The Term Simply Does Not Apply . . .

Today as I read several things, I ran across the expression, “The Late Elvis Presley” . . . “The Late John Wayne” . . . and “The Late Johnny Cash.” It caused me to think and, I believe, I stumbled upon a wonderful mental and spiritual truth. Let me explain.

Use of the term “Late” in front of an individual’s name, as is the case with most grammatical customs employed today, originated in England and is commonly used in a sensitive manner that the person being mentioned is now deceased. The use of the term brings the questions of 1) When did this practice begin, and 2) What is the accepted stature of limitations of its use in this manner? Both are good questions.

The answer to the first question is that the practice goes back many years and is said to have been in common use prior to Columbus’ discovery of the new world. The second question relative to the statute of limitations and, although its use is not so clearly defined or established, was generally believed to be properly limited in use to those in one’s own contemporary group. However, in 1971, Bernstein suggested the term ought to have a useful shelf life of a half century; that is according to Wordwizard.com.

As I internalized this information, it seemed to me that its general usage, as I have observed it in my life, has been generally reserved for more noteworthy people, and that made sense to me. It just didn’t seem to be a term that one would use on a fellow who had lived down the street. Then it occurred to me that the term, as used on noteworthy people, has never once been used in connection with Jesus, that gentle carpenter, Bible teacher, compassionate, soft-spoken miracle worker, who calmed the storm and raging sea with a single command . . . not,once in all of history . . . and not even used by the heathen!!

The question begs to be asked . . . and answered . . . Why not? The truth is that both Believers and heathens alike clearly understand and accept . . . and that any honest review of human history screams out across that same human history . . . that Jesus is not deceased – He was for three brief days, but not today! He is alive and well . . . and today . . . just as He has every day since His glorious resurrection . . . He stands-watch and ensures that each and every one of His believers are escorted into His very presence, instantly, when their earthly life is ended, they pass to the other side into this marvelous gift which He, and only He can give . . . and He calls it “everlasting life.”

I have often wondered about people who were alive in the era in which Jesus walked on earth; I have wandered what they might have thought when they got word that Jesus had been crucified and was now dead outside of the city of Jerusalem on that Passover holiday. How was that tragic news received by those who had:
. . . come to Him blind . . . but left seeing?
. . . come to Him lame . . . but left walking?
. . . come to Him sick . . . but left completely well?
. . . come to Him broken . . . but left mended?
. . . come to Him burdened . . . but left free?
. . . come to Him bound . . . but left unshackled?

I would bet my last nickel that that young widowed mother whom Jesus encountered in the funeral procession exiting the small town of Naim that sad morning, recorded in Luke 7, would have been quick to declare, “There is no way that great man is dead! I don’t know what is going on in Jerusalem today, but I will never forget that I saw that man, up close and personal, look death in its ugly face and command it . . . and it submitted to him completely. I know what I know, and I know that He has all power over death!”

I think that is a pretty cool revelation . . . realization . . . for this day! And, this morning, like that young widow, I too, know what I know, and I know that my Redeemer lives. So when the day arrives and you hear it said, “old JM died” . . . just chuckle and reply, “Nope, he passed to that glorious new level in his life . . . and he is out there in the hills of Glory at this very instant shouting, ‘Now, this is exactly what I was talking about!’”

Using Explanation Marks . . .

I know that I over-use the exclamation mark . . . and I confess that I have always had that failing. However, just read a brief article that explains why so many of us wanna-be-writers do commit this grammatical error. The article said, “You are excited about what you are writing, and you want others to be excited about it, too . . . so, you jazz it up with an exclamation mark, or perhaps two, believing that you are adding both value and emphasis.

The article showed several examples of proper use of the exclamation mark. I was surprised at the hard / fast rule associated with this punctuation, and even further by how flagrantly I have violated said rule. To my defense, I have operated from a belief that a writer . . . ‘writing his own material for any who might care to read without any cost’ simply commands a specific literary license, along with certain liberties in relating/communicating his stories.

One example provided in the article on the proper use of an exclamation mark was:

“Hey! My clothes are on fire.”

A guy asked, “You mean to tell me that if my clothes catch on fire I only get one exclamation mark?”

The teacher replied, “Actually, you don’t get an exclamation mark for your clothes being on fire . . . you only get an exclamation mark because you used “Hey” as a word. WOW . . . now that is a serious rule . . .

After thinking about it for a while, I am fairly confident that I would have violated that rule. I am quite certain that if my clothes ever caught on fire, and I later wrote about it, I am certain that I would have broken that rule . . . and would have used at least one exclamation mark.

I am embarrassed . . . over past uses and over what I know will be future improper uses of the exclamation point; yet, the truth of the matter is that I really do enjoy using that key and I like the way it makes my stories look. I am pretty confident that I won’t be abandoning it anytime soon, in spite of having the rule reinforced for me (I am just sort of bull-headed on certain things).

