Are You Creating a Legacy?

Are you creating a legacy? That’s actually an invalid question, because you ARE creating DSCN1350ba legacy. There are two kinds: physical and spiritual. So, what kind and what quality of a legacy are you creating?

Webster’s dictionary says legacy is defined as something received from an ancestor or predecessor, or from the past. It also refers to the memory of those who have passed from this life and to what contributions they made to society while they were alive; and that reflects on the person’s character. So, if you were to leave this life in one, five, ten, or fifteen years from now, what legacy would you like to leave? How would you like to be remembered?

A funeral setting might help you think about it. When the person (parent, relative, friend, neighbor, whomever) in the casket was lowered into the ground and you left the cemetery, what left with you? Money? Land? Clothing? No. So if none of that left the cemetery with you, what did?  MEMORIES! The person’s character – exemplary or disappointing – does not get buried, but remains in the minds of all those who know him or her – or even know OF him.

I’ve read about a funeral where the talk of the town was how much the man loved people and how much he will be missed. Hundreds of people attended the funeral. But although the deceased didn’t have a penny to his name, he left a rich legacy. Another time I observed the funeral of a wealthy man where the attendance was minimal – not even all the family was there. Oh, they got their inheritance – the physical portion of the legacy – but the spiritual side was bankrupt. In that case the talk of the town was how the world will be better off without him.

Sadly, in the second funeral, even the money (physical legacy) that was left to the heirs will not, in the long run, help them live better lives. Their bitterness (spiritual legacy) will lead them to use their money unwisely, and they will be left with nothing but disappointing memories.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not against money: I could use a little more of it, myself.

That reminds me of what Tevye said in Fiddler On The Roof: “If money is a disease, may God smite me with it; and may I never recover!” Yes, that was intended to be humorous. In that film, Tevye’s legacy was (in spite of his faults): stability within the community.

Another way to view a legacy is a launching pad. It takes thousands of workers to build our rockets and space shuttles. I was on several of those teams. Each person designs, programs, or builds his own portion, then hands it (the legacy) to someone who takes the product to the next level. There is always someone who will pick up where we leave off. If we do our part well, we have created a good legacy. Then when all the parts are finally assembled into a rocket and space shuttle and placed on the launching pad, what happens? If the vehicle is assembled properly the passengers will safely reach the space station, the moon, or whatever destination has been programmed.

So, what legacy are you creating for those who come after you? Remember, the physical legacy is needed and helpful if used wisely. But it needs the support of a wholesome spiritual legacy to fully help family, friends, and society. Someone is going to take what you hand them and build on it. So, what do you have to give?

A.W. Tozer once said, “When a man of God dies, nothing of God dies. The legacy of the man lives on!”

Paul said in Galatians 6:7, “You will always reap what you sow.” And it has been proven throughout history that others will be either blessed or hurt by how we live. Proverbs 11:18 tells us that if we do what is right, we will be rewarded. Proverbs 22:9 informs us that those who share what they have with others will be blessed. Those three verses talk about our legacy.

So, what is the name of the legacy are you creating? Selfishness? Hedonism? Monetary? Loving? Giving? Godly? Altruism? Think about it: will people remember you for what you gave them, or for who you are? How will you be remembered?

The answer to that question will be your legacy.

A Day At A Time

Carol and I recently completed a ten-month trip around this wonderful country. Starting the trip with 30,159 miles on the odometer, we ended the trip with 52,143. Simple math says that we drove 21,984 miles. However, the trailer we pulled logged only 9,105 miles which reveals that every time we parked the trailer, we did a lot of other traveling. Moss does not grow on our wheels.

And a special note: after ten months of being cooped up in a 23-foot trailer with each other, Carol and I are still deeply in love with each other.

In those 10 months and almost 22,000 miles, we were blessed with no major malfunctions in the trailer, car, or driver. Although we missed a turn here and there – excuse me, I missed a turn here and there – we never got lost. We just recalibrated our GPS, made a correction, and kept on trucking. We took the trip one day at a time and enjoyed it.

That reminds me of my Uncle Bert. In April of 2014 we visited him, Aunt Evelyn, cousin Cathy and her husband, Curtis on our way to Washington, D.C. We hadn’t seen them for several years and were looking forward to this visit.

