Fishing . . .

Ryan had been wanting to bring some his pals from Indiana down to fish. It seems there were three guys who take an annual trip together to fish somewhere . . . this year it was here in the Coastal Bend area.

They all arrived from pretty much different directions over the weekend, and the weather turned bad (well, at least bad for fishing but good for area farmers). Ryan had asked both Chris and me for help, so I put them with Slick, a guide I keep on retainer. That trip had to be set back a day because the Babes on the Bay tournament, with its 400 teams, was winding down and all of the boat traffic and pressure on the fish had “messed things up.” The guys fished all day in drizzling rain and never got a nibble; they did see a large school of redfish, but they would not bite. It is certainly not the guide’s fault that there is an empty ice chest when he put the fishermen on a large school of fish.

Chris had set them up with another guide for the next day. The caught eight keeper-trout, then the dude’s boat broke down and they had to be towed back to the boat ramp.
The next day they went on an offshore expedition aboard a Catamaran out of Port Aransas. I had purchased the trip at a fund raiser for Friends of the Pool, and set it up for the guys to use. Chris went out with the group and in spite of the day being questionable in the morning, it turned out to be a terrific day. They caught a big mess of fish and the calls afterwards said everyone had a good time!

It all started out rough, but ended well, but that is how it is with this thing called fishing. As the old adage goes, “You never know, until you throw.”

A Delightful Day . . .

Ali and Abi were here this past weekend. On Saturday the plan was for Dad to take Abi out for a dinner date, and for Ali to hang out with Nana and me. Then on Sunday afternoon Ali would go on a date with Dad, while Abi stayed with Nana and me. Poor Ali was just getting over a bad summer cold and needed to avoid the pool. Abi got up Saturday morning with her hair a real mess. As we had breakfast she announced that we needed to “swim fast today” because she had a date with her Daddy. Not being ones to tarry and procrastinate, we suited up and hit the pool.

I love her quick little mind, her imagination, and her sense of humor. She is into the stage of “Let’s pretend . . .” right now. She wanted to play, “Let’s pretend that I can’t swim, and you have to help me.” I chuckled and reminded her that she can’t swim and that I do need to help her. She was a bit frustrated at my lack of imagination and sternly said, “Pappy, just pretend, OK?”

On Sunday afternoon, we were in and out of the pool. She wanted to play a game of, “Let’s pretend that I am your mommy and you are my little boy.” She would take her little hand and splash water on me and exclaim, “Honey, it is raining, come and get under the roof with mommy” and then escort me to the slide and position us underneath. While we were safe under “the roof” she would give me prep talks about the dangers the weather can pose. Once we left the safety of the roof, I would splash her with water and exclaim, Mommy, it is raining again!” Suddenly the “Let’s pretend” game was over and she would sternly exclaim, “Pappy, don’t splash me!” It was such a sweet thing having a 4-year-old baby talk to me like that, so I had to tap at the back door to invite Nana to come out and observe. Of course, she was happy she did.

Abi told her Nana, “Pappy and I do our exercises, and if you don’t want to get a big bottom you better exercise with us, too!” I guess Nana doesn’t want to get a big bottom because she was motivated and suited up and joined us in the pool. It was a really sweet time. Nana hung out with Abi and I got busy with my work-out and chuckled as I listened to Abi instructing her Nana on the “do’s and don’ts of her and her Pappy’s swimming pool.”

Free Speech . . .

The 1st Amendment to the US Constitution was adopted in 1791 . . . and reads as follows:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Throughout our nation’s history, this right has been employed . . . even tested . . . time and time again. Through a series of rulings by the Supreme Court, the scope of the amendment has even been broadened.

In this current era, there seems to be a movement underway to redefine free speech. It is actually quite ironic that a group who professes to be the champions of free speech has been the very group that has rioted and even posed violent demonstrations designed to prevent a couple of folks from exercising their right to free speech. Let me explain: the battle scene has been the University of California at Berkley. As most educational institutions do, the administration at Berkeley invites various individuals to speak at functions. Such events are intended to challenge and expand students’ thinking. However, two recently-invited guests were prevented from speaking because of riots and violent demonstrations. The reason for the crowd violence was simply that the two invited guests were conservatives, and the liberal protestors refused to give the guests a platform from which to express their beliefs. Perhaps this crowd of educated idiots wishes to redefine free speech to mean “only speech with which we agree.”

