Just for Fun . . . Laugh and Be Happy!

“Lexophilia” describes words/phrases such as: “you can tune a piano, but you can’t tuna fish” or “to write with a broken pencil is pointless.”
A few more to make you smile …or say ‘h-m-m-m, yeah, well that’s true’ . . .

.. When fish are in schools, they sometimes take debate.

.. A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.

.. When the smog lifts in Los Angeles U.C.L.A.

.. The batteries were given out free of charge.

.. A dentist and a manicurist married. They fought tooth and nail.

.. A will is a dead giveaway.

.. With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.

.. A boiled egg is hard to beat.

.. When you’ve seen one shopping center you’ve seen a mall.

.. Police were summoned to a daycare center where a three-year-old was resisting a rest.

.. Did you hear about the fellow whose entire left side was cut off? He’s all right now.

.. A bicycle can’t stand alone; it’s just two tired.

.. When a clock is hungry it goes back four seconds.

.. The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine is now fully recovered.

.. He had a photographic memory which was never developed.

.. When she saw her first strands of grey hair she thought she’d dye.

.. Acupuncture is a jab well done. That’s the point of it.

AND ONE WITH GOOD ADVICE FOR US ALL:
.. Those who get too big for their pants will be totally exposed in the end.

ALWAYS LAUGH WHEN YOU CAN . . . IT’S CHEAP MEDICINE.

What a Wonderful World . . .

I love life . . . I appreciate life.

Over the past couple of years, I have learned to embrace life and to view it as a wonderful gift—which it truly is. I recently came to realize that for a number of years I had not really viewed life as a sweet and precious gift—I had simply gone through the motions, doing what I was supposed to do, when I was supposed to do it, and like I was supposed to do it. I did so without much thought. In fact, I suspect that I had pretty much simply endured life and lived by rote, in something of a mechanical fashion. Looking back, I think that, perhaps I just thought that I was going to live forever . . . that I was going to enjoy good health forever.

I had always been healthy as a horse, and about as strong as one. That is no play on words—I only met a few men I felt were as strong physically as I. I recall that I was once on a hunting lease with a good group of guys. There was a large stone up near the lodge and it was always in the way as we hauled our gear in and out of the lodge. We all complained about it, and talked about moving it out of the way, but we didn’t ever do anything about it. One afternoon I arrived there for a weekend hunt before any of the other guys. As I pulled up to the lodge, I saw the stone and decided I would move it, so I did. That night as we sat by the outdoor fire pit, the lawyer in the group turned to me and casually thanked me for moving the rock. I chuckled and asked him why he thought I had moved it. He said, “Because there were no drag marks where someone used a vehicle and chain to drag it away, and you are the only guy who has ever been out here who could pick it up alone and load it in a pickup, so I knew you moved it.” The other guys laughed and acknowledge it too.

I suspect that while my good health and strength were wonderful gifts, they caused me to have a distorted sense of reality . . . for the most part, I just felt invincible. I saw things happen to others; I simply could not imagine those things happening to me. My business is elderly housing, and I have spent years working with older folks and those with handicaps and disabilities. I have seen lots of folks who were sick, injured, and weak. I can honestly say that I was always compassionate and even hurt for and prayed for my friends and never hesitated to do anything for them that I could . . . but I don’t recall having ever once empathized with one of them. I was the guy who always thought “someone else” and for many years it was someone else.

Better than most, I understood that health fails . . . that folks get sick. I spent many hours visiting in hospitals. Better than most, I understood that folks got sick and died . . . I have attended many funerals and memorial services throughout the years, but I simply never saw myself in any of that. I think that—without having thought it out—I just thought that I would remain young, strong, and healthy—and then Jesus would return! I always knew there was an end—I just saw myself ending well!

Then things changed . . . and my perception changed. I got sick and lost my strength, but I didn’t give up . . . I just got busy . . . living . . . and working! I am still busy . . . living . . . and working . . . and thanking God for a second chance!

I see birds . . . flowers . . . rainbows . . . sunshine . . . and children today that I mainly missed before. I hear birds singing . . . children laughing . . . the gentle breeze in the live-oak trees . . . the sound of the waves on the beach today that I mainly missed before. I can smell the wonderful aroma of bread in the oven that I seemed to have missed before.

Louis Armstrong, the great old jazz singer recorded a tremendous song (by far his best) . . . “What a Wonderful World.” Now, that is something with which I can relate! In spite of the tragedy and consequences of sin . . . in spite of the pain, sickness, stress, and turmoil . . . in spite of all of the broken promises and unrealized dreams that are all around us . . . it is, indeed, a beautiful world!

Enjoy life . . . live it to the max!

You can listen to Louis Armstrong sing What a Wonderful World at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnbLRCIJKbE

 

 

Helping . . . or simply Empowering?

