Life Outside the Box . . .

Several years ago I was invited to be the after-dinner speaker for several hundred crop-dusters and their trade associates. It was the Annual Meeting for the Texas Agricultural Aviation Association, held at the Omni Bayfront hotel in Corpus Christi.

What does one say to such a group? How does one get and hold the attention of a large group of guys who fly small airplanes at a speed of 140 MPH while flying 60-feet above the earth’s surface? Guys who don’t pause to fret when flying under high-line wires, or buzzing major highways. That was the sort of questions that rattled around in my mind for several weeks leading up to the event.

After being formerly introduced to the members, I walked to the podium and opened with a great quote from Tennessee Williams, which was “God bless the man with a wild heart who does not have to live in the box,” and I said that I believed Mr. Williams had just such a group as them in mind when he originated that great declaration. I have taken many speaker’s classes over the years designed to teach speakers how to read an audience and understand group dynamics (body language). Everything I had been taught told me that I had their attention . . . well for the moment, but how to keep it? From what I had learned about these dudes, I was of the opinion that most of them struggled with some attention-related issues.

I laughed and talked about the challenges their parents surely faced in raising them. I mean the struggles of rearing a kid who was determined to push the envelope to the max at every opportunity. A lad you wanted to think outside the box, but to then, pretty much stay in the box. I had some fun with that, and they chuckled as they recalled a parent in total exasperation, desperate to understand the boy and the behavior. Of course, these dude’s question had never been about coloring outside the lines . . . they questioned why the lines were even needed, or desired . . . or why the lines had been so placed.

I discussed the great cost of the equipment being put into service and the business formula developers employ to determine the cost per day/hour/minute the depreciable equipment was in use (for these guys it was an air tractor engine and the formula was designed to establish the true cost of the time the engine was running). The model factored in debt-service and the equipment replacement model together with the life expectancy of the machine, as well as the chemical cost factor and how it ought to be applied in the pricing for services delivered (the Association’s ED had asked me to address such issues from a developer’s perspective and said the guys were great, fearless pilots, but poor businessmen and struggled with the financial part of their businesses). As I recall, I believe the number I came up at was something close to $150 per hour, without the costs of chemicals or burdened labor cost factored into the equation. The group expressed some amazement at that business model.

I recall using the illustration that their industry was similar to the railroad and its history. The railroad had been the great people mover in its early existence. I suggested that as new technology evolved and discoveries were made (e.g. flight), the railroad companies ought to have been smack dab in the middle of all of that and assimilated it into their work of moving people around from place to place. As we know, the railroad companies ignored flight and missed a grand opportunity . . . why? Simply because they failed to grasp sight of their true mission . . . they just wanted to be a railroad. I recall asking the group if anyone had taken a vacation that involved travel by train over the past year . . . none had. I then asked if anyone had taken a vacation that involved flying commercially . . . the majority had. I then challenged the group to think about how differently those two questions would have been answered if asked of such a group 50 years earlier.

I told the joke about two guys meeting in mid-air . . . a couple of hundred feet above the ground. One fellow traveling upward and the other was in a free-fall earthward. As they passed, one fellow shouted out, “Do you know anything about a gas water heater?” The other fellow responded with a question of his own, “Do you know anything about a parachute?”

I then challenged the group to think about how they as a trade association could best meet the membership’s needs and run interference in the marketplace. I spoke some of my years of involvement with trade associations . . . both as a trainer and as a board member. I told them that my philosophy had always been that, “All of us are better than any one of us.” I encouraged them to not allow their Board elections to ever simply become a popularity contest, but to elect a Board of Directors and Officers who brought skills, wisdom, and leadership to the Association.

As I closed, I told them how I had always been amazed at and admired their work and enjoyed watching them work a field as I traveled around the state. I told them that over recent years I had started the practice of pulling off of the road, finding a safe place to park my car, and as I watched them buzzing the ground that I prayed for them . . . their safety, their families, and employees. I told them that I would be the dude standing by the black suburban, waving as they passed overhead.

The next week as I traveled up State Highway 59 headed to Houston, I saw a pilot servicing a field around Edna. As I stood by my car, I heard the pilot rev the engine a couple of times and as I looked up the dude actually dipped his right wing at me. To use a phrase of an old Indian chief . . . that simple gesture . . . that acknowledgement of recognition and appreciation . . . caused my heart to soar like an eagle in flight!

