A New Sense of Understanding . . . and Appreciation!

My SS lesson this Sunday morning comes from Genesis 24 . . . and what a wonderful lesson it is. Abraham—the great man of faith—has been given direction by God over a long period of time. He has received promises and assurances from God about his life . . . and his descendants. He loves knowing of the security of his family going forward (what Dad wouldn’t?)

In Chapter 24, Abraham, knows that God’s promises can only be fulfilled if his son Isaac gets a wife—and the right wife! So he sends his unnamed servant back to his homeland to get a wife for his son. As one reads the chapter, you see the hand of God working and directing things beautifully to His desired conclusion. We can be assured that God works just as certainly and actively in the lives of His children today. In fact, I believe He delivered me to the exact place . . . exact time when and where I met Sandy all those years ago!

It is just such a part of human nature that we can be certain that each night as the servant and his entourage stopped with Rebecca and her girls to cook their evening meal and pitch the tents for the night’s rest, Rebecca had lots of questions about her husband-to-be. Finally, in verse 63, that meeting takes place. That was surely an exciting time for each of them and they loved each other in a special way . . . and in a way that would serve them well for many years to come.

As I thought on these things this morning, I was reminded that I have long held the belief that every verse of Scripture carries three applications, as follows:

1. It is historically true. The people were real and the events identified were true;

2. It is inspirational . . . it was included in Scripture to inspire and encourage us as well as every generation; and

3. There is a doctrinal application of truth therein.

In the events of Genesis 24, I see all three of those applications, but my real attention was drawn to the inspirational application. In that I see this as a picture of God the Father sending His servant (the Holy Spirit) out to gather a Bride for His only Son!

It occurred to me in a fresh new way . . . this morning that meeting is coming in the future and it is real . . . and it will be indescribable!

As you likely know, I have had a few serious struggles over the past three years and have done some serious soul-searching and thinking through this period of lonely nights of uncertainty and of what might be out ahead of me; yet, determined that I wanted to always try to please God with my faith and trust in Him.

As I thought this morning about that future meeting between the Bride and Groom, I thought of 1 Peter 1:3-9. I know that it would be nice and sweet for me to type those verses for you to read, but I am not going to do that. What I am going to do is to issue to you, here and now, a challenge for you to look up that passage and see if it helps you better understand some parts of your life experience, parts that have been confusing in the past.

It Seems to me . . . that the things I invest some time, effort, and energy into tend to have more meaning and value to me . . . and for me. I suspect it is like that for you, too . . .

What do you think?

 

I Can’t Believe It!

I am officially an old man . . . This morning I submitted an application to begin receiving Social Security benefits . . . and Medicare! My birthday is December 13 and I will turn 65 years of age!

I simply cannot believe it! Where has the time gone? It was just a short while ago I was a young guy starting a new business with nothing . . . except a great idea . . . a little talent . . . a great deal of energy . . . a world of confidence . . . and a loving and supportive family who believed in me and cheered me on. After rereading that, it seems that I did have a great deal with which to start a business! I started that business over 30 years ago, and it has done well. The business allowed me to make an honest living, practice my profession, support my family, provide stable employment and security for some really terrific people, and it enabled me to provide many families with a great home at an affordable amount of their income. Moreover, it has enabled me to help a large number of elderly folks across Texas to live independently with dignity; most all of them to literally live in the best, most modern home they ever occupied. Even further, it enabled me to live where I wanted to live . . . and to live in a manner I desired for my family to live. The Lord blessed my idea and hard work. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been good. There have been some difficult times, some belt-tightening during the mid-80’s when the bottom fell out of the Texas economy during the “oil glut,” and a constant and on-going battle with overly aggressive and unfair taxing entities (actually appraisal districts).

As I write this blog this morning, I am aware that there are a number of other events out ahead of Sandy and me . . . and more decisions will need to be made. Retirement . . . when? Where to live? What property to sell, and what to hold for the kids and grandkids? Sandy is nearing her PhD (writing the Dissertation is all that remains). She flirts with the notion of teaching college classes and thinks she would like to live in the Burnet house and teach a semester at Texas Tech in Marble Falls, then come back to the Coast and live in the condo and teach a semester at either DelMar or Texas A & M—CC. I am thinking I can see myself living and hunting in the Fall of the year in the Hill Country, and fishing the bay’s in the Spring/Summer, all the while she supports me! There is an old saying in Spanish I like . . . “Man makes his plans, but then God decides!”