That is the question over which many parents of dysfunctional children currently struggle, as have many others through the years. “Am I helping, or is my assistance only empowering him or her to drift deeper and deeper into the dysfunction?” Professionals challenge parents to wrestle over the question and also talk about the need for the wayward “to hit the bottom.” Most argue there will not be healing, release, or recovery until this occurs. I find myself at that place today.

My phone chirped signaling a text. I checked it but did not recognize the number, but quickly he identified himself. His text message was an apology. It was from a fellow I have tried to help over the past few years, who became a part-time employee. Some time back, he came to the conclusion that I was the cause and source of all of his problems, and he left in a rage of hateful anger. Now, today he is confessing and apologizing. His text said that he had finally “checked himself into a hospital where he got the psychological help and medications he needed — and he is now able to think more clearly.”

Let me go back to the beginning. The first time I saw him was at the drug- and alcohol-rehab place at which I spoke on Saturday nights. He was a patient there and was a jolly little chubby, Black guy, seemingly just happy to be alive. After the meeting, he raised his hand and when recognized asked if he might do a song for the group. I motioned to the group for their concurrence and they were agreeable. I indicated to the guy that he could come to the podium. He did not sing a song, instead he did a rap — of which I am certainly no fan, but the lyrics were quite good and he had a pretty good delivery. Afterward, I asked him where it came from and he said he wrote it; I was impressed. I asked him what he was doing at this place as he seemed a rather bright fellow. He said he had a drug problem. I told him that he was an idiot and pointed out that God had given him a gift of writing, an amazing memory, and a good delivery—and each time he experimented with recreational drugs, he put those gifts at great risk. Certainly not the choices of an intelligent person — and let us never forget that it is, indeed, a choice. As an example, I personally made a choice years ago that I would never try any form of illegal drugs. It is a choice that I have continued to honor.

As we talked over the next few weeks, he told me that he was soon to be discharged but had no money, friends, support system, and no place to go. Typical of 12-step programs — come here, spend a few weeks with us, do what we tell you to do, go through the 12 steps, then we will declare you as having overcome your problem, and then we’ll release you back to the streets . . . “but you can drop by our meeting every week and tell folks how you are doing.” He said his mom was a widow living in south Austin and she was simply unable to help out. He also had daughters and grandkids in that same area, and it was where he wanted to go. I own an apartment complex south of Austin, so I got him an application for that apartment complex; he completed and submitted it. He was released and went to stay temporarily with “a lady he knew from a Church he had attended.” After a couple of weeks, he was approved for an apartment. He called and talked with me about the woman with whom he was living and announced they were in love and wanted to get married; he wanted to take her with him. After a couple of days, Charlie, Jerry, and I drove to Corpus Christi and picked up him and his new wife and drove them to the complex south of Austin. I helped them get settled gave them enough cash to tide them over until he could get his next disability Social Security check and she could find a job. About the third day, I got a call from the property manager saying that he and his new wife were fussing and fighting and had all of their elderly neighbors upset. I called him and he apologized and said the problem was resolved and would never happen again. That was wrong! The local police were called out there quite often, and I finally had to intervene. The woman left him and rode a bus back to Corpus Christi. Thinking he could do better living closer to me where I could keep him accountable, I returned there, rented a U-Haul truck, and brought him to Aransas Pass (he had absolutely burned the bridge there). I had arranged for a couple of local guys to help him unload the truck and help get him moved in. Of course, he was broke and had no food, again; I gave him money and took him to Walmart and paid for a basket of goods. After a few days, I realized that free-time was his enemy and gave him a morning job. He was thrilled — now, a reason to get up in the morning!

As I got to know him, he talked a lot about his dad—who was the major source of his problems. Of course, I know that parents can leave long-term scars on their children. Then a couple of weeks later, something changed and his sweet mother became the source of his problems—I had met her and had found her to be a very nice lady; a good mom and grandmother. Soon, I came to realize that this dude was always going to be a victim . . . and he would never be the villain. His problems would always be someone else’s fault. In a few weeks, his estranged wife became the problem . . . and then suddenly one morning I became the villain in his life. What made all of this confusing was that he was extremely religious—saying the blessing over a bag of popcorn and constantly speaking in religious language. The dude would say “Amen” to any request or instruction. The message on his voice-mail referred to him as “Minister John Doe” . . .

Then one morning he showed up at my place and walked around glaring at me. That was disturbing so I had a “Come-to-Jesus meeting” with him. I advised him that he was now in Texas—no longer in New York—and there was a required code-of-conduct here. One never, ever behaves like that on another man’s property. To behave in any manner other than as a polite, respectful guest is a serious breach of etiquette and there are serious consequences for repeated transgressions. It helped for a couple of weeks. After a couple of weeks, he was prohibited from coming to the house. Soon, he loaded up a U-Haul truck and moved on, which was okay with me; yet, I was sad that I had not been able to help him.

