Tropical Storm Harvey . . .

This is Thursday morning . . . about day-break. There is a tropical storm out in the Gulf of Mexico and it is certain to impact the Texas coast. Some models have it making landfall in this immediate area as early as tomorrow night. Reports are that it will intensify over the very warm water in the Gulf and will likely be a full-fledged hurricane by the time it comes ashore.

Sandy, Chris, and I plan to flee to the Burnet compound and hang out until the threat has passed. I wonder what things will be like here in the next 48 hours?

My Swimming Pool Buddy . . .

Abi loves the pool and wants us to be in it pretty much all of the time. She has unlimited energy and never seems to tire or lose interest. She has a vivid imagination and loves to play “Let’s pretend” games. Recently she said, “Pappy, let’s pretend that I can’t swim!” I chuckled and replied, “Abi, we don’t have to pretend . . . .you can’t swim” . . . she frowned and said, “Pappy, just pretend!”

Another pretend game she enjoys is where she pretends I am her little boy and she is my mommy. She uses her little hand and splashes water on me and says, “Honey, it is raining. Come with mommy and get under the roof,” and leads me over to the slide. Chris told me that she has tried to get him to play that game with her and he said, “Abi, honey, I simply cannot play a game where you are my mommy.”

Up until last week she has been happy to wear her “floaties” (personal flotation device for small kids), but suddenly she has grown weary of the thing and just wants to swim. She is able to swim about half the width of the pool (actually, one breath’s worth). She is actually at the most dangerous place a child can be around the pool . . . she can’t swim and she can’t float . . . but she is fearless.

My favorite game for us to play in the pool is “Geranibo” . . . she can’t pronounce Geronimo and adds a B in there. She backs away a few feet from the edge of the pool, runs to the edge, and as she leaps in the air, she yells “G e r a n i b o” at the top of her lungs. She also does “Remember the Alamo” and “Cannonball,” but Geranibo is my favorite.

She is a bit exasperated that her Nana and sister Ali don’t share our enthusiasm for the pool. She says, “Pappy, you and I exercise, so we are not gonna get big bottoms like Nana and Ali.” I don’t think that she particularly thinks Nana and Ali have big bottoms at the moment, but suspects that will be the consequence of their continued slothfulness.

I do hope that her love and excitement for the pool will become a lifetime activity. It will help her stay healthy and fit.

Two-Sister’s Townhouse, Ruidoso, NM . . .

In June, 2017, Sandy, Chris, Ali, and Abi and I rented a beautiful new class-A motor home in the D/FW area and traveled to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Aunt Dorothy (DMC) had reserved a very large, lovely three-story house on the beach and had invited about 20 family members for ‘a cousin’s week.” The purpose was to begin a training program for the grandkids about the importance of family and to build relationships between the cousins. While we were there, there was not one cross word uttered . . . a remarkable thing in the Melton clan!

We agreed that we ought to have a similar gathering each year, and it was suggested that perhaps we ought to visit the mountains next year. The conversation turned to the mountains of New Mexico as it was not such a far travel distance for the group.

In June, DMC called and suggested that since she was working in West Texas and Sandy and I would be out in that area in late July, that it might be good for us to make a scouting trip over a long weekend. That is just what we did! During our visit, we learned that the area was booming with tourism and the vacation rental market is thriving in that area. The three of us began discussing the possibility of purchasing our own place. We contacted a realtor and began looking around. We found a lovely 3 BR / 2.5 BATH townhouse located in the middle of town . . . on a private 9-hole golf course. It is part of an HOA that owns tennis courts, a large outdoor pool, clubhouse, and a number of playgrounds and nice ponds stocked with lake trout. We learned that the townhouse was owned by a family from Mexico . . . purchased a few years back by Mom and Dad. Mom passed away last year and Dad’s health is failing and the kids, as is often the case in generational issues, have different interests and just want to sell the place and get the equity. We made an offer . . . and it was accepted!

Ruidoso is a quaint, mountain village in the Sierra Blanca mountain range of south-central New Mexico, which merges with the Sacramento Mountains to the south. The Mescalero Apache Indians have a large reservation and presence in the region. The Tribe owns and operates Athens Ski Apache Ski resort, and the Inn of the Mountain Gods resort . . . a lovely large hotel, casino and golf course. The Sierra Blanca (the mountain upon which the ski slope is built) has an elevation of 12,999 feet.

Ruidoso a one time “sleepy mountain community” got its name from Spanish explorers (for “Noisy River” a small stream that weaves through the city).

