How Old ? . . .

Just a couple of days back a friend posted on Facebook that he had been thinking he was 37 . . . about to have his 38th birthday, but then discovered that he was, in fact, 36 about to turn 37. He wrote about how refreshing it was to discover that he was actually a year younger than he had believed. I chuckled at his post, but was surprised at the comments with which people responded. It seems that this is a fairly common failing . . . or perhaps, experience.

I have never been confused on the issue of my age, my date of birth, the number of years married or my anniversary date, Sandy’s age or date of birth, or that info about my children. In fact, I was one of eight kids in my family and to this date I can name the birthdate and year of birth for each of my siblings.

Something pretty comical about this topic did occur with Sandy and me in our earlier years. Shortly after we married, Sandy became confused about the age of her Dad . . . exactly how old he was. I recall she said, “He is just 42.” It became puzzling to me that I managed to get older each year, but he actually got younger. We started off twenty years apart, but I almost caught up with him as we added a year to my age each year and Sandy subtracted a year from her Dad. She claimed that she had over-stated his age initially and was simply making the necessary adjustments over time. That was all well and good until he was just a few years older than I was. I finally called him and asked his age and explained the reason. He got quite a chuckle over it and it became a joke between us for the remainder of his short life.

The aging process does funny things with the human brain . . . and memory. Keep your driver’s license handy . . . it contains pertinent information about you, and includes a color photo of you. All helpful information.

I recall the story about the President arriving in town a bit early for an appearance at a local event. As his driver drove the limo down the street, the Prez saw a nursing home and said, “Hey, we have some extra time so let’s circle back around and go in that home and say Howdy to the folks.” As they pulled up in front of the home and the Prez exited the limo, he saw an old fellow in a wheelchair. He approached the old dude with a big grin and asked, “Do you know who I am?” The guy looked the Prez over pretty good and finally shook his head no . . . but then the old man said, “Check with them at the front desk, they are usually pretty good with that sort of thing!”


Truths of Life . . . Demonstrated in the Sea . . .

Sandy and I have been on a cruise aboard Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas last week. It is a magnificent vessel, both large and grand. In fact, I would even describe it as being elegant. The vessel is just over 1,100-feet in length, has a beam of 130-feet and a draft of 30-feet, and is capable of speeds up to 35 knots (about 38 mph). That is actually very fast over the water’s surface for a vessel of this size. In an emergency situation at that rate of speed, it would likely take a space of three-to-four miles to just come to a halt . . . you see, there is no brake-pedal on a ship! All that can be done is to kick the engines out of gear and allow the propellers to come to rest, then slide the transmissions into reverse gear and back down on them, ever increasing the RPMs; thus, using the thrust of the propellers as a braking devise. Every measure used in the operation of such a large vessel carries a down-side that must be overcome when the measure is employed. Using reverse propulsion as a braking system involves a significant loss of steering control and leaves the vessel subject to the direction and force of the ocean’s energy . . . currents, wind, and waves. That is not a good thing, as a large vessel needs to be able to have maximum directional control because, even in the best of conditions, steering the vessel is quite limited. Simply turning a vessel of this length—even at a 90-degree angle—while moving at a slow speed, is a huge task . . . even with bow-thrusters at work. That steering difficulty is constantly verified by large vessels employing tug/push boats when coming into and exiting ports-of-call. As I have observed folks coming and going all week . . . laughing, chattering, and mostly focused on themselves and what they want . . . it occurred to me that the vast majority of them have no clue about the operations of the ship . . . or the war being waged between the laws of gravity (that wants to pull the ship to the ocean’s floor) and the law of buoyancy (that overcomes gravity and keeps the vessel above water). Passengers simply board the ship and blindly depend upon others to ensure their direction, travel, safety, and safe arrival.

It Seems to me . . . that is pretty much how the masses go through the life experience itself. Tragically, unaware that God is the creator . . . and that He created each of us for a purpose, with said purpose being to live in relationship with Him. An individual simply cannot depend on others to establish such relationship with the Creator for him or her . . . parents, churches, friends, or leaders cannot do this for me . . . each person must do it for himself. Upon boarding the vessel, one of the first things I did was to orient myself . . . where the life-boats and personal flotation devices were located. I secured that vital information indelibly in my mind, so that I could find both, even in the dark of night . . . realizing that I just might need to do that very thing! Moreover, in this day of evil, senseless mass attacks, I also identified items I could use as a weapon at various places on-board if such need should arise. Why? Simply because it is a survival defense I am blessed to have . . . and because I am responsible to our family for Sandy’s safety/security . . . a role I gladly accepted 44 years ago! I believe it is my job to get my girl safely back home (of course with the aide and assistance of the Lord).