I am reminded that the Scriptures say that our life on earth is like a vapor in the sky. Oftentimes, when I hear a jet pass overhead, l look up and see the trail it leaves behind and think it is like my life as I watch it begin to fade from sight. It is at such times that I tend to do some soul-searching and ask myself what it is that I am doing to leave my footprint in the sand? To leave the world better than I found it. Have I impacted others for good? Have I invested my life well?

All in all, I have to declare that walking through the life experience with my sweet Sandy has been a wonderful and rewarding experience. The Lord has been kind to us in so many ways. We were both kids with ambitions . . . and willing to roll up our shirt-sleeves and get to it! We did work hard and set goals!

I think we stand as a reasonable example of a couple who believes, is willing to work hard, always faithful to return God’s portion to Him, and willing to play by the rules. We have proven Jesus’ proclamation in our lives, “That which you sow, so also shall you reap!” We did some sowing, and we have done some reaping! Life is good . . .

Almost Back in the Game . . .

I have had a challenging two-year stretch . . . but I am thinking that I am very close to a total recovery. I pray that I am, and I have some wonderful family and friends who are praying with me for that.

It was on April 14th that I was teaching my SS class. Standing at the podium, I reached up with my left hand to turn a page in my Bible, and my left hand did not work. After Church, Sandy, Courtney, and I joined a group of friends for lunch at the Country Club, and I was unable to get my money clip out of my left pant’s pocket. That evening I ended up at a 24-hour emergency clinic (at Sandy’s insistence) and was diagnosed as having had a stroke, and was taken by ambulance to Spohn Shoreline in Corpus. I would stay there for two weeks, doing physical and occupational therapy. I had some restriction in the use of my left hand, but no memory, mental, or mobility issues. A neurosurgeon read my MRI and advised me that I had a serious neck injury (spinal stenosis) and if left untreated, I could become paralyzed. I was referred to Dr. Donald Hilton of San Antonio Neurological Associates. I engaged my dear friend, Dr. Robert Edwards, to go with me to see Dr. Hilton and interview him. Dr. Edwards and I were both quite taken with Dr. Hilton and knew he was the guy. In June of 2013, he literally rebuilt my neck – all with a one-inch incision, which left no scar, and required no rehab.

There were several benefits of that experience, one being that I began to take my health seriously and started a great work-out program, which has benefited me significantly, and I have managed to lose some weight which I needed to lose. My blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol had all become worrisome and my primary-care doc was always scolding me. Today, as a result of hard work, discipline, a vigorous work-out routine, proper diet, and weight loss, I am no longer on any prescription medications.


In October, 2014, I began having serious lower-back pain. Sandy and I were returning from a weekend visit to Waco, and stopped at McDonald’s in Lockhart for a potty-break and to get a cup of coffee. I stepped out of my suburban and fell in the parking lot. Suddenly, my legs did not work anymore. I went back to see my friend, Dr. Hilton, believing it was my lower back. He had me go through three MRI’s in one session – from the top of my head to my tail bone. It was an extremely small tube and proved to be one of the most difficult three-hour periods in my life. The MRI revealed that I had a serious spinal-cord injury . . . directly under my heart. Dr. Hilton passed me off to his partner, Dr. Donald Adkins, who Dr. Hilton assured me was “the very best” at dealing with my situation. Dr. Adkins told me that my situation was urgent and required radical surgery. He did the surgery, and I recovered the use of my legs and feet almost instantly. He told me that it would likely take about a year for me to be able to walk again.


I saw Dr. Adkins last month and he encouraged me to move forward with the lower-back repair. That procedure is scheduled for this next Monday afternoon (23rd), at Methodist Stone Oak Hospital and the procedure will be like the procedure done on my neck in that the incision will be covered with a normal sized band-aid. It will not require a rehab process – merely return to the pool and my normal work-out. I am thrilled in that I will not require any ambulatory devices henceforth.

I thank God for bringing me through it all. Not long ago, Chris said something to Dr. Adkins about my “having had a stroke.” Dr. Adkins smiled and said, “I believe that stroke thing is totally suspicious, at best! Your dad has sufficient spinal issues to have mimicked a stroke, and I believe that is what happened in April, 2013.” Chris said, “Those doctors were certain.” Dr. Adkins smiled and said, “I looked at everything they looked at, and I think it was/is suspect, at best!”

