Gettysburg!

In 1736, William Pitt’s family bought a tract of land from the Iroquois tribe, and soon over a hundred families of Scotch Irish descent, who had left Northern Ireland to escape English persecution, settled in what is now Pennsylvania.

Samuel Gettys built a tavern in 1761, and his son James plotted a town on the land surrounding the tavern. Giving this town the family name, it became known as Gettysburg. By the way, a tavern back then was an inn or a motel with a restaurant.

By 1860, ten roads led into Gettysburg, which had grown to a town of 2,400 people, and several thriving industries were situated in the area including carriage manufacturing, shoemakers, tanneries, merchants, banks and taverns. This quiet little town would be the focal point for two armies in late June of 1863 and would thrust Gettysburg into the forefront of American History.

My family visited Gettysburg for the first time in September of 1996. Driving into town on highway 116, we checked into the motel (not a tavern) and asked the receptionist, “Where’s the battlefield?”

“You came into town on one of the two roads that missed the action, but the museum is four blocks down the road on the right.” We ate dinner but went to the museum the next day.

As we entered the Gettysburg Museum, a poster caught my eye. It said, “The Civil War – Why? The Civil War was the culmination of many antagonisms between the North and the South. These clashes, increasingly more intense over a half century, were social, political and economic.”

One of the curators of the museum said, “The causes or reasons for the war are like a puzzle. In this case, some puzzle-pieces are large, and some are small. Slavery was a large piece, but still, only one piece.”

But how did the puzzle-piece called “Gettysburg” become part of the picture?

Up to 1863, most of the fighting had been in the south – primarily, in Virginia. So General Robert E. Lee decided to take the war up north where the South thought it belonged. After all, the South called the war, “the War of Northern Aggression.”

Lee’s goal was to attack Harrisburg, or Philadelphia – a big target. Gettysburg was merely a path to the target. But Union and Confederate scouts spotted each other, and the battle seemed to develop piece-meal. Southern General Lee advised his generals not to fight there, and northern General Meade wasn’t aware a battle was about to erupt. But it seemed to be inevitable.

Northern troops were pushed back the first day. The South nearly won the second day, but the North held their positions. The third day, July 3, was the day of decision. I’m sure you’ve heard of Pickett’s Charge. It is said that General Lee told General Longstreet, “Tomorrow is July 4, our day of independence. Tomorrow, we win our independence again.”

As Lee unfolded his plan to march across a three-quarter-mile open cornfield, Longstreet told Lee, “General, no 12,000 men ever born can cross this mile-wide field and win.” But Lee was in charge and ordered Pickett and 12,000 men to cross the 4,000-foot open field.

Longstreet was correct.

Approximately 51,000 men – North and South – were killed, wounded, or missing in that 3-day brutal conflict. It was probably General Lee’s greatest miscalculation. Lee should have known better because just six months earlier at Fredericksburg, Virginia, the tables were turned. The South had the high ground and defeated the Northern forces as Union troops tried to cross only a half-mile of open field.

We drove around and across the Battleground, we walked that open field, we climbed Little Round Top, we saw a good number of the 1,400 monuments, we read the battle descriptions, and we read Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Tears came to our eyes as we read about all the Americans who died or were mortally wounded.

You see, this is Our Country! This is Our Battlefield! What was done here, the lives lost here, the Presidential Speech here – it’s all part of our heritage. It is all part of who we are.

Southern Generals Lee, Longstreet, Pickett, Pettigrew, Ewell, Hill, and Armistead, as well as Northern Generals Buford, Reynolds, Meade, Howard, Warren, Hancock, and Colonel Chamberlain – and all the others – are our countrymen. Every one of them fought for freedom. They all fought for what they thought was right.

The United States of America wasn’t the only nation that had problems. Every nation that I’ve read about has had serious internal strife sometime in their history because people use human philosophy and knowledge to govern themselves instead of using wisdom offered by God. People are still doing that they think is right instead of going to the Bible to find out what is right. Proverbs 19:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” That’s why irrational laws will continue passing and hatred, killing, and war will continue until Jesus returns.

Therefore, I encourage you to live to honor God every day of your life. My prayer is Proverbs 19:14: “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.”

Tornado!

Carol and I were visiting our son, Jeremy, and his family in Oklahoma when my cell phone interrupted us. It was a tornado warning for Siloam Springs. We’ve received tornado warnings in the past and were thankful the storms passed over or around our town. But this time, it was different.

After midnight on October 21, 2019, an EF-2 tornado, accompanied by straight-line winds, hit Siloam Springs and a few other places in northwest Arkansas. An EF-2 can cause major damage.

