What is the Difference?

Suddenly, there is a supposed urgent need to relocate large numbers of Muslim from across the Middle East, Syria, and parts of Africa, placing them in other nations. The claim is they are innocent victims of civil war in Syria, as well as political unrest and persecution in other areas.

There has been a great controversy among the nations of the world concerning this issue . . . with some nations receiving these Muslim immigrants seemingly with open arms, while other nations have resisted any such immigration. I have been studying this debate over recent months and believe that I have stumbled upon a truth . . . and it helps me better understand some of the debate taking place within the United States in this confusing political season.

Before I address what I view as my discovery, allow me to identify which nations are welcoming these Muslims immigrants. Most of the nations in the European Union (France, Greece, Germany, Austria, Britain), along with Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey.

I questioned what was the common denominator between these nations? It occurred to me that they were each a nation without a God! Many of the European nations once believed in the one, true God, but over time became socialist nations in which the people ceased going to Church and looking to God, and instead began looking to the government to answer their questions, solve their problems, and give them identity. Over time, the socialist government became the God of those socialist people. The end result is the Muslims and their fanatical religion pose no threat to those nations.

Nations such as Israel and the USA have been less welcoming (although the current American administration has recently tried to open the gate and permit large numbers in). In light of the common denominator of those nations that welcomed the Muslims, it was obvious why both Israel and the USA resisted . . . both nations have a God . . . with houses of worship and prayer that both teach about Him and also worship Him. That truth in itself makes both nations reluctant to admit those with such hair-brained, confusing, and evil religious beliefs. Moreover, it also sheds light on why there is such a driving force dedicated to undermining the USA as a Christian nation and attack all things of faith. The Apostle Paul warned in Ephesians 6:1-10 that we war against spiritual wickedness and principalities in high places. Peter warns us that our enemy is cunning and like a vicious predator. It is clear that the enemy is intensifying his efforts and energizing his forces.

Of course, Israel and the USA have not been the only nations that have been reluctant to receive Muslim immigrants, as Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have also resisted.

I don’t particularly believe that these other refusing nations have adopted their position because of any strong belief in or commitment to God, inasmuch as their basis is simply that they view the relocations as being troop movements in disguise (those being relocated are all young men . . . there are no elderly or handicapped).

What do you think?

A Nation . . . Confused . . . Troubled . . . and At-Risk

At this time in history, the USA . . . the greatest nation in history . . . is like the great ocean-liner that lost its power while at sea and is being tossed all about . . . and in danger of crashing upon the rocks.

We are in the midst of a brutal battle for the White House, unlike anything in our history. It has become very nasty . . . and old Lucifer himself must be smiling and feeling victory is at hand. Part of the tragedy is that the two Nominees are both pathetic . . . embarrassing . . . and both unfit and unworthy for the highest office in the land. The saddest part of the tragedy is that they are each a reflection of who we have become as a people . . . they each reflect a strong portion of the divided population.

How did we ever get to the sad, low place? By straying far afield of the very things that made us a great nation . . . that being a strong foundation based upon a firm belief in the one, true God. Our Constitution was completely framed upon that belief, our currency was stamped with the declaration of that belief, our pledge incorporates that belief, and our National Anthem proclaims the truth of that belief. Make no mistake . . . the Unites States of America began as a Christian nation! That has never even been a question until a couple of decades ago. The Holy Bible was the text-book in America’s classrooms for many years. The vast majority of all universities in the nation was established by strong Christians and were structured to teach and deliver the Gospel message. Each of those universities included a chapel where students and faculty gathered to pray and worship God.

As time passed . . . the majority of Christians hit the snooze button and dozed while the enemy began an attack upon our Nation. Some 50 years later, the highest court in the land has evicted God from both the schoolhouse and the courthouse, and the airwaves are polluted with filth, lies, and deceit. Meanwhile, the media has become corrupt pushing its own agenda. Tragically, laws have been set in place that have permitted the wholesale slaughter of over 30-million babies. The family has been weakened in all of this and a family that consists of a husband, wife, and their biological children living together in one house is now a rare thing. One of our most recent national debates centered on who could use what public restroom. The President insisted that men who are confused over their gender could use the ladies’ room. One southern city rebelled, and the NFL took action against that city. Oh, yeah . . . the bunch of prima donnas now has a national debate going on over what is proper behavior during the playing of the National anthem

You might ask, “Was there another option available?” I would argue that there not only was another option . . . there was also clear, written, and inspired instructions forewarning us about this danger . . . and instructing us how to avoid and prevent this plight.