Those dashing young men in their yellow machines are certainly guys who live outside the box . . . but they always have been. As toddlers, they climbed out of the crib and jumped off of the coffee table . . . as kids in elementary school they were often standing outside the classroom door as a disciplinary action by an irritated and frustrated teacher . . . as kids in Junior High they were the ones who climbed up the highest places in the tree as everyone watched on in amazement, convinced that the fire department would have to get him back down . . . in High School they always had the fastest cars . . . and it was regularly put to the test. They were guys who lived life without inhibitions . . . their very existence as adults gives testimony to The Lord’s watch care over and protection of His wildest children!

A New Generation . . .

Things are constantly on the change, 

And one such change over this more recent time
Is that as each new generation emerges, parents dub it as being strange,
Such a description of young adults in what ought to be their prime.

I know it was true when my generation came upon the scene,
Rock music, guys with long hair, free love, and social unrest
Campus revolts, sit-ins, war protests, disregard for the college Dean,
Resisting the war and the slaughtering of those we knew were our best.

Our dads always trying to drive us to their barber shops,
Desperate for us to get a burr and “look like a man,”
To shave off those mutton chops,
And be more like our ancestors who settled this great land.

As a young man, who over such issues lived at odds with my Dad,
Full of youthful wisdom, I made a solemn vow,
“I will never allow social adjustments and trends to cause my son and me to be sad,
But I am not so certain that I was right back then, seeing what is upon us now!

Focused on piercings and tattoos they call “body art”,
They oftentimes come across as being strange at best,
And recently a new term has surfaced and is widely used . . . Narcissist!
What does it mean . . . perhaps they are confused and maybe not really so smart?
Possibly knowing all of the flavors at Starbucks is not really on life’s test!

As another “Comes out of a closet,” I find myself confused
Why he needs to make things public that ought rightfully be kept private,
Goofy folks and groups going far astray and making personal protection seem abused,
And in loud, crude, graphic, and abusive chants shout out, “you can’t deprive it”!

Social media is the stage upon which they display constrictions that seem beyond repair,
As they muse over trivia . . . selfies, diet sodas, gluten free, and wine,
While the things that made the USA great, this gang shows no signs of care,
So, this morning I am struggling with this vow of mine!


Acts Chapter 2 . . .

My personal Bible study this week comes from the 2nd chapter of Acts. It is a rich chapter and introduces us to a wonderful thing—the Promise of the Father . . . delivered!

Following Jesus’ ascension, His followers remained at Jerusalem waiting on the “Promise,” but just not certain what that actually might be. Jesus had told them that He had been with them, but He would send the Comforter, and He would be “in them.”

This event described in this chapter should bring Believers closer together, but the truth is that the different beliefs about what actually happened and what it means have actually created a division and wide separation amongst Believers.

If one is to properly understand the event and its purpose and the meaning of it, then a bit of history is important. That simply means that what God did that day in downtown Jerusalem was what He intended to do for thousands of years and He had set a system in place to reflect that.

In Exodus, God used a man named Moses to lead His people (the Jewish people) out of bondage (slavery) in Egypt. In Leviticus, the large group is given the Law and instruction. It was during this period of learning that God instituted a number of Holy Days (we call them holidays today). They were also described as Feast Days. These events were to be observed in a proper fashion, at the appropriate time, and as a group. Each of the feasts were communal, commemorative, theological, and typological. Allow me to explain:

Communal—the feasts were designed to draw the nation together for celebrating and worshipping as they recalled their common origin and the experience of being freed in the journey to the Promised Land (for later generations the experience of their forefathers).

Commemorative—they kept the story alive of what God had done for them during the Exodus and sojourn.

Theological—the observance of the feasts provided the participant a lesson on the reality of sin, judgement, forgiveness, and the need for thankfulness to God for His provision and supply. Moreover, it served to remind one of the importable of trusting and relying upon God, rather than hoarding goods and possessions.