Uncle Bert – a United States Marine, a poet, and a former minister with the Church of Christ pictured here with his daughter, Cathy – was 94-years-old, and he delighted us with his quick wit and good memory. He spent some time regaling us with stories of the past including memories of Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal in World War II.

But what fascinated me most about Uncle Bert was his devotion to Jesus Christ and his wonderful ability to play the piano at 94 years of age. When he asked if I had read his poem A Day At A Time, I told him I had not. He brought it out, and it made a strong impression on me as I read it. He gave me an autographed copy and gave me permission to use it any time I thought it might help people.

Here it is. Please read it and consider the message:

A Day At A Time:

I take life a day at a time,

That’s the way it’s given to me.

Don’t make plans too far down the line,

Today’s good enough, don’t you see?

I may be here on the morrow,

And then again, I may not.

But my heart’s not filled with sorrow,

For life’s given me a lot.

For my Father’s in control,

And He’s been so good to me.

He gave His Son to save my soul,

His Grace is sufficient for me.

So I take each day that He gives me,

And fill it to the brim

Until He comes to take me

To go and live with Him.

Why did it make such an impression on me? Uncle Bert wrote it in 1991 – twenty-three years earlier! Not only is it filled with hope, faith, and confidence in the Lord, but it was as true in his life at 94 years of age as it was when he was 71. And it is true in my life, as well.

The poem reminds me of a song that starts with these words: “One day at a time, Dear Jesus; that’s all I’m asking of you.” But because we humans are easily prone to get stressed out, I think Jesus would respond by saying, “On the Contrary: One day at a time, Dear Christian; that’s all I’m asking of YOU.” Scripture exhorts us to take a day at a time, for Jesus said in Matthew 6:34 “Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s concerns are enough for today.”

Jesus isn’t telling us not to plan for tomorrow, next week, or next year. He is simply exhorting us not to worry about anything. If our faith is truly grounded in Jesus Christ, and if we know that He cares for us, we will not worry.

Not only does worrying contradict our faith in God, it damages our physical bodies. It also blocks the creativity we need to solve today’s problems. So read the poem again, and ask the Lord to help you to truly trust in Him.

Aunt Evelyn graduated to heaven in her mid-nineties, and Uncle Bert when he was 99. I hope to see Cathy and Curtis again in this life, but I’ll see Uncle Bert and Aunt Evelyn in heaven.

Until then, I’ll just take life a day at a time.

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?

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.

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.

Life Viewed From A Higher Plane

Trip with Bill and Marilyn0003Several years ago, our son (Ron) and grandsons (Josiah and Joshua) flew from Oklahoma City to the Grand Canyon. For those of you who may be geographically-challenged, one way to reach the Grand Canyon is by driving about 80 miles north-northwest out of Flagstaff, Arizona.

Since they are not birds, they flew in a single-engine low-wing airplane. Josiah was seventeen years old and was taking lessons to receive his pilot’s license; therefore, the owner of the plane (Josiah’s instructor) flew with them. The picture of Josiah in the yellow plane below is not the one he flew to the Grand Canyon.

When I asked Josiah about the flight, he said, “The flight to the Grand Canyon wasDSCN1723 wonderful! We flew in a Piper Turbo Arrow and the altimeter had a reading of about 10,000 feet for the majority of the flight. It was amazing how things appeared to be so small when we were in flight. Structures that are rather large on the ground seemed to have minimal noticeability from the air. The ground looked like a map that had been laid out beneath us, and we could see almost 100 miles in every direction.”

The Piper can fly at 19,000 feet if necessary, but it gets better fuel economy at 10,000. They took off in Oklahoma City which is already 1,200 feet above sea level, and flew to the Grand Canyon South rim which is 6,800 feet. So it appeared that they were losing altitude throughout the westward flight.

While a car will travel a mile in 51 seconds (at 70 mph), the Piper while flying about 185 mph (169 knots), will take 20 seconds to cover one mile. Several other comparisons: our car is dwarfed by the size of the 80-foot 18-wheelers, but those trucks look like ants from the plane; the country-sections (square mile plots of land) look like a checker-board; and there is a LOT LESS traffic at 10,000 feet altitude!

Put briefly: everything seems to be a lot smaller and life is much calmer when viewed from a higher plane. (Excuse the pun.)

