G. W. Carver and J.H. Pickle, Jr.

Have you heard of these men? Both are scientists … well, J. H. is still a scientist, but G. W. was a scientist until he passed away in 1943.

David Pickle called me last week and said he had a book for me, so I drove over to get it. It was so interesting that it didn’t take me very long to finish reading it. The book was compiled and written by Dave’s brother, John H. Pickle, Jr., and it’s an amazing account of his father’s interaction with the outstanding scientist, George Washington Carver! The title of the book is, One of His Boys.

Quoting from the back of the book, “George Washington Carver is today remembered in part for the many products he derived from the peanut, a crop he urged on Southern Farmers to replace cotton and avoid soil exhaustion and the boll weevil. Less known are the multitude of college students Carver took under his wing over the years in relationships that were cherished by and valuable to the scientist. One of His Boys is the story of the mentorship of Johnnie Pickle, one young man inspired to follow in Carver’s footsteps after witnessing firsthand the Wizard of Tuskegee’s wisdom.”

Johnnie Pickle had the privilege of meeting the African American scientist in 1932. Because of this “chance encounter” Johnnie was inspired to become a scientist. Johnnie’s son, John Jr. also followed in Carver’s and Johnnie’s footsteps, and [quoting the book] “spent thirty years developing products for farmers to use. He is now retired and continues to promote good science.”

Dr. John H. Pickle, Jr., spoke about their father’s long-time interaction with Carver. The presentation was at the George Washington Carver National Monument on Saturday, September 11, 2021. I attended and enjoyed the presentation as well as enjoyed meeting Dr. John Pickle.

Carver was the most prominent black scientist in the early 1900s. Two of the things he is famous for were crop-rotation and creating over 300 uses for the peanut. I found it quite interesting that, until 1870, peanuts grown in America were primarily used as a garden crop, and its primary large-scale purpose was hog food until around 1932.

Here’s a bit of peanut trivia.

President Thomas Jefferson was a botanist and grew peanuts. The peanut was nutrition for soldiers during the Civil War. Known as goober peas, the Southerners pronounced them gooba peas because the word from Africa was, nguba.

Enter George Washington Carver, the Wizard from Tuskegee.

Quoting Carver: “All my life, I have risen regularly at four in the morning to go into the woods and talk with God. That’s where He reveals His secrets to me. When everybody else is asleep, I hear God best and learn my plan.”

One morning, George asked God why He made the peanut.

Quoting Carver: “He told me, separate the peanut into water, fats, oils, gums, resins, sugars, starches, and amino acids. Then recombine these under My three laws of compatibility, temperature, and pressure. Then you will know why I made the peanut.”

Eight of these discoveries are flour, paste, insulation, paper, wood stains, shaving cream, tires, and skin lotion.

That heavenly advice helped Carver discover over 300 uses for the peanut, and that changed the South, changed ethnic relations, and changed the agriculture industry.

I laughed when I learned that Carver didn’t merely “talk to God.” He “conversed with God.” That’s exactly what prayer is supposed to be – a conversation with God. Carver said, “God speaks to us every hour, if we will only TUNE IN.”

God is alive, and He wants to communicate with us. If I do all the talking, I’ll get no answers. I know what my problems and needs are, at least I think I know, but God really knows them. If I merely recite to God what He already knows, I’m not learning anything.

But if I listen, I can hear God giving me helpful information – as He gave Carver information. God communicates with me often, and wants to converse with you, too. Jesus said in John 10:27, “My sheep know My voice.”

God listens, then responds to us. Do you listen to God?

Frustration with the Unknown

I would like to talk coherently about the flu, but with so much conflicting information floating across the world, it’s difficult to know what to say. So, I’ll start by saying that this flu is a real disease.

I don’t know where you lived, but I grew up in Southern California. Flus made the rounds every year, and I probably got the flu every other year. Although I always recovered, every year thousands of people died from the flu.

The common logic for us was: “If you’re sick, stay home!” There was no mandate to push on us. If we had a cold, the measles, the flu, or any other contagious ailment, we stayed home. It’s silly, if not stupid, to go out and share diseases.