Each morning I receive an email from the New York Times that is entitled as, “Your morning briefing.” That briefing highlights a series of current events and news events from the past. This morning’s briefing included an article that looked back at a protest at Berkeley on this date in 1969. The protest occurred on a vacant parcel of ground owned by the University but was taken over by a group protesting the Vietnam War. The article stated that the then Governor, Ronald Reagan, ordered the National Guard to put an end to the protest which had become violent. The article suggested that Reagan’s boldness served to propel him politically as a “no-nonsense sort of guy.” The event came to be known as “Bloody Thursday.”

It Seems to me . . . that what is going on at Berkeley today is pretty much just the . . . same old, same old . . . and doesn’t really mean much, nor will it really change anyone’s mind one way or the other. The point of the demonstrations looks to me like it is simply a stopgap measure from being presented with logical ideas that could make them think outside of the box they have created. It also Seems to me . . . that an old outlaw redneck wrote and recorded a song that touched on these type events at our universities . . . Merle Haggard . . . Okie from Muskogee!

But all in all . . . it is just what tends to occur within a democracy. I look on, scratch my head in amazement, and also thank God for our great nation . . . and our rights and liberties! We have the right to speak, or to remain silent . . . we have the right to think, or to be an airhead! God bless the USA!

Big Fish . . .

I am pretty excited this morning . . . I am on standby for the taxidermist. I am thinking that I get to pick up my big Speckled trout this afternoon! It is absolutely, hands down, without any questions . . . pound for pound . . . the best fish I have ever caught! That is a bold statement and covers a wide assortment of some awfully nice fish. The trout measured 35+” . . . and was quite possibly the most beautiful and impressive fish I have ever seen!

For me to claim one fish as being my greatest catch and make such a statement about one fish is actually pretty large. I have fished many places and caught many fish over the past 40 years. I have caught both large Sailfish and black marlin in the Sea of Cortez, 100+ pound “dog snapper” (large canine-like teeth) in the Pacific, large Halibut in Alaska, plus a variety of fish from the Gulf of Mexico and its bay systems ranging from Florida to Texas. I have also fished the Caribbean waters and areas of South America. I have caught many large, great fish . . . but nothing as grand as this trout.

The truth of the matter is that I am not even a trout fisherman; I am a Redfish guy. I have actually caught a number of trout that measured in the 30”-to-32” range. Chris always pleaded with me to have one mounted and I would always reply, “Son, I am a Redfish guy, I don’t waste money mounting trout.” Boy was I ever wrong! Mounting this trout cost about $1,000 . . . and certainly the most I have ever spent mounting a fish, but I simply do not care. By contrast, I had a 12+ foot Marlin mounted in Mexico City and sent to me by FedEx for less! I also have a Sailfish well over 10′ that cost less.

This beauty may not make Texas Parks and Wildlife’s record book, but it sure made my record book! I caught the fish “down South” and it was netted by my boat mechanic and dear friend, Gary Carrol. We were in total shock as we watched the fish as I reeled her in to the side of the boat. As I reeled her in and she resisted by making a number of runs away from the boat, putting on a show, after my first good look at her I was like a 16-year-old boy about to take the Homecoming Queen to the big dance! Once the fish was netted and laid on the deck of Bamonitias, Gary and I squealed in delight and hugged and did a jig on the boat! We intuitively knew that fish was really something special . . . then we measured her and were blown away. You could have heard us howling all across that bay. Two happy guys.

What a morning . . . what an experience . . . what a fish! Thank you, Lord.

Boys State . . .

I work-out at the Community pool during the winter months because it has a heater . . . my pool does not. A great group of folks show up at the same time each day and work out together. One of the fellows in the group is a retired Navy Chief. He is also an active member of the American Legion Post and serves as the Sargent-at-Arms. For the past few years, I have sponsored a few high school boys to attend Boys State because he has twisted my arm.