Do you know that can be said about us while living in our every-day life here on the ground? Mothers with babies can get tied-up-in-knots as they try to balance home-making and tending to the needs of the family. Adults can get caught in the proverbial rat-race while trying to make a living and making ends meet. Administrators and managers can lose sight of the goal in the midst of financial and employee crises. Pastors and elders can lose their sensitivity to the Lord while attempting to counsel parishioners, balance the budget and building the church. And people can get totally dis-oriented and derailed in the midst of hurricanes, tornadoes, mudslides, earthquakes, and tsunamis. Life can become one grand maelstrom!

PICT1706But things are much calmer when we view our situations from a higher plane – from God’s perspective. Josiah said, “Flying in a plane presents a good comparison of what God sees when looking at our lives. As we need to trust our flight instruments, we also need to trust and obey with the understanding that He sees the big picture.”

Josiah is correct: in the midst of your personal storm – whatever it is – ask the Lord to help you rise above the problems and see the bigger picture. Joseph told his brothers in Genesis 50:19, “What you meant for evil, God used for good.”

Therefore, it is possible that the bad that seems to be happening to you might be allowed by God in order to bring something better into your life. But planned or not, if we trust God with our lives and obey Him, He can bring good out of every situation. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

If your storm is a result of your own error or sin, repent; ask the Lord to forgive you and to help you to rectify the situation. Did you lose your job? Ask the Lord for direction. Is your marriage on the rocks? Don’t blame God or ask him to help you get a divorce; rather, ask the Lord for wisdom and guidance. Are your finances lacking? Ask the Lord for wisdom on how to live within your available income – then you can ask Him for guidance regarding increased income.earth

Ask the Lord to help you see life the way he sees it. Life is calmer from his vantage point because we can see from a wider perspective. God enables us to see the causes of our problems and how to resolve them; and there is a lot less frustration, less worry, and much more peace when we view life from a higher plane.

The Cat, Rabbit, and Hawk

DSCN8427“Carol, look in the back yard!” I called to my wife. A large cat was lying motionless on the lawn intently observing something. But why was it there? What was it looking at?

Many animals visit our yard: squirrels, rabbits, lizards, opossums, racoons, over thirty varieties of birds, and four varieties of snakes. At times we are visited by deer, turtles, the neighbor’s pets, and this stray cat. 

We’ve always been partial to cats and rabbits because they are soft and cuddly. Well, I DSCN8448was partial to rabbits until I planted our garden. The furry little creatures seem to have a taste for my beet greens, Carol’s pea plants, and our broccoli. As I was chasing one rabbit out of the garden, I hollered, “Have you ever heard of rabbit stew?” The leporid probably didn’t hear me as it darted through – yes, THROUGH – the chain link fencing. I didn’t know they could fit through the diagonal openings. From the next yard it stopped, turned around, and looked at me as if to say, “You can’t catch me!” only to run for its furry life as the neighbor’s barking dog took up the chase. Good dog!

In deference to Carol, I decided not to shoot the furry critters; but I also announced that I would no longer run out and chase them out of the organic grocery store. And in time the rabbits felt safe and became more lethargic as they regained emotional control of the yard. This brings us back to the motionless cat in the back yard.

Carol and I observed the cat’s posture and the direction it was facing. It was flat on the ground, ears laid back, eyes just above the grass-line – reminding us of a lion on the prowl. Then Carol asked, “Is that a dog in the garden?” I saw a brown animal, but from my vantage point of looking through the tomato bush, I couldn’t tell. Then, the brown thing moved.

 “It’s a … is it an … owl?” I asked incredulously? Then it raised its head, and with a three-foot wingspan it gracefully flew away. BW Hawk

 “It’s a big hawk!” Carol exclaimed. It was a beautiful, mature Broad-winged Hawk. These birds can see a rabbit from two miles away, but with our trees surrounding the yard, it must have been a mile straight up. And with a deathly-quiet diving velocity of almost 200 MPH, the unwary rabbit didn’t have a chance. Why did the Broad-wing leave without finishing its dinner?

Then the large cat stood up and … large cat? It was a normal-sized critter. What happened? The feline apparently had several things going through its cunning little mind: “I’ve never seen a bird that big! Is it edible? Make myself look as large as possible for protection. Proceed with caution!”