Am I afraid of the covid flu? No. I might have had two strains of it while on travel. Guess what? I stayed in the trailer until I got well. I might have gotten a third strain, and I stayed home. I understand the covid is a real sickness. But I did what I did as a kid, and in each event, I got well in record time. Also, after every trip, Carol and I self-quarantine.

Early on in the pandemic, N95 face masks were touted as being a major factor in controlling covid-19. But what do we get at the stores? These flimsy little corrugated paper things we hang in front of our face. Some folks tell us the masks mainly protect the wearer. Others say they primarily protect others. Yet others say they don’t protect anyone at all. And ….

Oh, let’s get off the mask thing. Nothing is for sure about masks, anyway.

Early on, we were told that if 75% of our population gets the shot, we can control the covid. Woops … make that a double shot. Oh, my goodness, perhaps a third round might be necessary. Now we’re talking about annual boosters. But in all instances, the injections are touted as the cure for the disease.

Oh-oh, millions of people are getting the shots and wearing masks, but the pandemic is getting out of hand again.

Now we’re being told that an apparently healthy person with no covid symptoms can make a person who is “fully-vaccinated” sick. How does that work? Aren’t the first, second, and possible third shots supposed to protect people?

For many years, it was common knowledge that when a person got sick and recovered, he or she was naturally immunized against the disease. It’s been verified around the world. Verified in the home in which I grew up, and I have nine siblings.

But now we’re told that the immunity generated from a man-made chemical is superior to the natural immunity created by human bodies after fighting off the real sickness. Incredible.

What if we’ve already had and recovered from covid-19? What if our temperature is normal? We’re told it doesn’t matter, get the injection anyway. Again, incredible. Apparently, many of our citizens never studied critical thinking. Logic is no longer part of our culture.

Covid-19 and the variants are real diseases. Multi-thousands of people have died of it. But flus have killed people for thousands of years. So let’s be wise. If we’re sick, stay home and don’t spread the illness. But let’s also tell the whole truth.

In courts, witnesses formerly were asked, “Do you swear (or affirm) to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” Most people answered with, “I do.”

What’s that got to do with the pandemic?

The death numbers related to covid are questionable. I’ve recently seen several reports making statements like: “The provisional death count is ….”

Provisional count? We’re not sure what the cause of death was?

And “Thirty-five more people have died of covid-related diseases.”

Covid-related? What does that mean? Hmmmm …They might not have died of covid?

The main problem here is that the real disease, however it got here, has become a political football. Misinformation, misstatements, misunderstanding, and outright false statements have made the rounds from many people, and we’re frustrated with the unknown.

Publicly we don’t have many answers, yet some good guidance is being rejected.

What can I say about all this?

If you need or want medical assistance, get it. But don’t force your choice of remedies on those who don’t want them. And don’t argue about it.

But keep this in mind: fully vaccinated people are dying of covid and the variants while millions of unvaccinated people are getting sick and recovering.

So, what’s really going on?

If in Doubt, Throw it Out

“Mamma, what’s that yucky green stuff in the ice box?”

Wait a minute. Do any of you know what an ice box was?

Years ago, those things that held food didn’t plug into the wall and were made out of wood. The door on the upper portion was not for ice cream or to freeze your meat and vegetables. You opened that door to put in a 25-pound block of ice. As the ice melted, you could put other food in with it. The ice absorbed heat, melted, and cooled the food in the lower section. Cool, huh?

By the time I entered this world, my parents had long-since replaced the ice box with a fancy thing called a refrigerator. No more visits from the Ice Man. By the way, Carol and I saw a real wooden ice box in the Tillamook County Museum in Tillamook, Oregon. Memories! Buy some Tillamook cheese while you’re there.

These new-fangled refrigerators plugged into the wall and had a compartment that would keep ice cream hard if we put it in the back, but it would freeze meat, vegetables, and water anywhere in that compartment.

Because of our upbringing, we still called it an ice box. However, I had to start calling them refrigerators because in the 1970s I was an appliance repairman, and no one knew what an ice box was.

But where was I? Oh, yes. It was in the 1950s and my parents were visiting some friends.

The mother came into the kitchen to answer the cry about yucky green stuff. “What’s the matter, Maureen?”

“Mamma, there’s yucky stuff on the cheese. What is it?” The little girl was pointing to a dull greenish-blue fuzz.