Typological—properly recognized each Feast and created the expectation of a greater fulfillment of the truth behind the Feast itself. Each of the feast alluded to something larger—a significant spiritual truth out in the future (God continually kept a Prophet in place to challenge the people to be forward-thinking and living in anticipation of what God would do for them). Of course, the New Testament reveals the fulfillment of those anticipated truths. Each one occurred exactly like it was it was supposed to occur, exactly at the time it was supposed to occur, and for the reason it was supposed to occur. Of course, there was always a danger present, that being that observation of the Feasts could tragically become meaningless rituals . . . and thus, subject to the criticism of the Prophets (Isa 1: 13 – 20).

The Feasts they were to observe and the order of the observations is set forth in Leviticus. Here they are in a condensed order and narrative:

Passover—this annual celebration was to be observed to remember and give thanks to God for His deliverance from Bondage and to reflect on His mighty hand that brought it about. It was a time of worship, praise, thanksgiving, and to educate their children about their history and their Covenant with the Lord.

First fruits—at the time the Festival was ordered, it did not really mean much to these former slaves, brick makers. Yet, when they entered the Promised Land and received their allotments of land, they became people of the land and made their way by planting, growing, and harvesting their crops.

They were instructed that after the planting they were to monitor their crops and on the first day after the Sabbath of the Passover, they were to pick those tender young fruits and vegetables as they became ripe and bring them to the altar of the Lord as the First Fruits. This was to be done with grateful hearts in anticipation of the harvest the Lord would give them.

Pentecost (Wave Offering)—they were instructed to mark off seven Sabbaths (49 days) after the Passover, and then in the 1st day following the 7th Sabbath, they were to bring to the altar their tithes and offerings from their harvested crops. They were to mix all of it together and bake a loaf for the Lord, and thank Him for His provision, love, mercy, and watch-care over them and their families.

Let’s see how these were each fulfilled in the New Testament . . . under the New Covenant:

Passover—at the time the Jewish leaders moved against Jesus and compelled the Roman officials to crucify Him, there were worshippers gathered in Jerusalem from across the world to celebrate the Passover. It was at the exact moment of the Passover when the sacrificial lamb was to be slain that Jesus died on the cross. There are many infallible proofs in the New Testament that Jesus is our Passover.

First Fruits—on the first day after the Sabbath of the Passover, Jesus rose from the grave, and thus is the first fruit of resurrection. This signifies that because His resurrection was good, so too shall be His followers!

Pentecost—as Acts 2 opens, we are told, “When the day of Pentecost was fully come” (KJV), meaning that it was time for God to do this work. We are clearly told in Acts 1 that Jesus remained with His disciples for a period of 40 days from the Resurrection to His ascension. It was ten days after that the events of Acts 2 occurred—and they occurred because it was what God had planned thousands of years before! Contrary to the teachings of many, it did not occur because the Believers were in the Upper Room or because they prayed for it. That teaching is error and attributes far too much credit to man . . . and ignores the surprise of the Believers on that day!

The truth of it all is that none of these things occurred because mankind was or is spiritual . . . it all was brought about by God in response to man’s sinfulness.

The American Political System . . .

We are supposed to be a Constitutional Republic, 

But for some very selfish folks that is simply an outlet

For their egos, ambition, and pride
As they campaign and make speeches, we lose count of the times they have lied.

In their arrogance, they seek to convince voters they are infallible
But in reality they are almost laughable.
One of the favorite boasts is what they will do for the economy
But after winning the election, there is suddenly dichotomy.

Certain as a candidate that taxes were too high,
But now comfortable as a Senator, “Tax reform is too big, Oh my!”
Also, we must do something about folk’s health care,
But after being seated, the Senators agree, “We must not dare.”

They declare to go to the Capitol and represent our interest,
But after being elected he suddenly becomes a centrist;
And often responds to constituents, “It’s sensitive, my dearest,
My task is to decide the best, not simply to do the quickest.”

The politicians are two different people,
One person while seeking election, quick to claim his opponent as feeble;
But once elected,
Spend his energy to be reelected, and hoping his hypocrisy is not detected.

Once in office, they focus on feathering their own nest,
Ignoring what might be best for the rest;
All of the boasts about the great American pie,
Fade away into the great by and by.

The American voters are dumb! Think about it . . . a dude will spend $30 million to get a job with an annual salary of $175,000? What is up with that? Do you ever listen to what they say and how they say it?

