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.

Do You Plan Ahead?

Yesterday (as of this writing) Carol and I were driving from Rogers to Fayetteville (Arkansas). We took the Sunset Blvd. exit in Springdale, and were waiting for the green light. We were headed for Denny’s on the east side of the I-49 freeway. Three vehicles were in front of us. It was 8:35 am.

The light turned green. Two seconds later, I heard a loud “WHUMP!” Well, to you, it may have sounded like “CRASH!” or “CRASH and then WHUMP!”

As the dust settled, we saw what happened. The light turned red for the traffic on Sunset Blvd. (which is also highway 412), and two drivers made a mistake. The driver of a white pickup heading east on Sunset was in a hurry, and couldn’t stand the thought of waiting another four minutes for the next green light; so he hit the gas-peddle and ran the red light. The driver of the brown pickup who was ready to turn onto 412, assuming the green light meant “safe to go”, made a jack-rabbit start. The two pickups met in the intersection.

I couldn’t see the front end of the brown pickup, but he had broadsided the white pickup and pushed it across the intersection and over the curb on the south side of 412. The front end of the white pickup was mangled with both front tires broken off. Police were called. As I drove past him, the white pickup driver was holding his head in his hands with his elbows resting on the steering wheel. In my estimation, the truck was totaled, and the driver apparently felt miserable and stupid for running the red light – all to save four minutes.

Being in a reckless hurry, the driver lost an entire day – and his truck. His mistake also cost hundreds of other drivers much more than ten minutes in their schedule. And the other driver?

The brown pickup driver, assuming green was “safe to go”, took off without looking to see if it actually was safe. By the time he saw the white pickup, he had already hit it. If only he had hesitated and looked both ways, he would have been aware of what was happening and could have taken preventive action.

Within ten minutes, two police cars, a fire truck, and two ambulances were on the scene. One pickup was destroyed, another needed major surgery, two people were injured, and hundreds of other drivers were delayed.

All because one man wanted to save four minutes!

In our cross-country trips, Carol and I have seen hundreds of careless or reckless people driving foolishly. No matter what the speed limit (Carol and I stick closely to it), many folk drive ten to thirty mph over it. But what’s the big hurry?

Don’t people plan ahead anymore? My father taught me a very important principle: “It’s better to be an hour early than a minute late.” On the other hand, if I do run late, I don’t try to make up lost time as I drive. It’s better to be late than to risk anyone’s life – including my own.

Planning ahead is the key that would prevent most problems on the road; actually, it would prevent many problems in life. If I need to be somewhere at ten o’clock and it will take thirty minutes to get there, I allow an extra fifteen minutes for traffic delays, and leave no later than 9:15. If I’m going across country, I allow extra time in each phase of the trip so I’m not in a hurry. In our last trip to Tennessee, we hit a two-hour traffic tie-up; but we had included four extra hours in the schedule so we weren’t late.

We should plan ahead for every trip – including our final trip in life that starts at death. Have you made appropriate plans? Yes, insurance and estate planning are necessary; but have you planned to meet the Lord Jesus Christ? After all, that will be the most important trip of your eternal existence.

Don’t try to “run the red light” at the eternal intersection and expect to make it across safely. It won’t work. Prepare now by studying the road map – the Bible. Avoid the traffic delays in life – called sin. And call the Highway Patrol – the Holy Spirit – for advice. You must plan ahead in order to safely reach the destination – being with God forever in heaven.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

A Sword for the Lord, and for Gideon

What’s your favorite Bible story? Daniel dropping in to visit the Lions? Noah surfing the grandest of all tsunamis? David creating a giant headache? They are all-time favorites for most of the church, but have you considered the story of Gideon?

This story, found in chapters six through eight in the book of Judges, is the foundation for one of the great ministries in modern times.

While in Los Alamos, NM, I was invited to a dinner hosted by the local Gideon camp. Meeting at the Morning Glory Bakery, President John Elder, Randy Rowan, Charles Knoop, Kevin Albright and others were in attendance. I have known of the Gideons most of my life, and have known these men for several decades.

When I returned to Siloam Springs, Paul Kimball surprised Carol and me by inviting us to a Gideon camp dinner at the John Brown University. There were about fifty attending, including Marshall Orcutt, Paul Kimball, and Milton Lundberg.