Simon Peter, a simple man, much like most of us, lived an incredible life: as a young boy living in a Jewish family just before the Messiah would have been inclined to the Jewish faith. Obviously, as a young man he had become a guy who went to Church on Saturdays, but worked on the boats and docks during the week and could probably cuss a guy out with the best of them. He met Jesus . . . Jesus changed who he was . . . and that began to change what he did. Peter, like most of us, had spurts of growth mixed with times of weakness and failure, but he always found forgiveness and restoration. He grew through those experiences.

As an older man, likely near the end of his life, he wrote a couple of letters to some Churches that had been established in Asia Minor who were experiencing persecution in a troubled era. He desperately wanted to offer encouragement and support to those strugglers, along with sound advice that could help them avoid many of the missteps he had personally made.

As he brings his first letter to a close (1 Peter 5:6-8), he urges the Believers to do three things;

1. Be alert;

2. Be firm in the faith (have integrity): and

3. Be aware that there is an enemy and that enemy is like a vicious lion . . . equipped for and ready for destruction!

I believe we are in this mess today because we did not heed this wise instruction. As stated above, we hit doze when the alarm sounded, and we drifted back to sleep. Further, I fear we failed to grasp what it meant to have integrity. The word is borrowed from the field of mathematics . . . from the word integer . . . which simply means “whole numbers” . . . meaning “not fractionalized or marginalized.” We the people allowed ourselves and our beloved nation to become both fractionalized and marginalized. Tragically, our generation ran from the battlefield, fleeing the enemy and his attack; thus, offered up our nation as the spoils of battle to the enemy.

In that same Chapter 5, he had words of instructions for the overseers and leaders of the Church. Of course, one of the problems that has caused our situation today in the USA is caused by the failure of many who fill those offices of leadership in the Church. That, of course, is evidenced by the condition of the various denominations of the Churches in the USA. My denomination, Southern Baptist, has greatly been marginalized and, thus, weakened by infighting and struggles for power and control . . . oh yeah, in that same Chapter 5, Peter urged us to humble ourselves. Wow, that is long gone!

It almost seems hopeless, until we remember that as Believers we have neither the right, nor reason, to fear! Absolutely none of this came as a surprise to the Lord of Glory . . . it was always on His radar screen. He reminds us over and over in His Holy Word, “Do not be afraid” and assures us that He is with us . . . even until the end of the world.

Our order is, “Onward and Upward”! Everything is going to be just fine because the Master said, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world”!

The battle has already been won!

The Sink Hole . . .

Mark has been attempting to fill in for Cody for a couple of weeks while Cody is away. I appreciate his efforts, but I am just amazed at what a mess he is . . . and the messes he can get himself into. Mark is one of my pals who struggles with life and sometimes loses his way. Periodically he will drop by the house or office needing to borrow a little cash until “his check comes in.” Most of the time I let him have what he is asking for, but he knows to never ask Sandy for money if I am away. It has taken a few tries, but I believe that is now indelibly etched into his memory bank.

Last week Chris and I had to use the ATV to pull the new John Deer riding mower off of an oak tree. Let me explain: my yard has an oak tree whose trunk comes out of the earth, and just above the ground it makes almost a 90-degree bend and runs a couple of inches above the surface for about 4-feet, then bends upward to the sky. It sounds peculiar, and it is, but it is not totally unheard of in this coastal area. At any rate, for some unknown reason, Mark thought he could drive the mower over the tree trunk which is about five-inches in diameter. He almost destroyed the mower deck and would have on any other brand of mower other than John Deere.

His next mess came a couple of days later. He came to the house wide-eyed and announced that he had been down in the big shop for “a couple of hours trying to get the mower started.” He said it just would not start no matter what he did. I called another fellow who does some commercial mowing for me and asked him to come by and lend a hand. In about twenty minutes he came to my office and said that the battery had ran down because Mark had left the key in the on position. He said he put the battery charger on for a few minutes and it started right up.

Yesterday as I was leaving to go to the bank Mark got the mower out and started mowing the front portion of the yard. Actually, the yard has two distinct sections . . . outside the fence and inside the fence. I insist that the guys do each section on separate days. Yesterday Mark worked outside of the fence. About an hour later, I returned and found Mark standing in the driveway looking quite nervous and confused. As I pulled into the drive, he came over to the driver’s door and said, “Mr. M, you ain’t gonna believe it but the mower is stuck in a sink hole in the front yard!” I went around front with him and sure enough . . . there was the mower with its nose pointing almost toward Heaven. The City has a very wide street easement along DeBerry Ave and includes about half of the front yards of the houses on both sides of the street. On my side of the street, the easement contains a buried storm drainage pipe with a manhole in my front East-side section. For some peculiar, and yet undetermined reason, that manhole caved in just as Mark drove over it. I made two phone calls . . . I called Pedro to come rescue Mark and John Deere, and I called the City’s Utility Department and reported the matter. Pedro rescued both Mark and the mower . . . and the utility guys are looking into the matter, but didn’t get far into it before 5:00 p. m., so I am thinking they will figure it out today.