The next day, our daughter-in-law, Angela, checked the news and found that up to nine tornados hit the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The worst of them was an EF-3. Soon, the topic of windstorms, especially tornados, prompted a discussion among the grandkids.

When one of the granddaughters learned that these circular winds can pick up cars, rip roofs off buildings, topple trucks, and pick up and splinter houses, she asked, “Grandpa, how does a tornado pick up huge things like cars and houses?”

Aha! A teachable moment, and five or six grandkids were close by.

“Gloria, what’s the name of the machine that cleans your carpets?”

“A vacuum.”

“Right. And what does it do?”

“It picks up dirt.”

“Right, again. The roller with brushes on it is sometimes called a beater. The roller turns almost 6,500 times a minute. That’s about 108 turns a second. But the machine also has a fan that sucks in air. So, when the roller and brushes vibrate the carpet and shake the dirt loose, the machine pulls loose dirt in with the air. If the vacuum hits a piece of mud, the mud usually breaks apart and the vacuum sucks up the pieces. Small rocks can’t break apart, so the vacuum just swallows them.”

“That gets loud. But how does a tornado pick up cars or houses?”

“I’m getting there. Does your mama have a blender?”

“Yep.”

“When you turn it on, what happens?”

“It chops up food, spins it, and makes it into a liquid.”

“What does it look like as it’s spinning?”

“It pulls the food down in the center and pushes it up on the sides.”

“Right. A tornado does that but upside down. A tornado is like a huge blender but without the blades. The powerful force of the wind and change of air pressure – vacuum – are what tear things apart. Now, let’s put this all together.

Tornados are like a combination of upside-down blenders and right-side-up vacuums. Vacuum heads are only 8-16 inches wide and can pick up dirt, sand, pennies, little rocks, socks, things like that. But a tornado can be as small as 500 feet wide or as large as several miles wide. They create winds as slow as 80-miles-per-hour, or over 300-miles-per-hour. And they can pick up things that weigh several tons.

 “When a tornado hits a car, the car is like a rock and doesn’t break apart. So, the wind moves the car and the vacuum sucks it up. It’ll get banged up, thrown around, and most of the time it’s destroyed. When a tornado hits a house or building, the wind normally tears it apart like a vacuum cleaner breaks up a piece of mud. The tornado sucks up the pieces of buildings and sends them several yards and sometimes miles away. But once in a while, a gentle part of the tornado – that sounds funny – picks up an entire house without shattering it. The house moves sideways for several feet or is turned around without breaking up.”

“But the plumbing and electrical system has to be repaired.”

“You got it. The power of the wind breaks the house loose from the footing, and the upside-down blender suction picks it up and turns it. However, even though the house might look mostly fine, it might have to be rebuilt anyway because of internal damage.”

That brief, over-simplified explanation satisfied the grandkids’ curiosity.

But tornados of other kinds, such as death in the family, loss of job, poor health, breakup of a marriage, can tear up our lives. We might appear to be fine, but we are broken up on the inside, and simple explanations don’t help. A counselor might help us cope, and friends can help us recover; but only God can help us heal.

Don’t be afraid to ask the Lord for help. John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (NLT). Jesus gave his life for you. Turn to Him and trust Him in the turbulence of your life.

Counting Calories – Again

Although I knew my belt had slowly been getting tighter, I was surprised on May 18, 2014, to find that I weighed 182 pounds. I am five feet, eight inches tall with my shoes on, and I shouldn’t weigh more than 165.

We had been in California from December of 2013 through February of 2014, and my brother fed us well!

I told Carol, “Precious, I am disgusted!”

“What’s the matter?”  

“I am having trouble with my jaws.”

“What do you mean?”

“My jaws are processing way too much food and my tummy is revealing the consequences.”

Laughing, she asked, “Are you going on a diet?”

“No, and Yes. No: I’m not going on a traditional diet that people make and break twelve times a year. And Yes: I am going to count calories.”

And so I did. The weight calculator said my caloric intake should not exceed 1,948 calories daily, so I decided on 1,900 calories for easier figuring. If I went over one day, I stayed under the next day.

I started limiting calories – not food types, but caloric intake – on May 18, 2014; and five weeks later, June 25, I was down to 160 pounds. My plan worked. Ice cream, pies, and cookies were part of my diet, but only in limited quantities, and only after a hearty – not large, but hearty – meal.

If you want to know: my daily caloric intake for the 5 weeks averaged 1,713.