I am a happy man and I think my best days are ahead. I have not always felt like that, but I am encouraged tonight and feel quite good. I fully believe the bold claim of Romans 8:28 and believe it is operative in my life. I believe all of this had a purpose, which I likely won’t even know in this life on earth. I can honestly say that I tried to be faithful in my faith and just make the best of my situation, and not whine and complain. That was not always easy as I experienced some dark days, but I just tried to trust God and move forward doing everything I could.

I prayed like everything depended upon God (which it does), and then I worked as if it totally depended on me. I am thinking that is a winning combination. I hope that the Lord has looked down at me in my plight and perhaps smiled and commented that I was no cry baby . . . and that He can depend upon me! Wouldn’t that be something?

It Seems to me that the question is, “What is ahead?” I am thinking it must be Sunshine . . . and blue skies! I hope it is . . . but come what may, I will find a way to praise God for what He has already done for me . . . and He has done a great deal for me. According to Ephesians 2, I was dead and He made me alive and has seated me in Heavenly places!

All in all, I really feel blessed! I am trying my hand at writing a book. The title I have selected is: “When the Seatbelt Light Comes on in Mid-Flight.” I believe that pretty much describes my experience.

 

Islamophobia . . .

Last week, I did not even know what this word meant . . . but today I am certainly islamophobic and I bet you are too! Here is the definition: a term for prejudice against, hatred toward, or fear of the religion of Islam.

I sat in the comfort of my home and watched the late-night news of the tragedy that occurred in France on Friday, November 13. It broke my heart to see and hear of the death, carnage, destruction, pain, and confusion that was the end result of a few angry, evil people who attack civilians simply out for an evening of entertainment.

What is it about these mean-spirited, black-hearted people that motivates them to attack, kill, and maim . . . and to direct their attacks on unsuspecting civilians, especially women and children? What exactly are they trying to accomplish with these terrible attacks? Do they believe that this is an effective recruiting vehicle? Do they believe they can beat the world into submission to their demands and shape the world into their image of how it ought to be? Do they not understand that the USA will not always have this weak, chicken-hearted sympathizer in the Oval Office? We will soon have a Commander-in-Chief who will see these evil people as senseless murderers, thugs, terrorists . . . and view them as the enemy and will unleash the power of our military upon them! I welcome that day.

There is a great dilemma facing the USA and here it is:

We have the ability to destroy these evil people and this terrible movement . . . but we lack the will to do it. They, on the other hand, have the will to destroy us . . . they simply lack the means to do so. The truth is that we better find the will before they find the means. Otherwise, they are not going away . . . they will only get more bold, more evil, and more angry as they are energized by the forces of hell.

I remember that it was back in 1987, I was invited to be the Keynote speaker at the National Housing Conference at the then-new JW Marriott hotel in Washington, D. C. There were about 2,000 in attendance and perhaps 100 of them were affiliated with the Nation of Islam and were dressed accordingly. That small group projected a sense of apprehension and dread upon the entire Conference . . . simply because of their anger at everyone and everything. I was shocked to learn that group was actively doing business with the government and developing and operating affordable housing programs for their membership. I will never forget the chill that came over me as I encountered the people of this movement and as I interacted with them. They troubled me deeply then just simply standing in a hotel . . . they deeply trouble me today sitting in my own home!

Do not be deceived . . . these are evil, confused, and misguided people . . . and they are our enemy! You can be sure that the world has not seen the last of them . . .

Some Bible scholars believe these folks and their evil aggression will actually cause and bring about a world-impacting war in Israel. That is serious . . . I believe Israel is the apple of God’s eye . . . There is some debate about that going forward, but there can be no argument that she certainly once was! I personally believe the promises God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are still in force . . . I simply cannot bring myself to believe that God changes His mind . . . and I know He most certainly does not break His promises!

 

Is it Still True . . . That our Best comes out in Hardships?

On Friday, November 6, a violent storm-system hit the heart of the Texas Hill Country. A tornado fell out of the sky and smacked the small town of Floresville (30 miles South of San Antonio on US Highway 181). Farther to the East, the system dumped like 16 inches of rain very quickly on the IH 35 Corridor between San Marcos and Austin. It devastated several communities such as Kyle, Buda, Wimberley, and surrounding towns. It flooded our elderly apartment complex in Buda, requiring a number of our residents to be relocated. Of course, we had no flood insurance coverage. The property has been there 26 years and we have never experienced a problem . . . and excuse the pun, but we have seen a lot of water go under the bridge since we built the complex in 1986.

