It Was On Backwards

We lived in the high country of northern New Mexico for many years. At 7,827 feet above sea level, we lived about a half mile higher than Denver. When folks who live near sea level take a trip up there and start chopping wood or do some other vigorous activity, they find out what it means to be out-of-breath. Why is that?

Sea level atmospheric pressure averages around 14.7 pounds per square inch, and water boils at 212 F. But the air pressure at 7,827 feet is around 11.1 psi, and water boils around 198 F. Okay, that’s not a big deal; but when we remember that the oxygen content in the atmosphere averages around 20.9%, a 3.6 psi drop in air pressure effectively reduces the available oxygen by 5%. Therefore, people need to breathe deeper or more often until their bodies acclimate to the altitude.

Conversely, when Carol and I moved to Siloam Springs (altitude of 1,132 feet, air pressure of 14.1 psi, with the boiling point around 210 F), we had a much easier time breathing.

Back to my story.

In New Mexico, we lived in the forest about thirty miles from town. Sometimes we had to remove a tree that had fallen across the road. Many of us carried chain saws in the back of our 4-wheel drive vehicles, so if the tree was too large to move by hand or truck, we would cut the tree to manageable chunks to clear the road.

Tornados, which are common in the flat country, are almost unheard of in the mountains of New Mexico. But one day a small twister touched down and took out about 183 trees that ranged in diameter from twelve inches to three feet (plus tons of saplings and underbrush), and it really cluttered up the road.

Seven or eight of us gathered around the mangled mess and got out our trusty chain saws. I was real proud of my saw. Our kids gave me a Sears-Best with a 20-inch bar, and I could hardly wait to show my friends what I could do with it.

I put gas and oil in it, checked the tension of the chain, put on my safety goggles and hearing protection, and pulled the cord.

RRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!! It started up like it knew what it was doing.

I eagerly stepped up to the nearest tree lying across the road and increased the power. RRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!! I was excited and ready to throw chips and sawdust all over the road. With the saw revved at full speed, I attacked the tree. But nothing happened.

I was perplexed because my prized saw didn’t cut anything. I tried it again with the same results: nothing. No one was watching, for they were busy clearing their own portion of the road, so I shut the saw down to analyze the problem.

Have you ever felt an agonizing and humiliating embarrassment flood your soul? I did right then. Again, I looked around to see who was watching. Everyone else was busy working, and I was glad.

I had the appropriate tool, gas was in the tank, and the engine ran smoothly. But I had the chain on backwards!

Completely aggravated at myself for my ignorance, I quietly put the saw back in my pickup and did what any hard-working “wanna-be mountain-man” would do: I helped move the logs the other guys were cutting.

How many times have you discovered that a good plan wouldn’t work simply because you did something backwards? Many Christians I know complain about their lack of finances, but they squander their money at the casinos. Other folks make disastrous or poor decisions because they didn’t pray about them or seek counsel. These folks aren’t thinking properly.

But do you realize that God never gets things backwards? His plans are perfectly laid out. When something goes awry, it is us – you and me – who mess up. Proverbs 3:5-6 exhorts us: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek God’s will in all you do, and he will direct your paths.” Proverbs 4:7(a) says, “Getting wisdom is the most important thing you can do.” And wisdom comes from God.

God’s plans are perfect. Listen to Him; trust and obey Him. God is omniscient and He’ll never lead you astray.

When I returned home, I reinstalled the chain. A month later, I did successfully clear the road of a fallen tree. And if I ever get tempted to look down on someone who made a mistake, God reminds me of when I had the chain on backwards.

Joy in Sorrow

Several years ago, Carol and I were in San Diego, California to officiate at a military funeral for a good friend. Victor was a WWII veteran, and served on the USS Yorktown, CV-5, with my father. The Yorktown was sunk in the Battle of Midway, but most of the crew survived. Vic and my father were members of the USS Yorktown CV-5 Survivor’s Club, and dad was the chaplain. When I attended the CV-5 Reunion in 2006 in Albuquerque, NM, only twenty survivors were in attendance, along with family members and friends.

When Dad died in February of 2010 at the age of 89, I was asked to take his place as chaplain. Nine WWII survivors plus family members and friends attended the 2010 Reunion in Little Rock, AR. Five years later at the funeral, Vic left this life at 94 years of age. It’s always sad to see a loved one depart.

