Confusion . . .

There just isn’t very much going on out there in the area of world events to make me happy or give me much comfort concerning our security as a people living at a time of great confusion. However, I am pleased that Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was recently re-elected. I think he is a decent man and a strong leader. I am certain that his focus is to defend the Jewish state and that he will defend Israel at any and all cost. In fact, he demonstrated that as a brave officer in the Israeli military, where he was seriously wounded in battle as a younger man.

One source of confusion for me this morning: The U. S. has had a long standing relationship with Israel, and recognized her as one of our strongest allies, and certainly our best in the Middle East. I am confused why the current occupant of the White House delights in antagonizing the Prime Minister and trying to publicly embarrass him. Well, actually, I can think of a reason . . . perhaps all of the stuff being said about him, a Muslim, is correct . . . that would sure explain it. I am not only confused over it, I am also a bit frightened by it.

A second cause of concern and confusion: The past 6+ years have demonstrated that the current administration is weak and ignorant in matters of foreign policy. That foolishness has left us vulnerable on a number of fronts. One such front is Iran and its pursuit of nuclear power. We have struggled with 35+ years of conflicting data connected with the Iranian seizure of our American Embassy in Tehran and the ensuing hostage situation. Today, the administration is negotiating a secret deal with Iran . . . but not one knowledgeable and respected person from the military or intelligence community is applauding that. Most are scratching their head.

It seems to me . . . that we are far off-course in negotiating with those dangerous, radical, and wicked people who openly, and from a world stage, declare their greatest desire as being to blow Israel off of the face of the earth. Our clear message to Iran and the world must be: Iran is a rogue nation filled with dangerous people, and that nation simply cannot acquire nuclear capabilities. Israel has vowed to prevent that from becoming a reality, and you can be certain that Israeli intelligence will certainly know ahead of time, and will act accordingly. Our message needs to be that we will support and even assist Israel should that become necessary.

I understand that the foreign policy practices of the U S over the past 50 years have been peculiar at best and have caused many problems around the world. We invite trouble as we meddle . . . nibbling at our heels by rogue nations . . . as we allow ourselves to be spread too thin . . . and show weakness of character when we look like we are throwing our friend under the bus . . . as we currently are. This is not really new. In fact it goes back to the early 1800’s and the adoption of the foreign policy known as the Monroe Doctrine (1823), under James Monroe. It was a far-reaching policy intended to eliminate European powers from involvement in this hemisphere. The peculiar thing about it was that at that time the British navy was something like seven times the size of ours. Yet, we acted then like we were King Kong.

The tragedy is that the majority of the problems in the troubled Middle East region is frankly the result of our politicians and intelligence service being overly involved in and with the nations in the region, and propping up puppet dictators who would favor the U.S. That was certainly true in the late 70’s in Iran! It remains true today as we struggle with the following two elements, which we simply are ignorant about . . . and pretending and acting as if neither one is real:

1. The first one is the global war with radical Islamist (the violent Jihad) . . . which we have seen in Paris, Austria, Tunisia, Syria, Iran, Libya, Gaza, Nigeria, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Yemen; and

2. The second is the cultural Jihad that, while appearing peaceful, is in full attack against the world relative to what we believe and call normal. Cultural Jihad is more insidious and in many ways more dangerous. Cultural Jihad strikes at our very ability to think and have an open dialogue about reasonable steps to our very survival. Examples of where Cultural Jihad is finding victory is when our Department of Defense describes what was clearly a terrorist attack on one of our military bases as “work place violence,” which the President refers to as “random killings,” which were, in fact, clearly actions of Islamic terrorists and targeted against a specific group . . . Christians; and when the administration censors training documents captured with Bin Ladin and also lectures the world on sensitivity . . . which prevents describing radical Islamist with any reference to the religious ideology which is the proximate bond that unites them.