When the realtor called to announce our offer had been accepted she asked, “Don’t you just love it?” to which I chuckled and replied, “No Ma’am, I do like it, but I love my family and that is why we are buying the property.”

The sad truth is that DMC is the only sibling in my large family with which I can (and would) make such a joint venture acquisition. The sweetest part is that for each of us, the sibling is always more important that the asset! A few years back I tried to do a joint venture with other siblings by inviting some to join me on one of my deals. Both of my parents tried to discourage me from inviting others in. They were certainly correct in their predictions, but that failure makes my dealings with DMC all the more sweeter. As a team, Sandy, DMC, and I will create and hopefully leave behind, some assets that can be enjoyed and used by our children and grandchildren.

I decided the name ‘Two Sister’s Townhouse’ . . . is a most fitting name and honors the special bond and friendship that exists between Sandy and Dorothy. That friendship has been building for almost a half century now and just grows sweeter each year.

I am thankful the Lord has blessed us financially and enables us to do such things. None of us never forget that He permits and enables us . . . and we honor Him when we keep it all in proper perspective.

Hyprocrisy . . . to the Max

I wonder if there has ever been a time in history when there was greater public hypocrisy than that which is currently on display within our culture? I know that it was rampant amongst the religious rulers in Jerusalem during Jesus’ earthly ministry, but I am convinced that what we are seeing today would rival even that!

Let me present a few examples:

. . . Parents who have one standard for their children, yet a different standard for themselves;

. . . Public officials who refuse to follow the same guidelines imposed upon the citizens;

. . . Congressmen and Senators who enact laws, but exempt themselves from said laws (e.g. Healthcare, repayment of student loans for themselves, families and staffs, their retirement plans, etc.);

. . . Those described as ‘celebrities’ . . . who call from behind their walled-in and gated mansions that it is tragic that there is a public discussion about building a wall along our southern border; they also fly around the world in private jets, driven in chauffeured limos, while calling on the rest of us to ‘reduce our carbon footprint;”

. . . The current Pope lecturing Americans on the need for us to ‘love ye one another’ . . . relative to the proposed wall and our resistance in admitting Muslims into the USA . . . yet that self-righteous rascal lives in a walled-in city under heavy armed-guard because he knows those very Muslims hate him and everything he supposedly represents and they would behead him in a second if given half a chance. Moreover, the walls built around the Vatican were erected to keep Muslims out; and

. . . The liberals who argue for an end to 2nd-Amendment rights while being escorted about by armed guards employed to protect them day and night.

Things sure are a mess around the world . . . and at home. I would argue the reason things are such a mess is because many have ignored the call, “Do nothing out of vain conceit, but rather, esteem the other as better than yourself” Philippians 2:2, and to practice what is often described as “The Golden Rule” . . . ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’

Raising a Family . . .

I like the story of the young seminary student who just graduated from Seminary. The very next week he got married and accepted a call from a small Church. The next week he and his new bride moved to the Church’s parsonage and he began setting up his first office. As he worked in the office, he consulted the calendar and realized his first sermon in his first pastorate would occur on Mother’s Day. As he recalled those wonderful classes he had taken on parenting, he grew excited and began preparing his sermon. Sunday morning he stood in the pulpit and announced the title of his sermon being “Five Simple Steps to Raising the perfect child!”

Five years later as Mother’s Day drew near, he recalled that first sermon and how powerful and spot-on it had been. He pulled the file and as he read the old sermon and considered his household now with three small children, he concluded that the sermon, while really good, did need some work. On Mother’s Day, he stood before his congregation and announced the title of his sermon as “Three steps to raising a pretty good kid.”

Ten years later as Mother’s Day drew near, he recalled that second sermon and how powerful and spot-on it had been. He pulled the file and as he read the old sermon and considered his household now had three teenagers, he concluded that the sermon, while really good, did need some work. On Mother’s Day, he stood before his congregation and announced the title of his sermon as “Helpful hints from a fellow struggler.”

Of course, the point of the cute story is that there is a significant difference between the abstract and concrete. It is one thing to be filled with youthful inspiration and confidence as one reads and learns about rearing kids and envisioning how things will be (abstract), but it is a totally different matter when you now have a 35-pound little dictator stomping her little foot and throwing a fit because she insists on a banana, in spite of you having said “No.” When the reality of your will and her will collide . . . and the realization that not everything in that parenting book was exactly right (concrete) you must begin to make some adjustments in your thinking. Thus, the struggle of: here is this child who I adore and want her to learn how to properly behave, to have manners and social skills, and grow into a well-adjusted person . . . but you don’t want to damage her spirit in any way.