But the end of life on earth is not the end of the story.

Victor and dad were Christians, and we know where they are: in heaven. Death for a Christian is a joyful kind of sorrow. Although we’re glad they no longer suffer, it still hurts to say goodbye. But when a Christian dies – or graduates – the goodbye is not final.

First Thessalonians 4:13-14 is the basis for our joy in sorrow. It says: “And now, brothers and sisters, I want you to know what will happen to the Christians who have died so you will not be full of sorrow like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with Jesus all the Christians who have died. (NCV)” Therefore, death for the Christian is only a temporary parting.

Does everyone go to heaven? I wish everyone did. I’ve thought long and hard about it over the years, and I shudder to think what many folk are experiencing who died without submitting their lives to Jesus Christ. I fear for those who will yet reject Christ knowing that, after death, they will live throughout eternity in torment. Although God wants all people to be in heaven (John 3:16, 2 Peter 3:9), not all people go there.

But if you’re breathing, it’s not too late. As the man on the cross, adjacent to Jesus at Calvary, asked for forgiveness in his last hour of life and entered paradise, we also can repent and go to heaven.

The only way to heaven is to choose to live for Christ and obey Him while we are yet alive. Jesus died to redeem mankind. Defeating death, He returned to life and lives forever. He wants you to live forever with Him. In heaven you will never have to lock your doors again. You’ll never be afraid or be hurt again. There will be no more death. However, before Jesus returns, we get to heaven by going through the door called death.

What does that feel like to die? Many times our kids fell asleep on the couch or on the floor of the living room but woke up in their bed. In the morning they asked, “How did I get here?” My Precious wife told them, “After you fell asleep, your father picked you up and took you to your room.”

That’s what death is like for the Christian. Whether we leave this life because of sickness, an accident, or old age; we merely fall asleep here in our “living room”, but we wake up in Heaven because our Father takes us to our new home. A Christian should never fear death. For the Christian, there can be joy in sorrow.

Are you living the way God wants you to live? If you died today would you go through the door that I call LIFE and live with Jesus, or go through the other door? Is there anything you need to ask God to forgive you for? Don’t be afraid to talk to God about it. He loves you very much and wants to forgive you. He wants you in Heaven with Him (2 Peter 3:9).

Victor and dad were shipmates and friends in this life, and they are continuing their friendship in heaven. Who knows: they may be visiting together right now. I’ll be in heaven sometime in the future, and I hope to see you there.

The Exploding Tire

While traveling along the interstate highways, you’ve you seen burned areas alongside the road. A few weeks ago in northern Oklahoma, we saw a roadside burn that covered over a square mile. Years ago a primary cause of highway fires was burning cigarettes tossed out the windows. Some drivers are still either stupid or ignorant and continue doing that; but currently fires are more often started by smoldering rubber from disintegrating truck tires. How does that happen?

IMG_2208.JPGThe interaction between the rotating tires and pavement generates a lot of friction, and friction generates heat. The faster the movement, the higher the heat. Rub your hands together and see what I mean. At 70 mph, truck tires (at an average diameter of 41 inches and inflated to 100 psi) rotate about 34,433 times each hour and can attain temperatures of 120 degrees F. This heat can raise the tire pressure to about 120 psi.

Sometimes the drivers or maintenance personnel fail to check the tires for proper inflation, and an underinflated tire will get much hotter. And if the truck is overloaded, the problem is compounded. If the heat and pressure get too high, chemical decomposition in the tire material takes place which weakens the tire structure and the resulting gasses increase the internal pressure.

Several other reasons a tire can get too hot are: excessive truck speed, very high road temperature, unequal pressures on tires mounted on double wheels, and over-heated brakes. The consequences can be dangerous; and whether the tire explodes or unravels, public safety becomes an issue.

The material from a tire that unravels and flies apart over several miles is already Semi-Truck-Tire-Blowout-300x200.jpgsmoldering. If the hot rubber lands off the road, the heat can ignite dried grass and weeds. The deteriorating tire also leaves a trail of debris on the highway which presents a safety hazard.

The other problem is when the tire ends its life in a violent explosion. The explosion and resultant shrapnel can cause serious and even fatal injuries.

Some time ago as we were heading west toward Amarillo on I-40, we were about to pass an 18-wheeler when we heard a sound that resembled an army tank firing a round. Simultaneously, a cloud of smoke and dust and a barrage of shattered tire erupted from the truck’s rear wheel-assembly.