We need to learn to mind our own business, to stay home, to speak softly, and to carry a big stick; and have a few simple rules. Here are a few:

1. We want to live at peace with all nations and peoples;

2. If you have a problem and need our help, let us know and we will try to lend a helping hand;

3. We stand with Israel . . . any threat to Israel is a threat against the USA;

4. We will utterly destroy any nation that plays any role in any act of aggression against the USA or Israel and we will offer no apology for our response;

5. We will view as mortal enemy any nation that supports, assists, or permits any terrorist element and provides any support or place of rest or refuge to such elements;

6. We solemnly pledge that if any nation, group, or element acting with malice or evil intent and injures an American citizen, we will repay in like kind at the rate of 1,000 to 1, so, proceed with great caution; and

7. We will speak openly and completely resist any and all Islamic efforts to alter, influence, or change our opinions about what Islam actually is, and the dangers it poses for us and the world!

One of the Rewards . . .

Courtney said some really sweet words to me today . . . simple words; but, nonetheless, words that mean a great deal to a dad.

She said, “Chris and I stopped by the Chevy dealership last week and asked to test-drive a Jeep Wrangler.” She went on to say the salesman acted as if he knew that he ought to recognize them, but he held back and didn’t ask. She said he was very polite, got the key, and they took their test drive. She said when they pulled back in the dealership and parked, he met them and called them both by name and asked about me and my health. She said, “Dad, he was nice and polite, but when he made our connection with you, there was a new level of respect and courtesy!” Then she said those precious words, “Thank you for living an honorable life in our community and giving us a proud, honest, and respected name!”

Of course, I explained to her that all of that was good and noble, but was honestly the result of living the Christian life in both word and deed. One of the great rewards for a life lived well is certainly an acknowledgement by one’s children, but even better is the anticipation of those words of which Jesus said might be spoke spoken on Judgment Day . . . “Well Done, thou good and faithful servant!” Matthew 25:21

I was embarrassed at an early age by telling a lie . . . I am glad that happened!

I was embarrassed at an early age by being caught taking something that was not mine . . . I am glad that happened.

I learned at an early age that dishonesty produces pain, shame, humiliation, and embarrassment — and makes folks avoid you!

Life is a gift and one does well to invest it . . . There’s just nothing sadder than a life that has been squandered. Sadly, over 40 years in elderly affordable housing, I have seen so much of that!

Thank you, Courtney! I am so proud of you and Chris . . . that you learned well and live honorable lives before God and your fellow man!

God . . . The Creator!

When I was a kid I thought everyone believed in God and believed that He created the heavens and earth . . . and everything within . . . including mankind. Well, everyone I knew did believe those very things. I believe that still remains true in my circle, but it must not be true for everyone. I understand there are some folks out there . . . some groups . . . some place . . . who believe something else about how to account for the existence of the universe and human presence here on earth. I know that must be true, because I regularly hear about a debate on the subject. I suppose that the debate must occur in the halls of academia and in classrooms, as those from each position battle for the minds of learners.

I can see how it might be possible for a man
to look down upon the earth and be an atheist,
but I cannot conceive how he could look up
into the heavens and say there is no God.
– ABRAHAM LINCOLN

I simply do not understand how one could believe anything different than the Biblical account of a loving God creating the universe . . . and populating it with a people whom He can love, nurture, fellowship, bless, direct, and see after. Actually, I don’t know why anyone would even want to believe anything else. Sometimes things in our lives, in our world, can suddenly go nuts . . . and it is most comforting for me to know that my God . . . my Father . . . is there guiding and directing things and working them out (Romans 8:28).

It seems that for a number of years this on-going and ever-growing debate within our culture on the subject of creation versus an assortment of other beliefs, such as the Big Bang Theory, has been going on. The debate has had some very well-educated folks on each side arguing the question . . . but I don’t think that translates to there being “very smart people” on each side of the equation . . . which is sometimes alleged. Education does not always manifest itself as smart; yet, smart does not always look educated (hence, a mountain man in his battle with a giant bear may be plenty smart, cunning, and willy, in spite of his not being educated).