I acknowledge that confessions can hurt one’s readership and certain folks with greater tastes will abandon the writer, but I am actually feeling a bit confident now. Unlike most bloggers, I welcome and provide the means by which folks may weigh-in . . . critique . . . or simply tell me to go jump in the creek. I have certainly had some of each, but I recently discovered that my blog is no longer simply being read by my family, friend, and employees. I have actually gone international!! (There I go again with those darn exclamation marks).

Let me explain . . . I look back over the blog-site from time to time, and have been seeing numerical values on several older blogs in a small colored dot and decided to check it out . . . lo and behold . . . those numbers represent messages from people scattered around the world who have, for some peculiar reason, visited (or stumbled upon) my blog and actually cared enough to leave a message. I have identified French, Italian, Spanish, German, Russian, and some others I am unable to identify.

Some of their comments I can make out somewhat, yet, the others I don’t have a clue. But one thing I do know . . . that group will not be bothered or driven away by a few misplaced exclamation marks!

Melissa

As we left Charlie’s Place Saturday night, I invited a small group to join me for dinner at a downtown seafood restaurant in Corpus. Two guys and a woman, all in the age range of late 30’s to mid-40’s. One of the guys and the gal were an on-again, off-again couple who I had met while they were residents in Charlie’s Place a couple of years ago. The other fellow had recently been a homeless guy and I had recently hired him and provided a place to live. I was trying to help him get his feet on the ground and had invited him to go to Charlie’s Place with me. He accepted the invite and showed up on time!’

As we were seated at our table I thought, ‘This will be an interesting dinner,’ and it certainly proved to be.

Since I pretty much knew both of the guy’s stories, after the dinner orders had been placed, I turned to her and casually asked where she had grown up. She said that she had lived in El Paso until moving to Corpus Christi almost 20 years ago. She flashed a big smile and announced that her Grandfather had been the long-time Pastor of First Baptist Church there. To me, as a new Grandfather, her declaration literally and instantly broke my heart –wow – this girl did not come out of a broken, dysfunctional family living in a government housing project!!! With her life struggle and current living situation serving as a backdrop, the truth of her announcement was painful for me. The declaration said that there was a decent, honorable, and loving family back there in the shadows . . . with broken hearts . . . and that frightened me about myself and my own family. One of this troubled young lady’s parents had been a Pastor’s child . . . supposedly raised in a home where love, values, hope, and faith were both stressed and lived. Something had gone wrong . . . terribly wrong in that family and to me it served as a reminder that the tragedy of our culture and the curse of drugs upon our society is that things can go wrong in pretty much any family.

I recovered some from the shock and trying to be polite I asked how long the two of them had been together. He answered, “About a year,” just as she said, “17 years.” I looked at each of them and smiled, and he said, “She thinks we had a child together.” She never hesitated a second and in a soft voice said, “We did have a sweet little girl together!” She paused for a second, wiped a tear, and continued, “I named her Melissa and today is her16th birthday! I have been thinking about her all day!”

Man, I was ready to bawl . . . good grief . . . this was the troubled granddaughter of what I just have to believe was a really good man, and in the wake of it all is a sweet little girl on the night of her 16th birthday, and surely deep inside her heart she is wondering why her mommy didn’t love her, wondering why she had been rejected as a tiny little girl, and struggling with the terrible pain of rejection . . . which no child should ever know.

As I contemplated it for a few minutes, I paused and said, “In a few minutes they will deliver our food order to our table, but I would like very much for us just to pause right now and say the blessing.” We gathered hands, bowed our heads, and I. as calmly as my voice would permit, called out to the Prince of Peace asking that He calm this mother’s aching heart tonight and assure her of both His love and forgiveness, and that He, as only He can, reach through time and space and touch Melissa . . . wherever she might be tonight; I then selfishly asked Him to please some way, somehow, bring peace and comfort to the family back in El Paso tonight. Dinner was pleasant, but was pretty quiet. We all had much to think about.

Since arriving home, I have been praying over my little darlings, Ali and Abi. Pleading with the Father that He protect them all the days of their lives from the evil one, and the evil people who peddle and promote his poisons. Pleading that He reserve them unto Himself for His service. As I thought about that, I again bowed my head humbly and thanked Him for my terrific kids: Courtney and Chris, and how they have always made prudent choices and never fallen victim to the life of an addict.

I also asked for strength to continue going to Charlie’s Place . . . and delivering the message of Hope and letting folks know that Jesus came to set the captive free! On nights like tonight, our efforts seems like a drop in the bucket; but, all we can do is care . . . and simply continue to go!

I am concerned about our troubled culture tonight . . . It Seems to me . . . there is cause for concern.