In that event, I didn’t have time to think things through and plan my responses. Instead, I instantly reacted according to the training I had previously received. I instantly checked Isaacs-Flying-Debris-01.jpgthe rear-view mirror for traffic. No one was close. I then hit the brake and swerved across both lanes to avoid the larger pieces of tire that were hurtling through the air. Superheated rubber fragments set grass on fire and other shrapnel damaged our windshield. Having avoided the larger pieces, we received no dents in the car. It was all over in four seconds.

But the secondary problem – the grass fire – was also initiated. Have you seen signs that say “Don’t drive into smoke?” I hope you obey them because grass-fire smoke is dense and can reduce vision to less than ten feet. However, the fire was not our problem, but it did become a problem for those who came behind us.

Do you know that sometimes people have a “blow-out” in life? It may be losing a job, death of a loved one, a major health issue, drugs, alcohol, anger, or any of a hundred other things. And the “shrapnel” – some form of emotional upheaval or even pots, pans, and books flying through the air – appears to be aimed at those closest to the situation. We need to know how to avoid the shrapnel, and those who come behind need to know how to safely “drive through the smoke.” What do we do?

We need to remember that the explosion is not really meant for us, so don’t take the hit personally. But we can’t wait to “get trained” at the critical moment; we need to train ahead of time. Our primary manual for learning how to respond is the Bible, and ourBible form of response should be anchored in the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Your pastor and counsellor can help, but remember Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust the Lord with all your heart, and don’t depend on your own understanding. Remember the Lord in all you do, and he will give you success.” And please read 1 Corinthians 13. There are only 13 verses in that chapter, and they give priceless advice to help us overcome interpersonal difficulties.

Let the wisdom that comes from God’s word guide you. Only then can you safely maneuver through the explosions and resulting shrapnel of life.

I Can’t Get Lost

1951 Del Mar FairWhen I was five years old, my parents took my four sisters and me to the San Diego County Fair in Del Mar, California. My paternal grandparents went with us, so Dad was not paying as close attention to me as he normally did.

We entered the east gate and the first exhibit we encountered was the reptile building. Snakes, especially big ones like the boa constrictor and anaconda, had my attention. Boas and anacondas are non-poisonous constrictors and kill their prey by squeezing them. Green anacondas grow to about 30 feet, weigh up to 550 pounds, and live about 10 years; while boas can grow to 14 feet long, weigh up to 100 pounds, and live up to 30 years. Female Boas can give birth to litters of up to 60 live babies that are two feet long.

I was spell-bound by the size of these critters and was fascinated by the way they moved, so I didn’t notice when the family walked away. Dad probably called my name and expected me to follow, but I heard nothing because of the high volume of thoughts racing around the corridors of my little mind.

At one point, a sheriff walked up to me and asked, “Son, are you lost?” Startled, I said, “I’m not lost because I know where daddy’s car is.” Because of the potential for getting lost in a crowd, dad ALWAYS made sure we knew where the car was.

When the sheriff asked me where my parents were, I looked around, and not seeing them I said, “I guess my mommy and daddy are lost.” Chuckling at the rationale of this five-year-old, the sheriff took my hand and said, “Well, let’s go and find them.”

We hadn’t walked far when I saw dad walking quickly toward us. I said, “That’s my daddy!” When the sheriff asked, “What’s his name?” I said, “Daddy.”

“Well”, he said, chuckling again, “I guess your daddy’s not lost anymore.” After explaining the situation to dad, he suggested to him “go light on the boy” and not punish me. But he also advised him to keep a tighter rein on me.

This concept of not being lost has followed me through life. It doesn’t matter where I am, I’m never lost because I always have a fixed point of reference. Whether it was daddy’s car as a child or my home as an adult, I always have a “home base.”

Oh, I might have an interesting time finding a place where I have never been – Carol calls that getting lost. But for me, “being lost” is not knowing how to get back to the house. But I don’t get lost because even without a GPS unit, I always know how to get back home and that brings comfort to my soul. I have a deep-seated security knowing where home is and how to get there.

Carol seldom drives on our trips because I enjoy driving. But one time I needed a break so she drove for several hours. When I woke, she said that she might have made a wrong turn and wanted to know what to do. I waited for a few minutes to see the next highway sign. I knew we were in Illinois, so when I saw South I-57 I said “We’re not lost. Keep going until you reach I-70 and turn west. That will take us toward Saint Louis, and that’s the direction for going home.”