American Legion Boys State is among the most respected and selective educational programs of government instruction for U.S. high school students. A participatory program in which students become part of the operation of local, county, and state government, Boys State was founded in 1935 to counter the socialism-inspired Young Pioneer Camps. The program was the idea of two Illinois Legionnaires, Hayes Kennedy and Harold Card, who organized the first Boys State at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.

American Legion Auxiliary sponsors a separate but similar program for young women called Girls State.

At Boys State, participants learn the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of franchised citizens. The training is objective and centers on the structure of city, county, and state governments. Operated by students elected to various offices, Boys State activities include legislative sessions, court proceedings, law-enforcement presentations, assemblies, bands, choruses, and recreational programs.

Legion posts select high school juniors to attend the program. In most cases, individual expenses are paid by a sponsoring post, a local business, or another community-based organization.

Boys State programs currently exist in all Legion departments in the United States except Hawaii. As separate corporations, Boys State programs vary in content and method of procedure, but each adheres to the same basic concept: teaching government from the township to the state.

Last week Sandy and I attended the meeting of the local Post of at which the boys selected to attend Boys State in Austin this summer were introduced. Sandy and I were recognized as continuing sponsors; I am glad we were there. I am also glad that we are able to serve as annual sponsors. I believe this is a meaningful experience for these high school kids.

On a more personal note, I am always proud of Sandy in such settings. I love seeing the respect so many have for her as a high school teacher who teaches at-risk students. There were several folks there last night who are totally convinced that she played a large role in their son or grandson graduating from high school. She is a lady with a wonderful gift.

I hope our sponsoring these young guys to attend Boys State might help some of them in discovering their gift, as well as an avenue by which they might put that gift to work.

Who knows . . . one of these kids might someday become the Governor . . . or heck, maybe even the President! One never knows what might happen . . . when a seed is planted.

A Great Man . . . my friend . . . Frank Roland

We tend to use the word “great” quite frequently and in many different ways . . . we describe a fishing trip as having been “Great” . . . we refer to a ballgame as “Great” . . . we even use it as a way to evaluate a meal. But rarely do we describe a person as being “a great person” . . . and I am reluctant to ever do so, but the simple truth is there just isn’t really a more descriptive term to use in describing my friend, Frank Roland. Allow me to share with you my reference point in making such a statement.

Jesus’ disciples had something of an on-going debate about what position each one of them might hold when the Master came into His kingdom. This debate is referenced in a number of places in the New Testament. At one point Jesus asked, “What was it that you quarreled over along the way?” Of course He knew, but He wanted a confession/admission from them, just as He wants the same from you and me. He told the guys, “You know how it is here on earth, wherein those with some authority lord over those below them. It is not to be so amongst you! If anyone is to be great in the Kingdom, he will only be great by serving others.”  Amazingly, after making that declaration, he took a basin of water and a towel and washed each of the Disciple’s feet.

As humans we tend to be inclined to describe an athlete as being “great.” Well, that, too, could be applied to my friend, Frank Roland. He was such an outstanding athlete that upon graduation from High school in rural Alabama he was selected for a Congressional appointment to the Naval Academy, where he was highly regarded as a running back. A couple of years back, Sandy and I were on a cruise ship to the Caribbean, where we noticed a large group of folks wearing shirts that identified them with the Naval Academy. In visiting with a group of older fellows I learned that they were graduates and were having a reunion. I told them that my friend, Frank, had attended the Academy. The gentlemen smiled as said they didn’t know him but “certainly knew about him!” The rest of the cruise, I would bump into folks from the reunion and some of the old guys would ask me, “You are friends with Frank Roland?” There was a hushed awe and respect. After a few days of this, I got the sense that my friend, Frank, had been something of a standout . . . even amongst a group of young men who were themselves standouts!

Sometimes we refer to soldiers as having been great, and that, too, could have been used to describe my friend, Frank. Upon graduation from the Academy, he became a naval pilot and served with distinction in the Korean conflict; he was quite a decorated combat pilot. I work out at the pool with a guy whose dad served with Frank during that time and he has told me many stories about Frank during those years.