It made me sad that our complex was smacked, but I was also pleased that no one was injured or lost their life. My friends, Ross and Brenda McElwee, were right there when it happened. Brenda told me that they even passed through a couple of low-water crossings which had water rising. In addition, my dear friend, Homer Hanna, of South Texas Children’s Home fame, was enroute to Austin to attend the funeral of one the great old-time preachers in Texas, Gerald Mann. As a side note, I often listened to Rev Mann on Sunday evenings. He was a most remarkable man in that the Church he pastored is a Church with a wide and diverse membership. Rev Mann had an interpretation of the Scripture and method of preaching that was uniquely his own. He had an incredible way of presenting the Gospel so that it empowered everyone who heard to grasp it and see themselves in it and were motivated to respond in faith. Homer did not make the funeral. He was forced to turn around at Kyle and slowly drive back to Beeville. Thank God that Ross and Brenda and Homer made it safely out of the danger area and got back home.

Over the past week, we have had a large array of folks come out to visit the property and survey the damage. We began the clean-up effort and trying to develop a plan of action, and establish a scope of work to ensure that the water damage was cleaned up, the moisture removed, the damaged area repaired, and the areas affected then chemically treated to prevent mold and mildew from developing. Immediately, we sensed a serious shortage of able-bodied folks willing to come in and work to help with the clean-up. We discussed this with the emergency management person in charge of such matters in the community. This afternoon she called our on-site folks to tell them that she was sending a couple of vans with willing workers who travel the Nation and help areas affected by flooding. My folks were very impressed with their attitude, work ethic, and overall approach to life and the task at hand. Billy said he did not hear a single cuss word, any indication of any of the people being disgruntled, or feeling as if they were not being treated well enough. They were a great help with the clean-up and cutting sheetrock to accelerate the drying out process. After we discussed it, I sent a text out to our group who had been praying for workers. Chris inquired if the folks might be with Texas Baptist Men. They were not, but it made me think. I called my old friend, Bill Holmes, the regional director and board member of the Texas Baptist men’s group. I asked about help. Bill told me that they had a group called “Mud Out” and that he would get onto getting something set up to help us.

Things certainly look much brighter tonight. I am both surprised and pleased at how wonderful our Baptist organization (BGCT – Baptist General Convention of Texas) is and how greatly our ministry teams demonstrate the love of Christ in very difficult situations. I believe they will help us out, but I will not permit them to help unless they are agreeable to us doing something to help them on other disasters going forward. I know they can use a trailer full of new power tools!

I am blown away at how God works in our journey of life experience. Just think about it . . . He directs us . . . watches over us . . . Loves us . . . orders our steps . . . comes and checks on our well-being . . . lifts us up . . . encourages us . . . Pushes us forward and blesses us, as only He can.

I, once again, believe that there are still many good-hearted folks around.

Muslim Agression . . .

Sometimes it seems like the world has gone crazy . . . sometimes I fear that the government of the USA is far beyond crazy. There has been this crazy thing of Muslim aggression across the world since 9/11 – the tragedy that occurred when a few Muslim men boarded a few commercial flights as passengers and then became terrorists. Those evil men had preselected a few national landmarks as targets and then flew the airplanes into those buildings killing many non-combatants. Their first target was the Twin Towers known as the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon, and even the White House!

As crazy as it seems, the federal government has gone to great lengths to protect Muslims and appease them in their aggression – and both political parties are guilty. Don’t they get it that these folks hate us and have it in their hearts to destroy us? What is wrong with people who refuse to admit that there is an evil enemy underfoot?

We hear stupid things like, “Islam is a peaceful religion” and other stupid things being said, but history proves that is clearly untrue. It is a well understood fact that those who practice that crazy religion are commanded to do war with any people they are unable to convert. Under their teachings, there are great rewards for those faithful to do that very thing. There are greater rewards for those who kill in the name of Allah!

At the same time our government goes to such great lengths to protect Muslims and their free-exercise of religious liberties, it then turns on Christianity like a hungry wolf and attacks. It is common place to learn about a school district being hauled into some court over a teacher who prayed in public. Currently, a high school football coach is suspended from his position because he met with the players in the middle of the playing field and thanked God for watching over the safety of the kids playing.