The Gideon’s devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ, and their love and concern for people is unsurpassed. But why do they call themselves Gideons?

I can’t tell the whole story here, but look at several data points. The Angel of the Lord chose Gideon to do an impossible job. When Gideon destroyed the village idol as a result of the angelic visit, the townsfolk wanted to kill him. I laugh when reading what Joash, Gideon’s dad, said, “If Baal is a god, let him fight for himself. It’s his altar that has been pulled down.”

The Lord gave Gideon a fool-proof battle plan; and because Gideon obeyed, 300 men overcame more than 135,000 of the enemy. A few is an overwhelming majority if God is in it. Remember this: God is not impressed with our ability; God is not depressed with our inability; But God is blessed with our availability.

In 1899 three men – Samuel Hill, John Nicholson, and William Knight – banded together and formed an association. They decided to call themselves “Gideons”. They met for several years. The group grew, and they felt impressed to distribute Bibles. Then in 1908, Pastor E. R. Burkhalter, First Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Kentucky suggested in a Ministerial Union meeting that “Gideon Bibles be placed in all local hotels and that the Union be responsible for the funds.”

Quoting Paul Kimball, “The Gideons International serves as a missionary arm of the local church, distributing over 1,000,000 copies of Bibles and Life Books every 5 days. Every Scripture distributed is funded by contributions from churches and individuals, and from the Gideon Bible Card Program. 100% of these contributions go for the purchase and placement of Scriptures (Gideon dues cover overhead). Millions of people around the world have no access to Scriptures, but with the support of generous contributors, Gideons ensure that many of them have a copy of God’s Word for their very own.”

Randy Rowan said, “Many of the public high schools in the USA no longer allow the Gideons to come on campus and distribute scriptures; so the Life Book program was developed so Christian students can share the gospel with their peers. The Life Book is a gospel of John that has handwritten comments and questions in the margins that reflect the perspectives of four high school students (male and female of different ages) and one adult. In the back of the Life Book is a gospel presentation in the form of a series of questions followed by a section on problems commonly faced by teenagers, along with scriptural advice on how to address those problems. Any pastor or youth pastor may order up to 1,000 of these Life Books free of charge at www.thelifebook.com.”

In 1908, The Gideons International placed the first Bible in a hotel room in Montana. Today, as of August of 2019, Gideons are organized in 200 countries around the world. Bibles and New Testaments are distributed by The Gideons International in 107 languages, and more than 2.3 billion Bibles and New Testaments have been placed through the Gideon ministry.

The Gideons are a few people doing an almost impossible task – attempting to distribute Scriptures to the entire world. The devil’s forces fight them but God gave them an excellent battle-plan. I encourage you, both reader and church, to support them financially. The Gideons pay the overhead themselves, so every dollar you give buys Scriptures – and saves lives.

May the Lord bless you as you support the Gideons International organization.

The Ultimate Gift

Carol and I seldom attend the theater. The reason is: even though some movie houses show good films periodically, they normally precede the film with previews of gross, explicit immorality and mindless violence that lodges in our minds. Since we live for Jesus Christ, we refuse to purposely fill our mind and spirit with anything that dishonors God.

But we do at times find a DVD that we like, and — skipping the previews — we watch them several times. One of those films is called The Ultimate Gift. Not specifically a Christian movie, it is a good one that Jim Stovall (the blind author of the book) built around twelve clearly defined Biblical principles he called gifts. I’ll tell you about these gifts here with brief commentary.