But the greatness of which I speak about Frank is in the same context Jesus spoke of greatness . . . that being in service to others. I served as the Chairman of the Deacon body of our Church a few years back. During one meeting I was trying to challenge the deacons to be more dedicated to the work ascribed to the office of deacon. I recall having said, “We have one man in this Church body who does more to serve others that does this entire Deacon body combined.” I heard a strong “Amen” from a cool baritone voice . . . it was the Pastor, Charles Fake! Frank had personally set up a small group of volunteers that looked after folks who were homebound. As I recall there were something like 50 homebound folks they served. That included making trips to the market to do the homebound person’s shopping, to the pharmacy to pick up prescription medicines, driving the invalid to doctor visits, and such. It oftentimes involved going to the bank to see the folks in the bookkeeping department to help clear up a problem in the person’s checking account. I am certain it would be shocking to learn the amount of money Frank had personally deposited in older folk’s overdrawn checking accounts to get them out of hot water!

To go into the nursing homes with Frank was a humbling experience. As we walked down the hall to go see a sick patient many of the residents called out greeting to Frank . . . calling him by name. That in itself was impressive, but when one of the guys would say something like, “Thanks for the shirts, they fit great,” I was blown away. That happened many, many times.

Frank Roland was a very humble man . . . he loved the Lord and served Him . . . and Frank served The Lord’s people, and he did that in a quiet, respectful manner. Frank went to Heaven last Friday afternoon. There is no question that he heard those wonderful words, “Well done, Thou good and faithful servant!”

Frank was a man amongst men! I don’t suppose I have ever met his equal or that I ever will again. He was an inspiration . . . I chuckled to myself that even at 70 years-of-age Frank was the strongest and most physically fit man in the room! He was, indeed, a splendid soldier!

R. I. P. . . . Faithful servant!

The Lord’s Supper . . .

My Sunday school lesson this past week was about The Lord’s Supper . . . which the Lord established as He shared the Passover meal with His disciples in the Upper Room He had borrowed (Matthew 26).

Most denominations observe sacraments and rituals as elements of worship. I am a Baptist and as such do not observe or participate in such practices. Baptist do, however, observe two ordinances . . . Baptism and The Lord’s Supper. You might wonder what the difference might be. An Ordinance is . . . a decree . . . an edict . . . or a directive from an authority. Jesus told His followers, “This do in remembrance of me.”

For us as humans, remembering is important business. We remember people, places, dates, and events. On one hand, we keep things fresh in our minds and memories with parades, reenactments, family gatherings, and oftentimes with a moment of silence. On the other hand, we keep things alive and fresh with the reselling of them. The Lord certainly instructed the Covenant people to observe a number of Holy days which were remembrances of their experience and His acts on their behalf. As they observed each event and told their children and grandchildren of their history, it made the event alive for the new generation.

Do you know that The Lord’s Supper is observed all across the free world? It serves as a deeply meaningful and important act of devotion. It is a means by which we honor our risen Lord, and relate the Gospel message of love, redemption, and hope.

Just as the Passover and its associated meal was a foreshadowing of the Jewish people’s deliverance from Egyptian bondage, The Lord’s Supper is a foreshadowing of the deliverance of those who trust Jesus. Deliverance from what you might ask? Deliverance from the stains, chains, and pains of sin . . . deliverance from the penalty of sin . . . deliverance from death, hell, and the grave.

Jesus and His Disciples observed the Passover meal together. It was an event that was traditionally a family gathering at which the Father or Grandfather acted as the host. Jesus had been teaching the disciples that they were a new kind of family. As the event drew close, the Disciples followed Jesus’ instructions and prepared for The Supper.

Do you know that when The Lord’s Supper is observed, there are things that must first be done to prepare? The place must be made ready, the elements must be secured and prepared, and the worship service must be finalized. The most important preparation that must be made is in the heart and minds of each Believer. The Apostle Paul wrote of this individual preparation in 1 Corinthians 11:26-28, which reads:

“For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you do show the Lord’s death until He returns. Wherefore, whosoever shall eat this bread or drink this cup of the Lord unworthily shall be guilty of the Lord’s body and blood. So let everyone examine himself and let him eat and drink . . . for this cause . . . many are weak and sick among you.”

Self-examination is an important element or step in the observance of this Ordinance. Such self-examination might well require one to both repent all and rebuke all.