Recently, a group of our family spent a few days in a rented beach house together. One of the families there was my niece, Ashlee, and her husband, Shawn, and their four teenagers. As we left and headed home Sandy (a long time public school teacher–secondary) and Chris (a former youth minister) had a conversation about those teenagers and marveled at how well-behaved, mannerly, respectful, and gladly willing to pitch in to help with whatever task needed to be done. They both agreed they had never seen a group of teenage siblings more well-adjusted. As I listened, I readily agreed with their assessment. The reality of their discussion has caused me to think about the challenges of family . . . my work involves providing affordable housing for low-income families – oftentimes dysfunctional families, and I sit on the Board of Directors of a great children’s home – where a group of kids came to live when their family falls apart.

I grew up in a household of eight kids and mom and dad. As such, we saw some challenging times, and the truth be told if not for my precious little Mother, we might well have landed in such a place.

Perhaps the most taxing of all are the years in a family is when there is a crisis situation . . . sweet little babies who cooed and gurgled grew up into challenging, independent-thinking adolescents. Then, the protective, sheltered environment of the home is broken by the school, new friends, alien philosophies, financial strains, illness, accidents, hard questions, constant decisions, and busy schedules. There is pretty much always pressure mounting . . . especially when there are daring young drivers emerging . . . and others leaving for college.

Shawn and Ashlee have done a very good job in parenting and building a family. I think they are pretty much a model. That is certainly not to imply that they have not had some issues and struggles of their own . . . this is a second marriage for each of them . . . and their life together was something of a new beginning for each of them. They each brought kids into the marriage (five total) and have lovingly and skillfully built a secure, loving family. They are accomplishing this feat by building it all upon the truths of Scripture and God’s design for the family.

They are each living testimonies of the old truth, “As you survey the landscape of your life you simply cannot change the past . . . it is what it is! But by the grace and mercy of God, you can change it going forward!” That is just what they have done.

My hat is off to you, I salute you!

Worship . . .

I am convinced that after mankind having been on this planet for several thousand years, there still remains much that we don’t know about worshipping God! If you find that to be an odd statement, then please consider how we stumble, halt, struggle, and pause in simply trying to pray . . . how we struggle with knowing when to kneel or stand . . . what to do with our hands in a worship services . . . and certainly when to just shut up!

The modern Church over the past couple of decades has been struggling with worship . . . describing the debate as being a question of “Praise” or “Traditional” style services, and what best suits the congregation. Sadly, in many places the local Church has become like a Church-within-a-Church . . . pretty much two separate congregations utilizing the same building and Preacher. It all seems to be based on the preferred format of the services. I can’t even begin to express just how ignorant I find such thinking. Rick Warren in his best-selling book, ‘The Purpose Driven Life’ put the truth . . . front and center on page 1 when he wrote, “It isn’t about you.” That is the first thing I need to remember is that worship isn’t about what I like or don’t like . . . the only question ought always to be what is pleasing and acceptable to God.

I don’t get how some folks can think that arranging the Lord’s altar to look like the band stand in the local beer joint/dance hall, and having a group of “worship leaders” dressed like they are going to a ball game, to stand there with their eyes rolled back in the heads . . . almost as if in a trance . . . while singing a short chorus something like 20 times over and over is supposed to be superior and more pleasing to God over a group of well-dressed people (dressing their best for the Lord), reverently standing before the Lord singing beloved, well-respected, time honored hymns from hymnals. I think the enemy has been very clever in bringing this issue along, and the Church leaders have behaved foolishly in response. A new term has emerged . . . worshiptainment. Are you kidding me?

Why is it important that we worship at all? Simply because of who God is . . . and secondly for what He has done. He is worthy of honor, praise, and worship. I fear that He is surely grieved over the foolishness of what some are calling worship . . . clapping and cheering in response to someone singing a song that was “in theory” supposed to be for God’s glory, but tragically became the singer’s glory . . . in the Lord’s house? I recall His having humans informed and forewarned in the Canon of Scripture that He is a jealous God . . . I suspect that means that He won’t be happy sharing the glory with that singer!

I am currently teaching the Psalms this quarter. I adore the Psalms and see it as a book filled with prime examples of how we ought to approach . . . and worship God! The Psalms were written by a large number of people over a long period of time, from a variety of settings (places like: caves, hillsides, open plains . . . some by day, others by night, by people at different places in the life’s experience). Yet, each one clearly portrays God as worthy of praise and worship and exhibits the utmost reverence!

My sweet little granddaughters can delight me with their expressions of love and adoration, yet they can also break my heart . . . because I love them so intensely. If that is true for me, how much more true is it for the Lord?