Chuck Schumer, John McCain, Elizabeth Warren, Dianne Feinstein, Lindsey Graham? We are going to pay those idiots $175,000 every year for the rest of their lives? What a rotten system we have allowed them to set in place, but that does seem to be the story of the human race!

The Funeral . . .

It was a small gathering of mourners who had been together now for several hours.

Scattered as they had become, it was rare when they assembled,
But even still, in family ways, they all still resembled

The word had spread that he had passed away,
No one knew much about his recent years or where he had gone to stay.
The truth was they might never have known except for his plastic card
Which helps officials in that emergency identification regard.

Even tho’ they had all drifted apart, they each knew his life had been complicated,
Some called it depression, others said he simply needed assistance,
But all agreed that he had somehow become disenchanted,
Yet, when they tried to lend a hand, they were met with resistance.

These folks were not people of means which their funeral clothes verified,
Each had struggled with just the travel costs to be here;
But, they had to come because of death . . . they were each one terrified
And in such times, with the family they needed to be near.

They met with the folks at the funeral home to discuss the cost
Of burying this brother who had recently been lost.
Insisting on a full funeral, they each signed over the money from their tax return
As they declared that cremation was out, they could not let their brother burn.

It was sad to see the way they tried to deal with their grief;
They ordered him a better suit of clothes than he had ever worn in life,
Rented a limo for his final ride . . . a better car than he had ever ridden in since he had mostly depended on government relief,
His Service was held in a modest church, but still a superior place than any place he had ever lived.

The preacher said the final words as they all stood by the open grave
The mourners shuffled and bowed their heads.
As badly as they feared death, each one still tried to appear brave,
As the service drew to a close, each was haunted with his own dreads.

The wise man Solomon wrote that there is a time for all things,
For planting and harvesting, living and dying
When my time comes to an end, I hope there will be no attached strings,
And I will have covered my own expense, and the preacher won’t need to do any lying!

Times sure have changed from years gone by,
And the mortician has raised the bar in folk’s death.
There was a time when your uncle, cousins, and them
Would simply have built you a box and dug you a grave after you did die and ran out of breath.

Note: I have observed this scene play out many times in my life. Poor families under the burden of grief-making serious financial sacrifices to send a loved one off in grand style . . . oftentimes far above anything he or she ever experienced in life. I hope when my time comes my family will not feel any such need for such extremes . . . please know that my life has been grand . . . and my next life will be far better that anything the mortician can sell you. So, save the funeral money and instead gather my friends and loved ones and have a lovely meal together and rejoice over my deliverance from life in a fallen world! If there is anything left, find a kid who needs a pair of new shoes . . . that has been something that has always been pretty important for me.



What About the Future?

Is the title of my Sunday school lesson for next Sunday morning. The text is Matthew 24:36-47. Of course, the text is red-lettered . . . meaning that they were words spoken by The Lord Jesus. They are part of what Bible students refer to as The Olivet Discourse. The reason is it was part of Jesus’ message delivered to his disciples on the Mount of Olivets.

Jesus and his Disciples had entered the Holy City of Jerusalem on the Sunday morning just past. The people had come out to the East gate to greet Jesus and welcome him. They laid garments and palm branches in the road and shouted, “Save us now, and blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” . . . This is recognized as Palm Sunday and the beginning of the Passion Week. In truth, it is widely known as the Passion Week. Jesus and His Disciples did not overnight in Jerusalem during that week, but instead went out to the area known as Bethany. They would return to Jerusalem on certain days and then leave of an evening. On Tuesday of that week, Jesus spent most of the day interacting with folks in the outer court of the Temple. He interacted with both the common people and the self-righteous religious leaders who came with enticing questions designed to entrap Jesus into blasphemy. Jesus used parables to interact with them. It is clear they knew the parables painted their portrait.