When Carol and I decide to stop traveling, we know that someday we will have one last trip to make. That will be an exciting trip because we know our destination – heaven. We know how to get there – having accepted Jesus into our lives, He will take us. We know how long it will take to get there – immediately upon breathing our last here on earth. And we won’t have to pack anything because we will take nothing with us.dscn0464

Oh, at times I forget to follow Jesus closely, such as when I lingered too long at the reptile building at the fair. But when I ask the Lord to forgive me, I quickly get back on track.

Jesus, as presented in the Bible, is my fixed point of reference. Because I’ll serve Him and live for Him to the best of my ability for the rest of my life, I’ll never be lost. Have you made appropriate plans for your last trip?

Visit to the Smokey Mountains

In November of 2014, we drove to Tennessee to visit my 91-year-old Aunt Evelyn, and 95-year-old Uncle Bert for their 70th wedding anniversary. During that trip, we made a trek into a portion of the Smokey Mountains south of Knoxville, and that’s a spectacular part of God’s creation!

“The Smokies”, as they are often called, are a portion of the Appalachian Mountains which runs from Canada to Alabama. In the area of Lenoir, Sevier, Townsend, and Pigeon Forge, we saw beautiful scenery that far surpasses any televised armchair travelogue. (Pigeon Forge has been built up to be a lot like Branson, MO.)

Near Townsend, we took an excursion up the Foothills Parkway. Stopping at a turnoff to gawk at the beauty, we saw a red Toyota with a man inside watching us. As I approached him, he rolled down his window and asked, “How you folks doin?” And we formed a friendship.

His name is DH Tipton. Pointing southeast, he said, “I come up here every week to look at the beauty of God’s nature. See that hill right over there ‘bout a mile off? I was born there 81 years ago. I’m the last from a large family, and by the time I was born my momma ran out of names. So she just called me ‘DH’, and that’s my name: DH Tipton. DH don’t stand for anything. You should’ve seen the looks on the faces of my friends in the Army Corps of Engineers when I told them ‘DH IS my name.’ And yep, I’m a native who was born over there, right near what is now called the Foothills Parkway.”

Quoting from the Blue Ridge Highlander, “The Foothills Parkway West is a 17-mile long section of the Parkway that travels along the backbone of the Chilhowee Mountain between Chilhowee Lake and the town of Townsend in Blount County.  From this vantage point you can view not only the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park to the southeast, visitors can also enjoy views of the huge and grand valley lands of the Tennessee River Valley bordered by the long plateau of the Cumberland Mountains to the northwest.”

This mountain range is famous for its smoky haze that is actually a perpetual fog. DH said, “Anyone from California, New York, or any densely populated area thinks this haze is air pollution. But it’s not. It’s been here before man arrived. But now that I mentioned it, air pollution has been invading these parts. Visibility has been reduced by smog blowing in from both the Southeast and the Midwest.”

Over 9,000,000 people visit the Smoky Mountains National Park each year, which makes it the most visited park in the country. Clingmans Dome at 6,643 feet, is the highest peak in the Smokies. It’s the highest peak in Tennessee and the third highest in the Appalachian range. However, Mount Le Conte is an impressive sight: although it reaches an altitude of only 6,593 feet, it towers more than a mile over the town of Gatlinburg located at its base. That reminds me of Sandia Crest which towers a mile above Albuquerque, NM.

As we drove through the mountains, we would often “catch a glimpse” of a valley, waterfall, or steep mountainside in its pristine beauty. Schedules are a necessary part of life, but as we drove through this part of God’s creation, we decided to modify the schedule. We wanted to see more.

But time eventually ran out and we continued our trek. We drove to Sevierville and ate at the Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant. This restaurant has a far-reaching reputation, and we found out why: the service and the food are GOOD!

We were continually amazed at the magnificence of God during that trip through the Smokies. I know many folks who think that amoebas, salamanders, fish, dinosaurs, man, the earth, and the entire cosmos just happened to materialize out of some mythical and mysterious big bang. But when we stop and think about it both logically and scientifically, we know it’s impossible for stuff (atoms, molecules, stars, galaxies) to appear out of nothing. And it’s also impossible for rocks to morph into life.