“Oh, my goodness! Mold is growing again. Well, let’s just cut the green off, and we can eat the rest.”

Today, we understand that the roots of the mold grow deep into the food, and we usually just throw the moldy food out. However, our ice bo – excuse me – our refrigerators today still grow mold under the right circumstances. And we now understand that mold and bacteria are growing before we can see any of it.

So how do we know whether or not the food is fit to eat? Usually, we smell it.

The fungi and bacteria on meat will normally give off an unpleasant odor before the yucky green stuff, or any slime, is visible.

I don’t want anyone to die, or even get sick, from food poisoning; so, years ago I developed one very important phrase as an appliance repairman, and I still say it today: If in Doubt, Throw it Out!

It’s worth memorizing because our health is much more important than a few dollars’ worth of food.

You can find on the internet the procedures for handling and caring for various kinds of food. And it’s quite simple.

But there is a more insidious poison growing in our culture. I call it spiritual and mental poisoning.

Mental health today is a multi-billion-dollar industry, and is complex, cumbersome, and costly! The primary reason is that people don’t see or smell the problem. This poisonous garbage has been insidiously foisted on our culture. But if it is culturally acceptable, it must be good. Right?

Wrong!

Many people are being accused and jailed for sexual immorality. It is gross, ugly, demeaning to men, women, and children, sexist, humanly degrading, and is one of three primary evils offered to our culture through theaters, television, advertisements, and DVDs.

Another evil is hatred. Blatant, cruel, murderous, evil hatred.

The third is evil music accompanied by gross, inane actions of the singers.

The church isn’t helping the situation because a large section of its members supports the garbage industry by paying for it and watching it; and many Christians are just like the world: they don’t seem to understand that it is poisoning humanity.

If people would simply evaluate what they’re watching and listening to, they would easily see that it is destroying us. But reading and studying the Bible would give them wisdom and alert them to the calamity they are bringing upon themselves.

First Thessalonians 5:22 says, “Stay away from everything that is evil.” Simple! That would cure most of the mental problems.

If people want to do what is right, they could objectively realize that it is not good for them. They would realize that it destroys families, society, and the church. They should get rid of it.

But for those who are not sure: If In Doubt, Throw It Out!

Actually, whoever is feasting on it, is either sick, or deceived by the world.

Judgment starts in the House of God, so you Christians should get the garbage out of your homes and lives. Then we can make a positive impact on the world.

God’s Limiting Factor

I can hear the Reformed Theologians now: You Can’t Limit God. God is supreme. God is sovereign. God does what He wants to do without regard to man, beast, or nature.

But this Reflection is not about Calvinism versus Arminianism, or the misunderstood and misnamed Sovereignty-versus-Grace controversy; so let’s put those arguments aside.

I propose that humans are the only factor in limiting what God will do in our own lives. Not what God CAN do, but what He WILL do. Why? Are we superior to God? Absolutely not! Is God sovereign? Yes, absolutely!

God can side-step mankind when He wants to, and He often does. No one, including Lucifer, can thwart God’s ultimate plan. However, Scripture makes it clear that God does not mandate our lifestyle. We are not robots; therefore, God does not commandeer man’s will. God would receive no honor or glory if He programmed us to worship Him. Instead, He programmed us to be worshippers – but it’s our decision whom or what we will worship.

As I obey God, I can accomplish my part of His will on earth. He directs me in the decisions I make and the direction I go. But if I disobey Him, He does NOT direct me. He may direct other situations to guide me back to where He wants me, but it’s up to me to cooperate. God is omniscient: there’s no doubt about it. And since God already knows what I will do or not do, He already knows what He will do or not do regarding my life.

Scripture makes it clear that God hates sin; therefore, God does not make me disobey Him. But neither does He make me obey Him. Obedience is my decision. All through Scripture, and with assistance from the Holy Spirit, God implores man to listen to Him, to obey Him, to follow His leading. Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” That statement alone reveals our freedom of choice, and reveals that God does not make the choice for us.

Is God stressed out about my disobedience? Heavens, no. God is bigger than that.

God’s imploring or pleading with us is not because of His inadequacy, but for our benefit. God is encouraging us to grow in our relationship with Him so that we can cooperate with Him in fulfilling our portion of His plan both here on earth and throughout eternity. Yes: God has plans for us!