Don’t get me wrong . . . I am not blaming Mark for the sinkhole . . . I am simply saying that if something absolutely off of the charts goofy is going to happen . . . it is going to happen to Mark!

For the past couple of years, I have affectionately referred to Mark as “The Question Mark.” After the past couple of weeks, I am thinking that perhaps I need to revise that and now refer to him as “the exclamation Mark!”

I am certainly missing Cody . . . I am not sure that Mark, the mower, or I will survive much longer if Cody doesn’t get back pretty soon.

 

Hard Times . . .

Life is precious and wonderful, but it also includes some hard times . . . they are just part of the life experience. Hard times show up in different forms . . . sometimes in ill health . . . a financial setback . . . a difficult marriage . . . a rebellious child . . . or any number of other ways. They are as consistent as the tide. One old fellow said it like this, “Sometimes, simply living life can just drain the life right out of you!”

The question that begs to be asked and answered is . . . “How do we respond to the hard times when they arrive?” Take notice that I said, “When they arrive,” not if they arrive. They are coming . . . and we simply have to deal with them. The truth is that it is as if hard times knows our address . . . and they don’t need a GPS to locate us.

Another question that begs to be asked and answered is, “Why does the Lord allow hard times to come upon His people?” One can argue that the Bible is replete with promises of provision, protection, and blessings. Of course, that is true and the Bible certainly does say that . . . but that is not all that it says! It also says that there are mountains to climb . . . rivers to ford . . . valleys to cross . . . burdens to bear . . . battles to be fought . . . wars to be won . . . and trials to be endured.

So, why does the Lord permit the hard times? I would argue that the reason is because it is in those struggles that we learn about ourselves . . . and we learn about the Lord. The simple truth is that we love and hope and pray for good times . . . when we have money in the bank, we are enjoying good health, everyone is behaving themselves . . . and there is sunshine and blue skies, but another truth is that we simply don’t learn much in those times. I am convinced that the Lord has both reasons and seasons . . . which also show up in our journey.

Here are four things I think the hard times are designed to accomplish in our lives:

1. It is in the hard times that the Lord develops our character. He is much more concerned about our character than He is about our comfort. The bumps and bruises we get on the road of life serve to shape us and as my sweet little Mom said, “Helps us develop character . . . as opposed to simply being a character.” In hard times, we learn: to bite our tongues (hold back on saying what we might want to say); to develop patience; and to grow in faith.

2. The hard times are intended to deepen our faith. As we experience the Lord’s activity on our behalf . . . we discover more reasons to praise Him. He brings this about through our participation . . . His importation (wherein He brings things into our lives) . . . His impartation (He imparts grace, mercy, peace, etc to us) . . . and our exaltation (where we—in response—allow our praise to rush out of our hearts just as we exhale breath from our nostrils).

I love the poem “Footsteps” in which the person comments. “There were two sets of footprints in the sand, then there was only one set” . . . and then asks the Lord, “Why did you leave me?” . . . and the Lord replies, “I did not leave you, that single set of footprints was when I carried you!”

3. Hard times are intended to direct our attention . . . to the internal (our hearts, minds, attitudes, motives, priorities, and desires). As we experience the hard times, we are driven to perform a self-examination. As that exercise reveals things such as selfishness and other shortcomings (sin), we work on the external (our behavior) . . . and it serves to prepare us for the eternal. Jesus told His disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you . . .” (John 14:1-6). From that we can know that Heaven is a prepared place . . . for a prepared people. The hard times are part of what is being used to prepare us . . . because these are the times in which we learn best.

4. Hard times serve to define . . . and refine . . . our trust in the Lord and His faithfulness and goodness. Let’s imagine that we purchase a ticket to take a trip on a train and climb aboard. Soon into the journey the train enters a long tunnel and it becomes very dark. How do we respond? Do we throw our ticket away and jump off of the train, or do we stay in our place and trust the conductor?

Sadly, many of the hard times we experience in life are consequences of decisions we make and things we say and do. Amazingly, the Lord uses them in our lives as certainly as He uses those not of our own marking.

What a Fun Day . . .