The excellent fish dinner I ate at the Applewood Restaurant didn’t just happen to become a cooked meal and plop onto my plate. It took planning and work. Also, life didn’t just happen to exist: it took planning and work. God did both the planning and work. (The staff at the Applewood Restaurant cooked the fish.)

Visit the Smokies if you can, and check out the Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant in Sevierville, TN. You’ll enjoy the trip and the food.

I Took a Short Break

What do you do when you’re tired? You are correct: you take a break; and that’s why you didn’t see my blogs for a week or so.

Carol and I returned from a 10-month trip around the good-ole USA, and enjoyed about 99% of the trip. We had been thinking about a trip like this for over 30 years, and it was time to fulfill the dream.

What about the 1%? Oh, just minor glitches in the plan, but no major disruptions. One of the glitches was when we reached Memphis, Tennessee on the way back home. We showed up at the RV park and they were filled up. When I told them about my reservation, they had deleted it. I couldn’t blame them; because with all the rain, the over-flowing Mississippi, Arkansas, and other rivers, and people fleeing the flooded RV parks, the non-flooded parks needed to make room for them.

Only a minor inconvenience. We found the empty side of a Wal-Mart parking lot right next to an IHOP restaurant and spent most the night.

I said it was a 10-month trip, and that’s correct. But before we started it, we had taken a 5-week trip up to the northeast part of the country. So in the past 14 months, 11 of those months was on the road in a 20-foot pull-behind trailer.

Before we left, one of my friends asked, “You’re going to spend 10 months in a small trailer?”

I responded, “We think of it as spending only 1 day at a time. It’s easier that way.”

We drove 26,267 miles, and traveled through 27 states which included the four corners of the country. When we returned home, another friend asked what it was like being cooped up in a small trailer with my wife for almost a year.

“I wasn’t cooped up with her,” I responded. “It was a joy to be with her every mile of the way. We’ve been married for almost 53 years now and we still enjoy traveling together.”

That’s why I took a break from blogging. But you’ll just have to put up with me again, because I’m home.

Have a great weekend.

Insufficient Power

In November of 2012, Carol and I were in Dulce (pronounced:  Dool-say), a small town on the Jicarilla (Hickareeya) Apache reservation in Northern New Mexico. On Friday afternoon, Carol was preparing lunch and I was preparing a sermon; but my computer was having difficulty conducting simple operations.
Then it informed me that the battery was exhausted and would shut down in ten minutes. It had been plugged in all day, so how could it be that tired?  Thinking that a restart might wake it up, I decided to shut it down manually; but I first saved my work and printed my sermon notes. Good decision! An unhappy surprise was awaiting me.

Upon restart, an information box appeared. It told me that the computer requires a 130-watt power supply to operate, but that I was using an insufficient 65-watt supply. I remember buying this travel transformer when I bought the computer, so how could it be the wrong one? Then the dreaded order appeared: “Restart using a 130-watt power supply.” Guess what? I had left my primary power supply at home 854 miles away.

I took the fussy computer – and the insufficient power supply – fifty-three miles to a computer shop in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. During the interrogation, it slowly dawned on me: the 65-watt transformer came with my previous computer! When I upgraded to my Dell Precision M6300, I didn’t think of purchasing an updated travel power supply, and had not needed a backup power supply again until this trip.

I had two options: either go home to retrieve the primary power supply, or … no. Driving a round trip of 1,708 miles in eighteen hours was impractical. Even if I could average 95.44 mph for the entire trip, the police wouldn’t approve. I had only one, real option: buy another one!

The store manager said she could have a new power supply in two weeks and my machine would be down-n-out until then. But after making an emotional appeal – and paying an extra $20 – the 130-watt power supply arrived in only five days. “Live and Learn” is what they say. But I was happy that I had printed my sermon notes!

Do you realize that we humans sometimes develop the same problem of exhausting our batteries? We often find ourselves with insufficient power to finish the job at hand. Sometimes we even start a job without the appropriate power. Perhaps we are either not plugged in, or maybe we are plugged into an improper power supply. Attempting to operate on low or inappropriate power often works for a while, but living that way can eventually generate a nasty little condition called burnout. Or even Failure!

There are various reasons for exhaustion or lack of power, but a major principle that my friend (Tom Whittlesey) and I learned decades ago addresses many of them. A simplified version is: “God’s work, done in God’s time, done God’s way, will never lack God’s provision.” Let’s break it down for easy understanding.

