Memories of Dad

I was five years old, we lived in El Cajon, California, and the church building dad and the deacons built was completed. I was allowed to run in and around the building during certain phases of construction; but after completion, running in church was not allowed.

But I didn’t always obey my parents.

Reddy was my best friend, and when daddy wasn’t watching, we liked to run up the long flight of stairs on one side of the sanctuary, race in the upstairs hallway, and run down the stairs on the other side.

Dad warned me with, “I’ll tan your hide if you don’t obey me.” But for some reason, I did it anyway. I also went into his church office whenever I wanted to. After all, I was the pastor’s kid.

One Sunday morning dad had a personnel issue to handle, and told me to stay out of his office. I could obey that order. Until …

I told Reddy that Daddy was busy so we could run. “Goody!” Reddy almost shouted.

Up one side we ran, down the hall we raced, and ran down the steps on the other side. But getting ready to run down the steps on the second round, I tripped on the top step.

I tumbled head-over-heels all the way down. Miraculously, not a bone was broken and I wasn’t even bleeding anywhere. But my breathing mechanism had totally shut down!

In that situation, there was only one thing to do – Go See Daddy!

Not breathing, I burst into his office. Dad turned and was about to order me back out but saw that my face was turning blue and my mouth was wide open.

“Oh, my Lord!” I remember hearing dad say.

He quickly placed me over his knee, gave me a hard whack on the back which restarted my breathing, and said, “That’ll take care of you ‘til we get home!”

Now I had a different problem.

Back home after the church meeting, dad asked me what had happened. Fearfully, I admitted that I disobeyed him and tumbled down the stairs as I was running. (The picture is dad holding my sister, Sharon.)

I was amazed – and relieved – when dad pronounced, “Tumbling down the stairs was your punishment – this time.” Then pulling me to himself and wrapping his arms around me, he gently said, “Eugene, that fall was a hard lesson. Do you think you can remember not to run in church?”

There was only one answer: “Yes, daddy. I won’t run in church again.”

And I never did.

Three years later, we lived in Baldwin Park, California, and dad was in his final year of preparation to re-enter the US Navy as a chaplain. His schedule of seminary classes, being a pastor-husband-father, and sneaking in a few hours of sleep whenever possible, was quite full.

One Friday when I was sitting at the kitchen table with dad as he was finalizing his sermon for the coming Sunday, mom told me it was time for bed.

“Can I stay up with Daddy for a while?”

“No; it’s time for bed. Come on.”

“Can I PLEASE stay up for a little while? I don’t get to see Daddy very much.”

Dad looked up and said, “Eugene, if you want to stay up with me, you need to be very quiet. Don’t make a sound.”

“I’ll be quiet.” I never said something that fast before in my life.

Mom gave me a pencil (no pens back then), and dad gave me some paper. I was in heaven for another hour with my daddy. I have no idea what I wrote, scribbled, or doodled that night, but I remember the extreme joy of being with my daddy. And the well-worn Bible that dad was using that night is now in my office.

Dad is in heaven and our communication is over until I get there. But I do have the extreme joy of spending time with God – my eternal Father in heaven. He enjoys my visits.

God has an open-door policy, and continually invites us into His presence. Have you visited Him lately?

You Can Rule With God

The following is an excerpt from the chapter on Humility in my book, Charter of the Christian Faith.

Years ago, Tom Whittlesey, a life-long friend and author in Tulsa, Oklahoma, wrote and gave me a proverb that helps me stay on track:

“God is not impressed with our ability; God is not disappointed with our inability; God is only gratified with our availability.”

With that in mind, think about the following people who were available to God.