I am thankful that God placed folks in my life who helped open my eyes to the truth that it is both foolish and dangerous to journey through life unaware . . . simply coasting along. I appreciate wise, loving folks who taught me that life has meaning and purpose . . . and it is not limited to just the here and now! I have tried to be that same sort of wise, loving person who has helped sound the call of awareness to others along the way. What about you . . . do you get it?

A Kid who was Boxed in . . . .

His name was Jim. I met him about 30 years ago and thought he was a very nice man. He was the bookkeeper at the golf club where Chris and I played (he was a fellow member and served as volunteer bookkeeper). I actually thought he was the most courteous and respectful member of the club. I knew that he was the Vice-President of one of the banks in Rockport, but not at one where I did business. A few years later, he and his wife, Sue, joined First Baptist Church and become members of my Sunday school class. By that time, Jim had already retired from the bank, but Sue would work a few more years as Vice President of a different bank . . . one where I did have accounts.

The better I got to know them, the better I liked them. I recall taking Jim to lunch one day and learning his most interesting story. Jim, as I did, grew up in West Texas. Unlike me, Jim grew up living in one home . . . a home that his family had lived in for many years. It was located just outside of Eden, Texas, on the family’s cattle ranch. I drove through Eden yesterday and I thought about my friend.

Jim’s Dad was the County Judge for most of Jim’s life. His mother was the Principal of the high school, and his uncle was the County sheriff. I recall chuckling and telling him, “Dude, they had you at every turn, you could not get away with anything.” He laughed and said, “It was even worse than you think! I had one sister . . . and she was a tattle-tale.”

We had some laughs about childhood pranks and the consequences of being so hemmed in . . . but then the conversation turned to the benefits of such an upbringing. Jim’s family were good, decent, “salt of the earth” people who owned a ranch out there and believed in personal accountability. Jim was raised with a strong foundation and taught the meaning of important words such as dignity, honor, work, respect, and humility. Those things became building blocks for Jim’s life. His family expected and demanded that he live with purpose. That family did not leave Jim’s rearing to the church and the school. They did not allow Jim to make up his own mind about brushing his teeth or bathing . . . and they certainly were not about to leave the important matters of God, family, and country up to the whims of a kid. They pounded on those principles, all the while modeling them. Jim laughed and told me, “When my Dad hollered through the house on Sunday morning, ‘Are you ready for Church?’ it was clear that it was not a multiple-choice question . . . there was only one correct answer.”

Jim passed away a few years back. I was able to visit him several times in the hospital prior to his passing. I knew he appreciated the visits and the meaningful conversations as he prepared to go to his inheritance. Sue lived a few more years after Jim, but she has now gone on to her reward. They were lovely people and they lived a good, decent life. They never went to the moon, wrote a great book, accumulated a fortune, or ever really did anything that one might deem as being “unequivocal” . . . but they lived and loved, they strove to serve God, and they touched some folks along the way. They certainly touched my life. I helped with both of their funerals . . . I witnessed that they were both well-loved . . . and had, indeed, touched other’s lives.

Jim was my friend . . . Sue was also my friend.

It Truly is a Small World . . . Indeed . . .

Sandy and I were on a lovely cruise ship last week, cruising between Galveston and Jamaica, with a port call on the Yucatan Peninsula and also Grand Cayman. A couple of days back we met a really cute older couple . . . her from Australia and him from London. They shared their stories . . . she is a widow, he is a widower . . . they met aboard a cruise ship halfway across the world last year when she asked him to dance . . . and they are now engaged. His name is Robert and her name is Judy.

The next night I met a very nice older lady from London. She is about 4’10”, pudgy, and very jolly. She is in the States visiting her sister . . . who married a GI years ago and they made their home in San Antonio. My friend’s name is Doris Taylor and her sister is Sandra. I asked my Sandy if I could take Doris home with me . . . Sandy chuckled and asked if she could cook, to which Doris quickly responded that pretty much all she “could manage in the kitchen was porridge (oatmeal).” It was quickly determined that Doris was destined to simply return to London, and we all had a good laugh. I told Doris that she had a countryman aboard the ship and told her about my new friends, Robert and Judy. We said our good-byes and extended warm wishes and headed to our cabin. We didn’t walk 100 yards and we ran into Robert and Judy. Sandy sat with Judy and listened to piano music while I walked Robert back to find Doris and Sandra and introduce them. We were all flabbergasted to discover that Robert and Doris actually live within five minutes of each other . . . and have for 30 years!