  1. A pastor in New Mexico decided to tear down a historic church edifice and build a modern one. He presented the idea to the church body and it was voted down. Nevertheless, he persuaded the board to approve it. He then overcame numerous roadblocks, and arduously accomplished the project. Half the people left the church, and the other half was saddled with an almost bankrupting million-dollar debt. The pastor had his monument but his anticipated feeling of accomplishment and elation never materialized. It wasn’t God’s work; and demoralized, he resigned within a year.
  2. William Booth was a pastor/evangelist with the Methodist Connexion in England. Ministering to thousands every week, he was stopped one day by a beggar who said, “Mr. Booth, if I believed what you say you believe, I’d do something about it.” During the next few weeks, Booth began to realize that it was God’s time to start a different kind of ministry. He resigned from the pastorate and in 1865 started what became the Salvation Army. It was God’s time.
  3. Years ago, the director of the YMCA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, had worried himself almost to a nervous breakdown. He was working about 85 hours a week while worrying about the myriads of problems that surrounded him. Depressed, he finally went for counsel.

The doctor said, “George, you’re going to ruin your health with worry unless you back off. You must turn all your worries over to God, and learn to trust your staff.”

After thinking it over, George took a long walk in the woods. Sitting down against a tree, he got out his pencil and paper, and wrote:

Dear God,

I hereby resign as Executive Director and General Manager of the Universe.

Love, George

“Wonder of Wonders,” George said later, “God accepted my resignation!” Within days his strength returned and he could think more clearly. And within a few months the YMCA operation improved dramatically. He learned to do things God’s way.

  1. God rewards and blesses those who cooperate with Him to the best of their abilities.

Living this way, we can experience a fulfilled, balanced life. We’ll get sufficient rest, eat properly, see life more clearly, and our batteries won’t run down.

God’s work, done in God’s time, done God’s way, will never lack God’s provision.

Hot Air Balloons

After speaking for the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Chapter in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I was going to take Pastor Clarence Gutierrez of the Christian Family Church (Taos, NM) back to Taos. The pastor’s daughter was driving him up from Albuquerque, and I thought I’d have a 15-minute wait. But it’s a good thing I learned not to be in a hurry because the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta generated so much traffic on I-25 that traffic was stalled for more than an hour. I kept in touch with Clarence by cell phone, and relaxed as I drank coffee and talked with other friends.

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is an annual festival that takes place for My Pictures0008nine days in October and is the largest balloon event in the world. Several balloon shapes include: an F/A-18 fighter jet, giant turtle, a car, telephone, cow, covered wagon, soda cans, and hundreds more. Over 1,000 balloons participated in the year 2000, but in order to focus on quality, event organizers now limit the number to 600. Over 100,000 spectators are present each day during the event, with untold thousands more throughout the city observing the balloons as they rise high in the Southwestern sky.

One popular night-time portion of the event is called the “Glowdeo” (glowing rodeo). That’s when participating balloons are inflated but do not lift off the ground, while the propane flames illuminate the various-shaped balloons.

From an historical news clip, we read:

The Balloon Fiesta began in 1972 as the highlight of the 50th birthday celebration for 770 KOB Radio. Radio station manager Dick McKee asked Sid Cutter, owner of Cutter Flying Service and the first person to own a hot air balloon in New Mexico, if KOB could use his new hot-air balloon as part of the festivities. The two began discussing ballooning with Oscar Kratz, and McKee asked what the largest gathering of hot air balloons to date had been. “19 balloons in England”, Cutter replied. Kratz asked “Can we get 19 here?” Cutter agreed to try.

Twenty-one pilots agreed to come, but only thirteen showed up because of inclement weather. That event was on April 8, 1972 and it quickly became very popular. But since autumn produces better flying conditions for balloons, October was decided as the best time to continue the annual event.

The largest and most popular part of the 9-day fiesta is what they call the “MassMy Pictures0006 Ascension”. This is when participating balloons ascend in two waves – 300 in each wave – and the city is filled with “Oooohs” and “Aaaahs” as they rise majestically with the unsurpassed beauty of the 10,679 foot high mountain, called Sandia Crest, providing a spectacular backdrop.