Oh, I almost forgot: Carol also experienced significant weight reduction because we both disciplined ourselves to a new way of eating.

That was eight years ago. But as you know, we again took a prolonged road-trip around our grand country; and guess what? My belt slowly-but-surely got tighter. When we returned home on May 16, 2019, the scale lied: it said I weighed 191 pounds! Not to be outsmarted, I replaced the battery, and the truth was revealed: my true weight was 182 – again. I remembered that tried-and-true “counting-calorie” regimen, and I decided to do it again. Because I was five years older, the weight calculator limited me to 1916 calories daily. So, I limited myself to 1850.

Limiting calories while sitting on the couch or at the computer helps only a little. So in addition to sitting at my desk doing a lot of writing, I exercised. I didn’t have the time yet to go to the gym to work out, so I worked outside.

Tree-trimming, shredding the limbs, weed-whacking around our half-acre, mowing the lawns, burning pine-needles and branches, ridding the premises of unwanted vegetation such as poison ivy, etc., was work! It wouldn’t have mattered if I went over the caloric intake because I burned it off. Nevertheless, I kept track and kept Jaws under control. Or did I keep my eating under control?

Either way, I got the weight down to a healthy level – again. (My average daily caloric intake after 6 weeks averaged 1625.)

I ate mashed potatoes and gravy, hamburgers and steak, chicken and turkey. I really like fish. And I ate fruit and vegetables. I just didn’t over-eat. Yes – milk-shakes, ice cream, pies, and cookies were still in! But in limited quantities.

I’m not a vegetarian, but I found myself asking for more fruit and vegetables, and I lost interest in some foods that are low on nutrition. (Some – not all.) Therefore, I felt better quickly and regained a lot of energy.

By the way: I didn’t LOSE the weight because I knew where it was hiding: in the refrigerator, the food pantry, and at my favorite restaurants. The key is discipline.

Our next short adventures were to Dallas to see our newest grandbaby, and to Pagosa Springs, Colorado, to be with our daughters and friends, and I made sure I didn’t over-eat.

Well, I might need to retract that statement. I caught plenty of 16-inch to 18-inch rainbow trout up there, and I tend to over-eat on fish. However, wild trout has between 202-270 calories for a 6-ounce fillet (depends on how it’s cooked). Compare that with approximately 394 for 6 ounces of hamburger, and approximately 400 for steak. Fish meat is obviously healthier for us.

It wasn’t difficult to reduce my waistline and weight. I just had to WANT to reduce, and I had to want to stay healthy.

By the way, you may use my plan if you want to: it works.

Bon appétit, mes amies.

Labor Day

The Linzey family has a current memory of Labor Day. On August 31, 2012, our oldest son, Ron, and his family came to visit over the Labor Day weekend. We had a great time with Ron, Tanya, and their twelve kids. On Monday, September 3, Ron said, “Well, we better get going. The new baby is due in three weeks and we have some preparations to make.” So they loaded up the van and headed back toward Oklahoma City.

As I was growing up in Southern California, I learned about Labor Day in school. However, at times I confused it with Armistice Day because my sister Janice was born on Armistice Day – which was renamed Veteran’s Day in 1954. That made things worse: for how could Janice be born on Veteran’s Day when she was actually born on Armistice Day. Are you dizzy yet? As a child, I easily became confused. Let’s get back to Labor Day.

   Ron’s family hadn’t been gone long when the van pulled back onto our driveway. Ron said, “For some reason, baby has decided to be born that evening. May we spend the night?” And a new memory was created: Little Daniel was born within the hour … on our bed … on “Labor” Day.

     Although most Americans observe Labor Day as a holiday, some are aware of the meaning of the day. What are some of your memories? While you’re thinking, let me share some historical data with you. We won’t discuss Jolly Old England, but will stick with the US of A.

This day is a celebration of the American labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of workers. It’s an annual tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. But if we look at it objectively, we should not celebrate labor OVER management or company owners. No; our achievements are a product of overall cooperation between management and laborers. But we did have quite a time getting things straightened out between the two sides as labor unions became politically oriented. However, without business organizations, laborers are not needed; and without laborers, business organizations could not exist. But someone had to be the authority over the workplace. Although that necessarily fell to management, the compromise was that labor became a cooperative partner.

There have been many labor disputes, such as the massive “Pullman Strike” and the poorly named “Haymarket Massacre.” But not all problems have been between labor and management. Many times the problems were between the laborers themselves and other problems were within management and/or between companies.