This text was the first word from him in several months. He went on texting over the next hour, apologizing for his behavior, accepting full responsibility, and saying that I was the kindest, most generous man he had ever met. Finally, he got around to it—he wanted to come back! He was riding on a Greyhound bus out of Houston—destination: Corpus Christi; situation: broke, homeless, and he had managed to lose all of the furniture and household goods I had bought or helped him collect. He was pretty much back at the place he was when I first met him.

I have been thinking about all of this quite a bit. It is very important to me that I always try to do the right thing. It seems to me . . . that people come into and out of our lives on a regular basis; it is an on-going process and simply part of the life experience. I think the Lord somehow uses it. Some folks are meant to be in our lives for only a season, while others are meant for a lifetime. It also seems to me . . . that we create confusion, turmoil, and stress when we force relationships into something they were not meant to be. Sometimes we force relationships intended to be only for a season into a longer term relationship, and we also allow what was intended to be a life-long relationship and allow it to die as if it was only a seasonal relationship (divorce, family feuds, etc.)

Yesterday morning I was made aware of a church in Columbia which has a serious problem—the roof of their sanctuary collapsed and they are financially unable to repair it. The church is desperate for financial assistance. I have been trying to get information on how I might successfully get funds to them in that third-world nation. I can help the church . . . or I can invest more time and money in this Pilgrim riding on the greyhound. Helping the church empowers it to help many others in many different ways . . . and that is a good thing. Making further investment in the Pilgrim is certainly not a given that it is really any help at all . . . he has repeatedly demonstrated the ability to end up at the same place – regardless of what is done for him.

I am reminded of a powerful and accurate old saying: “The choices we make dictate the lives we live.” That is equally true for both me and this Pilgrim. Then, there is another consideration: at what point does the call to be a good Stewart come into play and prevent me from continuing to investing in a guy who seems to be on a treadmill . . . always moving, but going no place, and always ending up where he started.

Further, when does this become a matter of casting the pearls before the swine?

What to do? . . . What to do?

The sad part is that I really like the rascal and I see real potential in him. I just wish he could see it, too.

 

Signs of the Times . . .

One day as Jesus talked with a group, they asked him some questions about current events of that day. He asked them, “How is it that you can read the signs of the sky, but you cannot read the signs of the times?” That is thought-provoking . . . the signs of the sky . . . and the signs of the times. They both are real, and they really do say something.

Life along the Gulf Coast for sailors and seamen is fun, but survival demands that one be able to read the signs of the sky. The Gulf of Mexico is beautiful; yet, a body of water that can become extremely dangerous and do so in short order. Many people have perished in those waters tragically because the boat-driver did not know the water and was unable to read the signs of the sky. There is an old saying here that helps one understand the “signs of the sky.” If you are going off-shore, you better know what it means. It goes like this:

Red sky in the morning, a sailor’s warning;
Red sky at night, a sailor’s delight.

Just as it is true about the signs of the sky, so is it true about the signs of the times. I keep a pretty close watch on the economy and have learned how to read the map and watch warning signs—if they appear. I have seen interest rates as low as 0.50% and as high as 21% . . . and fortunately I knew and was able to get out in front and position myself to prevent serious problems. That encourages me to be both aware . . . and alert.

When I was a kid, I knew a very savvy old man who knew a lot about money; consequently, he had a lot of money. He had no family to speak of and was fond of me, so he talked to me quite a bit about finances, the economy, investments, asset acquisition, and how to make money and equally important . . . how to hang onto the money I made. He was the first person I ever knew who actually read and understood the stock market page in the newspaper. He subscribed to the Wall Street Journal, and he actually read it.

He was generally positive, and he loved and believed in America. He told me this is the greatest country in the history of the world. Yet, he also cautioned me to be alert about changing times. He told me some things to keep my eyes on, trends to be wary of, and advised me that positioning myself was essential to survival and success. He introduced me to terms such as recession, inflation, deflation, bullish, bear-market, leverage, and that nasty and dreaded D word . . . and he told me about the dangers of greed and about what happened in 1929, and the hard days that followed. He also predicted several things and encouraged me to watch out for them in my lifetime. He stressed that I could be one of those who got out ahead in changing times, or I could be like the masses and wonder what happened.

In the latter part of George W. Bush’s second term, the Nation was overwhelmed by what was happening on Wall Street, with the Big-Three Automakers, banking institutions, brokerage firms, and hedge funds . . . I was too, but even more so because my old friend had told me 50 years before that I would see such things in my lifetime. I always believed that he was sincere and that he really believed what he was saying; yet, I always had some reservations . . . well at least to the point that it made me cautious of speaking out on the subject. Since that spooky flair up, and the election of the current President and implementation of his hair-brain economic policies, I am less reluctant to speak about what I see and of my concerns. On April 2, I wrote a blog and called it Economics 101. Then on April 14, I posted another blog entitled “Conundrum.” Both were related to our confusing status, our ever-increasing national debt, and the current signs of the times.

Recent activity from Treasury securities is sending warning signs to both issuers and investors. On April 15, 2015, they moved 40 basis points, something that is only alleged to happen “once every three billion years,” Jamie Dimon ironically points out in his latest letter to JPM shareholders.