The Balloon Fiesta is one of New Mexico’s most popular tourist attractions, and hundreds of food vendors are on hand to provide almost any kind of food your tummy might desire. For a number of years, the Kodak Company was a major sponsor, and the event was called, the “Kodak Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta”.

The balloons rise off the ground because the propane burners produce a large quantity of heated air that is less dense than the surrounding air, and rises – pulling the gondola (the basket), the propane equipment, and the people with it. This is the same principle in which lighter oil rises above denser water. The balloons stay aloft until the heat dissipates and the balloons begin to come down. The pilots skillfully operate the burners to “fly” the balloons: rising, lowering, and landing where they choose – normally

My Pictures0005But there are also problems associated with the Balloon Fiesta. Traffic gets jammed as drivers watch. Sometimes the propane burners malfunction. Balloons sometimes hit power lines. The wind may blow a balloon over while the burner is operating causing the balloon to burn. Traffic accidents happen because of gawkers.

Pastor Gutierrez finally arrived and we joyfully headed for Taos. The next day, Sunday, the District Superintendent, Mike Dickenson, ministered and we had an enjoyable meeting. Clarence, Mike, and I are long-time friends and our fellowship is based on our love for Jesus Christ.

As you travel through life, stop and smell the roses; don’t get in a hurry. Don’t allow the irritations of life (like traffic jams) bother you, and learn to see the good in every situation. Psalm 111:10 says, “Wisdom begins with respect for the Lord; those who obey his orders have good understanding.”

Take Time to Relax

Get your coffee or tea, sit back, prop up your feet, and relax while I reminisce for five minutes.

Several years ago, Carol and I spent a month in Southern California assisting with some family issues. As a native of San Diego, I don’t visit California without visiting the coast. Watching the waves roll in with the accompanying sound of the surf is therapeutic for me. I can sit for hours watching the ocean; it changes from one minute to the next. What some people call “the pounding surf” is actually music to my ears.IMG_0151

I also like to walk on the beach, especially at low tide, and collect shells. Sand-dollars are my favorite, but any pretty unbroken shell goes into my plastic bag. Many people collect sand dollars and use them in their hobbies and craft-work. They are commonly used in creating home décor: wedding favors and place cards are high on the list. Some paint beach scenes, sunsets or put personalized messages on them. But I collect the shells, clean them, and give them to family members and to children who don’t know how to find the unbroken ones.

It’s amazing to see how many people like to go surfing. No, I don’t mean surfing the internet or television. These men and women ride their surfboards (from 6 to 12 feet long) for hours, day-after-day trying to “catch the big wave.” The boards are usually tied to their ankles so they don’t get away when the surfers get dumped. Their wet-suits keep them relatively warm, but they also reduce sunburn.

Remember The Beach Boys? They enhanced the popularity of surfing by writing and singing their 1963 hit: “Surfin’ USA.” The words to the second verse are:

“You’d catch ‘em surfin at Del Mar (Inside, outside, U.S.A.), Ventura County line, Santa Cruz and Tressels, Australia’s Narabine, All over Manhattan, And down Doheny way: Everybody’s gone surfin’ — Surfin’ U.S.A.”

Many of those dedicated surfin’ souls hit the water at sunup, and surfed until they needed to eat or tuckered themselves out. And as I watched them, I couldn’t help but hear the refrain running through my mind: “Everybody’s gone surfin’ — Surfin’ U.S.A.”

Carol and I enjoyed walking on the second-longest wooden pier on the west coast (a DSCN12901,954-foot-long pier in Oceanside), eating at Ruby’s Restaurant at the end, and watching the California Brown Pelicans go fishing. They would circle an area where the school of fish were, fly to about twenty feet above the water, then drop like a dive-bomber – folding their wings before they hit the water. Under water, they immediately open their beaks and scoop up fish. Surfacing, they swallow their hapless prey, then start the process over. Many times thirty or forty pelicans were fishing simultaneously.

Where the pelicans were diving, there was often a flock of California Cormorants sitting on the water. They would dip below the surface, swim to the school of fish, grab their share of the meal, then resurface. To everyone’s delight, the dolphins would often show up. Everyone liked seeing the dolphins surfacing; leisurely taking a breath of air between gulps of fish. And, of course, the ever-present sea-gulls were squawking as they fought for the left-over food. For that group, it was definitely first-come-first-served! On our last walk on the pier, we saw a school of anchovies swimming around the pier. The school was about fifty-feet in diameter and perhaps twenty-feet deep.