Chris drove Sarah and GiGi to Progresso, Mexico, to see our oral surgeon friend, Dr. Manuel Basan. Sarah needed some dental work and the quotes for that work in the Waco area were frightening. Chris told her that Dr. Basan was an excellent Dentist and his prices were very reasonable. She wanted to check it out. Sandy, of course had school . . . so I got to keep Ali and Abi.

Everyone left the house early and I let the girls sleep late while I took care of a few business matters. When they woke and came down stairs they both crawled up in my lap to cuddle for a bit . . . and they are both cuddlers. I love that sweet time . . . they are so gentle with each other, with themselves, and with me. After a bit, Ali asked if she could have a bowl of cereal. Abi wanted a bowl, too. So, that broke up that part of the party.

After breakfast, I told them to get dressed for the day as we had some errands to run. Our first stop was Prosperity Bank to pick up a supply of Mid-Coast check stock, which required that we go into the lobby of the bank. The ladies in the bank had been doing some fall decorating (both Halloween and Thanksgiving) . . . which included several small buckets of candy. The girls were quite interested in those . . . and hey, there wasn’t a responsible adult around to object . . . there was just a Pappy who is inclined to spoil them. As I took care of my business with the bank teller, my friends Ann Robbins (President) and Kathy Smith (Vice President), came out of their offices and visited with the girls. Mrs. Robbins brought out a bucket filled with small suckers—of every kind. As I finished my business and turned around, Mrs. Robbins was sitting in a lobby chair with Abi on her knee . . . both girls had a handful of suckers for the road! As we went back to the car, they both talked about how nice the ladies in the bank were. I told them, “They are our friends, I am glad you like them, too.”

After a few more errands, I called Nana and told her that we would bring her an iced coffee from McDonald’s (she is addicted) . . . if she would walk out to the parking area to collect it. She said, “If y’all will be here at 2:01 pm I can do that. The break between periods is from 2:01 to 2:06.” We assured her we would be there. We were talking via Blue Tooth in the car . . . meaning over the radio speaker system. It was cute that the girls in their car safety seats in the 2nd and 3rd rows could hear Nana perfectly clear and thought she could hear them as they called out to her. Of course, she could not hear their sweet little voices as the microphone is above the steering wheel, but they just talked up a storm anyway.

After delivering coffee to Nana, we drove over to the community pool and the girls played on the playground for a bit. It is mid-October, but the temp was 91. After a while, Abi called out, “Hey, I have a great idea . . . let’s go to Sonic and get a slush and then go home and get in the pool!” Ali and I agreed that was, indeed, a good idea, and it was exactly what we did. This time of the year entering the unheated pool is a slower process . . . but after a few minutes of adjustment, everything was back to normal . . . and fun. The girls laughed, splashed about, squealed with delight, and did a series of running and jumping into the pool with shouts of “Geronimo,” “Cannonball,” or “Remember the Alamo!” They, of course, had to incorporate some of their dance class routine and wanted me to serve as their announcer/barker with introduction of, “Ladies and Gentlemen, please make welcome the lovely sisters, Ali and Abi, as they dazzle you with their amazing footwork” (of course, there was an imaginary crowd there to be entertained). Later, I told the girls that I need to get out of the pool and water some plants as it didn’t look as if Mark was coming to do his chores. They got out too and entertained themselves (and me) by trying to catch a few frogs, with Abi faithfully telling her big sister, “We can’t eat them frogs, Ali, they will make us too jumpy!” After they tired of frog-catching, Ali got a pool net and tried her hand at catching a butterfly.

We then dried and changed back into our street clothes. We had made a date with Nana to go on a picnic at the beach. When Nana arrived home, she informed us that her school was having the Home-coming bonfire on the beach at 7:00 pm. We went and got our supplies and drove to the beach. It was a perfect day for such an outing. As we finished up our meal, the big fire trucks rumbled by and Abi was thrilled. She insisted that she wanted to go to the bonfire, so of course we drove over to the large pile of wood. Abi is like her Nana . . . no way either one could just sit in the car and watch . . . They got out of the car and marched up to the front . . . as close as the public was allowed. An hour later, they returned, excited and jabbering about the experience.


After we got home, Chris, Sarah, and GiGi returned from Mexico, with a watermelon. Abi grabbed it and said, “I really like this pumpkin.” Nana started giggling, so Abi said, “Well, that’s what I call it, Nana.” Nana asked, “But what is it really?” Abi said, “Ah, a pumpkin?”

I know everyone in the family adores and enjoys the girls, and I really like that, but I really enjoy just getting to have them sometime all by myself. What sweet, fun, and funny little girls! I really like this Pappy thing.