Genesis 1:26A says, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness ….” In that regard, God gave man a say-so about how he (man) will live.

Deuteronomy 28:1-14 spells out the blessings God promised Israel if they would obey Him, and verses 15-29 spell out the problems they would encounter if they deserted or rebelled against God. It identifies our freedom of choice without God’s intervention. But it also shows that God strongly desires us to obey Him.

Joshua 24:15 further clarifies it: “Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. (NASB)”

Then Deuteronomy 30:19 gives the conclusion: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants.”

Do you see it? God is clearly telling man to make a choice. You might ask, “So, what’s your point?”

You are the only person in the universe who can affect the quality of God’s interaction in your life. Therefore, you are the only one who can limit your relationship with God. Others may battle you, interfere with you, try to stop your progress in various ways. Others may hurt you, persecute you, belittle you, slander you, and so forth. Although God knows if and when that will happen, none of that can hinder your relationship with Almighty God if you don’t let it.

Not even Lucifer has the authority to control or guide you.

It is your response to people or reaction to those situations that affect your relationship with the Lord – either positive or negative – and that determines how God will interact with you.

God will not mandate your reaction, and you cannot react properly without His help. It is a team effort. So in every situation in life, no matter the circumstances, learn to look to the Lord to see how you should respond.

How God will use you in heaven depends on how you cooperate with Him here on earth. So choose Life. Choose Christ and live.

Memory & Mental Health

In 2018, Carol & I were in Young Harris, Georgia, at the USS Yorktown CV-5 Survivor’s Club Reunion.

The purpose of a reunion is to socialize with friends and family, help us remember an event, or to celebrate the life of a person. The original purpose of the Yorktown reunions was to give the survivors of the USS Yorktown at the Battle of Midway (June 3-7, 1942) opportunities to share memories of life on board the ship – including experiences of the hell that erupted during battle – as well as memories of life’s experiences after the war.

Dad was stationed on the Yorktown from 1939 to June of 1942. In 1953 dad reentered the US Navy as a chaplain, and after retirement became chaplain of the CV-5 survivor’s club. I had the privilege of attending several reunions with dad and enjoyed hearing the ‘war-stories’ the men told.

Although most of the Yorktown veterans endured horrific experiences during the bombing, strafing, and torpedoing, those who freely shared their memories with others suffered much less mental anguish about it. The freedom to talk about the events often reduces PTSD. Visiting memorials and sharing memories with others is therapeutic, and aids in positive mental health which, in turn, can remove the need for long-term counseling.

Years ago, a man racing a 595-pound, 1200cc Kawasaki motorcycle at 95 mph plowed broadside into a Datsun (predating the Nissan) that our son, Ron, was driving. The wreck splintered the bike, killed the biker, destroyed the Datsun, and sent our kids to the hospital.

Ron was 16 years old and I didn’t want an emotional scar to develop, so I encouraged him to talk about what he experienced. As Ron initially related everything he remembered about the accident, we took many pictures of the aftermath; and every day for two weeks, I asked him to talk about it. At first, it was difficult. Then we discussed the event several times a week for a month. He relived, analyzed, and discussed the incident until he could narrate the event objectively – without emotional pain

The result? He has clear memories of the event and is sad about it, but he has no emotional scars and no mental trauma to overcome.

Those who will not talk about or share their feelings should at least write them down. Write out your experiences in as much detail as you can.

A good friend up north was having severe marital problems, but he would not violate his vows and did not want to hurt the children. Not willing to talk about it to anyone, he quietly, secretly, and in great detail, wrote his anxieties, emotions, bitterness, and frustrations as letters to himself. After writing each letter, he read it to himself – sometimes tearfully and in pain – then sealed it in an envelope and hid it. Each week he sealed another envelope, and never opened any of them again. Although he didn’t share the letters or his feelings with anyone else, he continually asked God to help him.

After several years he overcame the problems that plagued him and he was healed. He didn’t forget the problems. In fact, refusing to bury or hide them, he acknowledged his emotional struggles and communicated to God about it all. Then he asked the Lord to help him forgive his wife.

The situation improved and years later he died a happily-married man. As a side note: his wife didn’t change much. It was the process of opening up and releasing the problems – and forgiving her – that enabled him to accept his wife as she was and receive his healing.