Company owners and laborers alike have made mistakes. Some mistakes were based on “company greed” and others on “laborer greed.” But both are encompassed in “human greed.” Many times laborers had proper grievances, and when cool heads prevailed, problems were resolved. Sometimes it was hard to find those cool heads.

But historically, Americans built a strong country. The pilgrims were diligent workers who believed in and honored God. The United States is a blend of people from around the world, and most of them had a desire to be self-sufficient. They wanted to send word back to their motherland that they were doing well. They detested receiving handouts but would rather give a helping hand to others. These folk helped to establish a strong, powerful working force that could solve any problem that arose. I applaud them, and hope America will reestablish that mindset today.

Some of you may have been involved in union strikes. If you have, you know it’s seldom an easy task to clearly define the issues, because both sides act like Republicans and Democrats: too often they create their own problems, hide their own ignorance, and blame each other.

We as a nation have become like I was as a child: we have become confused. Having “grown up” in the 19th century, we regressed in the 20th. I matured because I received a Biblical work ethic from my father who also taught me to believe in Jesus Christ. But America has forsaken our Biblical heritage, rejected a foundational work ethic, and is floating precariously down the river of shame and disgrace. As a nation, we are in trouble.

Our only hope to become stabilized is to reestablish our foundational belief in God and live according to Biblical principles.

Lessons From the Flock – Stay Focused

What are they doing out there?”

I was pouring a cup of coffee – my first one of the day – and had my back to Carol.

“What are who doing out where?”

“You have to look and see.”

It was around 7:15 in the morning and I had already gone out to let the girls (chickens) out of the coop. As I prepared their mix of goodies, they followed me so closely that I nearly stumbled over them. Goldie and Elona pecked my britches as a sign to pick them up and love them a little – which I did. Then, as they began gobbling up the morning meal, I returned to the house where my coffee was waiting.

As I set my cup down, Carol reached for her camera to take a video of what was taking place. I began laughing. I had seen this many times previously but had never seen it from Carol’s viewpoint.

Goldie had entered the coop but left it within a few seconds. Whitey was walking toward the entrance of the coop. When Goldie walked out, Whitey entered, but quickly exited and stood at the entrance. Red Head was pacing a few feet away.

“Elona must be on the nest, Precious, and the other girls are waiting. No one will go in to make their deposit until Elona leaves the nest. And it looks like Whitey will be next.”

“That doesn’t make sense. Even if she’s on the nest, there are four more nests available. “Why don’t they use the other nests?”

I poured milk into my coffee to cool it and to give it a better flavor. I don’t like black coffee. I don’t like it hot, either.

“That’s human logic, Precious, but not necessarily bird logic. Remember when Goldie became a brooder and sat on twenty-three eggs?”

“Yes. All four birds laid the eggs in one nest.”

“They still do that quite often.”

“But Fred has been gone for eleven months now; do they think they can raise another flock?”

(Fred was the rooster.) “Who knows? I can figure out part of their thinking, but not all of it. All I can say is the girls seem to be waiting in line until it’s their turn to pay their dues.”

“You mean, lay their eggs. I didn’t know chickens could be so patient. Look!”

Elona walked out, and Whitey entered. Goldie moved up and stood at the entrance – Red Head continued pacing a few feet away. She would go last.

Putting her camera down, Carol finally said, “When it comes to eating, they will grab worms, cockroaches, moths, and other choice morsels from each other’s beaks; and Elona and Goldie fight each other vying for your attention. But when it comes to taking dust baths or laying eggs, they patiently wait in line? I don’t get it.”

“I don’t know if it is about patience; it might be a matter of being focused.”

The day before, Goldie and Red Head were chasing Elona all over the quarter-acre backyard trying to get the night-crawler away from her. Focused on that worm, they cornered Elona, and all three birds managed to eat a portion of that 7-inch fish-bait.

 The birds know how to be focused. God programmed that into them. As they meander around the yard, they are always on the alert for a bug – either flying or creeping. Sometimes one of them will half-run and half-fly all the way across the yard, leap or fly up several feet and grab a butterfly that is flying low. Now that’s being focused!

Is there something we can learn from our flock? Yes.

Not able to focus on eternal values, chickens are focused on what will keep them alive physically. But it’s supposed to be different with humans. What are you focused on? Fun? Personal gain? Entertainment? Vocational advancement? Vengeance? Disappointments? None of that will help you when you stop breathing. God built within us the ability to focus on eternal values.