Of course, we partake of the bread and the cup as a symbol of Jesus’ death and it ought to spur us to be mindful of the great cost of our redemption. It also reminds us that this was the one and only method ordained by God for the forgiveness of sin.

It Seems to Me . . . that The Lord’s Supper has three heavy-duty meanings, which are as follows:

. . . It reminds us of what Jesus did for us in the past,

. . . It reminds us of our present relationship with Him, and

. . . It is a promise of what He will do for us in the future!

Do you know that Jesus’ sacrificial death was a tremendous gift to mankind? It is precious.

How is it that we are to respond to such a gift of great value . . . a gift of personal sacrifice? How should we receive such a gift? With mourning and regret? Not by a long shot . . . that is not how this Giver wants us to receive His great gift. He wants us to receive His gift with grateful hearts, as an expression of His great love! In fact, He told His followers, “You will weep and lament . . . you shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned to great joy.” (John 16:20)

It is a picture of the great wedding banquet in which we will participate when He comes and collects us and delivers us to our Father in Glory!

New Guy . . .

We have a large yard with pretty cool landscaping and a large residential pool. It all requires attention and maintenance. It includes two water wells and sprinkler systems, and a 40′ x 60′ shop. I actually need a full-time guy looking after it all, but that is rather expensive, so I do some of it myself and try to get by with a part-time guy. The really difficult time is in March and April when our lovely oak trees shed their leaves and every one of them ends up in the pool. That is also the time when I upgrade the landscaping and do plant replacements as needed, and rework the beds. The Sprinkler systems always needs a tune-up in the spring as heads go bad over the winter months, or a gopher chews through a wire. Sometimes I have to hire a couple of extra guys to get it all done in a timely manner.

I have a difficult time finding a guy who is dependable, honest, and willing to work for a fair wage. I have had far too much of guys taking my tools and equipment. I even had one idiot who took my rods and reels off of the boat (which is locked up in the shop) and took them to the pawn shop. That same dude was notorious from stealing gas from the boat (it has a 50-gallon fuel tank) and using it in his old junker. He took rods and reels that cost $300 each to the pawn shop and got enough for a six pack!

These guys come and go. Many of them have a drinking problem and that is why they can’t hold on to a regular job. Some of them ride bicycles because they have lost their driver’s license (DWI). I try to help these misguided souls who have lost their way. I try to make sure they have food to eat (I cook much of it and serve them on my back patio). I talk with them and try to get them to think about life and our accountability to the Lord. Most of the time I think it is pointless, but sometimes a guy from the past will drop by and say thank you and tell me about something that stuck with him. So I just continue on.

This spring I ran through a half dozen of these rascals . . . that may well have been the worst group I have ever encountered. One of them was the nephew of an old friend, now deceased. I had high hopes for him, but soon discovered that his drinking has seriously damaged his health and severely limited his ability to work (diabetes). I was willing to allow him to work in his reduced capacity until he told me that he wanted to be paid $15.00 per hour. I told him where he could catch the bus. That dummy hasn’t had a job in five years. He gets by on food stamps and living with his elderly mom with her little Social Security check. Obviously he prefers that than earning his own keep.

I found a new guy, who I think may be someone I can grow into a good job with the company. He is about 23, has a young wife who has a pretty good job. They are buying a nice frame house and they have three little girls. This dude is pretty smart and learns quickly. He is a hard worker and goes at a pretty good pace. He seems really good, but tends to struggle with being able to do what he says, in a time-frame he laid out. An example: he says he is going to his house to have lunch and will return in an hour, yet he may be gone for three hours. But to his credit he does finally return and finish what he was working on. I stress to him that the time he is here or away is not really important . . . the important things are that the plants be watered on schedule, the decks cleaned off, and the pool serviced on schedule.

I asked him yesterday afternoon, “What is it that only you can give you, and no one can ever take from you?” He said he did not know. I told him the answer is Honor. No one can give me honor, except myself, nor can anyone ever steal my honor. He thought about it for a few minutes and grinned and said, “I really like that!”

Perhaps . . . we shall see! I hope so. He sure has a sweet little family.