Frozen

Of course we hear about changing things and new things coming along on a fairly regular basis . . . yet as we get older, if those things are not somehow connected to or related to us, they are easily ignored. Then, there are occasions when we find some connection, and it is then that we will often take some interest and look into certain matters for clarity. But, generally speaking, we only do so if there is some motivating factor. Recently I have been motivated to look into and learn about a Disney computer-generated/animated 3D film. That film is Frozen, and it has taken the preschool world by storm . . . It is certainly not something that would typically occupy much of my attention.

I have spent quite a bit of time in the Community Pool over the past couple of years, and there is a large group of kids who come there. I heard a number of the smaller kids talking about Frozen and saw their towels, back packs, and accessories with a number of pop-eyed characters, along with the title FROZEN emblazoned upon them. Competing with Frozen has been “Hello Kitty.” I never paid much attention to either, until I discovered how smitten Abi is with the entire Frozen thing. Whew . . . That gal is all about Frozen!

Sarah made the girls great Halloween costumes as Anna and Elsa – the sisters who are the principle characters in the film. Elsa is the older sister (Ali), while Anna is the younger sister (Abi). Sarah’s forwarded a number of photos of the girls in those cute costumes. The photos made me chuckle and warmed my heart. Still, I didn’t know much about Frozen except that it was a Disney film that my darling little girls liked.

As Christmas approached, Sandy, more in tune with the interest of kids, bought the girls several gifts with some connection to Frozen and we chuckled about them. However, it was not until the girls visited that I really got a sense of how very important that movie is . . . well, especially for Abi. I actually heard Ali tell Abi several times, “Abi, let’s just give the whole Frozen thing a rest” . . . but Abi wasn’t having any of that. Aunt Courtney had hooked us up with Apple TV, and one evening I asked Abi if she wanted to watch Frozen on TV and I was blown away by the excited look on her sweet little, angelic face. She bounced across the room to the TV and squealed in delight as Nana set it up. I have never seen a child so excited about anything. It just tickled me to see her so happy. One thing was set in concrete . . . when Abi wants to watch Frozen, the TV was lost to everyone else! There is simply no negotiation to be had.

Frozen is a musical, and the sound track is really pretty catchy and bouncy. The main song is “Let it Go,” which has won a number of awards. Abi loves that song . . . Abi knows that song . . . Abi can sing that song . . . Abi loves to sing that song . . . and Abi is gonna sing that song!
If you have a problem with that, then kindly excuse yourself from the room and get out of her way . . . the gal is gonna sing, and she gets to sing all she wants at Nana’s and Pappy’s! In fact, I even try to join in and sing with her; she will stop singing, whirl around in frustration, point that tiny little index finger at me and growl, “Stop!” She is quite dramatic in her singing as she spreads her arms and lifts her palms as she performs. Her little face is precious and her eyes twinkle.

That was sufficient to get me hooked. Frozen is a story based upon Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Snow Queen,” and there is actually a plot, but one must follow along closely. The story is of two sisters whose parents perished at sea while the girls were young. Elsa was gifted with specific powers, but the girls were separated prior to the parents’ death so that Elsa could learn how to properly use the gifts. That separation caused Elsa to become conflicted and introverted. It caused Anna to love Elsa more and yearn to be with here. As Anna sets out to locate her sister, she encounters a number of characters . . . like life, some good and some not so good; and Anna must decide how to proceed. My personal favorite, and I believe also Abi’s, is a talking, bouncing, laughing, and dancing little imp of a snowman called Olaf.

I like Frozen . . . and I love Ali and Abi!! I want to stay in the game for them. I want to enjoy them and the things that make them happy.

Elvis . . . January 8, 2015

It was on this date that Elvis would have turned 80 years of age. I just can’t get my mind around that . . . I simply cannot imagine Elvis as an old man . . . the image simply does not work in my mind.

He was 16 years older than I, so when I was 14, he was 30 . . . and that was about the time he was at the height of his popularity. I just never thought about him being 30. Actually, today it occurred to me that my mom was only 6 years older than Elvis, but at 14 I thought of her as ancient, yet I thought of Elvis just like he was one of one of us (young people)!

He was one of the few people on the planet who was known and recognized by only his first name (actually, I can’t think of anyone else I knew of who that could be said about). The truth is that he was really something pretty special. He came from simple and humble beginnings and was pretty much just another guy in school, but God blessed him with a singing voice like no one else. As I understand it, he dabbled with trying to sing as a younger guy, but no one paid much attention to him. Then he hooked up with a guy called Col. Parker and he shot to fame. It wasn’t long before he was setting the charts on fire with records, filling large auditoriums with screaming kids, and had created a serious debate amongst our parent’s generation. Soon, there was a chant “Rock and Roll has gotta go” . . .