Philippians 3:13b-14 says, “I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. (NLT)”

The prize the Apostle Paul was focused on was eternal life with God which he gained by living for and honoring Jesus Christ while here on earth. We must fulfill our responsibilities on earth, but let’s stay focused on honoring our Heavenly Father by obeying our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Lessons From the Flock – Security

Two of my chickens don’t like to be picked up, but something was different today.

I prepared their mix of goodies which consists of whole-grained rolled-oats, dried meal worms, cut-up apples, bread bits, and scratch. Water and the 16% protein meal called Crumbles are available 24/7.

As I tossed the mix out for them, Elona and Baby wanted to be picked up. These two, and Goldie, are the ones who always want to be loved on. I picked up Baby, then Elona. But this time, Whitey and Red Head came up. That’s unusual because they are the more elusive ones.

As I held and talked with Elona – she was explaining life to me – Whitey stood at my feet.

“You want up, Whitey?” She took a step closer.

I put Elona down and scooped up Whitey. She cocked her head, looked at me from both sides of her head, and talked – but not freely as do Baby, Elona, and Goldie. They chatter with me, but Whitey merely said a few syllables. (I’m not joking.)

Then Goldie walked up and began pecking on my britches. That’s her signal to pick her up. Elona does that, too.

I put Whitey down and scooped up Goldie, and she began telling me what she’s been doing lately. I then felt Red Head bump against me as she was looking for more worms. I put Goldie down and picked up Red Head.

She squirmed a bit but didn’t try to get away. However, she wouldn’t talk at all. Red Head merely looked at me as if to say, “Are you happy now that I let you pick me up?” When she looked at the ground and wiggled her legs, I put her down, and she continued her search for worms. I had an extra worm in my hands, so I said, “Red Head – you want this?”

Without hesitation she jumped up, and with outstretched neck grabbed it with her beak. At that movement, the others came running. They wanted it! Do you know the chicken’s philosophy of life? Here it is: If I have it, it’s mine. If you have it, it’s mine. And if I had it but you took it, it’s still mine!

So, I threw out another handful of dried meal worms; that generated another feeding-frenzy.

I often hold all five of the chickens – no more than three at a time, of course. I watch over my flock because (this may sound strange) I love them. I care for them and feed them very well. After losing the rooster (Fred) because I forgot to lock the coop, I always make sure they are safe and secure at night. They, in turn, come running to me every time I go out the back door. Again, as strange as it sounds, these babies love me – at least, as much as chickens know how to love.

Do you know that God loves us and wants to take care of us? But He does much more than I can do for my birds. I watch over my flock on a limited scale at best, but our Creator-Savior is a good shepherd and watches over His flock 24/7. He knows what’s happening with us every second of the day. He desires to “hold us” and care for us, and He goes out of His way to keep us safe and secure – if we let Him.

Amazingly, God is also limited in what He can do for us. What’s the limitation?

We are the limiting factor.

If my chickens wanted to, they could fly over the fence and escape my protective, nurturing care. They would be independent to roam freely. But they don’t. They stay with me, they trust me, they’re secure with me.

But many humans don’t have the wisdom my chickens have, and they run from God. Desiring independence, they “fly over the fence.” They fly from safety and into danger. They run from plenty, and into poverty. That’s not wise.

John 14:21 tells us that whoever loves the Lord – those who listen to and obey Him – are the ones to whom God the Father will reveal Himself.

If we run to God, and remain in His protective care, we can receive the “mix of goodies” that He wants to give us – in addition to His sustaining care available 24/7.

God loves you and desires to communicate with you. Study the Bible, learn to know Jesus, and find your security in and with Him. You may be surprised at the results.

Lessons From the Flock – Eggs

“We got six eggs from five chickens? How’d that happen?”

“Maybe it’s because my babies love me and want to stay in my good graces.”

 “Yeah, right!” Carol laughed. “But who gave the extra egg?”

I studied the eggs. Each bird colors her eggs differently although some are very close. “Goldie gives dark brown eggs; Elona’s and Red Head’s are lighter brown; Whitey and Baby give light brown eggs with a pink hue. That’s why, although Goldie was the brooder who sat on the eggs, I think Whitey was the biological mama. But Goldie gave us two eggs today.”

“So Goldie is trying to stay in your good graces? She’s also the one who has been giving us double-yolkers.”

Carol was right. Within the past three weeks Goldie gave us five double-yolkers.

Carol had another question: “Don’t forget that Goldie also gave us several tiny eggs with no yolks; that was strange! How do they make eggs, anyway?”

It was time to study.

As with women, hens enter the world with all the eggs they will ever have. Our birds started laying eggs at six months of age, although some chickens lay at five months. Here, briefly stated, is the process.