I recently read of a case where the Justice Department represented two Muslim male employees who lost their jobs because the men refused to do their jobs. The men worked for a beer distributor, yet refused to run their route delivering the beer to retail outlets claiming such delivery offended their religious beliefs. The Justice Department agreed with the men and won a several hundred thousand dollar judgment for them. That very same Justice Department then brought legal action against Christian bakers who declined to bake and decorate wedding cakes for same-sex marriages, they too said that doing so violated their religious beliefs. The Justice Department’s response was, “It goes with the job and if you are going to own and operate a bakery in the US, you will need to overcome your religious convictions and offer all forms of cakes!” Those bakers were fined thousands of dollars. What is the difference in the two issues?

I believe there is currently a County Clerk sitting in jail at the moment for refusing to issue a marriage license for a same-sex marriage. She is in jail because the same Justice Department was offended by her refusal to violate her convictions. What is wrong with those idiots? What is wrong with us? Have we forgotten that they work for us?

It is time for Americans to wake up . . . step up . . . and demand that this foolishness come to an end. This great nation was founded on Christian principles and I believe a majority of us still believe in those truths. I am embarrassed that my own government seems determined to declare war on God, and honor the work of the enemy!
Woe unto them who call right “Wrong” and call wrong “Right.” There is a day of reckoning coming . . .


This photo of a marque in front of a Muslim Church is ignored by our Justice Department, but something similar placed in front of a Christian Church would have the same Justice Department identifying it as “hate speech” and the threat of revoking its 501 (c) (3) charter!

God bless America! WAKE UP!

Life . . . A Gift!

Life is a gift . . . a wonderful, priceless gift! It is a gift from God . . . and it comes with both a purpose and responsibility! Ever since Adam and Eve in the Garden, humans have struggled with life . . . its meaning and purpose, and exactly what one is to do with it.

There have been many who have stepped forward and offered suggestions about how life is to be lived and explanations given about the why of it all. A few years back, a good and well-intentioned man named Rick Warren authored a book that addressed this very thing. He named the book, “The Purpose Driven Life,” which included a question as a by-line . . . “Why on Earth am I Here?” The book made the New York Times best-seller list and has now sold over 30-million copies. I understand that good man has done some remarkable things with the fortune the book sales have generated. I am confident that the book caused many folks to think and desire to live a better life.

To me the question about life isn’t nearly as difficult as many make it out to be. In fact, I really believe it is actually quite simple. I believe that God is the creator and giver of life. I believe every one of us were on His radar screen, and while we might have been a surprise to our parents, we were no surprise to God. I believe God even has a purpose for each of us. What might that be? To have a relationship with Him . . . to communicated and fellowship with Him. Isn’t that wild? The God of Glory desires to have a relationship with you and me! He even made that possible through His son, Jesus Christ. Please find a Holy Bible and read John 3:16, and Romans 10:9 and 10. Follow those simple instructions and become the child of God, and start your relationship with Him! I encourage you to then read Romans 12:1 – 21, and adopt it as your life plan. Study it . . . commit it to memory, recite it often, and fix your mind upon it. I believe that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him! If you will follow this simple advice, I am confident that God will expand your mind and show you amazing things.

A little baby was born long, long ago. His family was slaves, living in a hostile land. They worked brutally under the taskmaster’s whip, and seemingly had no purpose, future, or direction. That baby boy was born in the midst of a government decree that all male children were to be killed at birth. His uneducated, unlearned slave-mother, driven by her maternal instincts, defied the government order and placed her newborn son in a basket she had tried to make waterproof. The mother instructed her daughter to hide the little boy and his basket in the bulrushes in the nearby river. The young girl did as instructed. She positioned herself nearby so she could watch and see what happened. That very afternoon, God drew the King’s sister and her royal entourage to the very place so that she might hear the baby cry. She discovered the baby boy, and knew that some loving mother had acted in a desperate manner to protect her baby boy. She took the baby to be raised as her very own son. His name was Moses. God delivered this little boy from genocide, protected him from homicide, and had him raised and educated in the King’s place. That child would develop into a man . . . a man with the most remarkable life. He literally stood on not one, but two different mountains and had a conversation with God. He saw and heard some amazing things. God had a specific job for that man Moses. He was to lead those slaves out of that bondage and guide them to the Promised Land! That task and its journey would take his lifetime to accomplish and fulfill. During those years he saw God perform some amazing things. He led an army of humanity that is believed to have numbered over two-million people and their livestock.