As a Believer, it just seems to me that there is an endless supply of arguments and evidences that can be marshaled to give evidence of God . . . including scientific evidence. Three examples that come to my mind this morning are:

Example #1. Motion . . . anything in motion must be moved by another . . . because motion is the response of matter to power! In the world of matter there can be no power without life . . . and life pre-supposes a being from which emanates the power to move things, such as the tides and the planets.

Example #2. There is a valid argument that nothing can be the cause of itself . . . If it were, then it would be prior to itself and, therefore, caused itself to be . . . and that is an absurdity. Apply this principle to creation and think about it!

Example #3: The Law of Life . . . We see objects that have no intellect, such as stars and planets, moving in a consistent pattern, cooperating ingeniously with one another, and doing so for long periods of time. Hence, it is evident that they have achieved their movements . . . not by accident . . . but rather by design and direction. God put that stuff up there . . . He told it what He wanted it to do . . . and He told it to just keep doing it until He told it all to do something different . . . and by George, it has . . . it does . . . and it will. The truth of the matter is it doesn’t make a bit of difference what man says, does, or believes!

An absolute truth: anything that lacks intelligence simply cannot move intelligently! A simple illustration is found in the truth that an arrow is useless without a bow or an archer.

So, do you truly have a question . . . relative to what it is that gives this direction . . . purpose . . . and design to inanimate objects?

Of course, the only intelligent reply must be shouted back, “IT IS GOD! ……. He is the underlying, motivating force of life!” Nothing else makes sense . . .

Hebrews 1:2 declares it: “He made the world and everything there is!”

I find peace in this truth . . . I find rest in it . . . I find purpose in it . . . I find my place in it, as I believe that He has a plan . . . and that He has a place and a purpose for me in that plan . . . and it is in that truth that I find direction and motivation.

Hey . . . I am not simply here occupying time and space, drifting from nothing to nothing! I am blessed: I know where I came from and I know where I am going. Even better, I know the One who created me, the One who redeemed me, and the One with whom I shall spend eternity!

 

 

Time . . . and Speed . . .

From the time of creation up until about 1960, human travel was limited to about the speed of a good horse. Then, in 1960, man went into space and traveled at the speed of 18,000 mph. Today, we think nothing of flying thru space at 400 to 500 mph on modern commercial air carriers, and traveling in autos at 75 mph.

Can you imagine what happens when the God of Glory sends for one of his saints? Can we then travel at the speed of light? At the speed of sound? Wow . . . can you even imagine what He has waiting for us?

Getting the Pickles out of the story . . .

I was recently telling my friend that I have a book forming inside my head, and when I am released from rehab I plan to begin writing it. He encourage me to move forward in haste and get it done. He thought the book sounded pretty good and he even liked the title I have selected. He said that he had a word of advice for me and smiled. Of course, I was interested and invited him to offer his advice. He smiled and said, “Hire someone qualified to help you get the pickles out of it!”

As we chuckled he told me the story of his daughter driving from California to visit them in Rockport. He said that she sent him a text message saying, “Stopping overnight in Pickles, Texas; I’ll get back on the road in the morning.” He said when he read the text he chuckled but was also confused because he knew here was no such place.

When she arrived in Rockport she cleared the matter up and said that she had overnighted in far west Texas . . . in the small, dirty little town of Pecos. We chuckled . . . and agreed that getting the pickles out of the story is always very important . . . and requires a good proofreader with good editing skills.

I have that person . . . my darling wife, Sandy! She has been getting the pickles out of my stories . . . out of my life . . . for years. She does it quietly, lovingly, with a great deal of class; all the while encouraging me! In fact, she is the administrator for this Blog! Everything that is good herein is a result of her efforts . . . any error is completely me.

Thank you, Honey! I love you . . .

Old Steve . . .

The first time I ever saw him, he was navigating his small flat-bottom galvanized boat down the intercostal waterway near Conn Brown Harbor, just South of the causeway to Port Aransas. He was a peculiar sight, to say the least. He sat in the stern of his very old, beat up 14′ boat and held onto the tiller on the small outboard motor with his right hand while his left hand clutched his big floppy straw hat on his head, and there was a steady cloud of smoke rising above his head as he constantly chomped and puffed on a cheap cigar. He was only going about seven or eight mph, and it was really about all that little 15-HP outboard would do . . . but that was actually okay! I would come to learn that this was a man who was never in a hurry.