Sharing memories with others can release emotional pressure and help maintain or regain positive mental health. But be sensitive to others. Don’t badger or bore them. Be willing to listen as well as to speak.

Forgiving and not holding grudges, and talking about problems in a positive manner, is similar to disinfecting a wound: the memory bank is cleansed and emotions are healed.

But also consider Philippians 4:6-7; “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (NLT)

So spend time with family and friends, develop good memories as you enjoy life. Your happy memories will be one of your most important blessings in later life.

Truth Must Prevail

“With your expertise with words, why didn’t you become a lawyer?”

I’ve been asked that question often and the answer is simple. But first, let’s review the historical American judicial concept.

  1. Innocent until proven guilty. The first reference I could find to that phrase is from the Law Reports of the Supreme Court of Ohio in 1835 that says, “The law presumes all innocent of crime until proven guilty.” Americans wanted to prevent rule by emotion and/or prejudice. And the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution (1868) grants all citizens – including former slaves – equal protection of the laws. We wanted to assure that ALL American citizens were treated equally and fairly.
  2. Everyone gets a fair trial. Governments in the old countries gave preferential treatment to nobility and wealthy people. But we’ve declared that a defendant will be tried by jury consisting of peers in the same locale who desire truth to prevail. This fair-trial principle assures that time is permitted to gather evidence, that truth-seeking lawyers are available to represent both sides, and for justice to prevail.
  3. Justice will prevail. Whether by judge or jury, we want the innocent to be free from any legal retribution, to receive adequate restitution, and the guilty to face the consequences of his/her crime. Justice is the administration of law, the determination of right and wrong according to a standard of truth. And a standard is not variable; it is solid, fixed, immovable.

A legal standard assures equality in the three points listed above because it downplays emotion and over-rides prejudice.

Now let’s review current practices within our judicial system.

Lawyers play games with both defendants and victims. While it is true that a defendant should be represented by a legally astute person (lawyer), the defending lawyers often cover up truth in an attempt to prove the person is innocent. This is intentional. They are trying to do their job. Also, the prosecuting lawyers tend to go overboard in demonizing the defendant in order to gain the greatest ruling for his/her client. On both sides, truth is not the issue: word games are employed and winning the case is the prize.

In order to play the game adequately, the standard of law is set aside. Defendants are often tried outside the locale in which the crime was committed; and as much as possible, jurors are chosen if they know nothing of the case, then are told how they must judge. In other words, jurors are often not free to judge according to the crime.  

Sometimes as the defending attorney sees that he is losing the case, he will employ the procedural rule: You missed this step or the police did that wrong, therefore, my client should go free. Other times the the lawyers intentionally make either the accused or the accuser the target of the judicial system.

What happened to the standard of law? Or, you may ask, what IS the standard of law?

A legal standard is a code that is a systematic and comprehensive statement of laws. The code of Hammurabi dating back to 1755 BC is one of the oldest. The Ten Commandments were given to Moses around 1450 BC, and these are foundational to the Bible. The Roman Empire based their law on the Law of the Twelve Tables of 451 BC (Lex XII Tabularum). Of course, every empire and major nation had or has their legal code.

The United States of America based our legal system on the Bible. It is a Judeo-Christian system with overtones of Hammurabi, Greece, Rome, and England intertwined. And we thrived as a nation as long as we lived by that standard.

Why didn’t I become a lawyer? Our judicial system is no longer based on the standard of law, but flounders on the floating quagmire of relativism and argumentation. Truth is not the focus and is often ignored in the fight to win the case. I strongly reject that judicial farce.

To further complicate matters, morality is also set aside. Right and wrong are decided on the prevailing winds of relativism – not on Hammurabi, the Ten Commandments, The Twelve Tables, or the Holy Bible. Men and women (judges and Congress) over-ride the standard – the Holy Word of God – but I openly establish my ethics on the Bible and on the teachings of Jesus Christ. Insisting on “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help me God,” I wouldn’t last long as a lawyer.

But take heart: Jesus will re-establish truth and law when He returns. And He WILL return.