Because that army of people struggled with the very question of meaning and purpose of life, and because they hardened their hearts and turned their backs on God, God told Moses that generation would all die . . . except for two good men, before the next generation was allowed to enter and claim the Promised Land. Before Moses died, he wrote his memories in the 90th Psalm. Consider this: this man Moses knew a great deal about living and dying. He had lead over two-million people, and he had watched all of them die, except two. He had stood on two mountains with God and talked with Him. He had seen God part the Red Sea . . . and many other miracles. As Moses summed up his thoughts about the meaning and purpose of life, he made four points:

1. God is good! I want to go on record of agreeing with Moses. God is good, indeed, and He is good all of the time. He will never let you down. He will never break a promise! God is good, faithful, and dependable.

2. Life is short. Have you discovered that life is short? As a 65-year-old man, I am coming to the place I am really beginning to understand that. It was such a short time ago that my children were young, and I was a dad with a young family. God is forever . . . our time on earth is brief, and we ought to use our time wisely!

3. Sin is serious. Sin is offensive to God and ruins human life. Humans try to dabble and play with sin, but soon learn that it costs far more than one ever wanted to pay, it holds one much longer than you ever wanted to stay, and it takes you much further away than you ever wanted to stray. All one needs to do to verify this truth is to take a look at the life of an alcoholic or a drug addict. Sin is a very serious thing . . . It ruins homes and fractures lives . . . It fills prisons and hospitals. It is not only serious . . . it is sad; and

4. It is a wise and prudent person who chooses to invest his or her life in the Kingdom of God! A life well-spent is a life of service to God and those He loves. The truth is that one can either spend the days of life just as you spend a paycheck, or one can invest that life in something far greater than one’s own wishes and desires.

The Purpose Driven Life? Perhaps . . . but then what about a life of purpose, being driven on and on by the Giver of life? Marching to His drumbeat as opposed to your own? The reward is said to be great!

A Red Wind-Break . . . and a Weak 12-Year-Old Kid

This is my blog. I write about the things I want to write about and this is a demonstration of that. I recall and retell many of my life experiences, if I think they serve a purpose and/or would benefit others.

My primary motivation in the blog is my family . . . kids . . . Courtney and Chris . . . my grandchildren, Ali and Abi, and those who may follow later . . . and my nieces and nephews, a couple of which are much like my own children. I want them to know who I am, who I was . . . why I did what I did . . . and what I believed. I, personally, would really have appreciated having had something written and handed down telling me about someone in my family . . . someone who had lived at an earlier time.

My story I relate today is not something of which I am proud. In fact, it is something about which I have been sorry for some 50 years. I still continue to be embarrassed about it . . . even after all these years!

It happened in 1962. I was 12 years old and in the 7th grade at Heizer Jr. High school in Hobbs, New Mexico. I was one of eight children in a low-income, oil-field family. We moved often and didn’t have much. Most of our clothes were bought at second-hand shops and then handed down between five boys. Somehow, at that time, I got a cool red windbreaker (my first plastic garment). I wore it with a white tee-shirt and a pair of Levis . . . and I thought I looked really cool. One day in the gym, I took the windbreaker off, and hung it on a hook on the wall and went out and shot some hoops. Later, when I went back to get it, it was gone. I was broken-hearted. I think it was the first time I ever had anything stolen from me. I could not believe someone had stolen my jacket . . . it was like my all-time favorite garment. The gym teacher told me to report it to the office.

I did and was directed to an assistant Principal. He was the most prejudiced man I would ever meet in my life! Of course, everyone used racial slurs and names at that point in time, but that man took it to a new level for me. As soon as I reported my jacket stolen, he told me the race of the person who stole it. The next day he had me called out of class and brought to his office. When I arrived, he held up a red wind-breaker that had been written on with a black marks-a-lot marker! He said, “I found your jacket – a N girl was wearing it.” I knew that was not my jacket and I tried to tell him, but he shut me up and declared the case solved. I was seated and he had the frightened young Black girl escorted into the office and confronted her. I will never forget the look on that little girl’s face, as I watched her lips tremble. She looked like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car. The assistant Principal accused her of being a thief and told her she would have to pay me $4 for the jacket or the Sheriff would put her and her entire family in jail! I felt horrible and again tried to do the right thing, but he wasn’t having any of that and was so forceful he scared me to the point I shut up. He told me several times that these people were just different than us and we had to teach them. I felt horrible, but I knew I didn’t feel nearly as bad as that innocent little girl. I have often wondered what it was that we taught her! I despised my weakness in not being able to do the right thing. I despised that weakness for her sake . . . I despised that weakness for my own sake!