Other currencies, specifically highly influential ones, have made similar large, unprecedented moves recently and that is raising a lot of red flags around the globe. Because these “flash crashes” are happening, economists are theorizing that these crises will cause “more volatile market movements with a rapid decline in valuations even in what are very liquid markets.”

Gold prices have dropped significantly over the past 18-months, as oil has over the past few months. I believe both are temporary declines—and I suspect a certain decline in values of paper investments is ahead (stocks, bonds, and treasuries) and that we will see both sharp increases in the price of both gold and petroleum, and a tightening in the availability of each as investments.

My word to family and friends . . . be wise . . . be alert . . . and don’t keep all of your eggs in one basket. It is always good to keep some cash on hand . . . some refer to it as mattress money . . . mad money . . . envelope money . . . or walking-around money. It isn’t important what one calls it, but it may prove to be important that you have some. In any event, my old friend recommended it . . . and time and events have certainly proved him right-on. His advice often seems a little spooky, but cautiously following it has served me well over the years.

There are signs in the sky . . . and there are signs of the time . . . be wise . . . be alert . . . be prepared.

Pappy’s Girls . . .

Ali and Abi gave me a protective case for my cell phone for Christmas. What makes it special is the case has a cute photo of them on it, along with an inscription identifying them as “Pappy’s Girls.” As bright and clever as the girls are, I suspect that Mom or Dad, or both were involved and loaned the girls a hand (or at least a credit card to use for online shopping). I love the phone case, and I get many compliments on it. I won’t say it helps me to think about the girls, because the simple truth is I need no help, or reminder, to think about them. Willie Nelson recorded a great tune, “You were always in my mind” . . . and that pretty much describes about how I am with Ali and Abi!

My Phone Case!

I have an appointment – post-op check-up — with Dr. Adkins in San Antonio tomorrow April 21. Last week I suggested that rather than driving home after the Dr’s visit, we ought to hook up with the girls some place. We are going to the Burnet house and spend the night on Tuesday and then drive to Waco on Wednesday morning to spend the day with the girls. I am pretty excited about that . . . but then I am always excited about seeing them.

Nana only has 30-something days left of school . . . so we will get to spend even more time with them soon. Thank God for Grandkids!

Technology . . .

This morning my pal, Steve Olson from Plainview, texted me a video of a large, shiny, new, sophisticated, and beautiful John Deere farm tractor pulling a tank trailer and boasting a serious boom system. I watched the video clip and was amazed by the speed at which the large tractor was moving thru the field working . . . the speed of travel was one of the things that caught my eye.

I texted back and asked Steve what he was spraying? Here was Steve’s reply:

“That is an experimental planter! The big tanks on the back hold seed and the front one is fertilizer. It is designed to plant at 10mph. 99.4% accuracy at 8.5 mph.”

As I thought of this it occurred to me that I was looking at a serious advance in farming. I thought back to the day when the sight-on planting day often included a man of some color wearing a large floppy hat, holding a white canvas bag of seed in one hand and a 5-foot- to 6-foot-long stick in the other hand. He would use the stick to poke a hole in the freshly-plowed dirt, drop the appropriate seed count into the hole, and then use his toe to backfield the hole and bury the seed; oftentimes, praying for the Lord to protect the seed and to send rain at the proper times. Farming has come a long way in the area of technology, but some other important areas of farming have seen little change . . . the farmer does the work, takes the risks, harvests his crop(s), and then deals with and delivers the goods to a middle-man who dictates the price . . . without any regard or concern for what the farmer’s operating costs were. The farmer pays the freight both ways, as he struggles to feed the world in this supply-and-demand market.

Yesterday while in the pool, several folks saw my scar from recent back surgery and asked about it. Each time the conclusion was that only a few years back a person who suffered a serious spinal cord injury would have died and his or her family would have never known the true cause. Each discussion quickly turned to the great advances that have been made in the medical field.

One lady told of a few absolute miracles that have occurred with her eyesight, which have literally prevented and kept her from becoming blind. She is both experienced and knowledgeable about advances in eye- care/repairs . . . she declared that we are soon to become a society in which there will be little to zero blindness. Can you even imagine such a thing this side of Heaven? She told of a man who recently wrote a book entitled, “I was Blind, but now I See” in which he tells about an eye condition he had lived with for many years . . . and after being offered no hope, there was a new breakthrough just few years back, and suddenly there was a treatment of cure . . . and indeed he was cured!

We see these amazing advances being made across the spectrum of life . . . and we continue to be amazed again and again in areas of telecommunication, entertainment, equipment, data-processing, data storage, travel, oil and gas exploration and production, education, armaments and weapons of war, and in the medical science fields. Technology . . . gone wild!