The critter flattened and made itself look as wide as possible and was inching its way toward the hawk; but the hawk finally saw the “large” cat approaching, got nervous, and flew for safety. The cat walked up to where the bird had been, saw the rabbit’s carcass, decided it wasn’t that hungry, then it also left the scene of the crime. That left just the lifeless intruder and me. At that point I wasn’t upset with the rabbit, and actually felt sorry for it.

As I buried it, I began thinking about the situations we humans get into. The hapless rabbit merely wanted a tasty salad, and ventured out into the open where it was unprotected. What is it that misguided humans want? People often venture into areas of life that God has declared off limits because they are dangerous physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Our conscience and the Holy Spirit try to keep us out of the “garden” but as we focus on the “beet greens, pea plants, and the broccoli” of life, we tune out the warnings and gradually become insensitive to the dangers accompanying our actions. Then judgment dscn0464appears “out of the blue,” like that Broad-winged Hawk after the rabbit. Then we ask, “How did I get caught?”

We have no excuse because Romans 2:15 tells us, “In their hearts they [people] know what is right and wrong, just as the law commands. And they show this by their consciences. Sometimes their thoughts tell them they did wrong, and sometimes their thoughts tell them they did right.

The rabbit let its guard down, lived carelessly, and died. Let’s not make that mistake: but obey Scripture, honor Jesus Christ and others, and live.

God Said What?

God said “Let us make man in our image.” And when I say “God,” I mean Jehovah, YHWH, the Creator, Jesus, the Supreme God in the Bible. So, if we’re made in His image, what does God look like? Has anyone seen Him?

Not lately, but Abraham might have, Moses saw God’s afterglow, and Adam conversed with God daily – for a while.

The Scriptures tell us: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; PICT0617male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). God is a spiritual being, and we are spiritual beings – inside human bodies. Mankind was the high point of God’s creative work here on earth. God created us as an entirely new species, quite different from animals. And to emphasize this distinction, God placed man over the animals. In Genesis 1:28 God told Adam, “Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Animals can’t do that.

How else are we different from critters? Mankind is capable of conscious, meditative, cognitivePICT0608 interaction. Evolutionist Julian Huxley noted that “Only humans possess true language, conceptual thought, art, humor, science and religion.” And only humans can record and direct the course of history. Humans can express themselves analytically. And it is obvious that only humans have the ability to communicate through complex, multi-lingual skills. All this sets mankind apart from the animal kingdom.

Marriage is another example of how we’re made in the image of God. Adam and Eve’s union was much more significant than two beings openly mating in the jungle like monkeys or dogs. Marriage was specifically one male with one female (a homosexual union goes against nature and against God’s plan. Romans 1:21-28). Marriage is a compassionate, loving, fruitful, spiritual and social union.

As humans who are made in the image and likeness of God, we reflect many attributes of our heavenly Father. These spiritual and moral attributes allow us to commune and fellowship with people and with God. Attributes like love, mercy, and justice are only three examples of Godly qualities available to mankind if we accept them. God created us to enjoy relationships so that we can spend time with Him, talk with Him, and fellowship with Him. This is not the nature of animals.

Some people say that mankind is no greater than the animal kingdom, and is why man should limit his population growth while protecting the animal species. I suppose they haven’t noticed several animal traits that civilized humanity does not endorse, such as: Some animals eat their own kind – but we do not condone cannibalism. Some animals kill and eat their offspring – but we do not condone infanticide or eating our babies. (Correction: humans do commit infanticide in the form of abortion. Even today, legislatures are debating whether or not doctors can kill babies who were born alive.) Animals do not care for the elderly – but because of Godly compassion, DSCN3768humans do care for the elderly. Animals do not have the intellectual,DSC02812.B emotional, and relational mentality, or the skill or ability to interact and build an enhanced society; but man has been to the moon and back. Instead, animals have continued their lives without change for the past recorded 6,000 years. When you hear or read some scientist say that 98% of our genes are shared with some animals, don’t get excited about it. They also say we share about 50% of our genes with bananas. So the statistics are meaningless.

Most importantly, only humans can experience faith. We alone, of all earthly creation, can worship and trust our Creator and enter into a relationship with Him. Humans have the ability to choose to worship God or not; to acknowledge Almighty God as sovereign or claim another personage (human, spirit – created, or imaginary – as either a sovereign or co-existent deity), tree, rock, or any other created thing as a god. Humans gather for the purpose of worshiping corporately. Animals cannot do any of this.

