Tornado!

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

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

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

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

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

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

“A vacuum.”

“Right. And what does it do?”

“It picks up dirt.”

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

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

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

“Yep.”

“When you turn it on, what happens?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Counting Calories – Again

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

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

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

“What’s the matter?”  

“I am having trouble with my jaws.”

“What do you mean?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bon appétit, mes amies.

Labor Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Try to Protect My Flock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Never again will I forget to secure the coop.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hardships

The word hardship came from England back in the 1200s, and it described sturdy ships that endured the brutal storms of the North Atlantic.

Today it’s defined as a condition that is difficult to endure. It refers to suffering, deprivation, and oppression: something hard to bear, lack of comfort, constant toil or danger.

As we think about hardship, we need to remember that life is not supposed to be about us. Life, including eternal life, is about Jesus and our relationship with Him. However, although Jesus should be the center of all human existence, most people put Him on the sidelines, or not in their life at all.

Then, generating our own hardships, people get all limp and wishy-washy about life, or get hard and bitter. We have a difficult time doing things God’s way because we don’t spend time getting to know our heavenly Father.

But God has been saying all along: Please give me the reins. I can tame this team of horses, but you need to cooperate.

A young woman who didn’t know how to cooperate with the Lord told her mother about how life was so hard for her. There seemed to be no end to her problems, and she wanted to give up. She couldn’t understand that she was creating most of the hardships for herself.

Her mother sent up a silent prayer, then took her daughter to the kitchen. Filling three pots with water, she placed them on the stove and turned the heat to high. In the first pot she placed carrots; in the second, she placed a couple of eggs; and in the last, she poured a cup of coffee grounds.

Without saying a word, she let them boil for about twenty minutes, then turned off the burners. She fished the carrots and eggs out and placed them in separate bowls. Then she ladled the coffee grounds out and placed them in a bowl.

Turning to her daughter, she said, “Tell me what you see.”

“Carrots, eggs, and coffee grounds.”

Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots and peel an egg. The daughter noted that the carrots were soft and the eggs were hard boiled.

“Now, check the coffee grounds and water.”

The daughter smiled. “The coffee grounds look the same but wet. But the water was now … coffee, and I think I’ll have some. Mother, what are you getting at?”

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the very same adversity: 212-degree boiling water for twenty minutes. Each reacted differently. The carrots went in strong, hard, and stiff, but after sitting in boiling water, they softened and became weak. Inside the shell, the eggs had been fragile. Their thin outer shell had protected the liquid interior, but after bumping around in the boiling water, the insides became hardened. The ground coffee was unique. The oppressive adversity (boiling water) released color and flavor.

“Which are you?” she asked her daughter. “When hardship knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg … or … coffee?”

The daughter, drinking her coffee, understood the lesson.

So I ask you, dear reader: Are you the carrot that is strong when there are no problems, but with pain and adversity you wilt and lose your strength?

Are you the egg that starts with a malleable attitude, but becomes hardened with the heat? Did you have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a break-up, a financial hardship, or some other trial, you became cynical? Does your shell look the same, but on the inside are you inflexible?

Or are you like the coffee? Do you change the circumstances that bring the pain? When things are at their worst, do you cave in or help change the situation around you?

When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, how do you handle adversity?

Remembering that hot water releases the fragrance and flavor of the coffee grounds, perhaps you can remember to sincerely turn to God for guidance. He is always willing to help us. God tells us in Isaiah 43:2-3, “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

That is true if we cooperate with God. How do you respond to hardships?

Current Actions Produce Delayed Results

The phone rang. Looking at the caller ID, I answered, “Howdy Paul.”

“Hey Eugene, what are you doing June 21 through June 24?” Paul was an army chaplain, recently retired, and is now a supporting chaplain at the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland.

I responded, “Nothing’s on the calendar for those days – yet. What do you have in mind?”

“You want to fly to Montana with me?”

“Are you driving?”

“No, big brother. We’ll fly commercial.”

“Are you looking for grizzlies, moose, bison, or what?”

“Wrong on all counts. I want to see the shortest river in the world. You coming with me on this ‘brother’s trip’ or not?”

“Count me in!” And that started an adventure that two close brothers will never forget; and will result in a co-authored book.

Flying out of Oklahoma City, we changed planes in Salt Lake City, then made Helena, Montana home for two nights.

Over dinner, we discussed the purpose of the trip. Up near Great Falls, Montana, there is a natural phenomenon called Giant Springs from which flows what has been dubbed the shortest river in the world. Paul informed me, “Both the Springs and the River are why we are here.” The next day, we drove 75 miles to Giant Springs.

The Little Belt Mountains are sixty miles from Great Falls. As it rains and snows in those hills, water seeps into the Madison Aquifer. Most of that water flows underground into five surrounding states and up into Canada, but a portion travels to Giant Springs. There, approximately 150 million gallons push to the surface every day through openings in the limestone overlaying the Madison Aquifer. Situated on the east bank of the Missouri, some spring water flows directly into the Missouri, while the remainder enters the Missouri by way of the 201-foot-long Roe River. Fish eggs are called roe, and a portion of the short river is diverted into the fish hatchery. Therefore, the name Roe River.