That was a painful, embarrassing thing for me, and I have cried about it many times over the years as I have looked back and remembered the look on that sweet, innocent little girl’s face. I have often wondered where she might be and wished that I could locate her and apologize for my cowardice and try to compensate her in some manner for the gross injustice.

While it was and has long been a painful thing for me, it caused me to make a strong commitment to myself that I would never, ever go-along just to get-along again in my entire life. I believe that I have been faithful in that commitment. I wish the story ended there, but sadly, it did not. Over the next several weeks I would be called to the assistant Principal’s office to receive some money the girl had paid on the alleged debt. It was always small amounts . . . fifty or seventy-five cents. Each time as he gave me the change my heart ached as I thought about what had probably happened at her home to get that week’s extortion. I knew what a struggle it would have been at my home. As I left his office with that money in my hand, I just felt dirty and ashamed. I would walk directly to the gym where I would climb up a few steps on the bleachers and set the money down and walk away. I never knew what happened to that change, but I hoped some poor kid found it and it helped him or her . . . I knew it had hurt that poor little Black girl . . . I knew it hurt me. I think I had an understanding of how Judas must have felt with his 30-pieces-of-silver.

My advice to you is . . . always strive to do the right thing . . . regardless of the cost. Never surrender to a bully . . . he cannot hurt you as badly as your silence can hurt you. Be strong . . . be who you are supposed to be. David, a young Jewish boy, stands large in history because he used that smooth stone for a legitimate purpose! If he has dropped that stone back in the brook and walked off . . . he would not have been remembered!

 

America, the Beautiful . . . Has She Become America, the Pitiful?

I heard a terrible statement on a talk show (Radio) yesterday. It actually broke my heart. The statement was that . . . for the first time in a very long time, life-expectancy for Americans has gone down! In spite of all the amazing accomplishments of modern medical science, life-expectancy has declined . . . one reason—drug addiction! One of the folks on the panel told of a town of 100,000 population in New York State that has already experienced about 400 ODs in the first 10 months of 2015. The numbers being reported of addiction are staggering. One panelist stated that a hit of heroin is easily available to those who are looking and only costs about $4 . . . that knocked the breath out of me!! One stats given is that drug-addiction has increased by 39% in the past seven years!

There is a heart-breaking story all across this great land . . . it is the story of fractured and dysfunctional families suffering because of a family member who is an addict. I honestly don’t believe I know even one family that is not struggling with a drug addict, an alcoholic, or a family member on the way to that place.

For the past several years, I served as the spokesperson for a loving group who worked as volunteers at a rehab facility every Saturday night. We went there week in and week out without fail—we were not paid one cent and each of us covered our own expenses. Our message to those there seeking treatment was that each one of them were created by God, and created to have a relationship with Him. We assured them that God has a plan for each of them, but in their current condition they were far from where He wanted them. We also told them that He loved them . . . and He actually loved them just the way that they were, but He also loved them too much to leave them that way – broken, confused, embarrassed, and ashamed. We promised them that God had a long history of taking broken people’s messes and turning it into a message; taking their defeat and turning it into a victory. Each week I searched the Scripture for stories and personal experiences of individuals who had experienced a total turn-around – all of them after meeting Christ. I also used the Prodigal son and his story – which Jesus told to demonstrate what could happen in a person’s life. There are so many from which to choose.

I have had my heart broken by folks with addictions. I have had some in my family; I have had some as my tenants; I have had some as my friends; and even has some as my employees. I have been lied to, stolen from, cheated, and even robbed, and damaged by addicts, but for some peculiar reason, I still love them. Perhaps when I see them something happens inside of me such as, “. . . but by the grace of God . . . !”