To top all of that off . . . on our way to the dining room, Sandy wanted to stop and have our photo taken on the staircase . . . it was dress-up night and we were well-dressed. As we stood in the line looking at folks coming and going, we spotted Dale and Ann Pogue and Bob and Jimmie Box walking in our direction. We had a nice, but brief visit with them.

It is, indeed, a small world!

Pride before the Fall . . .

I saw it happen . . . in living color . . . on a wide-screen TV . . . and I took delight in it! What do I mean? I watched the arrogant, obnoxious, prideful Oklahoma City Thunder fall flat and be humiliated by the Golden State Warriors . . . and I yelled . . . I laughed . . . I hooted . . . and I texted my basketball buds . . . but I did all that from the privacy of my home . . . not on national TV!

Pride goes before the fall . . . is the modern day abbreviation of Proverbs 16:18, which actually reads, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” That is exactly what occurred.

The truth is that several of the teams in the Western Conference made the playoffs by the skin of their teeth, by the hair on their chin . . . Memphis Grizzles, Houston Rockets, Portland Trailblazers, Dallas Mavs, LA Clippers, and the Oklahoma City Thunder . . . all mediocre teams, with mediocre records. The San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors led the Western Conference . . . and the NBA with record-breaking seasons. In fact, those two teams emerged as two of the best teams in history.

As the playoffs began, the sports book was betting heavily that it would come down to the Spurs and Warriors . . . and it could go either way . . . but the winner would then win the NBA Finals and reign as 2016 champs. It was a no-brainer.

The Spurs eliminated the Grizzlies in four games (known as “a sweep”). The Warriors eliminated Houston in five games. Portland eliminated the Clippers four-to-two, and the Thunder eliminated the Mavs four-to-one. By the conclusion of the Tnunder/Mav’s series all BB fans in Texas hated the Thunder. What a bunch of arrogant jerks . . . not one ounce of class on the entire team. They clearly got up for the playoffs and were a better, stronger team than the Mavs, but every step of the process they taunted and heckled the Mavs . . . they yelled, thumped their chests, and ran around hollering thrashing their arms in the air . . . absolute morons! The worst sportsmanship I have ever seen. Then those low-class bums went to San Antonio and did the same evil stuff to the Spurs . . . and unbelievably it worked . . . the Spurs simply faded away and were eliminated four-to-two. To compound the mystery in all of this, the Spurs routed the Thunder with a win by 41 points in Game 1 . . . vividly showing the difference in the level of talent between the teams. However, the Spurs then rolled over and played dead . . . and the jerks on the Thunder continued with their vile celebrations . . . totally designed to demean a crippled opponent. That IS NOT what the game of basketball is about . . . and it is offensive to true basketball fans.

Then . . . amazingly, the classless bums did the same ugly stuff to the Warriors and got them down to three-and-one in that series. All of the pundits were calling for elimination of the Warriors . . . the defending NBA 2015 champs . . . the team with the winningest season in NBA history. The very notion of the Thunder playing in the Finals turned my stomach . . . what a terrible message for kids all over the world. Amazingly, something happened and the Warriors overcame the sinkhole they had stumbled into, and they came back and routed the bums . . . and they did it with a great display of class and style . . . quietly winning the last three games! They revealed themselves as true champions! I am not sure how it is possible to pull for both the Spurs and Warriors in the same season . . . but I am going to try to find a way (well, until I AM forced to make a choice and then I will pull for the Spurs). The Warriors won me over!

In spite of the truth that the Spurs fell dead on the court . . . and embarrassed their fans . . . the franchise remains the class of the NBA . . . followed by the Warriors. But then why wouldn’t the warriors have some class and decency in the midst of winning? Hey . . . the team is coached by one Steve Kerr . . . a former Spur!

I detest the evil Thunder . . . I am thrilled that they were sent home with their tail between their legs . . . and their arrogance stifled . . . and their big mouths shut! I am sure their destruction was good for the game of basketball . . . and kids! I know it was good for me . . . and some other Spur’s fans!