I saw people’s countenance changed; and I would wager there will be some families witness some lives changed in the days ahead. The Lord has been doing that for a couple thousand years . . . at least!

Founder Charlie Acklen stands on the porch of the original Charlie’s Place in 1968 when it was located on 1106 Third Street in Corpus Christi. Photo was taken in 1968

Remodeling the house . . . Team Work!

Early in our married life, Sandy and I bought an old fixer-upper house in Burnet (our very first). It was a pretty cool old house, sitting on a large corner lot and it had a number of nice trees. It was the proverbial “Worst house in the best neighborhood.” The back half of the house was pier and beam and had a wooden floor. The front half was an add-on and it was on a slab. Basically, two houses nailed together under one roof. Of course, we were both green as grass and knew nothing about houses or remodeling, and neither of us could even drive a nail in straight. Further, we had very little money, so anything we wanted to do to the place we had to try and do ourselves. The point is, we didn’t do much to that house beyond paint it. We sold the house when we moved away from Burnet, but that would be the one and only home we would ever sell.

Through the years we have upgraded and bought better homes, but we never sold another home. We have lived in our current home for close to 30 years; it is where we raised our children. Though those years we have done some remodeling and updating . . . new energy-efficient windows, new flooring, repainting, granite countertops, upstairs bath remodels, etc. Through that, I vowed to never again live in a house while it was being remodeled. Boy, was I wrong!

In December of 2013, we bought an old, ugly house in Burnet and have spent almost the entire year converting it to a lovely, modern second home. That was a fun project and we really enjoyed it, although I did do some complaining about how much money we were spending. Sandy did the final touches over Thanksgiving with decorations. Come Spring I will put in a sprinkler system and landscape the yard, and there is a great deal with which to work, including the 2nd greatest oak tree on the planet!

A couple of months back, we were introduced to an excellent tile contractor. We engaged him to do some work on my office, and around the patio/terrace area of the house. The quality of his work is simply excellent. As he completed that task, I talked with Sandy about engaging him to remodel our master bathroom, which she had been wanting to do for a couple of years. We developed our basic design and plan, went shopping, selected our materials and colors and turned the crew loose. Our beautiful house is suddenly an absolute mess . . . everything is covered in an inch layer of dust, and it is just terrible!! I can’t believe it. However, in about two weeks we will love it and be really glad we did it. Sacrifice has rewards.

We have discovered that we enjoy remodel projects (so long as it is not in the place we are occupying) and we are actually pretty good at it. We do need to occasionally remind ourselves that we are different people, with different tastes. Yet, when we work together as a team and find compromise, we do well. Try as we may, sometimes when we are not on guard, it can become a bit of a competition, and that becomes a problem. I have to remind myself of a few things; 1. I tend to take over the project and just make “on-the-spot” decisions all by myself; 2. That tends to hurt Sandy’s feelings and makes me come across as a bully; and 3. Sandy’s feelings are more important that any project.

Yesterday, we closed on a lovely 2BDRM/2BATH condo in Rockport Country Club. Next week, we will start the process of doing all of the repairs/updates we want to do. Of course, that will be like the Burnet remodel . . . fun, but we won’t be living in the construction mess, and I am thankful for that!
Onward . . . and upward! Perhaps in retirement we might do some of this.


Ferguson . . . Still in the News . . .

It started on an evening in August. It began with a couple of young hoodlums entering a drug store in a small, rural town in the mid-west. They grabbed a couple of handfuls of merchandise and when the store owner contested their taking his property without paying for it, the hoodlums responded in a threatening and frightening manner. One of the two hoodlums, Michael Brown, was physically very large and he used that bulk in an intimidating manner. Certainly an older store owner was no match for this frightening fellow. Rather that pull a weapon and use it to protect his property, the store owner did exactly what is prescribed by law . . . he dialed the local police department and reported what happened. The dispatcher took the complaint along with a description of the hoodlums and transmitted the information by police radio to the patrol cars. One of the on-duty policeman saw a couple of young guys walking in the street. He casually pulled alongside and asked the young guys to walk on the sidewalk rather than in the street. The policeman was of slight build, and Michael Brown, the large young hoodlum, certainly still on a high from his intimidation bluff on the store owner, which was witnessed by his companion, likely decided to go for two. About the same time as Michael Brown began to make his play in his reply to the officer, the patrolman saw the handful of small cigars in his hand and made the connection and realized who he was dealing with. He drove the patrol car forward a ways and called for backup. The young thief misread all of this by assuming the smaller cop had been intimated, and as the smaller cop re-approached, the young, tough hoodlum decided he ought to play his role with greater force. One thing obviously led to the next, and in a matter of minutes two things about these two young fellows would be forever changed:

1. Michael Brown laid dead on the street; and

2. A young policeman will now have to learn to live with what happened . . . and all the days of his life will be overshadowed with remorse, doubts, and questions. Questions which he will ask as he tries to replay the events over in his mind . . . always second-guessing himself time after time, always asking himself if perhaps there might have been something he could have done differently. Questions for which he will never find answers . . . Yet answered that might give him some measure of peace.
Soon, a family would be notified of the tragedy and they would be overwhelmed and forever changed. Moreover, a community was about to become a boiling pot that would attract world attention, and there would be a number of individuals and groups who would rush in and try to turn the temperature up as they pursued their own agenda.