  1. As the economy fluctuates, some people lose their jobs. Many others think society owes them a living and don’t want to work. Yet many gainfully employed folk put out only minimal effort in their vocation. Misguided people don’t understand the GIFT OF WORK. This story helps us to understand the value of good, honest work.
  2. Related to #1 above, many people, poor and wealthy alike, do not understand the real purpose or value of money. Some use money as a tool to gain power and prestige while others use money as a status-symbol or to “buy” friends. But money, as any instrument in the bartering system, is supposed to be merely a medium of exchange which enables us to procure the necessities of life and to help others. Jim Stovall presents us with the GIFT OF UNDERSTANDING THE VALUE OF MONEY.
  3. True friendship is a gift. You’ve heard: to have a friend, you need to be a friend. It’s true. Acquaintances come and go, sometimes on a moment’s notice. But to develop a friendship requires an investment: not of money or of material gifts, but of our time. As we give of ourselves, we receive the GIFT OF A FRIEND.
  4. My grandfather’s most advanced educational diploma was received when he graduated from the third grade. Going no further in school, he nevertheless was a very wise and educated man who attained the top position of his vocation. Early in life he realized the value of learning, and he passed the GIFT OF LEARNING to his children and grandchildren. Although formal education is valuable and necessary, true learning is a product of personal initiative and integrity – which may or may not involve higher-education.
  5. I know some folk who can’t change a tire, read a map, or stay employed. The reason is they’ve never learned to value the GIFT OF PROBLEMS. At the first sign of a problem, they cry for help and they are rescued. But those who rescue them are only dooming the person to life-long failure. The truth is: we succeed in life by learning to overcome problems.
  6. This life can be a lonely journey without loving companionship. The GIFT OF FAMILY is what helps us through life. If you have no loving, personal family ties, develop close-knit family ties at church. Love others and you’ll be loved.
  7. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A joyful heart is good like a medicine; but sadness drains your strength.” The GIFT OF LAUGHTER helps us survive and thrive as we encounter life’s troubling times. Enjoying the lighter side of life – even in the middle of problems – enables us to perceive and apply solutions to the problems.
  8. Some folk say planning a vacation is as fun as taking the trip. There is truth to that proverb. The GIFT OF DREAMS is the mother of inventions, successes, fulfillment, and trips. Allowing ourselves to dream enables us to be creative; and that makes life fun.
  9. The GIFT OF GIVING is a highly under-rated virtue. While merely receiving may enhance our unbalanced sense of self-importance, receiving without giving produced the Dead Sea. As we become a giving person, we – again – release our creative spirit and can become much more beneficial to ourselves, to society, and to the kingdom of God.
  10. Man was created to be thankful. Without a grateful attitude, we shrivel up spiritually. The GIFT OF GRATITUDE opens doors for us, and enables us to fulfill our mission in life. Gratitude flows gently alongside laughter, dreaming, and giving to make us a happy, joyful person.
  11. Everyone needs to feel special in some way, and the GIFT OF A SPECIAL DAY can bring that about. Please, take time to relax, stop work, enjoy a special treat. Do something out of your day-to-day or weekly routine. Break out of the rut.
  12. The GIFT OF LOVE is priceless. Humanity lost the ability to truly love as we left the Garden of Eden. Therefore, Jesus came to earth to redeem us. He loved us and gave Himself on the cross so that we may receive the True Ultimate Gift – LOVE – upon which the other 11 gifts rest. Learn to love others, and help others in their time of need.

Jim Stovall wrote a good story and I watch it once a year. But the True Ultimate Gift is salvation through an active relationship with our Lord, Jesus Christ. That good news is found in the Bible, and I read that every day.

Panic Attack!

[Truth waiver: This article is a simplified compilation of various doctors’ reports with my own commentary interwoven.]

What is a panic attack? Panic attacks are malfunctions of appropriate responses. Panic is a response to danger or threat. Short term panic or anxiety is called the fight/flight response because all of its effects are aimed toward either fighting or fleeing the danger. The number one purpose for panic and anxiety is for protection. Example: if you were crossing a street with a car speeding toward you blasting its horn, and you experienced absolutely no anxiety, you would be killed. However, your fight/flight response would take over and you would scramble off the street. The purpose of anxiety is to protect us, not to harm us.

What causes a panic attack? Determining the cause of panic attacks is difficult because panic and anxiety are natural responses, and we all respond differently. However, panic becomes a problem when it occurs for apparently no reason. When our brain senses danger or possible harm, it reacts with an “act-now-think-later” response that causes a heightened emotional agitation. This can bring on a panic attack which is a response of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), and multiple symptoms appear; but those suffering from panic attacks must attempt to determine the cause of unjust or irrational panic.

What are the symptoms? Panic manifests itself through three separate systems. Identifying these symptoms will enable the person to learn to gain control.