Light entering the eyes starts the activity. Light and heat are the stimulants which help chickens produce an egg on the average of every 25 to 26 hours. However, rather than delaying the egg several hours each day, our birds usually lay them between 8:00 and 10:00 every morning and skip a day periodically. Hens normally don’t lay eggs in the dark, so if the egg is ready to be laid at night, she will “hold it” until morning.

The oocytes (eggs in the ovary which become yolks) begin growing. Normally, one a day is released into the oviduct where fertilization can take place, but several may be traveling down the oviduct simultaneously – growing as they move. If a rooster is on the job, the yolk is fertilized early in the journey. The chick will grow on the outside of the yolk, and the yolk and albumin (egg-white) are the food for the developing chick. The birds need plenty of clean water in order to manufacture eggs.

At about the half-way point, the albumin begins to accumulate. The mass is then wrapped in a membrane which holds things together for the calcite shell. Chickens need calcium to create the shells. About four days a week, I crush three or four of their own dried shells and mix it with their feed. (Our chickens don’t prefer oyster shells.)

The membrane, containing the yolk and albumin, sits in a calcium-rich fluid at the end of the oviduct where the calcite settles or is deposited all around the membrane. It takes over twenty hours for the shell to form. One end of the egg is more pointed, and the other is gently rounded; and normally, the rounded end comes out first.

If the egg is brown, the pigment is the last step of the process because the brown coloring is only on the surface; but green eggs are green throughout the shell.

I mentioned that Goldie gave us several yolk-less eggs. Those are called “no-yolkers” or “wind-eggs.” That happened after she gave us several double-yolkers where two yolks traveled close together and were caught in the same shell. The double-yolkers were the size of goose-eggs, but the wind-eggs were the size of half my thumb. (The wind-egg whites are as good to eat as are the whites in normal eggs.)

All five birds lay the eggs in the same nest – one at a time, of course. And it’s fun hearing each one “sing” as she ascends the ramp to deposit her gift.

Remember Carol’s question? She wanted to know how we got six eggs from five birds in one day. I had the answer: Goldie had an egg ready to lay sometime during the night but held it until daylight. By then, the next egg was almost ready. When she laid it a couple of hours later, we had six eggs for the day.

As I was preparing this article, I began laughing. “What’s up?” Carol asked.

“I’m laughing at the concept of Evolution. There is absolutely no way that birds – with their built-in egg-manufacturing process – could have evolved from a non-bird life-form. It is, also, impossible for any life-form to self-generate from dissolved rocks. Life, including vegetation, requires the engineering genius of our Creator: Almighty God.”

“Okay. And I suppose your research also answers another question.”

“Which one?”

“Which came first: the chicken or the egg?”

“You are smart! And we understand from the scientific viewpoint that, indeed, the chicken came first.”

I Try to Protect My Flock

In 2017 we were visited by a small flock of chickens. This blog, and the blogs for the next three weeks are about those memories.

I evicted the raccoon, ground hog, and opossum from the premises. Then I repaired the 8’x10’ barns to prevent predators from hiding close to the coop and put up new fencing to keep predators out of the chicken yard. The chickens and squirrels get along together, and the chickens love to eat little worms, frogs, and every kind of moving bug they can catch. Bugs are happy meals for happy chickens. (Yes! They do eat small frogs.)

Every night I latch the doors to the coop and latch the gate to the chicken yard. I feed the four hens and one rooster well, keeping food and water available 24-hours a day, and I give them scratch, table scraps, and other goodies every day. I try to protect my flock.

Carol and I decided to let the hens hatch a batch of chicks. All four hens took turns laying the eggs in one nest. I suppose the hens drew straws and Goldie was chosen to be the Momma. Twenty-three eggs fit inside the nest, so we began gathering the rest.

In New Mexico, we raised chickens and turkeys from 1973-1978. Buying the chicks at 3-days old, we didn’t hatch our own, therefore, this would be the first time we hatched … uh … let our hen hatch them, and we had a lot to learn.

I forgot that the mama hen turns the eggs several times a day. Thinking that one of the hens laid an egg on top of the 23, I took it and put it in the refrigerator. (We wash all the eggs we collect.) Four days later, Carol and I were negatively surprised when I cracked that egg to cook it, and dropped a fully-developed chicken as big as the first two digits on my baby finger into the pan. It had previously died in the fridge.

One night I got home late and forgot to secure the coop. The next morning, I found chicken feathers all over the yard, but no rooster. Fred (the rooster) apparently had fought the predator to protect his harem, and gave his life for them. But in the fracas, Fred also mortally wounded the opossum, and I found the opossum’s carcass in the corner of the yard. However, something else (coyote?) had jumped the fence and took Fred’s carcass.