Only a small percentage of the Black community would actually be involved with the lawlessness that took place. The greater percentage remained law-abiding, church-going families who continued to be good citizens . . . as gangs burned and looted their town.

Word spread across the world and, tragically, the media forgot two important truths: (a) a crime had occurred and (b) a policeman is compelled to do his duty. Their focus became a white cop and a dead black kid, and they stopped “reporting” the news and began to make the news. Soon the agitators arrived . . . led by Al “not too sharp” Sharpton and Jesse Jackson; a group of lawyers smelling money and looking for clients; and a gang of trouble-makers determined to incite the folks of the once quite little town. Then the White House developed an unhealthy interest in it all . . . and dispatched the most negative and corrupt Attorney General and his incompetent Justice Department to “investigate.” Immediately, lines in the sand were drawn and everyone began defending his turf. The Grand Jury spent weeks looking into the issue, heard scores on individuals, examined a mountain of documents—both medical and forensic—and heard reports by experts. That jury of 12 included three blacks and, collectively, they voted to not return an indictment against the officer.

As the local officials waited for the Grand Jury’s determination, they planned for the worst; yet, hoped for the best. Once the Grand Jury’s finding was made public, the agitators verbally attacked the District Attorney and in their attempts to discredit him, claimed that he had unduly influenced the jury and, thus, discounted the value of the Grand Jury’s work and determination. Having personally served six long months on a Grand Jury, I don’t believe a Grand Jury would allow that. Those who make such claims have no experience with the workings of a Grand Jury.

Over the days and weeks that followed the shooting, some really ugly things have been displayed front in center, among them: prejudice . . . racism . . . hate.

The KKK, of all things, made its presence known. Most of us thought that those idiots had been gone for a long time, but they had not. How sad that organization is still able to recruit foot-soldiers.

A second suspicious group has surfaced. This group simply calls itself “Six,” and to date not much is known about them or their agenda.

Now a third suspicious group has made its presence known. This group calls itself “Anonymous” and uses the “V for the Vendetta” movie mask as their logo. This bold group has issued the exact warning to both the KKK and the Ferguson police Department; said warning being: “Be peaceful or you will face the consequences!” To the protestors and looters, their statement is: “Do not be afraid; we are here for you, and we will protect and serve you!”

This group openly makes the bold declaration: “We are the law now”‘ and they close with their boast, “We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forget . . . We do not forgive!”

The KKK declares that members of Anonymous will hang along with the looters.

I have written in this blog about my feelings and my confusion over the “race riots” of the 60’s which were related to the Civil Rights Act of ’64 and again in ’68. It was a few years before I figured out in my heart and mind that all of that was about a group of Americans crying out in peaceful protest over how they were treated, things denied to them, and services improperly refused to them. I wish I had been old enough during that troubled time . . . so that I could have understood and joined in that protest. Why? Because: It was wrong . . . It was tragic . . . It was improper . . . and It was sin.

This thing going on today is something else . . . this thing is totally different . . . there is absolutely nothing that honors a dead man in burning people’s business and in looting. It seems to me . . . that the burnings and looting is something all-together different . . . and I am yet to figure it out. Don’t misunderstand . . . I do know that it involves: Prejudice . . . Racism . . . and Hate . . . and it does involve SIN! I simply haven’t caught on to the thing the protestors are wanting to accomplish . . . Is there some objective? If so . . . pray tell . . . what is it?

It honestly can’t really be because a cop of one color shot a thug of a different color. I read today of a Black officer being forced into a situation where he had to shoot a white thug . . . and there was no outrage . . . that shooting was also a sad thing . . . but it, too, was just a cop doing his job.

It seems to me that the small group in Ferguson has not accomplished a single thing . . . except to confirm the image of the ghetto mentality and behavior that most folks tend to hold, and I find that both reprehensible . . . and sad.

I learned last night about one goofy dude caught up in the mayhem. He tossed a bottle filled with fuel oil with a strip of rag stuffed inside as if perhaps it was a candle; he lit the strip of rag and tossed it through the closed window of his home and burned the house down. He called 911, but was told they were busy fighting other fires and could not respond. Later he was questioned why he would have burned his own house in protest. He said that he had somehow become disoriented, and had believed his house was actually the DQ! Of course, he blamed the fire Department for the loss of his house and suggested that he planned to file a civil rights complaint with the Justice Department.

As tragic as the story is, I believe it serves as strong evidence of exactly who this gang of looters and firebugs is! What is not so clear is what exactly it is that they want? Do you suppose they sincerely want a nation, state, or city with no law—or law enforcement? I don’t think so; however, I do suspect they want to determine what the law is, and they want to be the