  • The mental system (includes feelings of nervousness, anxiety and panic and also includes thoughts such as “there is something wrong”). The number one effect of the fight/flight response is to alert us to the possible existence of danger. Thus, one of the major effects is an immediate and automatic shift in attention to search the surroundings for potential threat. Although sometimes an obvious threat cannot be found, most humans cannot accept having no explanation for something. Therefore, in many cases, when people cannot find an explanation for their sensations, they turn their search upon themselves and often come up with the wrong answer.
  • The physical system (includes all the physical symptoms such as dizziness, sweating, palpitations, chest pain, breathlessness, and much more). When some sort of danger is perceived or anticipated, the brain sends messages to a section of your nerves called the autonomic nervous system which is directly involved in controlling the body’s energy levels and preparation for action. When you perceive a danger or threat, your body prepares itself for fight or flight, and adrenaline is pumped into the veins.
  • The behavioral system (includes primarily escape and avoidance). As mentioned before, the fight/flight response prepares the body for action – either to attack or to run. Thus, it is no surprise that the overwhelming urges associated with this response are those of aggression and a desire to escape wherever you are. When escape is not possible, the urges will often be shown through such behaviors as foot tapping, pacing or aggression towards others. Overall, the person feels trapped and wants to escape.

In panic attacks the physical system becomes the most important since these are the symptoms which are most easily mistaken as indicating some serious disease.

What does a panic attack feel like? When a person has a panic attack, they feel a need to escape. They can think something awful might happen like death, heart attack, not being able to breathe, losing control, or becoming embarrassed. A panic attack causes the fastest and most complex reaction known within the human body. The symptoms of panic attack include immediate alteration of the functioning of the eyes, several major glands, the brain, the heart, lungs, stomach, intestines, pancreas, kidneys and bladder, and the major muscle groups. The cardiovascular system is launched into overdrive, and the rate of respiration increases. The metabolism is increased, and excess amounts of sugars and fatty acids are released into the bloodstream. This physical response can lead to emotional responses such as the belief that one is dying. Generally speaking, the more physical symptoms one has during an attack, the more emotionally devastating a panic attack can be.

What should a person do when he feels the attack is coming on? Because panic attacks are created by an overly emotional response, thinking it through can help calm the panicky feelings. The AWARE method is based on this idea and it works in this way:

Accept that you are having a panic attack.

Watch the attack as it unfolds.

Act normally—continue doing whatever you were doing.

Repeat these steps until the attack has subsided.

Expect the best.

The key to being free from panic attacks: You Must Learn To Break The Fear Of Having Another Panic Attack Or You Will Never Experience Complete Freedom From Anxiety.

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.”

The Real Story

You think you know the story in Luke 15:11-32 because you’ve heard it a hundred times? Keep reading, because this time you might be surprised. Bear with me as I put the story in a modern setting.

*******

A man was successful as a rancher and in his investments, and his family had everything they wanted that money could buy. He had two sons, George and Jake: both of whom secretly disrespected dad, and openly hated each other.

Disillusioned with life, one day George, the younger boy, said, “Dad, I’ve thought it over and I want nothing to do with ranching. I want to live my own life without you telling me what to do. Give me my half of the inheritance and I’ll get out of your life!

The dad evaluated his business, sold enough stock that was equal to half his worth, and gave it to rebellious George. Jake was ecstatic! Now everything the old man owned was his, and he would do everything he could to build the business; for he was now heir to it all!

Over the next four years, George spent his money on prostitutes, cars, gambling, drugs and alcohol. He flew around the country and around the world  visiting the best casinos. The owners got to know him and welcomed him with open arms as they offered him free alcohol and free rooms for him and his current partner. Thinking that his friends loved him, he lavished his time and money on them, too.

But he forgot something: continual outflow, without a corresponding inflow, will dry up the money-flow. And it happened to George. Now penniless, he realized he needed a job – anything that might provide enough money for another drug fix, bottle of booze, or cheap sex.

With a four-year history of extravagant but shameful living, no one would hire him; and all the friends he thought his money had bought had deserted him. Totally abandoned, he figured that suicide was his best option. But as he began to make the plan, a thought entered his beleaguered mind: “Maybe dad will hire me to repair fences, or something. There’s enough to do on the ranch where I can stay out of his way.”

He called home from the Salvation Army office. When he asked dad if he could come home, his father said, “Son, I’ve been waiting for you and my door is open; come on home.” The Salvation Army captain took George to his house to get cleaned up. He gave him clean clothing and bought him a bus ticket.