It is amazing how wonderfully God crafted and blessed us as humans. He equipped us with the most remarkable ability to hit what we aim at. How many young boys over the years have been taken down by a stock-tank or riverbed and taught by his dad, uncle, granddad, or friend to shoot a BB gun? Of course, at first he knows nothing, but once he is shown the sights on the rifle and told, “Point the rifle at the can we set up over there, line it up in the front and rear sights, hold your breath, and squeeze the trigger,” suddenly this young boy is able to hit the target. If one considers the physics of velocity, wind, thrust, resistance, and probability involved in a 10-year-old kid managing to hurl a tiny BB through space at the rate of 150 feet per second and managing to hit a can two-inches wide from a distance of 100-feet on his first or second attempt, it is simply mind-boggling. However, it demonstrates that God certainly did equip man with the wherewithal to hit what he aims at!

In Genesis 11:5, God seems to suggest that pretty much anything man sets his mind to is not too far beyond his reach. I believe that has been demonstrated again and again over the past 100 years.

Think about it . . . In 1915, man could only dream about travel to the moon. Back then life expectancy of a person was much shorter, and certainly more difficult than today . . . no indoor plumbing, no TV, few autos, no air-conditioning, and few places had electricity . . . and most amazingly, man was limited to the speed of a good horse!

You have come a long way, Baby . . . but at the same time, there are still some serious problems which have plagued the human race throughout history . . . and still impacts us today . . . it is politely called “human nature,” but the Bible defines it as “SIN!”

This thing called sin keeps: the prison system overwhelmed, orphanages desperately needed, hospitals under constant stress, courts burdened, and trouble and fractured families on edge, with hurting children at great peril.

The Bible says something about this situation: “Ever learning, yet never unable to come to the knowledge of truth.”

It seems to me . . . that in spite of human intelligence and efficiency, he simply cannot escape the consequences and pain of sin. God saw that great reality long, long ago . . . and He prepared a solution! Have you discovered that solution? I have . . . and I invite you to ask me about it. It would be my privilege to tell you!

A Family with a Great Big Heart . . .

A couple of years back, I wrote a blog I called “Greatness.” That blog was about my dear friend, the late Raymond Smith, and his model and exemplary life of service and sacrifice for his fellow man. Raymond was truly the most wonderful example of servanthood—per Biblical definition—that I have ever personally been privileged to witness. He was an inspiration and a true joy to know!’

Today, I am writing about Raymond’s son, Jamie Smith, and Jamie’s daughter, Ashley. It seems the apple didn’t fall far from the tree in Raymond’s familial line. This is a message I received today from Jamie, along with the photo.

Dear Johnny:

Praying all is well with you and that you are experiencing less and less back pain.

My daughter, Ashley, and I will be riding in the MS150 this weekend. In case you don’t know, it is a two-day, 150+ mile bike-ride from Houston to Austin, benefiting Multiple Sclerosis; there are 13,000 riders. It is the largest organized bike ride in the United States. Tt is a grueling ride: 90 miles the first day and over 75 miles the second day. It is also a very dangerous ride as you are surrounded by and in-close-proximity to 13,000 other riders. Less than half make it to the finish line in downtown Austin on Sunday. It seems every 10 to 20 miles, someone is being loaded in an ambulance. In 2013, I watched Life Flight take off with a guy who went down suffering from a heart attack. There are several of those each year, and lots of broken bones as riders fatigue and get tangled up with others, sometimes taking down several riders with them. It will be my daughter’s first MS150 and my fifth and final one. We have been training hard for months. I rode it with my son, James, in 2013. My motivation is, besides helping find a cure for Multiple Sclerosis, to look back years from now and be able to say I was a 5-time MS150 finisher and that I rode it once with my son and once with my daughter. Please pray for a safe and injury-free ride for her and me.

I was very impressed and amazed by this thing Jamie and Ashley have committed to doing. One of the young life-guards at the pool where I work out is a serious bicyclist and actually fast-tracked through high school in order to join a European team to train and prepare for races such as those competed in by Lance Armstrong. I was more impressed with what Jamie and Ashley are doing as I told Nick about it and hearing Nick’s opinion of the event. He only had praise for the bike run and those who participated.

I am made even more touched by Jamie’s and Ashley’s sacrifice and commitment in that I recently attended the memorial service for my beautiful friend, Angela Hise, who struggled with MS for over 30 years. What a special person she was . . . what an inspiration she was. It was noted at Angelia’s service that for years she was only able to physically move her head and her right index finger, but in reality she moved the hearts of many, many people. She certainly moved my heart!

I am happy to have my company serve as a major sponsor for Jamie and Ashley as they do this lovely thing. I also want to say three things to this wonderful father and daughter:

1. Thank you for caring;

2. Thank you for being influenced by and following the wonderful example you had displayed by your Dad and Granddad! You both serve his life and memory well; and

3. Ride well, and be careful. I will be praying for your safety and cheering for your effort!

Conundrum . . .

“A gun is like a parachute. If you need one, and don’t have one; and you’ll probably never need one again.”
The definition of the word Conundrum is: something that is puzzling or confusing.