 

Getting Started . . . .

I was a young husband and dad, and I wanted to do my very best for my young family.

I was convinced that I could build a business from scratch . . . with sheer determination, ambition, and hard work. The truth was, that was about all I had available to me . . . I had no money, nor did I have any family with money. I was the public-housing director at several places in South Texas and made a pretty decent living, but I was driven to strike out on my own. I was convinced that if I could take housing organizations, designed to lose money, and make them work, then I could successfully build and operate a profit-motivated concern.

Of course, I needed/wanted to get Sandy on board and support me. I knew she loved me and believed in me, but as a young mother she was concerned about her home and children. I argued that I had watched some good, decent, and bright guys become so dependent upon a paycheck from the public coffers that they actually became so institutionalized that they turned inward and lost their dream. Reluctantly, she agreed. I turned in my resignation and agreed with the various Boards to help identify and recruit my replacement. I also started the process of cashing in my retirement policies . . . in which I was fully vested. It was my intent to use that money to start up my business and feed my family in the process.

I had identified several suitable rural South Texas towns that could support an apartment complex designed for older folks. USDA’s Farmer’s Home Administration had just been funded by Congress for a rural multi-family housing loan program. The Agency had been around for a while and was busy operating a single family housing-loan program, but didn’t know much about multi-family rental housing. The small group appointed to make the rental housing program work began looking around for help from folks who had been successfully operating and developing such. A delegation attended a housing conference in Austin at which I was the primary speaker. After my work at the convention, the guys invited me to join them for dinner. I accepted the invite and realized they wanted to recruit me to help them get the program moving. As they told me the basics about the program loan authority, I told them I would be delighted to get involved, but I had very little in the way of a financial statement or money for a loan down-payment. After they huddled up and talked amongst themselves, they informed me they actually had authority to waive certain requirements in lieu of what they described as “sweat equity.” I grinned and said, “Gentlemen, I am your guy!” The next morning, I followed them to their office in the W.R. Pouge Federal building located in Temple. I met with the development officials and senior loan-officers and they provided me with a supply of handbooks and procedure manuals which in simple fashion outlined loan covenants and objectives. I thanked them for their time and interest in me, and assured them I would be back in 30 days, and that I would know the program well when I returned.

I returned home and began my research. I actually packaged a few loan-applications for the local agencies I operated. When I returned, the gentlemen said, “We’re excited to actually have some applications to work on processing.” I also showed them the mechanics for a public-training program I had developed for local hometown builders, architects, engineers, lumber-yard owners, and the like. They were excited and we discussed how to market the training. I encouraged them to select a few sites and send invitation letters to the Chamber of Commerce offices in the geographical areas. They liked it and asked me if I would attend and present the program and do a Q & A session. They told me they actually had some expense money for program-development and could even pay me a reasonable consultant fee. Bingo . . . I was in business. I was going to be able to enhance my relationship with the lender officials, help get the program off of the ground, and generate a bit of income along the way.

I began conducting simple market-studies to demonstrate the need in a few rural towns. It was pretty basic stuff. Once I felt confident, I began investigating potential development sites and optioning land. Once I had those things working, I scheduled a meeting with the local Mayors and informed them what I proposed to do in their towns. Without exception, each one of those rural mayors had the vision to be happy with the plan and vowed to support my effort in every possible way. The simple truth was that there simply was not much development happening in their small rural towns . . . that activity was taking place in Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, and the like.

I would involve Sandy, Courtney, and Chris in late-night assembly line loan packaging sessions in the living room of our home (I also did the same with my seminars). I would walk around the room placing the pages on low surfaces and in package order. When I had it all laid out, I would give “Page 2” to Courtney for distribution to each of the stacks around the room. After she moved off and started making the round, I would give Chris the stack of “Page 3” for distribution. Sandy supervised and kept the pages turned in the proper direction . . . head-to-head and tail-to-tail. As each kid would distribute their pages, they would circle back for a new package.

I recall working all week-end assembling a loan-package . . . in multiple copies. As we worked, Sandy gently told me that our funds were getting very short and the credit card debt was growing. As she explained our situation, I got a sick feeling in my stomach. I left home with the loan-packages headed for Austin to get my Architect’s design package that would complete my loan-package. I left his condo/office about dark driving to Rio Grande City to meet with the District Director of that border area to submit the application to his office . . . the district guy has considerable authority and a loan simply could not be made in his district without his approval/concurrence and recommendation. As I drove thru the night, my fatigue caught us with me. I had no money for a motel room and I knew that I should not put that expense on my credit card. Finally, I reached the point where I simply could not go another mile and pulled off on the shoulder of the road and crawled over in the back seat and after an intense prayer session, I went to sleep. Early the next morning as dawn broke, the oilfield trucks began rumbling up and down the small highway and woke me. I changed into my Church clothes behind that car on that country road thinking about my young family back home . . . depending on me. I drove up the road a few miles and stopped at a small country store. I went in and bought a few slices of Bologna and sandwich bread, and got a cup of coffee. I ate my breakfast on my way into town. I delivered my loan-package to the country office, and the director offered me a cup of coffee. After a brief time, I left the package with him and headed home.