Eighteen hours and two states later, the bus pulled into town around noon. Wondering howDSCN4942 he would get from the station to the ranch, the boy looked out the window. His mouth dropped open as he saw his dad and a group from the church waving signs that yelled “WELCOME HOME GEORGE!”

As he disembarked the bus, he broke down. Sobbing, he said, “Dad, I’m ashamed of what I’ve done. I’ve wasted everything, and my life is a mess. Can you hire me as one of your ranch hands until I get back on my feet?”

But his father took the young man into his big arms and said, “Son, I have been waiting every day for four years for you. Everything I own will belong to Jake, but you are still my son. And as long as I am alive, my home is your home.” When they pulled up to the big house, his mother, aunts, uncles, and neighbors had a barbeque shin-dig ready; and a huge cake had been prepared that was decorated with “Welcome Home!”

George asked, “Where’s Jake?” Dad said he was up north conducting business, but would be home in a couple of days. But someone called Jake and told him George had returned. Jake blew up!

Jake immediately called his dad and demanded, “What’s that good-for-nothing wino doing back home! I’m the one who has stayed with you and built the business. I don’t want him here living off what I’ve built! Get rid of him!”

Dad responded, “Jake, everything I have will be yours. But George asked to be forgiven, and it is only right that we let him in. After all, he is family. As long as I’m alive, George can stay.”

*******

Dear reader, you’ve been told the story was about George who wasted half the family fortune. But George’s narrative is only the background for the real story. The parable is about Jake’s rebellion, rejection, and refusal to forgive.

CrossJesus told the parable to the those who considered themselves the elite of society and heirs to the kingdom of God. The proud religious leaders thought it would lower their prestige if they accepted traitors, tax collectors, winos, and prostitutes into their society and into their church meetings.

The moral: Pride is just as bad as wasting a life. But anyone who truly repents – whether pastor or prostitute, model citizen or murderer – is accepted by the Father and welcomed into His kingdom.

Humbly turn to our heavenly Father, tell him you’re sorry for how you’ve lived. Ask him for guidance and courage to turn around, and he’ll help you.

Enjoy the Trip

SWOOOOOOOOSH!! It seems that a powerful gust of wind blew into our house, flipped 1280px-Strommast2the pages on the calendar, turned our hair a little whiter, took money out of our wallet, and blew back out of the house leaving us a little off balance. The birthdates of our kids and grandkids seemed to be but a blip on the radar screen. Does time fly that fast for you? Time seemed to 0go a lot slower when we were younger.

When Rebecca, our younger daughter, was in high school she asked me, “Daddy, how can I make time go faster?” I said, “Either learn to like what you are doing, or become very busy.” That didn’t quite satisfy her at the time. But when she went to college and loved her time there, time began to fly. Now that she is a wife and mother of five children (four girls and one boy), she is wondering how to slow time down.  However, she told me recently that she is learning to make the most of each day with her kiddos – and logging the life-enriching memories.

With the days and months seemingly whizzing by, is there something you have been intending to do? A project waiting for you? A book you want to read? A trip you want to take? Maybe something you want to write? Don’t wait too long because we never know what tomorrow brings.

Some years ago, Carol and I found a way to slow time down – a little. We refrain from putting too many items on our calendar, and we spend more time with each other, helpingjanuary-2019-calendar2 each other. Relating life to a cross-country trip, Rev. Chuck Swindoll summed it up in six syllables: “Stop, and smell the roses.” He informed us that merely putting miles behind us does not enrich our lives. We must stop! Get out of the car. Walk around. “Smell the roses.” In other words: Don’t just finish the trip – enjoy the trip. Learn something. Do something meaningful for yourself.

Make your life count or be significant within the context of other lives. This doesn’t require a New Year’s Resolution, a Masters’ Degree, or $25,000 in the bank. Instead it requires the desire to really live life fully – in a Godly context, of course. And it produces peace, less stress, a gentler pace of life, and most likely a longer life.

All that is sometimes difficult to do because we have a hard time deciding what to eliminate from our hectic, overcrowded schedule. You’ve probably heard the statement: “When you’re up to your neck in alligators, it’s easy to forget that the initial objective was to drain the swamp.” But you can ask for help getting back into the boat, and seek counsel to make better plans.