Here are six Conundrums of socialism in the United States of America:

1. America is capitalist and greedy—yet half of the population is subsidized.

2. Half of the population is subsidized—yet they think they are victims.

3. They think they are victims—yet their representatives run the government.

4. Their representatives run the government—yet the poor keep getting poorer.

5. The poor keep getting poorer – yet they have things that people in other countries only dream about.

6. They have things that people in other countries only dream about—yet they want America to be more like those other countries.

Think about it! And that, my friends, pretty much sums up the USA in the 21st Century.

Makes you wonder who is doing the math.

1. We are advised to NOT judge ALL Muslims by the actions of a few lunatics, but we are encouraged to judge ALL gun owners by the actions of a few lunatics.

Funny how that works. And here’s another one worth considering:

2. Seems we constantly hear about how Social Security is going to run out of money. But we never hear about welfare or food stamps running out of money? What’s interesting is the first group “worked for” their money, but the second didn’t.

Think about it . . . and Last but not least:

3. Why are we cutting benefits for our veterans, no pay raises for our military, and cutting our army back, but we are not stopping the payments or benefits to illegal aliens.

Am I the only one missing something?

Like Paul Harvey used to say, “Now, you know the rest of the story! GOOD DAY!”

The Walk . . .

It was about fifteen years ago, as I recall. We had a nice group over for dinner: Roger and Betty Horan, Neil and Donna Burnett, Glen and Harriet McGuire, Duane and Deva Wampler, and Walter and Leslie Knight. The Horans and Burnetts lived in Plainview and spent the winter months here on the Coast. The McGuires had already moved here, as had the Wamplers. They were all in my Sunday school class, except for Walter, who was our Pastor at FBC—Rockport.

Roger, Neil, and Glen wanted to Sponsor Walter, Duane, and me on “A Walk to Emmaus.” They had each gone on a “Walk” and wanted us to have the same experience. We tried to ask some questions about it, but the program rules prohibit a sponsor from sharing much information with his “Pilgrim.” That prohibition requires a great deal of confidence in one’s sponsor. Please recognize that: I am busy . . . I have a family and my time with them is important . . . I have responsibilities at my Church and being away on weekends is difficult. Finally, one must conclude, “Ok, I trust your judgement enough to invest 3+ days of my life in this thing you want me to do.” Honestly, I pretty much felt like I was going to a religious Amway meeting with all of the secrecy, but we all loved and trusted these good men, so each of us agreed to go on a Walk!

Neil, Glen, and Roger had some paper-work to be done, and unknown to us Pilgrims, some money had to be paid for our reservations. After dinner, I took them to my office and helped with the paperwork. After submission of our paperwork, they were soon able to specify the dates we would be away. They told us that they would fly us up in a plane Roger and Neil owned jointly, and that we would be at the Mercy Center in Slayton, Texas, a few miles south of Lubbock.

On the appointed date, they showed up at each of our homes, picked us up, literally hauled our luggage to the car, and delivered us to the waiting plane. Roger and Glen flew us up and Neil waited for us on the other end with ground transportation. Upon landing at a private airport on the other end, Neil loaded us in a suburban and hauled us to Lubbock for dinner, then delivered to the “Walk.”

Upon arrival at the Mercy Center, we were quickly mixed in with a larger group of men, then divided into working groups, and shown what would be our quarters and where all meals would be taken during our stay. Then we were quickly directed back to the larger meeting room. We would soon learn that there were an assortment of men in attendance—each one of them had been asked to give a “talk” on a predetermined and preassigned topic. Each man who would give a talk had at some point in the past been a Pilgrim himself. At the conclusion of each talk, there was an assigned task for the groups to work on. A certain amount of competition developed amongst the groups as we processed and delivered our group’s report for the assignment. While that competition occurred, there was also bonding going on within each group. All of this was headed toward a specific climax.

Each of the talks were relative to some aspect of the life experience. As the days wore on, it became clear to me that all of this was akin to what happened in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 24:13-35. The account is that on Resurrection morning a couple (I believe a man and his wife) were walking from Jerusalem to their home in a small neighboring community called Emmaus. They were heavy-hearted and emotionally distraught over the crucifixion of Jesus and the events surrounding that tragic event . . . that terrible miscarriage of Justice. Like everyone else, they had heard the report that Jesus had died on the cross and been buried. They simply could not believe it . . . This amazing, ever-so-compassionate miracle-worker who had done so many unbelievable things, who had touched so many lives—including their own—and had filled so many with hope . . . this one they had witnessed raising people from the dead, was now himself dead. They were terribly confused and simply unable to process it all. He had calmed the raging storm that night in the boat; yet, now they felt as if they were in a great storm, but this time there was no one left who could now calm this storm. As they walked along the road, a stranger drew up alongside them and inquired about their sadness. As they tried to explain it to him, he began explaining some things to them and caused them to think outside the box. Upon arrival at their home, they invited the stranger in for breakfast. As they sat at the table, he offered thanks, and in an instant they recognized the stranger to be Jesus, and then He vanished from their sight. They rushed back to Jerusalem to report this amazing event to the other believers. They were delighted to learn that others had also seen him . . . and it was confirmed . . . Jesus was alive, and they were once again filled with hope.