In spite of his fame, wealth, and appeal, he always remained a rather low-keyed guy . . . for a young guy who his peers called, “the King.” He answered the draft, wore the uniform of his county, and behaved pretty much like the other guys in the barracks, and he always said “Yes Sir” and “Yes Ma’am.” I never heard any ugly stories of wild sexual escapades involving him . . . and that was certainly an indicator of the moral values instilled in him by his Christian mother (it was always obvious that there were many young women who would have been willing to entertain him) . . . It was often reported that they threw their under garments on the stage at him!

He always loved and respected his folks and treated them well. In many ways, he reflected the Christian values they had lived before him and had taught him. He got great pleasure from singing Gospel music. I listen to the Elvis channel on Sirius/XM radio. Not only does the station play Elvis’ recordings, they also have regular and in-depth interviews of Elvis’ pals and former band members. Those guys often say that there was nothing Elvis enjoyed more than getting a group around a piano and singing Gospel songs.

Elvis singing How Great Thou Art will always be high on my list of favorites. It was brilliant and is still being played all across the world on a daily basis.

I can’t imagine Elvis at 80 . . . can you?

One Person’s Influence

On Saturday night, 12/27/2014, Sandy and I were alone in the Burnet house after having had a houseful for several days. She was reading and I was flipping channels, which I like to do. I stumbled upon an ESPN documentary called “30 for 30.” It was an in-depth review of NBA championship teams/eras from the early Boston Celtics, the old L A Lakers (which I liked a lot but my fondness does not extend to the Kobe Bryant era – while I do know he is a talented player, I also know that he is an arrogant showboat and, I believe, a rapist). I really enjoyed watching Larry Bird, Kevin McCale, and Robert Parish with the Celtics; Magic Johnson, KareemAbadul Jabbar, and the other Lakers back in that era. They really had it going on. Both teams were excellent, really loved the game, and were so competitive.

I was surprised as the documentary moved into the later 1980’s, and I was reminded of the Detroit Pistons and what a good team that had been. Those guys were led by Isaiah Thomas and Bill Lambier. They played hard and aggressively and didn’t hesitate to commit hard fouls, and through that era earned the name “The Bad Boys.” Next was Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and the Chicago Bulls . . . what a fun team they were to watch. They simply took the game of basketball to a new level, and literally “The Crowd went wild!!”
The thing that stood out to me was how each team had a strong leader and how he influenced his team . . . some for good, others not for good.
The ESPN documentary ended before the San Antonio Spurs’ push to greatness occurred. As I thought back over the years and the great teams, I remembered each one for different things — but primarily how that one person influenced each of those teams . . . for good or bad. It occurred to me that as time moves on, we will someday look back at the Spurs of this era, one of the most important things that will be mentioned will be that while these guys were great athletes from all across the globe, the one thing that stood out above all else was that they were gentlemen in all areas and never brought any form of embarrassment upon the team or the community. That has certainly been true because of David Robinson and his leadership . . . even through the years since he retired.
I recall reading a news article about David Robinson holding a press conference early in his NBA career. The press conference was to announce that he had accepted Jesus as his Savior and he was making his public profession of faith in Jesus. The author of the article asked a number of folks what they thought about David’s decision. I recall that one NBA coach was quoted as having said, “If he doesn’t let it get out of hand, it should not affect his game too much!” I would argue that one cannot “let that get out of hand too much.” The total point of conversion is that one becomes a completely new creature – now indwelled by the living spirit of the resurrected Lord. The more one allows that Spirit to guide him through life, the better that person becomes. It certainly did that in David’s life. That good man became a better man, a better leader, and a better citizen.

Who are we influencing, and how are we influencing them? What will be said about us when we
have finished our game? How will we be remembered? That is something to think about as we begin a new year. I often tell the folks at Charlie’s Place that we can look back and survey the landscape of our lives. Generally, we will see some things back there which we are embarrassed about and wish we could change, but of course we just can’t do that. That stuff is what it is, but by the grace of God we can look forward and change how our stories end. That is exactly what David Robinson did early in his career, and it certainly change his story . . . and his decision changed the story for the Spurs, and for a bunch of other folks who came along behind him!

The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 3:12 – 15 that was what he did . . . and contrasting with a management/leadership style/principle from the day in which he lived, he said that he didn’t concern himself by looking back over time, he just looked ahead . . . and he looked forward through the eyes of faith, convinced that God was at work in him and through him, and he was ready to meet and experience whatever it was that God had in store for him.

I love that about Paul, and I want to follow his example. While I am like everyone else and don’t have a clue about what lies ahead as I enter the new year, I want to look forward with eyes of faith like Paul and remember that God is at work in me and through me . . . and anything and everything that comes into my life comes filtered through the loving and gentle hands of God. It is not mine to say “yea or nay” . . . It is simply mine to say, “I will follow!” That is Paul’s influence on me.

Happy New Year!