Some of the best counsel you can receive is found in the Bible. When my grandfather was 96 years old, he told me, “Everything you need to know is in the Bible. You can learn a lot of things, but everything you NEED to know is in the Bible. Study it.” He is right. Read the Psalms and Proverbs. You will be surprised at the wisdom for everyday decisions you will find there. The added benefit is reading, studying, and living by the Godly principles there enables us to experience a more peaceful and enjoyable life.

So, cut out a lot of the unnecessary busyness, and think about that project to do, book to image00771read, trip to plan and take, or book to write. Lighten the load by eliminating unimportant things. Keep the important items. Don’t make your life more hectic, but more valuable.

Spend time with family. Attend worship services regularly. Stop and smell the roses.

And all year long remember this: God loves you.

A Passover Drama

PONTIAS PILATE IN CEASAREA:

Passover week is here again.  I’m not looking forward to it. Too many things going on. I’m worried about what those Jews are up to. This is always the time of year when the foolish Pharisees and the Sanhedrin try to stir up trouble against us again. Why don’t they just mind their own business, and let us mind ours? There is nothing they can do to help this world. But the Imperial Roman Army? We spent several hundred years making this world a better place.

I better go to Jerusalem for the Jew’s High Holy Day, and make sure that they don’t get out of hand. I better take an extra contingent of Imperial Guards to help out … just in case. I don’t like these … these troublesome … goat-lovers!

 

HIGH PRIEST CAIAPHAS IN JERUSALEM:

This is Passover week.  I’m not looking forward to it. Too much going on. I’m worriedDSCN0134 what that Jesus is up to. This foolish would-be Messiah, claiming to be the Son of Jehovah, is trying to overthrow the Sanhedrin’s power. He is getting the entire population to believe His stories … His fairy-tales!  And now the people are beginning to doubt MY authority.

I am not going to put up with this any longer. Jesus is up to no good, and I am going to see to it that He is taken out of the way. I’ll be staying here in Jerusalem for our Highest of Holy Days, and make sure that Jesus doesn’t escape. I better keep the Temple Guard with me … just in case. I don’t like these … these troublesome … Messiah-lovers.

AN EXCITED ISRAELITE AS JESUS ENTERS JERUSALEM:

This is Passover week! Our Messiah has finally arrived, and he’s going to push the Romans all the way back to Rome! Ever since Antiochus Epiphanes, we’ve seen many potential messiahs come and go, and began wondering if the real one would ever come. But this is it. Jesus is the one we’ve been waiting for!

We have been waiting for hundreds of years for this to happen, and we’ll finally get rid of these … these troublesome … ROMANS!

 

THE APOSTLE JOHN AS JESUS ENTERS JERUSALEM:

This is Passover week. I’m glad it finally arrived. Praise to Jehovah, I’ve been looking DSCN0574forward to this for a long time! Our Master, our Teacher, our Messiah will finally set up the Kingdom He has talked about for two years. Will I sit on His right or left side? But I shouldn’t be thinking that way. I’m sure the Master will decide who should sit where in the Kingdom. And He does have a lot on His mind these days – probably the most important is when and how He’s going to destroy the Roman Empire and break its stranglehold on Israel.

The Master said that He’ll be eating the Passover with us this week. This will be wonderful! It’ll be our third Passover together, and I have a feeling that this one will be the most important one.

I really enjoy it when the Master spends time with us; we learn so much when He does. He uses common, everyday things to teach us deep spiritual truths. I don’t know how He does it, but I want to be just like Him. He is closer than a brother to me, and … strangely … I feel that He is kind of like a father … but different. I can’t explain it, but that’s how I feel.

I wonder what the Master will teach us this week.

 

JESUS ENTERING JERUSALEM:

This is it – Passover week. As a man, this is the first time in over thirty years that I am not looking forward to it. However, I’ve been planning for this week since I put Adam in theDSCN0728 Garden, and no one – not even Lucifer – is going to prevent me from accomplishing my goal.

Ever since I put Adam and Eve in the Garden, Lucifer has been trying to destroy my plan. His first attempt was with Eve, and he thought he had succeeded. He has attempted other power-plays throughout history, and his strongest power-play is happening right now – but he won’t win. I’m glad that we, the Father and I, didn’t reveal our Master Plan to any of the angelic hosts. That way the information couldn’t leak to Lucifer, and he still doesn’t know what’s going to happen. I’ll stay here in Jerusalem for this, our Highest of Holy Days, and fulfill my task. I’ll assure that My disciples are not hurt.