I will never forget the feeling I had late that afternoon going into my home and loving on my family . . . thanking each for their help. The phone rang and the caller was David Gonzales calling to let me know that he had spent the day reviewing the loan package . . . he complimented me on the quality and said that he was sending it on to Temple with his recommendation!

I was in business . . . my dream was coming true. I was officially in business. It was a most humble beginning.

The Postage Stamp . . .

Linda mailed an envelope to me and it had an Elvis postage stamp affixed. It was the first one I had seen. The photo is a 1955 black-and-white shot of him by photographer William Speer. It is a 49-cent stamp . . . but is also a forever stamp, which means that you can but it now as a first-class stamp and it will forever be honored as such, regardless if postal rates increase.

The new stamp was dedicated in August, 2015, at Graceland during the annual Elvis week . . . it is actually the 2nd Elvis stamp. The first Elvis postage stamp was issued in 1993 and is recognized as being the most popular/successful postage stamp in history. The Postmaster General predicts this stamp will surpass the first stamp in sales.

Elvis was a simple country boy from a modest Southern family. The Lord blessed him with a wonderful singing voice and he crossed paths with some folks who helped him become a recording artist. He became larger than life . . . and influenced the music industry like no other person in history. In the process, he became quite wealthy.

Tragically, he fell into the enemy’s snare and died a sad death at an early age. There have been two deaths which occurred in my lifetime when I can recall precisely where I was when the announcement was made . . . I believe most folks can as well. One of those was when President John Kennedy was shot in the streets of downtown Dallas. The other was when Elvis died.

I think I will remove the stamp and hang on to it for a while. Heck, I grew up with his music!

 

People . . .

Kierkegaard . . . Danish philosopher . . . theologian . . . poet . . . social critic . . . the first existentialist, is reported as having said, “People are pitiful.”

I go back and forth on that opinion . . . sometimes I think the human race is actually quite noble and even accomplished. The truth is that man has actually accomplished some rather amazing things . . . in science, medicine, arts, building trades, education . . . and the list goes on and on. Sometimes people are quite sophisticated and gracious.

Then I encounter a pilgrim who has lost his way . . . and his story/situation breaks my heart. Last night as I walked through the supermarket, I encountered just such a fellow. He was quite overweight and using a store-provided scooter. He was unwashed, unkept,and I would wager that he is diabetic. The poor fellow was taking grapes off of the refrigerated rack and putting them in his mouth as fast as he could. As I observed him, it broke my heart. There was a time when he was a beautiful baby boy on his mother’s knee . . . filled with potential and possibilities. Something happened along the way . . . who knows what that might have been?

I really like that Jesus warned us not to judge one another. The truth is we simply do not have sufficient information about others . . . their life’s struggles . . . trials . . . burdens . . . to make any reasonable judgment. The truth is that we really don’t even know enough about ourselves to be critical of anyone else. The truth is that we ought to always be on alert because we are capable of doing things that can later really embarrass us.

Is Kierkegaard correct about people being pitiful? My conclusion is . . . sometimes!

Politic . . . What I am Thinking, Seeing, and Remembering . . .

Former Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neal, once said, “All politics are local.” In his belief and declaration, he was influenced by the origin of the word politics, which is of Late Middle English . . . from Old French politique ‘political,’ via Latin from Greek polites ‘citizen,’ from pols ‘city.’ The word actually comes from the same Greek word from which the title of Aristotle’s book Politics derives, which means “the affairs of the cities.” Today it is suggested the word actually refers to “the method of governing.”

Personally, I believe that he was dead wrong, and what is going on this election cycle supports my belief. The word poly is a prefix which means “many,” as in polygon, a figure having many sides. The word “tic,” of course, is used to describe an uncontrolled muscle movement such as a facial tic. I believe the very word describes the process by which a few elite divides the rest of us into warring factions. That is certainly what is occurring at this moment in history.

I was a 7th generation Texas, Baptist, and Democrat. My family believed in the Democratic Party . . . we worked for and supported that Party.