This Walk-to-Emmaus program means different things to different people . . . and as I discussed our Walk with the men in my group, I was surprised by what each man had to say about it. As I thought about the Walk, it occurred to me that the program was specifically designed for individuals who went to Church fairly often and seemed to have an appetite for things spiritual in nature . . . basically seekers! As I thought about the program, it’s design and format, and also considered Luke 24:13-35, it became clear to me that one important point of the program was that just as Jesus had walked alongside that troubled couple that morning, He has also walked alongside each one of us Pilgrims . . . even when we were like the couple and did not recognize Him or understand that He was there looking after us.

Then came what for me was the most important and powerful thing of the retreat . . . it is called the “Dying Moment” . . . that moment of revelation/discovery wherein one discovers, or at least acknowledges, that specific thing in his or her life which must die to enable a closer relationship with the Resurrected Lord. This “Dying Moment” is part of a Communion Service—an observation of the Lord’s Supper. For me, it was a powerful and meaningful experience.

Each time we had a brief break in the program and returned to our room, we discovered an assortment of treats carefully and orderly arranged on our beds . . . that stuff, in Emmaus speak, is described as Agape (love). On the final night, we were transported to a neighborhood Church facility. As we entered the packed Sanctuary we quickly realized that there were no lights on and the light was being produced by hundreds of loving people . . . each one holding a single candle. It was a beautiful sight and I certainly felt that these precious, giving people . . . in spite of not knowing me . . . truly loved me and the other pilgrims. We would soon learn that those folks had been working behind the scenes preparing and delivering the Agape gifts, the meals, the snacks, etc. for our use and comfort. The group is known as the Emmaus Community, and we learned that they had been praying for each of us by name for months.

The Walk-to-Emmaus program is extremely well-planned and operated. It clearly involves a great deal of work, love, planning, and prayer—which is invested behind the scenes long before the Walk takes place. All of those folks in the Emmaus Community had also once been Pilgrims on a Walk themselves and had witnessed, experienced, and been touched by the powerful display of loving concern, and were now pleased to help play that very role in other Pilgrim’s lives.

As we left the Walk, we were each handed a bag. The bag was filled with correspondences authored by folks who love the Pilgrim and therein expressed the author’s feelings, love, and encouragement. The Sponsor had worked with the spouse to get names and addresses and had written and mailed our letters advising friends and family about the Pilgrim’s journey and invited cards, notes, and letters of love and encouragement. To this day, I can remember certain ones of the letters I received and portions of the message.

If you are ever asked to go on a Walk . . . accept the invite quickly. It will be a great experience and will over time become one of your most treasured memories. Moreover, it will build a special bond between you and the person who loved you enough to serve as your Sponsor. Neil Burnett was my Sponsor . . . I love that good man . . . I love his darling wife . . . I love his entire family. In fact, I feel like I am part of his family!

A Walk, by definition, means that one travels some distance . . . I know that I traveled a great distance in those three days. I believe the other Pilgrims in my group did as well . . . in fact, for a few months following our Walk several of them wrote me letters in which they declared that to have been the case. Sometimes, I think about those guys, my fellow Pilgrims. I wonder about them and I pray that their journey is ever drawing them closer to the Master . . .

I am glad that I went!

One of the Truly Great Love Stories . . .

One of the truly great love stories . . . “Wherever thou goest, I will go . . . Wherever thou lodgest, I will lodge . . . thy people, shall be my people . . . thy God shall be my God.”

I have been thinking about changing times . . . changing fortunes , . . and changing circumstances over recent days. We truly live in an ever-changing world, yet I find it a bit peculiar how we tend to look at circumstances and how we often view those changes.

In my reflections on the subject of change, I have looked at some truths set forth in the Old Testament book of Ruth . . . a great book by any standard! I believe the book contains certain Biblical truths . . . even financial truths and principles, yet is not particularly regarded as being amongst books one normally views as dealing with financial matters.