  1. Noah wasn’t a ship builder, but he obeyed God and saved mankind from total annihilation.
  2. Abraham was trained to be an idol-maker but became the father of the Faith.
  3. Sarah was Abraham’s pampered half-sister, but she became the mother of the Jewish nation.
  4. Moses grew up in the Egyptian palace, became a general in the Egyptian army, and committed murder. Nevertheless, he prompted Pharaoh to set the people free.
  5. Rahab was an innkeeper, and perhaps a prostitute; but she assisted the Israelites as they crossed the Jordan River. Then marrying an Israelite, she became one of the ancestresses of Jesus.
  6. King David committed adultery and ordered a murder, but he wrote many of the Psalms while making Israel a mighty nation.
  7. Deborah, the judge, was not a soldier, but she gave Barak the battle plan.
  8. Peter was an uncouth, impulsive fisherman, but he is the one who declared Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God! and became a leader in the early Church.
  9. Saul arrested Christians to be tortured or killed, but he became the Apostle Paul, ministered to the gentile nations, and wrote at least thirteen of the New Testament books.
  10. Martin Luther was a depressed monk, but he rediscovered, “By faith you are saved; not by works lest any man should boast.”
  11. Corrie ten Boom was a watchmaker’s daughter; but surviving the holocaust during World War II, she shared her testimony of love and forgiveness around the world.
  12. Billy Graham was raised on a dairy farm, but he took the Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.

Did you notice how each of the people on that list helped build the kingdom of God? They were not trained to do what made them famous, and all of them would have remained in the shadows of history had they not obeyed God. However, because they responded to the Lord, their influence is still being felt in the world, and that is one way by which they are rulers in God’s Kingdom.

Because of God’s promises, their rulership has been increased in heaven. The principle is in Luke 19:17 where Jesus was telling a story. “The king said to the servant, ‘You are a good servant. Since I can trust you with small things, I will let you rule over ten of my cities” (NCV). When we humbly avail ourselves to the Lord, and obey Him, God is not hesitant to expand our reputation in order to build His Kingdom. Let me repeat: God is not impressed with our ability; God is not disappointed with our inability; God is only gratified with our availability.

God created us to rule with Him. His response to our humble availability is likely to be, I am indeed pleased. After a maturing process, you shall become a ruler in My Kingdom, beginning in this earthly life.

Read more in Charter of the Christian Faith – available at Amazon.com.

I Have to Confront my Boss!

That’s what Sean angrily said. [Names have been changed.] When I asked him about the problem, he muttered something about a continual misunderstanding, but he wouldn’t, or couldn’t, pinpoint the primary issue.

Over coffee, his black and mine with cream and sugar, I asked Sean to think about it. “Is the boss being irrational, mean-spirited, or offensive? Or are you reacting to something else?”

“I just don’t like him, but I haven’t really figured out why. I guess I do need to think about it.”

Sean was a man of few words but with good work ethics. With his permission, I made an appointment with Jack.

“Oh, Sean’s one of the best workers I have. Never late, hardly ever a complaint about his work. He just appears to be sullen a lot, but it beats me why. I wonder if he’s got family problems. Got any ideas?”

“Jack, I would like you to confront Sean because ….”

“Oh, no! Like I said, he’s a good worker, and I don’t want to lose him. Let’s just let it be.”

I took a deep breath and asked for a cup of coffee – with cream and sugar. “Jack, may I discuss the concept of healthy confrontation with you? I only need about ten minutes.”

“Take fifteen, and get on with it.” Jack got his own coffee – black. I was beginning to understand the situation, and was glad I brought my notes with me.

Confrontation can be either friendly, abrasive, or explosive. Confrontation is presenting ideas which at times are opposing or unknown to the listener. It is bringing themes, ideas, plans together for comparison and discussion. But people often take a defensive posture and turn confrontation into angry disagreement, resulting in antagonistic action or sullen withdrawal. It can devolve into explosive verbal – and sometimes physical – altercation.

Therefore, I suggested a true confrontation: “bringing two opposing parties face-to-face” in a non-threatening environment in order to resolve or prevent conflict. The purpose of confrontation is to help people, not hurt them. Many psychologists and counselors have their own list of steps, but I’ll simplify it.

Be firm and bold. (2 Cor. 13:1) Address the problem, don’t attack the person. Take witnesses if needed. Start with a compliment.

Be accurate and honest. (Matthew 5:37) Communicate your feelings assertively, not aggressively.  Express them without blaming.

Listen without interrupting. Ask for feedback if needed to assure a clear understanding of the issue. Don’t review the situation as a competition where one has to win and one has to lose.