In 1976, Jimmy Carter was elected as President of the USA. His “Committee to Elect” invited me to attend his inauguration. I borrowed money from the bank and flew, along with the Texas Democratic Party delegation, on a charter jet to Dulles airport. We all stayed at the Holiday Inn in Centerville, VA, just across the Potomac River. The next morning, I accompanied the group to Pennsylvania Ave where we met the President-Elect and marched to the White House. Along with then Governor Mark White, I stood about 50- to 60-feet away as President Carter took the oath of office. I was a 27-year-old kid (just turned 27 in December and the inauguration was in January). I came from a low-income family in the Texas Hill Country . . . in spite of having a young wife and baby back home, living from pay-check to pay-check . . . owning a small wood- framed house . . . I was in tall cotton standing on the steps of the White House. I am certain that I was the first in my family to ever experience what I then viewed as such an honor. That evening, I accompanied the group to Union Station for the Presidential Ball. Passing through the receiving line, I was actually bold enough to invite the First Lady, Rosalyn, to dance. Amazingly, she accepted my invitation. The tune was a Texas two-step, and as I recall, and she was a good dancer. She was fun to talk with and a genuine Southern Belle.

Back at home in Burnet a few weeks later, I received a request from the new President’s transition team asking that I serve on a Presidential Committee to advise the Administration on matters of affordable housing. I anxiously accepted the invite. Surprisingly, at the committee’s first meeting, I was elected as the Committee’s chair . . . wow, here I am . . . a country kid from a family of Hill Country cedar-choppers, with a simple high school education, elected to serve as the chair of a committee that will offer advice to the Administration! Over the next several months, I would witness a tragic change in my beloved Democratic Party. I watched it change before my very eyes . . . as it laid aside all of the things my Grandfather believed . . . the things which I believed . . . and adopted a platform that was all-inclusive and then invited all of the fringe groups to come sit at the table. I soon found myself shoulder-to-shoulder with abortionists, environmentalists, homosexuals, socialists, and a wide range of other “ists.” I vividly remember the moment when it struck me that I had absolutely zero in common with those folks . . . the only thing upon which I could agree with them was that Jimmy Carter was a good and decent man. Soon that was not enough to bind me to these confused and troubled zealots.

I have been amazed as I have watched and studied how the leaders of the Democratic Party have masterfully deceived so many over a very long period of time. A perfect example of this was their undying support of Bill Clinton during his impeachment process. As President, he embarrassed the Nation with a young, gullible intern, then publicly lied (even under oath) and abused his Presidential powers. Rather than having the character and dignity to denounce him and his evil acts, his fellow Democrats warmly embraced him and marched out of the People’s House in support of him, and held a press conference in his support. It struck me that that group of folks simply did not believe the most basic of truths . . . that being: that some things will always be wrong regardless of who is involved or whatever era of history one lives in. By their actions, they publicly told the world that their remaining loyal to their political Party was more important than anything else, and privately chuckled about “Old Bill being a rascal.” He was not simply a rascal . . . he was a disgrace and so were those Democratic elected officials.

One of the great mysteries of all times must certainly be how the group of mean, evil Southern Democratic leaders could have abused people of color so tragically and brutally over such a long period of time, yet today continue to hold folks of color bound to the very Party that abused them and blocked them from their rights as American citizens. Look at any Northern metropolitan region and you will find several things in common to every one of them, those being:

1. There is a large population of people of color . . . most of which are very low-income;
2. Deplorable social conditions exist in the community;
3. A very weak job market, and thus, limited opportunities;
4. The local leadership at every level is Democratic which constantly declares that they “have a plan;”
5. The people of color accept that and remain in the fold; and
6. Nothing changes year after year . . . except conditions grow worse.

Over recent years there has been growing tensions in those urban areas with ever increasing anger amongst people of color. In their frustration over their plight, they lash out at the local police . . . when in truth their real enemy is the Democratic leadership whose policies hold them hostage.

A personal experience with this truth: in the early 1980’s I was elected President of the Texas Housing Association (THA), the group of officials who operate public housing in Texas. It was during my term that the Dallas Morning News did a series of stories about segregated public housing across East Texas. Those communities actually had policies and procedures that required white applicants to be housed on one side of the railroad tracks and people of color to be housed on the other side of those tracks. This all occurred almost two decades after the Civil Right’s legislation became the law of the land. Of course, there was a series of legal actions and the Justice Department became involved. THA was asked to get involved and help educate those communities about the law. I led the THA task force and we visited many of the troubled areas. The task force’s findings was that there was, indeed, blatant discrimination at a number of levels. My primary responsibility was to meet with local leaders . . . Mayors, Council members, County Judges, Commissioners, Public Housing board members, and the like. I recall being appalled at the racial slurs and attitudes of these folks even during meetings . . . their strong and deep dislike of minorities was frightening, and they let me know they had a low opinion of me and what I was doing . . . “a white Texas boy, standing for those damn N_____s.” I heard the same thing over and over, “This system was good enough for our Daddies, it is good enough for us, and it will be good enough for our kids!” As God as my witness, these folks were Democrats . . . without exception. Here we are almost 40 years later and the folks of color across that area still line up with and support the Democratic Party.