Never again will I forget to secure the coop.

After Goldie sat on the nest for three weeks, the eggs began hatching. Eleven hatched, but one died. I called the remaining babies “Our ten chicklets.” I made sure I closed and latched the coop, but there was something else I didn’t know: the other hens would hurt or kill the babies.

Making the fatal mistake of allowing the hens to be in the same coop with the babies, the next morning I found eight dead chicklets. It was my fault, and I felt terrible. Even worse, while Goldie was trying to protect her young’uns, the other three hens attacked her. That broke our hearts, and I resolved to keep the hens away from Goldie and her remaining babies until they were older. Goldie recovered, but a week later, one of the chicklets died.

The remaining chicklet is nearly full-size now, and she has a name: Baby. So, we have Red Head, Whitey, Elona, Goldie, and Baby. Now the hens don’t attack Baby; it’s just the regular “pecking-order” that takes place.

As I’ve been thinking about all this, the Church came to mind. Too often, if someone’s theology differs from ours, they are labeled or branded as in error. Regardless of theology, if they tend to differ in other seemingly important areas, the church often tends to shun them or separate from them. We sometimes “kill” them socially by damaging their reputation. And if we allow our emotions to control us, we can even insult Jesus by splitting His Church. This ought not to be!

People who are made in the image of God should not act like animals. I Peter 4:8 informs us that we should look for ways to love and protect God’s flock.

Neither you nor I are perfect, so learn to accept others as they are. Love and honor God by loving and protecting His flock. Remember: you need their friendship as much as they need yours.

I’ll tell you more about the flock in the next three weeks.

What’s the Basis for Your Faith?

The title of this Reflection is a question I’ve been asked several times. Years ago, I often said: “The Bible is the basis for my faith.” But my answer has changed. Now I joyfully say, “Eyewitnesses, and the empty tomb where Jesus was buried is the basis for my faith.”

What’s the difference? To answer that, I’ll use a Protestant version of the King James Bible.

This version of the KJV Bible (printed around 1885) has 66 books, 1,189 chapters, 31,102 verses, and 788,258 words in the text. It contains stories and narratives that relate information such as numbers of people killed in numerous battles, lists of kings, priests, and prophets, and genealogies of various people.

But that information, and a lot more, is based on various dating and numbering methods. For example: some cultures listed the second year of the king’s reign as the first year simply because some kings were killed before the first year was complete. Sometimes the second year of a baby’s life was counted as its first because 1st-year mortality was rampant. Sometimes, a king and a co-regent reigned simultaneously, yet their individual reigns seem to be listed consecutively.

Various versions of the Bible – even various KJ versions – have different word and verse counts. Other things are documented differently, depending on the original ethnic scribes or subsequent translators.

All of that, plus more, give people opportunities to call the Bible wrong – therefore, impugning the integrity of the Bible – which, consequently, tends to impugn the integrity of those of us who believe the Holy Bible.

Therefore, I no longer say the Bible is the basis for my faith because detractors, skeptics, agnostics, atheists, and adherents of other religions think they have grounds to prove the Bible wrong.

I now rely on eyewitnesses and the empty tomb as the basis for my faith. As surely as the person on the right of this blog witnessed the US Navy Blue Angles flying over Duncanville, Texas, there were eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection and of the empty tomb in which He had been buried. That means Jesus rose from the dead. How can you argue against a person who predicted that he would die, how he would die, by whose promptings he would die, by whose hands he would die, and that he would come back to life in three days – and it all come true? Are you going to call him a liar? Not me; especially since much of it was also predicted centuries earlier by others.

How can a person debate that? Jesus either rose from the dead, or he didn’t. It isn’t “The Bible” I have to believe – it is eyewitnesses I believe. Witnesses such as Matthew, Peter, John, and others who documented their observations. They had no idea that their writings might be saved for people to read centuries later. However, because their observations and stories were found to be authentic, they were incorporated into a group of books that became the Holy Bible.

Merriam-Webster defines the word bible as: a publication that is preeminent especially in authoritativeness or wide readership. Many bibles abound such as the Machinists’ Bible, Deer Hunters’ Bible, Flower Gardener’s Bible, the Holy Bible, and many more.

The topic of Jesus’ rising from the dead has been found by archeologists in ancient Roman documents because it was a political concern for the emperors. Therefore, it is worth our time discussing it, but not arguing over it.