I was new to the Texas Gulf Coast and desperately wanting to learn how to bay-fish and even more—how to do it successfully. At that time, I had an expensive high-performance Bass boat . . . a 17′ Hydrasport with a 150-HP Black Max. It was a modified Allison racing hull and it was a very fast, very pretty boat with a fancy red-metal-flake paint job. The hull had a 6′ beam and an early generation tunnel; the back 5′ of the hull was a sled—five-feet long and three-feet wide. The boat was powered by a 150-HP Black Max outboard, with tilt . . . trim and a hydraulic Jack-plate. Once the boat was on plane, you could push the throttle forward to the hilt, hit the trim, and tilt; it would actually elevate the boat’s hull out of the water except the 3′ x 5′ sled underneath, and at that point you pretty much had a very, very fast boat. It would literally shoot a rooster tail 20+ feet into the air as it flew above the water’s surface (a 150-HP engine on a fifteen-foot boat)! That was exactly what was going on as I passed (flew by) Steve that afternoon all those years ago.

I had gone out and drifted, casting a green plastic thing. I had actually caught three or four pretty nice Speckled trout (about 17” each) and thought I was something special. I flew down the channel and made my turn into the marina and slid up to the boat ramp. I tied my boat off and trotted up to get my Blazer and trailer. I loaded my boat and backed up to the fish-cleaning tables, grabbed my electric knife, and headed up to clean my fish. I always loved this part of the trip . . . a bit of show-off time! There were always a few guys hanging around to watch the show.

As I cleaned my fish, I saw him pull up to the ramp and tie off. One of the old guys said, “I bet Steve has a bunch of fish today . . . he has been out all afternoon.” I watched him struggle to climb out of the boat and hobble up the pier. He made his way over to a green ’65 4-door Chevy Biscayne sedan with rusted-out fenders. Attached to the old clunker was a really small, rusty, and very old trailer. He made a half dozen attempts to back the trailer into the ramp and then with great effort managed to load the old skiff. As I looked on in my foolish arrogance, I thought it was about time for the old dude to give up fishing and find another form of recreation. Then, he pulled the old car up to the fish-cleaning table and got out. He walked over to where I stood, looked down at my trophies, and smirked. He then had the gall to ask . . . actually semi-order me to help him unload his fish boxes. My mom raised me right, so as a matter of respect (for age . . . certainly not for his behavior), I followed him back to his boat. There were several 48-quart igloo’s in the middle section, so I asked him which box he wanted and was shocked when he replied, “They’s all full o’ fish that be needing cleaned!”

In amazement I raised the lid of each box and was instantly so impressed with this old scoundrel! Those boxes were filled with really big, beautiful redfish; I was so stinking jealous I couldn’t stand myself. I proudly carried his fish boxes to the fish-cleaning table and offered to help him clean his fish. My new best bud!!!! Yeah buddy!

I asked him where he lived and he said, “Me and Momma stays in da government housin’ project behind da liquor store here in AP.” I chuckled and told him, “If you will teach me to catch redfish like these, I will see to it that you get a brand-new apartment and have a nice place to live for the rest of your life!” I told him that I had such a place under construction and was certain he would qualify. As I told him about it, he brightened up and said, “Momma already been over there and was wantin’ to move in.” He went on to say, “but if you’re wantin’ to fish with me, you’re gonna have to get a new boat Cuz that one you got ain’t no count.”

I picked him up the next morning at nine—per his instruction—and took him out for breakfast and then bought the boat he pointed out and had him back at his apartment in time for lunch. He picked out a 15’9″ Wooden skiff built by master-skiff-builder Bubba Molina (actually the last one Bubba would build). It was a terrific bay boat; it had a 50-HP outboard, and a seven-foot beam, and it would literally float in five-inches of water with two fishermen in it. Steve said the trick to catching a redfish was that we had to get back there to get them, and he sure was right about that.