That evening as Jesus and His Disciples exited the city and made their way to the Mount of Olives, one of the Disciples looked back down on the majestic Temple and as the moon reflected off of the beautiful golden vine wove into the Temple gates; he commented to Jesus how beautiful it was. As Jesus looked back, He said, “I am the Vine and you are the branches.” Jesus’ statement was overwhelming to the Disciples, who had always been taught that Israel was always the subject anytime the vine was used in the scripture. What did Jesus mean with His announcement? He was informing these men that up to this point in time they had gotten their identity as Israelites, but going forward they would have to get their identity from Him and Him alone. As they move on, Jesus told them that the beautiful Temple would be destroyed in the future. At some point in the trip the Disciples stayed behind and Jesus went ahead alone. It Seems to Me . . . that the guys spent some time comparing notes and trying to put things into place so that they could understand. Two things loomed large for them: the Temple’s destruction and that Jesus was leaving soon (I don’t think they had yet grasped that Jesus would actually die), they understood he would leave for a while, but would then return.

In the text cited above, the Disciples come to Jesus and they had formed two questions: 1. When would the Temple be destroyed, and 2. What would be the signs signaling His return . . . and the end of the age?

Jesus told them the timing of His return was known by the Father only . . . Jesus said He does not know . . . and that the angels in Heaven do not know. Sometime throughout the years, folks have seemingly forgotten Jesus’ words, because there has been a steady assortment of folks willing to step forward and explain all of the end-time events to a willing and even eager audience.

In my life, I have personally observed two serious cases of what I refer to as Second Coming Fever. They were:

In 1985 or ‘86, a guy wrote a book entitled, “88 Reasons why Jesus must Return in 1988” . . . and folks all across the nation caught the fever. I was teaching a young married couples class at the time. I tried for a couple of years to calm them down by reasoning with them. Finally, in some exasperation I declared that come January 1, 1989, no one would be able to locate the dude who had authored that goofy book! That they would not be able to find the rascal with a search warrant. I tried to caution those sweet, goofy kids that man simply cannot put God in a box.

Then again as the new millennium approached, a new version of the fever developed . . . it was called Y2K!

Here is what we ought to recognize . . . that folks have always been curious about the future . . . and there have always been some willing to tell the future . . . for a price, of course. I recall that several years ago a groups of folks who claimed to be physic gathered up a group of investors and created and formed the Psychic TV Network and went on the air. It wasn’t long until the enterprise encountered financial difficulties . . . and filed for a Chapter 11 protection. It just seemed a bit peculiar that no one saw that coming! A similar incident occurred a couple of years later. A large group of fortune-tellers held a convention at a downtown Miami hotel. While the fortune-tellers were downstairs in the ballroom telling folk’s fortunes, a crew of burglars broke into the fortune-tellers’ guest rooms and robbed them blind. Interestingly, the fortune-tellers could not offer the investigators a single clue about the burglars. It just Seems to Me . . . that one of the fortune-tellers ought to have picked up some vibes about the bad guys.

In considering the text, it is obvious there is a danger in trying to grasp a certain understanding of the things God prohibits us from knowing. The Disciples demonstrate such danger . . . in their limited understanding of the things of which Jesus spoke, they made the two events be connected and assumed there was a short time frame between the two events.

The next time you hear a dude on TV or radio proclaiming “secret” things connected to the Lord’s return, remind yourself that if God did not let Jesus know the ‘when’ of it all, He certainly didn’t let that dipstick you are listening to know, either!

As Believers, we are commanded to always be ready and to do so by having clean hearts and focused lives. Honestly, all we really need to know is that He is coming back. Knowing anymore would simply be too much for us to handle.

As I contemplate humans need to know secret things, I am reminded of the ugly little frog concerned about his future who called the psychic hotline. He asked what his future looked like. He was told that he would soon meet a beautiful blonde lady who would want to know everything about him. Suddenly his mind was filled with sweet memories of the story that inspires frogs . . . it was a story of a beautiful lady, a kiss, and a handsome prince. Excitedly, he asked his psychic advisor, “Will I meet her at a party?”

The advisor chuckled and said, “No, you will meet her in her biology lab!”

NBA Playoffs . . .

I always look forward to the NBA Playoffs . . . especially when there are Texas teams playing. This year both the Spurs and the Houston Rockets made the playoffs, and both teams are playing well. Of course, the Spurs are always in the playoffs—they have been an NBA team for 49 years and have been in the playoffs 37 of those years.

The Spurs are up 2 to 0 over the Memphis Grizzles . . . and both games were routs! Meanwhile, Houston is playing the OKC Thunder at home and took Game 1 with a score of 118 to 87. Game 2 is to be played tonight, and then that series moves to OKC, and just might prove to be more challenging, as the Thunder is a better team on their home court.