Itching Ears, Misplaced Devotion

Carol and I know many people who are dis-satisfied with church-life. They want to go deeper into the Word of God. They want to get into the mind of Christ so that they can know God’s thoughts on every issue, but they think of church services as on the level of kindergarten. They place themselves on a higher plane than the Church and look down on others.

However, when I look at their lives, I find many of them to be spiritually arrogant. Many of them do weird things – in the name of Christ, of course. I am reminded of Second Timothy 4:3-4 that says, “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”

One Sunday evening, I watched Pastor Frank tell a parishioner, “If you believe and stick your head out the church window and yell ‘Jesus’ three times as loud as you can, you will be healed.” The woman obeyed and Frank victoriously pronounced her healed. When she died a month later, Pastor Frank merely intoned, “She didn’t have faith.”

I watched Pastor Carey announce to his congregation, “If you believe, and sign the book of life in the back of the church, you’ll never die. No matter how long Jesus delays His return, you’ll live until He comes back.” With people lining up to sign his book, I asked my father, “When Brother Carey dies, that will disprove his theory, won’t it?” Dad responded, “No, son. His followers will just think the pastor didn’t have faith.” Brother Carey died in 1993 and people continue to propagate his fables.

One day while praying, Jack had an experience with the Lord that could have changed his life. Jack was excited and wrote down every detail so he would never forget it; and every time visitors came, Jack excitedly read the experience to them. One day a minister he hadn’t seen for some years came to visit, and Jack went to his room to get the document. The visiting minister wondered what happened when he heard Jack yell, “Oh no! The rats ate my experience!”

Yes, the rodents found their way into the desk and destroyed the document. However, Jack had lost the reality of his experience to spiritual rats long before. Why? He placed his affection on an experience rather than on the Lord of the experience.

Let’s back up for a minute. I am from a Pentecostal background and have been affiliated with various denominations. I’ve also been dis-satisfied with church at times. I always want to go deeper into the Word of God, and I want to know God’s thoughts on every issue. So, what’s the difference?

Many of the folks to whom I referred place their faith in spiritual experiences, spiritual knowledge, and spiritual gifts; but that emphasis tends to overshadow Jesus. Scripture tells us to exalt Jesus, the resurrected Christ, the Giver of the experiences, knowledge, and gifts. That’s where I am. There is a world of difference here. If we are devoted to or focused on Jesus as we study the Bible, He will help us gain the knowledge, experiences, and gifts as He sees appropriate. But our priorities will be correct.

Some friends remind me that First Corinthians 12:31 says “Earnestly desire the best gifts.” They think that’s an exhortation to go after gifts that appeals to them. But I respond, “You are seeking the gifts while side-stepping the Giver of the gifts. That’s backwards. Instead, that verse encourages us to utilize the gift that is most appropriate for the situation, for there is NO spiritual gift that is more important than any other. And if we seek God’s input, He will grant us the wisdom we need as we respond to any and every situation.”

I’ve seen people healed of terminal diseases and seen other miracles take place. But I understand the purpose of miracles and spiritual experiences. Yes, they benefit man, but they are supposed to help us focus our attention on the Lord, to honor and bring glory to God.

First Corinthians 2:16b tells us, “We have the mind of Christ.” That is, Jesus will reveal His thoughts as we remain true to Scripture and turn away from those who exalt either themselves or their ideas.

“Itching ears” generates misplaced devotion and causes us to put our faith in miracles or in experiences. Instead, we should put our faith in the Scripture and on the Lord Jesus Christ.

What’s Over the Next Hill?

“Daddy, what’s over that hill?”

“What do you think you’ll see?” Dad chuckled. He must have been humored at my numerous questions. He continued, “If you sit still for a minute, we’ll be on that hill, then we’ll both find out.” Dad knew but wanted the view to be a surprise.

From my earliest memories at almost 3-years old, I’ve always wondered: What’s around the corner? What’s in the box? How did the mountain get there? What’s fire made out of? What’s over the next hill? I’ve always had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. I still do.

That was a special trip for me. I was 5 years old, and seldom had the privilege of spending time with dad and mom by myself. Eventually, I had five sisters and four brothers, and this trip would be the first of three trips where I was the only one dad and mom took with them.

Mom was taking a nap in the front seat of the Hudson Hornet, my four sisters (two older and two younger) were left with elders in the church, and I was leaning over the front seat looking with eyes wide open. I had never seen mountains and valleys like this. Seat belts hadn’t been invented yet, but we never had a problem.