Affirm all you can that is good. (2 Cor. 7:4) Remember, when only one person’s needs are satisfied, the issue is not resolved. Work toward a solution where both parties can have most of their needs met.

Know the facts. (2 Cor. 11:22-27) Listen first, talk second. And, hopefully, the authority figure should listen first. You should listen to what the other person is saying before presenting your own position. They might say something that changes your mind.

Focus on the issue, not your position. Accept the fact that individual opinions may change, so be observant. Work to develop areas of common ground.

And remember, not all “issues” are part of the problem. Many will dissipate when others are resolved. Know when to let something go. If you can’t come to an agreement, agree to disagree. When the relationship is established, little issues fall by the wayside.

Be gentle after being firm. (2 Cor. 7:8-15) It’s easy for people to get entrenched in their positions and for tempers to flare, voices to rise, and body language to become defensive. Build on mutual respect and understanding. And don’t be afraid of humor or laughing. Scripture says laughing often helps as much as medicine does. Be willing to forgive. Without forgiveness, resolving conflict is impossible.

Jack and Sean agreed to a meeting in the back corner of a coffee shop. I encouraged Sean to “pry yourself out of your shell” and tell the boss about his primary concerns. I also asked Jack to listen without interrupting, and to try not to speak so abruptly.

When analytical Sean began to realize how much Jack valued him, his demeanor picked up. And businessman Jack was amazed to discover Sean’s in-depth knowledge of the company. (The company benefited when Sean got a promotion.)

Confrontation is necessary and beneficial if conducted properly. A willingness to confront, a healthy understanding, and a good cup of coffee go a long way.

Think about it, and work on it.

On the Beach

Boeing 747-400“Okay – we’ve taken Sharon and Jim to the airport. What would you like to do next?” (The year was 2016.)

“What do I want to do next?” Carol responded. “It’s 5:45 in the morning. The only thing to do now is have breakfast.” She was right – as usual.

We wound our way out of Lindberg Field (the San Diego airport) without getting lost. Turning onto the Pacific Coast Highway in the dark, we headed north but missed the entry onto I-8 which would take us east up Mission Valley; but a quick u-turn took care of it. (Don’t worry: our’s was the only car on the street.)

Finally sitting at the booth in Denny’s – with Coffee! – we planned our day.

We attended the early church service where David Jeremiah is pastor. I heartily recommend visiting Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California if you have a chance. His mailing address is listed as San Diego, but the church is on the east side of El Cajon – pronounced El Cahone.

Afterwards, we headed west on I-8, north on highway 67, then west on highway 52 which took us to the town of La Jolla (La Hoya) on the coast. We decided to drive north on beautiful Scenic Highway 101 up to Oceanside.

Friends, pay attention: It’s a beautiful drive, and we enjoyed it. But if you are in a hurry, don’t do that. Highway 101 meanders through all the towns, and you can make more time on I-5 – unless it’s slow-hour. I think most folk call it “rush-hour” but believe me: there is no such thing as rushing down the freeways if they are jammed with cars. I call it slow-hour.

In the town of Carlsbad at 1:15 pm, we began looking for a place to eat and a nice place to stay. (We celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary all year long.) Turning onto a side street, we found Ocean Street that looked more like an ally; but we turned north on it hoping to find our way back to 101. The street was separated from the Pacific Ocean by one row of buildings, so Ocean Street is a good name for that road.

Before turning east on Christiansen Way to return to Highway 101, Carol spotted a place called Beach Terrace Inn. “I wonder how much they charge for a night’s stay.” Translated into a man’s language, it actually means, “Find out how much it costs to stay here.” Yes, Ma’am.

THAT was a good idea!

Beach Terrace Inn, the only oceanfront hotel between Oceanside and La Jolla, was built in three stages. The first edifice was built on the beach (on the sand) and was constructed around 1960. The second stage, which includes the current lobby, was built in 1976. And the third stage, which includes breakfast – and coffee – was built in 1988.