My prediction is that the Spurs will sweep the Grizzles and advance up through the playoffs to the Western Conference Finals, where they will surely face the Golden State Warriors. I fear the Spurs will once again be intimidated by the Warriors and will fall out of the picture.

Last year the Warriors played Cleveland in the Finals. I doubt that Cleveland can even win the East this year and their playoff presence will be short-lived.

I predict the Warriors win it all! Yet, I am hopeful the Spurs will surprise me and my pals. There is a large group of us who text throughout the games . . . great group that includes both men and women.


The Supreme Court . . .

The USA has, for the most part, long been a divided nation. That division is a result of political ideologies. That difference has been worse at times over the years . . . one example is the War Between the States, a terrible blood-bath over something as senseless as slavery.

I suppose the framers of the Constitution foresaw the likelihood of warring factions and built our system of governing in such a way to find solutions to the political divide that could occur. Of course, we have three branches of government: Executive, Legislative, and the Judicial, each having clearly defined roles, and safeguards for the separation of powers.

Moreover, we have a strong two-party political system. From my perspective, there has become an ever-widening divide between those parties with little common ground to be found. Recent polls reflect that the American people, by and large, have a critically low opinion of Congress . . . about an eleven-percent approval rating. As the political parties have fought tirelessly over incompatible agendas, there has been more work shifted over to the Supreme Court. In fact, in recent years it has even been called upon to settle a hotly contested Presidential election. Thus, there has become great interest in appointees to the high bench. Thus, it is argued that the court has become increasingly political, and each Party seeks to bring favor to their side of the equation via court appointments.

What has been most troubling to me has been how vicious the attacks have been from the left and the great lengths to which they are prepared to go in this process.
The first time I saw this in my lifetime was in 1987, when President Ronald Reagan nominated Judge Robert Bork, a highly-regarded Constitutional scholar as a Justice. That nomination brought an all-out war that frankly was quite embarrassing as the left tarnished that good man with lies and malicious rumors. His nomination was voted down on a senate vote of 58 to 42, mostly along party lines. Judge Bork would later write a couple of best-selling books: (1) The Tempting of America and (2) Slouching Towards Gommorah. Experts on the Supreme Court argue that the left’s viciousness in the Bork nomination has forever changed the Supreme Court appointment process.

After the rejection of Judge Bork, President Regan appointed Justices Kennedy, O’Conner, and Scalia.

In 1990, President George H. W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas as an Associate Justice. I was embarrassed as I watched the ruthless attack the left launched against that good man. One would have thought that an African American judge being nominated to the Supreme Court would have been viewed as a good thing by the left which claims to have a deep and abiding affection for the advancement of people of color.
The simple truth is that the Constitution vests the authority to nominate judges in the President and calls for confirmation by the Senate. It was never intended to be the blood-bath it has evolved into.

The simple truth is that the left does not want a conservative court. It desires a court that stands for such foolish and wicked things such as abortion, flag burning, same sex marriage, tax-payer funded witchcraft, Priests in the penal system, rejection of Christian values in any and every form, and transgendered public restrooms.
Judge Antonio Scalia’s untimely death left a vacancy on the Court that the Left desperately desired as the Court was left with what was viewed as a 4/4 split.

President Trump nominated Judge Neal Gorsuch as an Associate justice to fill that vacant seat. Ten years ago, the Senate approved Judge Gorsuch’s nomination to the bench as an appeals court judge with unanimous vote, however; they were now troubled by his nomination as a Justice.

After a long, unpleasant process, Judge Gorsuch is scheduled to be sworn in as the new Supreme Court Justice. At the age of 49-years, the prospects of his serving for 25 to 30 years is pretty good.

What is it that I want from the highest court in the land? I simply want justice . . . blind, impartial, and fair! I want a court that honors and respects the Holy Bible, the Constitution, the clear belief that our framers held a deep faith in Almighty God and believed in His blessings and favor on this nation. I also want a court that respects State’s rights. You see I hold a simple belief that the primary purpose of the federal government is to provide for the common defense. It was never intended that the government would orchestrate a complete social agenda that would delight old Lucifer himself!