I am reminded of what the Lord told Moses as he approached the burning bush, “Moses, remove your sandals, you are standing on holy ground.” I think we would do well to ever be mindful of that!

Chris told me of an exercise they did in Seminary . . . it was called ‘Playing the Game’ and he said the objective was to not think about “The Game” and when your mind wandered and you did think of the game . . . you lost the game. He further explained that the game was a simple exercise to demonstrate how important it is to understand the need to keep one’s mind and heart focused upon the Lord, because when we are not thinking about Him, we are thinking about something else.

We are told that the “Lord inhabits the praises of His people,” and we know He delights in our worship, but I suspect that an important element of worship is that it is intended to serve as a disciplining mechanism for us!

As I watch what I consider to be rowdy behavior in Churches today, I fear that disciplining mechanism is being set aside as we sit quietly and permit a few to change things to better suit their liking . . .

It Seems to Me . . . someone ought to take a stand and begin a quest for what God likes and finds acceptable.

Going Out on a Limb . . . .

. . . Is the expression often employed when one ventures off of the beaten path and approaches something in an unusual manner . . . or in an unlikely, unconventional manner. That is what I am doing here this morning! Hang with me . . .

Question: What on earth is going on in our Nation’s capitol? Here is what I am thinking:

In November, 2016, Donald J. Trump was elected President of the USA. He was quite popular with middle-class, working Americans, but rejected by the main-stream media . . . the Republican elite and the establishment in D. C. The voters sent him to Washington with the shout, “Drain the swamp!”

Soon after his election, he began the process of selecting key members of his Cabinet and Administration. Immediately, the Democrats in the Senate began a process of delay, stall, and slow-walk each one. That group of Cabinet nominees was the most qualified and impressive group of people ever assembled to run the people’s business, but watching the confirmation hearings one would think that perhaps they were a group of axe murderers.

One interesting nominee was Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama: a fine, decent, Christian gentleman with a long and distinguished record of faithful service. During his hearing before the Judicial Committee, the Democratic Senators tried every dirty trick in the book to challenge his integrity. Moreover, they tried to make this good son of the south appear as a racist, when the truth is that as a US Attorney in Alabama he prosecuted members of the KKK during the racial tensions of the 60’s and 70’s. Those mean-spirited people boxed Senator Sessions in with their foolish questions about the goofy Russian collusion delusion that has overtaken both opposing parties . . . the DNC and the main-stream media. In a pressured situation, with a question about a hypothetical situation, they managed to get that good man to declare that he would recuse himself from any investigation of any Russian connection with Team Trump. Soon after his confirmation, Attorney General Jeff Sessions . . . good to his word . . . did, in fact, recuse himself in all matters relative to the probe. That set off a domino effect of a chain events that quickly followed . . . the President fired the FBI Director, one James Comey, a political hack that had behaved in a most peculiar manner during the Presidential election (and the Democrats had been calling for his head for months), and then on May 17, the Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein appointed one Robert Mueller, former FBI Director, to serve as Special Counsel to the Department of justice (DOJ). In that capacity, he is to oversee the investigation into any Russian involvement in the 2016 US Presidential election.

Here it is . . . I believe what is actually going on in all of this is a sly and careful effort to gather enough incriminating evidence against both Bill and Hillary Clinton to charge each one with serious crimes committed against the Unite states of America. She ran against Obama for the Democratic nomination . . . and later in a deal brokered by Bill, Obama appointed Hillary as the Secretary of State. Meanwhile, Bill had his brainchild, The Clinton Foundation, ready to join the game . . . and the pair creates a slick game of ‘pay to play’ in which favors are provided for groups and nations that make large contributions to the foundation. Up through 2016 the Clinton Foundation has received over $2 billion in such gifts. There has long been questions about all of this . . . as well as how those funds have been used. Make no mistake, Bill and Hilary Clinton have long been the most evil and dishonest political pair the world has ever seen. They make Bonnie and Clyde look like elementary kids on the playground.

Even further, I am thinking the investigation will net a few accomplices such as . . . Susan Rice . . . Loretta Lunch . . . possibly Eric Holder . . . and a few others.

The Democrats keep shouting about Watergate and trying to draw parallels to that time . . . I suspect this is going to be much larger than Watergate and the Democrats in all of their goofy gyrations are unknowingly creating sufficient distractions to enable the investigation to proceed. That foolish gang has run interference for the Clintons and their evil for 25+ years, and are now unwittingly running interference for the investigation that will actually bring them to justice!

Hang on to your hat . . . there is a really big political earthquake just around the corner, and I predict it will forever change American politics . . . and that will be a good thing!