I’m sorry that most of the people have forgotten the real meaning of the Passover. I must re-affirm it in the minds of my disciples this week, so that they’ll be able to keep it alive until I return.

As I said, in the flesh I am not really looking forward to what is about to happen.  But I will go through it to for two reasons: I want to restore our relationship with humanity, and prepare humanity to fulfill his destiny and complete our plan.

 

What Happened When Jesus Was Crucified? To be Continued.

Anti-Social Hummingbirds

“Hummingbirds are so cute” Carol said. We saw then flitting around the yard several times, and Carol suggested that we buy a feeder to give them a treat. At Wal-Mart we found two feeders: one for a dollar and one for six. We bought the cheaper one just to see if the critters would flock to our yard.

There are about 300 species of these aerial acrobats. They live only in the western hemisphere: twelve of which spend the summer in North America. They flap their wings from 50-200 times per second, fly up to 34 mph – even upside down, weigh up to three DSCN8828Bquarters of an ounce, average four to five inches long, have a heartbeat of 225 beats per minute at rest and up to 1,260 beats per minute in flight, and have an average lifespan of about four years.

We bought the feeder and a bag of Instant Hummingbird Nectar Concentrate. Filling the container with the red juice, we hung it on a pole just outside the dining room window so we could observe the poor little critters as they enjoyed our gift of life. At first one or two visited us, but then all activity stopped. Curious, I stepped outside to see if there was a problem with the feeder.

There wasn’t a problem with the hummingbird feeder, but with a hummingbird eater. TheDSCN8421B neighbor’s cat was waiting for breakfast to appear. But when he saw me, he sauntered off for less populated pastures.

Within minutes, a green ruby-throated hummer zoomed up. He came within six inches of the port, hovered as he looked around, nervously darted back and forth, seeing if anyone was going to attack him. He finally inserted his needle-like bill, had lunch, and zoomed to the nearest crepe-myrtle tree.

I thought he had tired himself out hovering while drinking and needed to rest. Wrong!

As Carol and I watched, two other hummers zoomed up, stopped in mid-air to see if it was safe, and approached the ports. The first critter came back at full-throttle and attacked the newcomers! Apparently, as the first visitor, this pugnacious little rascal had laid claim to my feeder.

I wanted to catch the little beast and take him miles away, but I learned that another one would just take his place. They are territorial, and it is definitely first-come-first-served. But upon reading about them, I found that they need to eat/drink more than their weight in nectar each day merely to stay alive. That alone explains why they are viciously protective of their find. It’s a fight for survival.

So, where we hoped to make life easier for these cute little creatures (that are relentlessly in search of food) by being nice to them, we were merely successful in creating a new battle-ground for them.

That reminds me of back in 1958 when my father asked me, “Would you like to see someone become angry by being nice to him?” I incredulously asked, “How can that happen?” Dad said, “Just watch.”

Relativity 15BHe called for two of my brothers. Dad gave one a dime, and the other a nickel. The one who received the nickel exclaimed, “That’s not fair! I should get a dime, too!” Dad asked, “What’s not fair about it? You both received a gift. You didn’t earn it and it is not part of your weekly allowance. It’s extra. Go spend it.” The one brother was unhappy and began fussing until Dad gave him another nickel – which was his plan anyway. Then Dad told me, “Don’t forget that lesson. It will come in handy sometime.”

It sure did. Throughout my adult life, I’ve worked to support and accrue benefits for my family. But some of our citizens are truly handicapped and cannot support themselves, so our elected leaders have made benefits available to them – and rightly so. But many others have seen “the feeder with the red juice” and zoomed up full throttle to claim and demand gifts that are not rightfully theirs.

But there is a better way to live.

If people could see who Jesus really is, see all that he offers to those of us who listen, and the minimal he asks from us in return, life would be much more meaningful. Matthew 6:33Bible says, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you [assure that you have] everything you need.” Living by that principle would greatly reduce stress and result in greater fulfillment in life. 

I’ll continue feeding the hummers, but I strongly admonish you readers: live to honor Jesus, and reap his rewards.