My Sunday school lesson next Sunday comes from Genesis 18 and 19, and deals with the Old Testament account of Sodom and Gomorrah, those wicked sister cities that lay in a fertile valley in the day of Abraham. The cities were destroyed by God and for thousands of years have served as an example of a society living in absolute reckless abandon and contrary to God’s direction. In fact, just the names of those cities have always served as a reminder of the ugliness that humans can demonstrate. It is believed that those destroyed cities now lie at the bottom of the southern tip of the Red Sea.

I am disturbed by these new bench-marks on our society and the direction we seem to be headed. A few years back, the wife of a former President said that the solution to turning this problem around was for Americans to just say no, and that led to the “Just Say No” campaign. My denomination started a campaign named, “You can’t Say No . . . Until you first say Yes to Christ.” I really like that campaign. I believed it then . . . and I still believe it today! That is why I am always willing to get involved and try to help folks fighting that evil in their own life. I believe they can be cured and set free!

I hope and pray that some of the words herein and my beliefs may help to comfort some weary mother’s heart. I believe as long as one draws breath, there is reason for hope!

A Child’s Pledge . . . an Adult’s Fulfillment . . .

When I was a kid, there was a houseful of kids (8) and we had a difficult time financially. I knew it was difficult for my sweet mother when she struggled to buy enough food, pay rent and utilities, and buy shoes and clothes that we all needed to keep us afloat. I could tell that she struggled. Sometimes at night I would stand in the hall outside her bedroom door and see her on her knees talking to Jesus. Sometimes I would hear her cry as she pleaded with Him to help, guide, and direct us all. She was the perfect portrait of a Godly mother who loved her children and wanted good stuff for them.

Even as a little boy, I would hug her, tell her that I loved her, and promise her that someday I would make a lot of money and I would take good care of her. That was a life pledge I made many times to her . . . it was what I did when I didn’t know what else to do. My brothers Willie, Pete, and I shined shoes, mowed yards, and did all sorts of odds jobs as early as eight-to-ten years old and we were good to give her our money. She was always so gracious about it. Later in life my precious little sister, Dorothy, brother Billo, and I bought a really nice 3-bedroom, 2-bath house in Burnet and delighted in taking her there and telling her it was hers as she stood in the living room oohing and awing. We all shed tears of joy that day.

Of course we had it in our hearts to buy her a mansion, which of course the house was not, but it was a lovely 3/2/2 house and was by far the best home she ever lived in on this planet. Today, we delight in knowing that she now occupies a glorious mansion and walks on streets of gold!

For the past 20 years or so of her life, I delighted in sneaking her a $100 bill every time I got to see her. I knew it treated her to a nice meal, a new dress or a visit to the beauty shop. She delighted in being pampered. My sweet little sister was really terrific at spoiling her and did so very much for her. I always delighted in how generous Dorothy was with her. Don’t misunderstand, most of her kids were good to her financially as they were able, and I appreciated that, too.

I recall after my dad passed away, my mom and I sat and talked about what her life would be like without him (she had been with him since she was a 13-year-old girl). In an effort to encourage her, I told her that there was a world to see, places to go, and things to do. I told her, “Surely there is some place you have always wanted to visit and could not!” She smiled and said, “Well, I always wanted to go to Hawaii!!!” I chuckled and said, “Pack your bag, as soon as Sandy gets out of school for the summer, she and Dorothy are going to take you on an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii!” She beamed with delight and it thrilled my heart to be part of doing that for her. Sandy and Dorothy delighted at taking her and seeing her joy as she experienced all parts of it. Dorothy rented a convertible and chauffeured her around like a princess (she was always our princess!)

By the same token, my sweet little girl told me as a little girl, “Daddy, some day I am going to buy the house across the street from you and Mama.” I would chuckle. She would look at me and say, “Daddy, don’t laugh at me, I am going to do that!” She said it a lot –almost all of her childhood.

I will be darned if the little skunk didn’t buy the house across the street last month! She spent the weekend there and left today to fly back to work with a pledge that she would be back in three weeks for Thanksgiving.

It was funny how it came about . . . and how quickly it happened. Her mom was talking with her on the phone casually mentioned that the Bakers’ were selling their house and moving to Victoria! She flew into action and bought the house over the phone that very afternoon and closed on it in three weeks! It wasn’t the house she actually said she would buy, but it was a 25-years newer and more modern house than the one she had planned to buy.

She is our neighbor (sometimes) . . . just like she always said she would be!

What does it mean? Simply that God gifted us with an amazing ability to hit what we aim at! What are you aiming at?