There were no freeways where we lived in 1951, and our highways allowed us to travel at the break-neck speed of 55 miles per hour. However, some of these mountain roads allowed only 35-45 mph. Our destination was about 400 miles away, and we left home long before daylight.

As we approached the crest of the hill, dad asked, “Eugene, do you know where we’re going?”

“Yes, we’re goin’ campin’.”

“That’s right. But do you remember where mother said we’re going?”

While I was trying to remember that hard word, we reached the top of the hill. Dad pulled over to the side of the road.

“Ooooohhhhh Daddy! Someone broke that mountain in half!” I was stunned to see half a mountain standing on the side of the valley.

Dad already had his camera in hand and was opening the door. “Son, that broken mountain is called ‘Half-Dome’ and this is called Yosemite Na… Eugene? Where are you?”

Dad found me hiding inside the car, not wanting to get out. I was scared spitless of heights, and when I saw the valley floor WAY DOWN THERE, I panicked. But peeking out the window, I couldn’t take my eyes off that broken mountain.

“Okay, Eugene. Would you get out of the car if I hold your hand?”

I shook my head, “Hu-uh.”

When mom said, “Daddy will let you look through his binoculars if you get out of the car,” I agreed to hold daddy’s hand and get out.

That was my introduction to Yosemite National Park.

We drove down into the canyon and dad took me on a few short hikes. I enjoyed playing in the heavy mist of Bridal Veil Falls, then helping dad set up camp. I don’t remember how much of a help I was, but it was fun being with daddy and mommy.

My favorite part was watching the fire fall down the face of Glacier Point. The park ranger gave a talk each evening, and an entertainment group sang as others prepared a roaring fire on top of Glacier Point. Then at 9:00 PM, the ranger hollered, “Let the fire fall!”

Several men then pushed the burning material over the edge with bulldozers, and a river of glowing embers fell more than a half mile (some 3,000) feet to the valley floor. Little boys never forget things like that. (The final “fire-fall” was on January 25, 1968.)

The question of “what’s over the next hill” has never left me. I might see an elk, a river, a glowing sunset, the wide expanse of the ocean, or another mountain. I never tire of it. And I am blessed with a wife who shares the same adventurous spirit.

We’ve been in every state of the Union and have driven over many hills. But there is one “hill” I cannot experience yet, and I can only imagine what the other side looks like. I’ll go over that hill after I take my last breath here on earth and enter heaven. I’m not in a hurry to get there, but God, dad, and mom are waiting for me, and I won’t be afraid of that height. Who knows: God might have thousands of hills over there for me to experience.

Water!

“Water, water, everywhere, and all the boards did shrink; Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.” So states the 29th stanza of the The Rime [Rhyme] of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The somewhat confusing poem is too long for me to remember, but those lines stick with me.

One of Bob Nolan’s songs sung by the Sons of the Pioneers is Cool Water. The first stanza is: “All day I face the barren waste without the taste of water; Cool water. Old Dan and I with throats burned dry and souls that cry for water, Cool water.” By the way, Old Dan is the mule or horse.

There’s much water in the poem and no water in the song – but in both situations, drinkable water is not available. Mankind has fought for thousands of years over water rights, but what’s the reason for this obsession?

Simply this: Humans can live for four or five weeks without food; but barely a week without water.

However, earth is a watery world. Earth is the only planet in our solar system that is naturally and readily habitable for mankind. Water is found almost everywhere either on or under the surface of the earth: from the polar ice caps to boiling geysers.

The oceans are an integral part of our lives because their influence dominates the world’s weather systems. About 96% of earth’s water covers approximately 71% of the earth’s surface. I read that under current atmospheric conditions, the atmosphere can hold approximately 37 million, billion gallons of water – enough to cover the entire surface of the world, including oceans, with one inch of water.

But if the solid earth were a smooth, round ball, one estimate is that the existing surface water – from oceans, lakes, and rivers – would be about 1.5 miles deep.

A water molecule is made of 2 hydrogen atoms and 1 oxygen atom – H2O – and water aids in sustaining a breathable atmosphere and a viable temperature. It is water that keeps vegetation, animals, and people alive.