No fishing license is required while fishing on the pier, and we saw people from many DSCN1358different countries tending their fishing poles. Sand-perch, sting-rays, skates, mackerel, and anchovies were the common catch on that trip.

Thinking of fishing makes me hungry, so I’ll remind you: the food in Ruby’s Restaurant at the end of the Oceanside, California Pier is very good!

I remember another trip we made to the Coast in January of 1993 for my Grandmother Linzey’s funeral. The weather in Southern California was mild, as it usually is, and Michael (our son who was ten at the time) said, “Dad, a California winter is like a New Mexico summer!” Indeed, it was. The temperature was around 73o F on the Southern California coast at the time.

That’s enough reminiscing for now. This evening, why don’t you sit back, relax, and take time to review some of your memories?

A Labor of Love

gene's info 120For over three years we were pastors of a church in Springer, New Mexico that was 200 miles from our home. Some routes went through winding mountainous roads and took longer. Living in the hills in northern New Mexico and driving the 6-8 hour trip to church and back every weekend – while working 50-60 hours a week at a national laboratory – we were late for church only twice. You may ask “Why did you accept that challenge?” That, and the results of our efforts, is another story for another time. Today’s story is about the trips; and of the eight possible routes to church, we found six that we took quite often.

In all our travels in over 52 years of marriage, we have had fun. Even when we made a wrong turn or were detoured due to highway work, we made a mini-vacation out of it. Last December, traveling from Missouri to home, we decided to take some roads we had never been on. We discovered only one problem: highway 221 turned into a gravel road. We laughed, turned around, and went another direction which took us through Eureka Springs; so we stopped and had dinner before resuming our trek. We make enjoyable memories out of potential irritations in life. But back to the story.

One Sunday morning, one of our deacons asked, “Pastor, what’s on your hands?” I told him I was bleeding. He said, “Blood isn’t that color. What’d you do?” Carol quickly said, “We went through Mora, and picked raspberries yesterday.”

mora, nmOne of our routes to Springer was through Espanola and up the canyon through which flowed the Rio Grande. At La Cienaga we turned east toward Sipapu then over the mountains and down into Mora. And that is where my hands turned red – or maybe, purple. Mora is well-known for its raspberry farm, and Carol had often asked me to stop and pick raspberries. Each time I said something like: “I’m going to be preaching and teaching, and berry-picking isn’t on my mind.” Although that was true, it was also a smoke-screen: I didn’t want to pick berries.

Now, for all you who have never picked blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, etc., let me tell you: I don’t enjoy that activity. We reach inside the foliage to find the berries, and these bushes have thorns containing toxin. Picking berries was both painful and made my arms itch for over a week. Now you might understand why I don’t like picking berries.

But one weekend my Precious wife was so desirous for those delicious, reddish-purple clumps ofraspberries juice, and she was so gentle in her running commentary about how delicious those berries would be in ice cream or made into a berry jam, that my mouth drooled and I just had to stop. When Carol excitedly asked, “Are we going to pick berries?” I said, “Yes. I don’t want to, so this will be a labor of love.”

“Yeah, right! You just want berries and ice cream!”

She was at least partly correct.

That time of year the berries were ripe, and many of them leaked their contents because they split or crushed easily as we picked them. But we left with five quarts, and Carol kept her word: they were GOOD over ice cream, over angel-food cake, in fruit salads, and made into jam. In the long run, I was glad I stopped. (But my hands did get stained with the juice, and I itched for a week.)

But do you know that someone else performed a labor of love that far surpassed anything I could dscn0464do ever for Carol? Where I merely paused on my trip and received a few scratches on my arms, Jesus deliberately left His home in heaven and came to earth to rescue mankind from an eternal separation from God the Father. Jesus didn’t have mere scratches on His arms; the soldiers made a wreath containing inch-long needle-sharp thorns and jammed it onto His head. Jesus purposely allowed Himself to be killed in a gruesome manner in order to reveal the depth of the pain we would suffer eternally without God.

But Jesus doesn’t want us to suffer, and because of Jesus’ labor of love, we can have a home with Him forever. (Romans 8:35-39)

The results of my labor lasted only several months; but the results of Jesus’ labor will never end. I hope you accept God’s Love through Jesus Christ, our Savior. (Luke 19:10, John 3:16)