It Seems to Me . . . that perhaps good prevailed over evil with a 54 to 45 vote.


R. D. . . .

The first time I ever saw him was in the dressing room of First Baptist Church—Rockport. Chris was about eight years old and had recently made his public profession of faith and wanted to follow the Lord in baptism. We were new to the Church but Bro. Fake had counseled with Chris and the baptism was scheduled for Sunday evening at the conclusion of the worship service. When the time arrived, I took Chris and his duffle bag back to the dressing room. I recall that I was squatting down helping Chris with his water shoes when the door opened and R. D. entered the room. I was shocked and taken back in time to when I was a boy about Chris’ age. As R. D. approached us to say that he assisted Bro. Fake, I said in a questioning tone, “Uncle Vergil?” Instantly, the shock showed on his aged face. He smiled weakly as asked, “Did you know Virgil?” I said, I thought you were him . . . you look just like him. He said that Virgil had been his younger brother. I told him that I grew up calling him “Uncle” and his wife “Aunt,” and that he had worked for my Dad for many years. As I overcame my shock, I told him that my sweet little sister had been named after Vigil’s wife.

In those years, my Dad was building and paving streets, curbs, and gutters, and putting in water and sanitary sewer systems for rural towns across West Texas. It was all part of the old Urban Renewal program. Virgil operated a motor grader (maintainer/blade), and my Dad always claimed that Virgil Scrivner was the best to ever climb onto a blade. The chuckle was the drunker he got, the better he ran the machine. I can recall him being so smashed that we kids had to literally help him climb up on the machine and get seated. We kids always got a kick out of Virgil . . . it was funny seeing a grown man who got out of the box. My sweet Mom would fuss at us kids, telling us that Virgil was sick and we needed to pray for him. In spite of that, I would occasionally see her shyly smile over some of his shenanigans.

As I got to know R. D. He told me of the pain and financial hardship Virgil’s alcoholism had brought on their family. It was a story much the same as with any family in which there is an alcoholic.

I recall it was Thanksgiving morning and my Dad was under the pressure of a deadline for job completion. There was a problem at the caliche pit. The loader had its bucket stuck in the air and the operator was unable to lower it. The haul trucks were stacked up and for all practical purposes the jobs was shut down. My Dad took Virgil and they drove to the pit to see what could be done.

All of the worker’s wives and kids gathered at our house for the traditional Thanksgiving lunch, and the men folk were to join us when they could. We received word that somehow that giant loader bucket had fallen on my Dad and he was very seriously injured and in route—via ambulance—to the hospital in Lubbock. The injuries were so severe that it took my Dad a couple of years to recover. During that time, we lost our home, my Dad lost his business, and we saw some really hard times. Somewhere through all of that, Virgil drifted off and we never saw or heard from him again.

R. D. later told me that Virgil had died poorly, afflicted with the heath issues common to one who drinks himself to death. That made me sad as I always loved him as if he really was my uncle.

My Mom was thrilled that I had gotten acquainted with R. D. and Mary. She delighted in visiting with them when she came to visit.

I got a call one afternoon that R. D. was being taken to the hospital by ambulance . . . there had somehow been an accident. When I got to the hospital and was permitted to enter ICU to see my friend, he told me that he had been up on a ladder cutting a large tree limb and the ladder fell. As it turned out, he had the tall extension ladder extended to its full 20′ height and it was only on the limb with the top two- to three-inches, when he sawed through the large limb and it fell to the ground, the remaining portion of the limb sprung upward and R. D. fall to the ground. Over the next few days, I would go see him in ICU and it soon become obvious that at his age and the seriousness of his injuries, it was just a matter of days. On my last visit, he managed to pull himself up a bit and said, “There is a lie going around Rockport that I fell off of a ladder. You go tell them that I did not fall off of that ladder . . . that ladder fell out from under me!”

The distinction was quite important to him!

Jimmy, Stop Doing That!

Broken hearted, we sat there in the hospital surgical waiting room. We had just received word that Donnie had just passed away. He was their only child and those precious folks had spent most of their adult lives loving Donnie and looking after his needs. It was a heart-wrenching moment.