Steve and I would spend many hours together over the next few years, and he did teach me to catch redfish. It was a most interesting experience. He would tell me that I needed to pick him up at three p.m. tomorrow, “Cuz the fish would bite late,” and sure enough, we would load up. There were no limits—nor was a license required. We caught a lot of fish . . . but it was always comical. We would get in a great school of fish and be having a blast and I would want to know the “why” of it all. I would ask Steve, “Why are we catching fish right here, right now?” He would look at me in sheer astonishment and say, “Cuz they be here and we be here at the same time.” Each day I would go home and enter the day’s data in my computer (e. g. wind 15 . . . SE . . . tide status . . . place . . . time . . . and any other pertinent data). Finally, over time, I could see a pattern develop and it made sense. I tried to explain it to Steve, but he just looked at me like I was from outer space. It simply didn’t matter to him . . . he just knew by a combination of instinct and years of experience where to fish and he was right more often than not.

Steve and I were as different as night and day, but I loved that old rascal. He was a simple man, never went beyond the 3rd grade, never learned to read or write . . . but he was a man with honor. He married the woman he loved, they had five children together, he was always faithful, never drank more than two beers in a day (he said he never wanted to lose his self-control), and he never held one job for wages in his entire life!! Steve loved to fish . . . and he fed his family by fishing. When the doctors and lawyers came to town, he took them fishing for a fee. When they didn’t, he sold his fish to the tourist (never to the fish houses . . . “they cheat a po’ man.”)

There were many interesting things about Steve. One in particular was that he was clearly of Hispanic origin, yet he spoke no Spanish, and his English was spoken like an old-world Black (Ebonics). Another interesting thing about him was that I never once heard him say a word about or against anyone, and I never saw him unhappy.

We even spent a number of nights each fall gigging flounder, which was great fun. There is no place like Redfish Bay on a lovely fall evening with a full moon. We would launch the boat, run across the bay, anchor where we wanted to begin our drift, have our dinner and a thermos of coffee while we waited for it to get good and dark. As we sat and waited, we talked about a lot of things . . . about the world . . . about family . . . about life . . . and then one night, we talked about the next life. Steve said he just didn’t know much about such matters, but had always been interested . . . he said he simply never knew where to make inquire. I shared the Gospel story from the Bible with him; he genuinely loved the notion that God loved him that much. He said that he had often thought about God as he sat in his little boat out on the water at night. That night my friend, in simple, child-like faith, invited Christ into his heart. The next morning he called me and wanted me to come talk to his darling so she could go to Heaven with him. I did . . . and at his urging, she responded in faith. A few short weeks later, my friend Steve died in the shower of his apartment . . . he had a massive heart-attack and was gone instantly.

I think about him often . . . and fondly! My life has certainly been richer, fuller, and more adventurous because the Lord crossed our paths that afternoon 35+ years ago. I believe my friend is in Heaven tonight because the Lord crossed our paths.

I am hoping that if there are Redfish in Heaven, Steve has us a honey-hole staked out up there. I know Heaven is a perfect place, but fishing will likely be quite difficult . . . as all of the fishermen are gonna be perfect!!!

“Well, it just depends on how you look at it . . . “

It all depends on how we look at things, and not how they are in themselves.
Carl Jung

As a high school kid, I worked in a service station (we don’t have many any longer). I worked for an old country fellow named Clyde and this is how he usually responded to both comments, observations, and questions alike: “Well, it just depends on how you look at it . . .” I found it maddening and it just bugged me that he could not ever simply give a definitive, clear, and concise response/reply to much of anything. But, in spite of my irritation, I don’t believe I ever did hear him do any differently . . . not even once. Of course, I would ask him about it and he would attempt to explain it with a question or even a series of questions, when he found me particularly bullheaded. Here is an example of how such a conversation would transpire with us:

A customer would pull into the service-bay and the drive-way bell would summons us to provide service. One of us would greet the customer and inquire about gas with the standard, “Yes Sir?”. . . Actually meaning what grade and what quantity. The other would check tire-pressures, clean the windshield, and check under the hood. The customer, perhaps being friendly might say, “It was good that we got a nice rain this morning, huh?” Clyde, being the boss and adult would naturally respond, and would reply with, “Well, it depends how you look at it.” The customer would look at us both in a peculiar manner, pay up, thank us, and drive off. I would ask Clyde about his reply and say, “We pretty much live in the desert, so any/all rain is good thing, right? He would chuckle and ask, “How many cars did you wash yesterday?” I would think a minute and say, “five.” He would pause and do the math: $8.00 x 5 = $40.00. I could see what was going on. Then, he would say, “Well, you think the rain was good, but them boys that paid $8.00 each won’t be thinking so good about the rain this morning; but them what have cars sitting out there waiting on you to wash them this afternoon will be thinking the rain was good!”

This is one simple illustration of Clyde’s view of life; it actually went much deeper. Clyde was a rather simple fellow, with a rather simple, if not confused, view of life. For him, whatever came along could either be good or bad, it simply depended on how it impacted you and your situation . . . at any given moment in time. I suppose that is okay, if it works for you, but I always just wanted/needed life to have greater meaning, clarity, and truth. I just needed some things to always be good . . . righteous . . . and appropriate, and I also needed to know that other things were simply wrong . . . and would always be wrong regardless of time, location, circumstances, or how others felt about them. I had to believe in a system of right and wrong . . . a balance that God put into place and by which He measured and evaluated. I just had to believe that if I asked a bank for a $100 loan that there were no circumstances under the sun which would ever excuse my not repaying that loan . . . to do otherwise would be a violation of my own honor . . . and the bank’s trust.

Today, I know that what Clyde believed was actually a primitive and early version of relativism . . . the basic belief that different things are right, true for different people at different times, and that there is no universal validity to what transpires. That line of thinking has evolved and grown over the years. In fact, we often hear of some rather sad and tragic things people have done, but by the time their legal representatives and other advocates are finished, the evil-doer is somehow the victim . . . rather than the villain.

I also know that entire line of thinking is wrong and is simply a crackpot approach to life that enables one to excuse himself from the truth that God created each one of us to live in relationship with Him. The way we look at things is critical, but it does not change anything about the truth . . . it simply changes things about us.

There is a most interesting place in the mountain range east of the Sierra Nevada, within it is a place known as Death Valley, and within that is a place known as Bad-Water Basin. From one location therein, one can look up and see the top of Mt Whitney, the highest elevation on the contiguous North American Continent (14,505′); yet, can also look down and see the lowest point on the continent (-282′).

Life, and how we view it, is much like that perch inside Bad-Water Basin . . . we can look high or we can look low . . . and the truth is that each of those places to which people look produces things in lives.

Sometimes I wonder what ever became of Clyde. I wonder if he ever figured it out? It always troubled me that Clyde was a pretty old dude to be so confused about some pretty basic elements of the life experience. I wish I had been a bit stronger back then, and perhaps even more articulate. I might have motivated Clyde to do some thinking . . .

The Heart . . .

The heart is the blood pump of the body! It is also used metaphorically when we speak of love, affection, and feelings. Since it is the central organ of the body and one of the most vital, the Bible speaks of it as the well-spring of life, and it is often used synonymously with life itself.

Have you had your heart checked recently? I did recently and was given wonderful news. I was told that I have the heart and cardio-system of a much younger man. That is great news. I have had some recent health struggles, but it has been comforting to know that my heart was healthy and that information changed a bunch of stuff.

Some of those medical issues were serious and motivated me to check my heart on a number of other fronts, and I am both pleased and satisfied with my own findings. I have followed the instruction of Romans 10:9-10, and I know that I have not merely given intellectual assent to the historical Jesus . . . I believe in Him with a saving faith . . . and that changes everything for me and eternity!

There are many things competing for the human heart today. Have you had a recent medical exam? Early detection is important. Have you examined your heart before the Lord? Early detection is critical and life-saving!

Be heart-healthy!