Solar radiation heats the atmosphere, land, and oceans. As the warm air rises, water vapor rises with it. As the moisture enters the upper atmosphere, it cools, forms clouds, and spreads the live-sustaining liquid across the world as rain, hail, and snow.

Water is the world’s greatest solvent – humorously, but correctly, called dihydrogen monoxide (H2O). It is called the universal solvent because it dissolves more minerals and compounds than any other chemical known. Scientists have proven this by extracting gold, silver, lead, copper, and a host of other elements from sea water. Water from rain and snow dissolves those minerals from mountains and prairies and deposits them into lakes and oceans.

As corn, beans, wheat, potatoes, and all the other crops grow, their root systems absorb these minerals, and they become part of us as we eat the food. It takes water a long time to break down organic material; therefore, the body creates HCL (hydrochloric acid) to break down or digest food, and the watery blood system distributes food, vitamins, and minerals to every cell of the body.

Water is a major component of the human body. Bodies of newborn babies average 78% water but the adult body averages about 60%. The average water content in adult blood is 80%, and lungs are about 90% water.

Water has enabled mankind to build or advance civilization in many ways. Rivers, lakes, and oceans have been major highways of the world for thousands of years. Dams have been built across major rivers around the world, and the rushing water turns huge hydroelectric turbines to produce electrical power for untold millions of homes and factories. The oceans provide food for people and help to regulate climate by redistributing heat around the world.

Water is critical for life; and without water, live cannot exist.

But there is another kind of water that is critical for humanity. As H2O is mandatory for human life, Jesus has provided “living water” that is mandatory for Eternal Life. Jesus said in John 4:14, “Those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again.”

How? That means He will sustain or help us throughout life. We “drink” of this living water by learning to know Jesus, purposely obeying Him, and living to please Him. This water includes wisdom that we need as we interact with others; and this water is necessary in every other aspect of human life.

Without this living water, we cannot enter the kingdom of God. Have you partaken of God’s living-water? Quench your spiritual thirst. Start by reading the Gospel of John. Follow it up by reading the book of Romans.

What Have You Been Up To?

“Hey, Gene, I haven’t seen much of you lately. What have you been up to?”

You may have a different name than I do, but has anyone ever asked you that kind of question? Most likely.

I suppose I have been out of sight from many of my friends recently. Yes, the covid pandemic took its toll on socializing this past year – and still is to some degree. But I’ve been busy for other reasons.

As a former pastor, I receive calls to fill in for ministers when they are on vacation or attending church conferences. Sometimes they call me to preach or teach on a special topic. If you read my blogs, you know that I am a devoted follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.

But last year I added another role: I format books. What is it that? One man said, “I write em, you format em, P&L publishes em.” And that is true. It is laborious and time-consuming but rewarding. I enjoy hearing people say, “I never believed I would actually get that book written, let alone published.”

A question many people ask is, “Who do you work for?” My answer is, “I work for you, the author.” And that is the truthful answer. However, the company I represent is P&L Publishing and Literary Services. You can read about them on their web site at plpubandlit.com.

So, what does a formatter do? The process is not fast, but it is simple to understand.

  1. Someone writes a story. This can take anywhere from a week to several years. The manuscript could be a novel, a historical account, a devotional, a how-to teaching, a cookbook, how to catch fish, or about anything you can think of. But then the writer wants it published.
  2. This step often involves an editor. Not always, but often. The editor is a professional who improves the writing and makes the book a better product. You can find more about our editing services on plpubandlit.com. The next step is where I come in.
  3. The formatter gets the necessary information from the author, puts the manuscript in the proper format and uploads the manuscript. Many of my authors do not go through an editor, but just want to publish the book. As the man said, “I write em, you format em, P&L publishes em.”

I have obviously oversimplified the process, but it gives you an idea of the publishing procedure and what I do.

If you are interested in writing a book but don’t know how to start or go about it, P&L also offers mentoring and project development services. But my part is formatting. If you’ve been writing and you now want to get it published, contact P&L Publishing and Literary Services at plpubandlit.com. Tell them you heard about them on my blog. Or, you can contact me directly at masters.servant@cox.net.

And now you know what I’ve been up to lately: I preach, teach, write, and format. I hope to hear from you.

Have a great day.