Donnie was born with a spinal disorder which prevented him from ever walking; thus, he spent his life either in bed or in a wheelchair. Bill and Effie were magnificent with Donnie . . . a great inspiration for all to see as they went about the business of living and being a family. They thought Donnie was perfect!

Donnie was the kindest, most gentle, and decent person I suppose I have ever known. Over the years I would learn that he was in the hospital somewhere and would go visit him. As I observed the medical staff working on him, I would look on in a righteous anger as I watched that sweet fellow wince in pain. He would always quietly say, “Thank you” as they left the room. One day, I asked him, “Donnie, don’t you ever just get angry over them sticking you with needles, manhandling you, and prodding you? That sweet fellow looked up at me in total shock and replied, “Of course not! Johnny, they are trying to help me.” That was just Donnie!

As we sat there in grief that fateful morning, I felt compelled to encourage them to talk through their pain, so I said, “I know that having the privilege of raising and looking after Donnie was a wonderful experience . . . he was always so clever, bright and insightful! I know he had to have kept you two on your toes.”

Bill chuckled and told of driving along listening to the news on the radio one morning and hearing a report of something reprehensible some villain had done. He said that he lowered the volume on the radio and spoke to Effie and commented on what a low-life the villain was. He chuckled and said that Donnie from the back seat quietly asked, “But, Dad, isn’t there some good in every person?” That was just how Donnie viewed people and life.

I asked Effie about her memorable experiences. She chuckled and told about when Donnie started the 5th grade. She said the first couple of weeks he came home from school talking about a new kid named Jimmy . . . Jimmy could run faster, jump higher, shoot the basketball better, and out-rebound every kid in school. One afternoon Effie asked Donnie, “Honey, you really like Jimmy, don’t you?” He said that Jimmy was his hero. You should know that Donnie absolutely loved the game of basketball and like his Dad was a great fan of the Kentucky Wildcats. In fact, Donnie was an encyclopedia of information about Kentucky basketball. Donnie would sit in his wheelchair on the playground at recess and delight in watching Jimmy run roughshod over the other boys on the basketball court.

Effie said that one afternoon she asked Donnie what Jimmy’s last name was. She said that he paused in thought for a couple of minutes and finally replied, “His last name is . . . Stopdoingthat.” Effie said she chuckled and said, “Donnie, Sweetie, I doubt that is his real name.” As she reflected back, she chuckled and recalled how put out he was by her comment and said, “Mom, you are not in the class and you don’t know!”

She went on to say that the next afternoon she got away from her classroom quicker than usual and drove to Donnie’s campus, arriving before the bell rang. She said she hurried to his classroom and peeked in the small window in the door. She said that she spied a tall, good-looking Black kid who was clearly a foot taller than any of the other kids. She said it was obvious that the kid was Jimmy and that he had been left back a few times as he was clear that he was older than the other kids. Effie said the teacher spied her peeking in the door and came over and opened the door, questioning why she was peeking into the classroom. She identified herself as Donnie’s Mom. After initial greetings, Effie asked the teacher if the tall kid might be Jimmy, and the teacher confirmed that was, indeed, Jimmy. Effie said she asked the teacher about Jimmy’s last name. She said the teacher said that Jimmy’s last name was Washington. Effie chuckled and told the teacher what Donnie had said about Jimmy’s name. She said the teacher belly laughed and said, “I can see why Donnie would think that . . . every time I call his name, I say, “Jimmy . . . stop doing that.”

We sat there a while and chuckled. I thanked God for loving us, and allowing us to have Donnie for a few years, and I asked him to ease Bill and Effie’s pain and thanked Him for His Promised presence and peace in such troubling and trying times.

A few days later, my friend Walter conducted Donnie’s memorial service. The Church was packed like I had rarely seen. Walter did a lovely service and at the end, he invited anyone who wanted to speak and share a remembrance to do so. I was shocked by the number of doctors, nurses, and other medical folks who rose to speak lovingly about Donnie and what an inspiration he had been. The common phrase offered was, “Donnie was my hero!” What a tribute to a kid who was quite restricted in moving his body, but I was amazed at how graciously he had moved so many hearts. He sure did move my heart.

As I sat in that pew that morning, I thought about how significantly that sweet kid had touched me, and I agreed with all of those who testified . . . Donnie had certainly been a hero for me too!