But I don’t blindly accept the Holy Bible. We can believe it or we don’t have to believe it; but there isn’t much sense in arguing over it. The fact is that the Holy Bible is not just a spiritual book; it is one of the oldest and greatest history books in existence. It’s also a matter of faith. But faith goes both ways: you either have faith to believe Jesus rose from the dead, or you have faith that he didn’t rise from the dead. You have faith to believe the Bible, or you have faith not to believe it. You have faith to believe in God or you have faith not to believe. Everyone’s life is based on faith in something or in someone.

The historicity of Jesus living and dying has been proven by non-biblical sources, so that is not the issue. His raising from the dead is the issue. But you’ll also discover that Jesus’ resurrection has been proven by atheists and agnostics. Of course, they became believers in Christ once they verified the deity of Jesus Christ.

Not only does the empty tomb provide me with answers for this life, it also substantiates my faith for eternal life. And I ask you to turn to Jesus Christ and live for Him.

The Joy of Family

In mid-August our daughter, and her husband in Colorado asked Carol and me to join them for a 5-day vacation in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Our other daughter, and her husband, came up from Texas, and our dear friends Charles and Cathy trekked from New Mexico.

What’s going on? We found out.

They all gave Carol and me a surprise 53rd wedding anniversary party! They even gave me my favorite party-food: chocolate cake with chocolate icing, and vanilla ice cream. That combo became my favorite 60 years earlier at my 13th birthday party in San Diego, California.

We had a great time in Pagosa Springs. Breakfast was on our own; Rebecca, a certified Health Coach for Dr. Sears Wellness Institute, gave us ground-breaking ideas of how to enjoy our retirement years – beginning with proper eating-habits. (We began our new eating plan after the ice cream & cake.) And nightly dinner was in Charles and Cathy’s condo. What a time we had!

I enjoyed Rebecca’s teaching as a Health Coach. Implementing her information helped me to get down to my target weight. Starting at 183 pounds, I got down to 164, and there’s no special diet. I eat the food I want, I have more energy, and my clothes fit better. It’s a matter of eating good food and limiting our calories. My daily caloric limit was 1,750, but I seldom ate more than 1,600, and I never went to bed hungry.

Charles and I did what we always did in Pagosa – we went fishing! I kept two of the three catfish and all six rainbow-trout I caught. I should tell you: I like to eat catfish, but in the future, I’ll leave the catfish catching & cleaning business to the restaurants. Those critters are difficult to clean! The restaurants also cook them better than I did.

The smallest trout we caught was 14 inches, and the largest was 19. The trout are easy to clean, wonderful to eat, and Carol makes trout-fish sandwiches with the leftovers. I like that better than tuna-fish sandwiches.

One daughter and family lives in Colorado, and the other daughter and family lives in Texas. One son and family had moved to California, and another son and family moved to Indiana. But Carol and I don’t plan on moving, so we see our son here in Arkansas every day. We play racquetball, and he beats me 95% of the time, but I enjoy the game. Maybe I should mention: the 5% of the times I win are a gift: he humors me by letting me win.

When it was time to part ways in Pagosa, we asked if Serena, one of our granddaughters, could spend a couple of weeks with us. The request was granted.

Carol and I haven’t had small children staying with us for quite a while, and this was a treat.

Seven-year-old kids are smart. They know what they want, and endeavor to get it. But Serena is polite and learned my house-rules quickly. She learned to clean her plate, make her bed, and pick up the toys before bed-time. And it didn’t take long for her to learn to like my Honey Bunches of Oats cereal and my Braum’s vanilla ice cream. I had to make sure I got my fair share of it.

My name for Serena is Bunny and she calls me the Old Goat. Bunny and I hopped around and had a good time. In fact, we had such a good time that Grandma (Carol) had to settle us down several times.

Bunny likes animals, and surprised Grandma with a palm sized Anura. That word in Ancient Greek means without tail and is a frog. There are over 6,300 recorded species of Anurans which amount to about 88% of amphibians today. But even one frog was enough for Grandma. “Keep it out of the house” was the order.

Bunny didn’t talk much around people whom she didn’t know, but she was a talking machine around the house. Bunny enjoyed putting puzzles together with Grandma.

The day after we returned Bunny to her parents, our house felt almost empty. In fact, after breakfast, I turned to see if Bunny had picked up her plate – but no Bunny. Carol said, “I miss her, too.”

The joy of family is one of the greatest pleasures I know and is one of the greatest gifts of God to us. Spend time with your family while you can and cultivate a loving friendship. You’ll be glad you did.

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