The current presidential election pits absolute extremes against each other . . . probably as bad as at any time in history. The USA is truly a nation divided, and I wonder if it can ever recover. We are under attack around the world and in our own cities by a vicious enemy. We have serious problems in the economy, along with ever-increasing social and racial tensions, major problems with health care, and a crumbling military machine.

The real tragedy of this election cycle is that one of these idiots is going to become the President! How did we get to this place . . . where this pair could actually become the nominees?

The Phone Call . . .

I was driving back from Rockport when the phone rang. The caller ID showed it was the dealership calling. I answered and he said, “Hey Johnny, how are you?” I politely responded. He paused and asked if I had the navigation system on the Escalade repaired yet. I told him that I had taken it to the Cadillac dealership in San Antonio and they fixed it. He asked what they had done and I told him they had put a new antenna on it . . . and I said, “Exactly what I asked your shop to do.”

Here is the story in a nutshell: six weeks back I lost part of the “heads-up display” on the windshield. The portion lost was the speed limit in the area in which I was driving. A few days later Sandy and I were in Corpus Christi looking for a business located in an older, congested area of town. I knew I was close but could not find the right building number. I punched the OnStar button and asked the lady for assistance. After a moment’s pause she said, “You are about 75 miles away!” I chuckled and said that I had found the place was about 75′ away from the front door. While Sandy went into the business I remained in the car while the lady performed a diagnostic test on the system. She informed me that the OnStar system had, for all practical purposes, lost my vehicle. She suggested that I take the car to a GM dealership for repair. I did, and after five days I finally gave up on them and took the car back to the selling dealership.

What prompted today’s call was most likely that I had responded to an on-line survey Cadillac had emailed me about the service. In the survey I was polite and simply stated that the car had been in the shop five days and when I got it back it still was not fixed. I did not bother saying they worked on the car on Monday, declared it repaired and had me pick it up . . . only to discover it was still broken. I called back on Tuesday and told the service writer, and he asked me to bring it back the next day, which I did. When I picked it up that afternoon it was still broken. I took it back the next week and left it three days. When I picked it up and discovered that it was still broken, I gave up on the local guys. In the survey I tried to compliment the dealership in every way I could . . . e,g, the service writer was polite and professional and tried to keep me in the loop; the sales staff was great and available to drive me home and pick me up; etc.

I am sure that the survey response caused him some problem with GM, as they take such matters seriously. He apologized and said that particular tech (we once called them shop mechanics) suffered from “Analysis paralysis.” I chuckled and let him off of the hook and thanked him for the call.

The truth of the matter is that today’s new vehicles are very complicated and are quickly out growing the abilities of small town dealerships and their staff. Such smaller dealerships simply cannot afford to pay the salary needed to attract qualified folks and to send them off for regular training.

I did not tell the caller that I have known for a couple of years now that his service department has problems. I took the black corvette there two years ago and asked them to check the Freon, saying that the AC wasn’t cooling very well. When I picked up the car, I was told everything was just fine and was presented with an invoice for a $100 diagnostic fee. The AC still was not cooling. I took the car to an AC shop, the guy repaired and serviced the AC system and charged me $80. I fussed at the shop foreman at the dealership and he said, “It is a new fee . . . we actually call it the Melton rule!” My firm and I have purchased 17 new vehicles from the dealership over the past 25 years . . . mostly higher-end vehicles such as Suburbans. It seems foolish to treat a good customer in such a goofy manner. But then, what do I know about running a dealership?

Chris was with a lady friend recently who was looking to purchase a new vehicle there. The salesman told her, “You could probably save a little money by going to a bigger town, but the good part of buying here is that our service department can take care of the car for you.” Chris said he politely told the guy that might not be all that he had it pegged as being and said we had been buying cars there a long while.

It is something of a catch-22 for me . . . I want and need a good dealership nearby, but I find it frustrating that the service department is quickly becoming below par. The simple truth is that equipment breaks and needs service and repairs. Driving back and forth to San Antonio for car repairs might get old pretty quickly.