As Paul and I approached the water, I incredulously asked, “That’s a river? That’s shorter than a football field.”

“Sure is. I was on a business trip in 2004, and I always wanted to come back and study it.”

Well, study it, we did – and still are. Various reports say it takes the water twenty-six to fifty-six years to make the sixty-mile trek through the Madison Aquifer, flowing from the Little Belt Mountains to Giant Springs. Yet other reports say some of the water is diverted through different layers of limestone and takes 3,000 years for the journey. Why is there a diversity of opinion about how long it takes? There is an answer, and we will find it.

Another point: the water becomes impure as it seeps into the ground. It can become contaminated by animal droppings, dead animals, mold, and so forth. But as it flows through the limestone, much of the impurities are filtered out.

But what’s the point of it all? I’m glad you asked.

There is a cause and effect working here. The mountain rain and pristine snow (the cause) and the beauty and majesty of the springs (the effect) remind us of the timeline of human life. As it takes many years for the water to seep through sixty miles of limestone to the Springs, things also happen in our lives that often produce a delayed response.

As a child you may have been told, “You’re dumb; you’ll never amount to much!” Or, “You can’t do anything right!” Those are devastating blows that contaminate life; and the clock begins ticking for results to push to the surface. But as the limestone removes the impurities from the water, someone’s intervention can remove those impurities from life. Loving interactions heal wounds.

On the other hand, you might have heard, “You are GOOD at this! You will do well in life.” That, also, sets the clock ticking, and what bubbles to the surface years later can benefit both humanity and God.

The point is: events and personal interactions shape us, but it may take years for the results to show.  So be kind to others and guide them. Help shape lives in a positive manner. Love others as God loves you.

Well, after the working part of the trip, we drove to the town of Stanford, Montana, where Paul treated me to lunch. He said, “I’m taking Stanford (my first name) to Stanford for lunch in honor of your first name.” It was sixty miles out of the way, but who cares? We had a wonderful time up in Big Sky Country.

Revisiting Noah’s Ark

A couple of years ago, I mentioned that we went to see Noah’s Ark. This one really isn’t Noah’s because he’s not here, and he didn’t build it. But according to the dimensions listed in the Bible, this structure is a life-sized model. Is it the exact same shape? We don’t know because no one alive has seen the original ark. Many people doubt whether the flood was world-wide, but their doubt does not disprove what the Bible says.

At the turnoff from I-75 onto State Road 36 in Williamstown, go east for about a mile, and the ark is behind several small hills. When it first comes into view, it doesn’t look so large, but there is still another mile to go. When the shuttlebus drops us off, the ark looks large, but not huge. But we’re still an eighth of a mile away.

As we walk up to it, the enormity of the structure is striking!

How big is this boat? Genesis chapter 6 gives the dimensions in cubits: 300 long, 50 wide, and 30 high. The length of the cubit has varied with time and people, and historically has been between 18-22 inches. The Builders of this model used a nominal 20-inch cubit.

The ark in Williamstown is 510 feet long, 85 feet wide, and 51 feet high. The internal volume is equivalent to the volume of 570 modern railway boxcars.

For size comparisons, a football field is 360 feet long from the back of one end zone to the back of the other, so both the original ark and the model in Williamstown are too long to fit inside the football stadium. The size of the ark is truly impressive!

Can this boat in Kentucky float? No. It wasn’t built to float, but to illustrate what Noah, his boys, and probably many hired hands built. I believe it took Noah and company about 100 years to build the original because of what God told Noah in Genesis 6:3. “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh [meaning, evil]; his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” I believe those words informed Noah that the flood would take place 120 years after that discussion.

Prior to entering the ark, we watched a video of the construction of the ark. It was quite a feat and was done without any government financial assistance. That means, no tax money was involved.

I wish I could show you some of the 545 photos Carol and I took. The builders of this model indicated how the thousands of animals might have been housed or caged. Noah might not have had full-grown elephants, hippos, giraffes, etc., but perhaps young ones. However, it was God who brought the animals to the ark, not Noah, so the age and size of the critters didn’t matter. God somehow tamed all the animals that He brought to the ark, and, as you might guess, the heavier animals were on the bottom of the three decks.

It’s also amazing how food might have been stored for a year for all the animals and for up to two years for the eight human passengers. With our current understanding of how much animals and people eat, and of how many kinds of animals there probably were back then, it’s easy to figure how much food would have been required. And there was still plenty of extra room.

Animal excrement removal must have been a chore!

I enjoyed the way they imagined living quarters for the four families, and the names they supplied for the four wives were relevant to the times. Much geologic, social, and cultural history is shown by several videos, and by many charts and graphs throughout the ark. Cultural history prior to the world-wide flood, therefore, the reason for the world-wide judgment, was highlighted.