Ruth is pretty much the follow-through and continuation story of a Jewish household . . . a household that had originally feared loss as a financial crisis that loomed out over the horizon and the man of the house took a certain series of steps trying to get out ahead of certain coming financial woes. Thus, this man, named Elimelek, loaded up his small family (wife and two sons) and headed out to the outside country of Moab . . . For some peculiar reason, he believed that he would be better positioned to provide food and living in the desert than he would by remaining in Judah (the House of Bread by definition)! This man makes a foolish and hasty decision . . . and takes his family to the land of the Moabites . . . the clan that sprung up from the incestuous relationship between Lot and his oldest daughter back in Zoar following the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

The story of Ruth soon turns into a story of death and loses . . . and sad confusion. Not only does the man in the story die, but his sons also die . . . leaving their young widowed wives along with their mom . . . Naomi, the mother-in-law, the widow, the mother of the two dead sons . . . who is really confused now . . . without a bread-winner for herself . . . now with two extra mouths to feed. Naomi tries to do what seems normal: to set the young ladies free . . . and she tells the young ladies to return to their familial homes. To make things more difficult, Ruth, the young Moabite woman . . . this descendent of Lot’s incestuous relationship with his oldest daughter . . . who refused to go away . . . and now Naomi must learn to deal with this new, hard-wired, free-thinker, Ruth. Ruth insists upon going wherever Naomi goes . . . doing whatever Naomi does . . . and accepting any long-term commitments Naomi may have made in the past . . . or might elect to make in the future . . . whatever . . . Ruth was willing to tie her future to Naomi for no other reason than she believed that Naomi was worthy. She even vowed that Naomi’s family and friends . . . would automatically be her very own . . . no questions . . . no reservations!

This Moabite woman, Ruth, would live with those commitments . . . in spite of how she would be looked down upon . . . looked down upon in this harsh Jewish culture . . . for harsh reasons, such as:

She was a Moabite . . . She was a woman in a male-dominated society . . . She was a widow . . . a woman who had failed to produce a son when sons were so greatly prized . . . and she arrived in Jerusalem as an immigrant.

She did a rare thing: she remained tied to her mother-in-law . . . she braved thru the ugly things people said about her . . . and the cruel treatment she received . . . and she went out to work (glean) in the barley fields of her dead husband ‘s kin . . . Boaz.

Here is where the story gets exciting: as she focused on what she was supposed to do . . . some things started to happen:

1. Boaz, the richest guy around . . . heard of her goodness . . . from his people

2. Boaz saw how well Ruth took care of her mother-in-law and . . . in that he saw a woman worthy of honor

3. Boaz observed Ruth ‘s loyalty, diligence, determination, and perseverance

Naomi instructed Ruth to dress up and sleep at Boaz’ feet . . .

With the stage set, here are some facts of life demonstrated in Ruth’s difficult life: Ruth had a proper priority. Her priority was not to wait on someone to come along and redeem her . . . after her husband died leaving her without child, she made some decisions and got to work.

Points:

1. We ought to sort out our own priorities; don’t wait for other people to validate us

2. Loyalty and selflessness are always rewarded.

Point: Ruth cared for Naomi . . . and her faithfulness led her to Boaz

3. We ought to be confident about who we are.

Point: Ruth never allowed what others said about her . . . gossip and rudeness . . . to stop her from going out there and getting what she needed. She ignored the whispers . . . she ignored the ugly truth that she was being judged . . . being judged because she didn’t fit in . . . Yet, she had more important things to think about . . . she had no time for petty things or petty people.

4. Being diligent, preserving, and determined, Ruth worked harder than the others . . . and Boaz certainly noticed it too

5. Be a person of character . . . Boaz told Ruth . . . all of my townspeople know that you are a worthy woman . . . what could be more flattering than that?

You can’t control your reputation . . . because everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

You can’t control people’s impression of you, as that is more about how they view things than it is about how they view you . . . But you do have full and complete control of your own character

If God has a Boaz out there for your elevation . . . then strive to be someone that your Boaz can be proud of when you meet him or her . . . In fact, just Be Someone you yourself can be proud of!

Carry yourself with dignity

6. Stop chasing people . . . don’t allow yourself to be desperate . . . Boaz said of Ruth, “You didn’t go after younger men . . . rich or poor.” He liked and respected that she didn’t try to party up . . . this good woman just stayed focused on life

7. Always be quick to: Follow the Advice of the Wise. Ruth listened to Naomi . . . She trusted her . . . which turned out to be really good . . . She married Boaz and that changed everything! She found God’s plan . . . and she jumped in feet-first!

Truth: Ruth might not have been every man’s fantasy girl . . . but she was exactly what any decent man would look for in a wife . . . judging by her character, honor, and dedication.

Her society treated her like trash . . . but her character shined so brightly . . . that a good man . . . a man of integrity . . . saw what a gem she was . . . as she shined brilliantly . . . in that dark world.

Don’t sit there and wait on Boaz . . . Ruth didn’t. She lived a life of service, and The Lord rewarded her . . .

He is faithful; His timing is perfect.

Ruth found God’s Plan! How about this: Ruth is listed in Jesus’s genealogy . . . She was David’s grandmother!!!! God had selected a place for her . . . long before Lot got drunk and sinned with his daughter, and gave the family a bad name and reputation amongst humans!

TRUTH: Family influences and connections might help in many places . . . but the glorious truth is that each of us is permitted to approach God . . . individually . . . without others elevating or pre-qualifying us. Before Holy God, we are all sinners. But Jesus . . . Is Our Redeemer!!

The Story of Ruth on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kW5WyJ1QNpM