Sanctuary Cities and Counties . . .

For many, many years there had been a trickle of folks from the South who illegally crossed our border and entered the United States and no one paid much attention. The simple reason was because those who came were honest, decent people who were willing to leave family and home, risk peril, and come here seeking to earn a better living. Their presence here did not present a problem or add any strain on our system . . . and quite honestly they took low-waged jobs that our citizens shunned. It seemed a win/win for both sides of the equation.

However, over the past two decades that trickle has turned into a flood and today it is estimated that there are some 12-million illegals in residence. Honestly, that number, while quite large and staggering, is not the problem inasmuch as who these new border-crossers include. Suddenly the nature, ambitions, and behaviors of many of those crossing the border as illegal immigrants has changed. Today, they have strained our benevolent system which has always been intended to help our lower-income citizens. That assistance includes Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) (monthly cash stipend), food stamps, public housing, medical assistance, free public education, and such. Even beyond that, many of them have proven to be criminals . . . some of them are criminals of the worst order: rapists and murderers.

Of course, we have federal laws concerning immigration and the capture and deportation of those found to be here illegally. That federal system provides an avenue for immigrants to obtain clearance to live and work here temporary (green card) and to even ultimately become citizens. I have a number of employees who have followed that pathway.

However, over the past few years there have been some folks who have been elected to city councils and county offices who have influenced those bodies to ignore such federal laws and to become what is being called sanctuaries for these illegals . . . and it does not seem to matter how criminally inclined the illegal might be or his criminal background. They put in place prohibitions on local law enforcement from cooperating with federal officials when such illegals are apprehended.

So, what is up with this? Is it simply a matter of tender-hearted, compassionate people seeking to do the Lord’s work while deciding that the federal system is wrong? There are those who seek to make such an argument. In fact many who have no otherwise use for the Holy Bible (and discount pretty much everything else it says), take a custom from ancient Israel and attempt to make it the parallel for this new anarchy. In the Bible there were, in fact, “Cities of Refuge” . . . safe places in which perpetrators of manslaughter could claim rights of asylum once there. Is today’s sanctuary city the same thing? I would argue that it is not . . . not by a long shot!

The simple truth is the Levitical Cities of Refuge were for citizens of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Moreover, they were for folks who were guilty of a crime, but a crime of accident or circumstance, and not a crime involving the heart or motive. There has always been a clear distinction between murder and manslaughter (Hebrew law, Roman law and USA laws). Manslaughter is the crime of killing a human without malice or aforethought, or otherwise in circumstances not amounting to murder. There is, in pretty much every legal system, a recognized difference in crimes and associated punishments for things that are willful as opposed to those of circumstance.

Beyond that truth, I would argue that these modern day, self-appointed prophets of right and wrong are themselves criminals. The simple truth is that each and every individual elected to any office in the United States . . . regardless of how high or low that office might be . . . share two common obligations, as follows:

ONE: Any person so elected is obliged to represent the interests of those who elected him or her to said office. One would have to be mentally challenged and morally bankrupt to argue that one here illegally who rapes and murders a young girl has rights even close to those of the victim or her family. Providing a sanctuary city that protects such criminals clearly puts the interest of those here illegally well above the interests of those who elected the so-called representative; and

TWO: Each and every person so elected to public office must publicly take the uniform oath-of-office prior to being permitted to take such office. The common oath-of-office clearly includes a promise to “support, protect, and defend the Constitution . . . from all enemies, both foreign and domestic.” I fully believe that any elected representative(s) who fails to abide by the oath-of-office is a criminal and ought to be removed from office. The privilege of elected office does not afford one the option of selecting the laws one likes as opposed to those he does not like. In a democracy, one follows a prescribed process to facilitate the elimination, repeal, or revision of a law that is deemed improper or wrong. History provides many such changes in law.

It Seems to me . . . that these violators of federal law . . . these false prophets . . . are not nearly as righteous as they wish to appear. They surely have a hidden agenda that is clearly not healthy for the USA.

Common sense says that the USA is a nation in which the rule of law is an important principle of governance. Removing that rule of law would make us like a third world nation wherein the strong survive and the weak perish as the laws of the jungle play out.