In planning for this ark, the people did their research and identified many animals that have become extinct in the past 4,500 years, many of which would have been on the ark. That enhances the educational aspect of the visit to the ark. In fact, we saw four public school buses bringing students to the ark for an educational field trip.

If you ever have an opportunity to go east, go to Williamstown, Kentucky and visit the ark. It’s only 40 miles south of Cincinnati, Ohio.

It rained while we were there, but we were safe in the ark.

Frustration with the Unknown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s that got to do with the pandemic?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What can I say about all this?

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

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

So, what’s really going on?

Memory & Mental Health

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Do You Celebrate Christmas?

Do you know that the first hint in the Bible of what we call Christmas is in Genesis 3:15? A lot happened between Genesis 3:15 and Matthew 1:18, but we won’t go into all that today.

My questions are: How do you celebrate Christmas? Do you go over the river and through the woods to visit grandma? Do you read the Scriptures that talk about Jesus’ birth? Do you take a trip? Invite people to your house? Do you watch movies or football games? What’s your favorite Christmas meal?

I looked up historic Christmas celebrations. For about 300 years after Jesus’ resurrection, there were no observances of His birth – therefore, no festivities. The first one recorded was in Rome, on December 25, 336 A.D., but didn’t become a primary Christian observance until the 800s. Decorating trees started in Germany, but had nothing to do with Christmas.

In the fourth century, church officials decided to observe Jesus’ birth as a holiday; and for non-biblical reasons, Pope Julius chose December 25. First called the Feast of the Nativity, the custom spread to Egypt by 432 A.D., and to England by the end of the sixth century. By holding Christmas at the same time as traditional winter solstice festivals, church leaders thought that Christmas would be popularly embraced, but in doing so, they gave up the ability to dictate how it was celebrated. Therefore, on Christmas, many people attended church, then celebrated raucously in a drunken, carnival-like atmosphere.

Hmmmm … It seems like that still happens today.

Noting societal debauchery, prevalent poverty, and abusive child labor in Victorian England in the 1840s, Charles Dickens vowed to do something about it, and writing was what he did best. So, in 1843, he published his novel, A Christmas Carol. Although the book is more a work of sentiment than of Christianity, it captures something of the Christmas spirit.

Dickens wanted to insert joy and gladness into a life filled with drudgery, dreariness and death. While acknowledging the seriousness of life, he portrayed the Spirit of Christmas filled with miracles and laughter. He also reminded society of the importance of blessing others by caring for those around them. Dickens encouraged joy and human-kindness, and inspired a positive change in society.

How do Carol and I celebrate Christmas?

We read about the birth of Jesus in chapters 1-2 in Matthew and Luke. That sets the tone for the celebration. We often visit one of our kids, but this year we’ll visit our daughter’s in-laws, Robert and Phyllis Crawford, near Oklahoma City. And instead of buying gifts for our families who live far away, then pay more for mailing them, we’ll mail the allotted money and let them choose the gifts.

Have you heard of the song, Over the River, and Through the Woods, To Grandmother’s House, We Go? I grew up singing it at Christmas, but it was written as a Thanksgiving Poem by Lydia Maria Child in 1844, and referred to Grandfather’s house. I find it interesting that where Carol and I live, all five of our children and their families have to travel over rivers and through forests to reach us.

My favorite Christmas meal is not turkey. (Shhh…don’t tell Carol.) My favorite is ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, yams with marshmallows, and fruit salad with whipped cream. Two to three hours later, I want pumpkin or apple pie with vanilla ice cream! Oh, yes – and coffee.

I like to watch football. On this coming Christmas day, the Minnesota Vikings will play against the New Orleans Saints. But I won’t watch it. Not on Christmas Day. This is a time to spend with family, which includes church family, and helping others.

We usually watch It’s A Wonderful Life the week before Christmas. It helps us to realize – again – the intrinsic value of each and every life. I hope that every one of you reading this reflection understands that every person is important. If you are hurting emotionally or are happy, if you are sick or healthy, if you feel rejected or accepted, if you are poor or wealthy, please believe me: you are important! Whatever may be your status or position in life, reach out and help others. THAT, my friend, is one way of manifesting the spirit of Christmas…the Spirit of Christ.

I understand that the covid-19 pandemic is putting a crunch on worship services, family gatherings, and celebrations this year, but you can still give to others. Be creative and find a way.

But stop and think about what this celebration is really all about – Jesus Christ. He came as a human baby, but never relinquished His true identity – God.

That is spelled out in John 1:1-4. “In the beginning there was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were made by him, and nothing was made without him. In him there was life, and that life was the light of all people.”  

Then verse 14 says, “The Word became a human and lived among us. We saw his glory—the glory that belongs to the only Son of the Father—and he was full of grace and truth.”

May the Lord bless you this Christmas season.

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