God is a communicator Who cares for us and guides those who listen to Him. He made us to help others in like manner. And He defeated sin and death for us through His death on the cross and subsequent resurrection so that we can be with Him and enjoy our relationship with Him forever.

What did God say? “Let us make man in our image.” And He did. If we purposely live for God and honor Him, we can be part of His eternal plan. You’ll be glad you did because the benefits will be out of this world!

Charlie Russell Museum in Great Falls, MT.

DSCN7601Carol and I are taking a prolonged trip around the country, and we have hundreds of new memories. I took her to see the 201-foot-long Roe River in Great Falls, Montana, and the Giant Springs that feeds the river. My brother, Paul, and I visited the river in June of 2016 and I was anxious to see it again. (Visit Paul’s web site at http://www.paullinzey.com)

Returning from the river and springs, Carol saw a sign and excitedly said, “Turn around!”

An obedient chauffeur, I turned around and found my way back to 400 13th Street North. I could hardly believe my eyes. I blurted out, “The Charlie Russell Museum? I didn’t know it was here! You want to go in?”

“I pointed it out to you, didn’t I?” (Good point.)

In Southern California I learned to know the artist as Charlie Russell, but perhaps most of you know him as C. M. Russell. Also known as “Kid” Russell, Charlie is perhaps the greatest painter and sculptor of Western America.

Charles Marion Russell was born in St. Louis, Missouri on March 19, 1864—a year before IMG_4181the American Civil War ended; and he apparently had the desire to sculpt and draw as a child. Through the stories of his grandmother (Lucy Bent Russell – her brothers were Charles and William Bent who founded Bent’s Fort in Colorado), Charlie became infatuated with The West, and when he was sixteen years old his parents allowed him to head west to work on a sheep ranch in Montana—often called Big Sky Country.

He became a cowboy; but no matter what you saw on television, being a cowboy was not all “Yippie-yi-yo, Get Along, Little Doggies.” It was a rough life, but Charlie stayed on and learned almost everything there was to know about the job. He often sketched scenes, painted, and made models of wildlife to pay for his room and board.

Gifted artists are not usually great businessmen, therefore, he had difficulty paying bills and keeping food in the pantry. But when Charlie married Nancy Cooper in 1896, she became his manager. When Charlie might have settled for $25 for a painting, Nancy knew the true value and sold it for several hundred dollars. With Nancy as his manager, Charles Russell entered the national limelight.

Charlie’s memory was amazing, but he frequently used props and models. Sometimes Nancy and another friend would dress up in Native American costumes to model for him. He would often create a quick reference sketch then join in the fun and dress up as well. His studio was filled with Native American and cowboy tools, jewelry, clothing, etc., which he used for reference.

Charles M. Russell died of congestive heart failure on October 24, 1926.

DSCN7986Arriving at the museum in Great Falls around 1:30 pm, time escaped us as we visited the gallery. The Charlie Russell Riders Sculpture Garden in the front of the museum is beautiful. But once inside the gallery, we were amazed with the paintings, sketches, sculptures, and carvings! Even the model stagecoach looked realistic.

Charlie was observant! Seeing what most others glossed over, Charlie saw the beauty in a galloping horse; sage brush in twilight; sunset over the rugged plains; and the fearsome look on the face of the Indian Chief sitting on his pinto without a saddle. He had a memory for detail that far surpassed most people: A gunfight at a saloon with rowdy cowboys riding their steeds on the boardwalks became a beautifully-detailed painting. And looking at another painting, I could almost feel the pain in the cowboy’s wrenched back as he tried to “break the bronco.”

The museum is very-well laid out as it reveals the evolution of Charlie’s life: professional as well as personal. We found high-quality gifts in the C. M. Russell Museum Store. The personnel are friendly, informative, and a joy to be with. I learned a lot as I spoke with them. In 2009 the Wall Street Journal called the museum “One of America’s premier Western art museums,” and I fully agree.

As we drove back to Dick’s RV Campground, I marveled at Charlie Russell’s abilities. DSCN7522B Dick's RV Great Falls, MTAlmighty God is a great and loving Creator. I believe that God gives everyone some creative ability or talent at birth, and it’s up to us to discover what it is and develop it. Charlie did.

I encourage you to visit the C. M. Russell Museum at 400 13th St. North, Great Falls, Montana. You’ll enjoy it.