Ryan Roark, the assistant manager, greeted me. I know there are many friendly folk up-and-down the coast and throughout the country, but Ryan is one of the best. He personally walked to my car, helped carry in our luggage, and showed us where to eat. Sure, he wants our business, but that is the first time a hotel manager ever helped me with the heavy work. As we walked, Ryan said, “Those who stay here are not guests – they are family. So you are now part of the Beach Terrace Inn Family.” Thank you, Brother Ryan.

Thomas Burke, the Guest Service Ace, stopped for ten minutes and filled us in on a lot of the history of the place. He even brought extra coffee to our room. Thank you, Thomas. These folks really know how to make people feel welcome and important – like family.

In the evening, we walked down the steps to the beach and I swam in the surf. After tiring myself out, Carol and I walked the beach looking for sand dollars.

The Inn’s advertisement (http://beachterraceinn.com/) says, “We believe size matters, so we’ve chosen to be a small hotel with big rooms rather than a big hotel with small rooms.  We’ve remained owned by the same family since the 1960’s. We believe in personality and choose to be remarkable rather than flashy.” Carol and I found that to be true.

If you find yourself in Southern California, go to Carlsbad and visit the Beach Terrace Inn on Ocean Street. You’ll be glad you did. Tell them Gene and Carol Linzey sent you.

Now, where’s the coffee?

Tiger – My Friend

Cats are my favorite land animal, and I talk with them. No, I am not weird. I have learned to meow like kittens and cats. I can snarl a little like them too. Let me tell you about a special cat.

He was a stray that “adopted” me when I was eleven years old. I was going through a year of depression because I was convinced that no one in the world loved me. It seemed to me that none of my nine siblings or my parents cared whether or not I was alive. Then one day, a full-grown cat announced his presence in our yard. I named him Tiger. When I asked if I could keep him, the answer was, “No.”

I begged to keep him. You see, Tiger and I had bonded within an hour of his arrival. Noting the look of anguish on my face, my parents finally consented and my spirit soared!

“But that cat cannot sleep with you; the cat will stay outside every night.” Mother was firm on the idea.

“Yes, mom; I hear you” I managed to utter. But I needed emotional comfort, so I snuck Tiger in at night anyway.

After several weeks, mom became suspicious and surprised me with a late-night visit.

“I thought I smelled a cat in here. Put him outside.”

I begged over and again to let Tiger stay with me, and mom finally relented with, “Okay. But if he messes on the floor, you will clean it up and clean the carpet.” Then she left the room.

I was sitting on the edge of the bed and Tiger was sitting on the floor looking up at me. I began verbally pouring my heart out to the critter, and – I’m not kidding – when I asked Tiger if he understood, he gently said, “Meow.” He verbally responded each time I asked if he understood.

Finally, I was ready to turn out the light. But I first cupped Tiger’s face in my hands and said, “If you have to go potty in the night, be sure to wake me up. Don’t do it on the floor. Okay?” Tiger agreed with a soft, “Meow.”

Sometime in the middle of the night, Tiger awakened me by gently rubbing my cheek with his paw. I asked, “Do you need out?” Tiger placed his fore-paws on the window sill and meowed. I opened the window and he jumped out. About ten minutes later, he reappeared outside the window. I let him in, and he said, “Mew.” I knew that meant “Thank you.” Again, I’m not joking. Tiger was my best friend.

One afternoon about eight months later, Tiger didn’t show up for dinner. Dad said, “He is probably out catting around.”

The next day, dad sent me on an errand across the 4-lane highway to buy some donuts. As I reached the median, I saw the motionless form of a dead cat. Tiger had been run over!

My emotions exploded, and I burst out crying as ran back to dad. As I sobbed uncontrollably, dad gently held me close for a while. That’s the first time in a LONG time that either dad or mom expressed love to me in a way that I could understand. After a few minutes, dad softly said, “Let’s bring Tiger home.”

Picking Tiger up with a shovel, I took him and buried him in the back yard. That was 1958, but I can still show you where I buried him.

God, in His love for me, brought Tiger to fill a void in my life. And God kept Tiger with me as long as I needed him because Tiger was God’s gift of healing to my hurting soul. But, also in His love for me, God allowed Tiger to leave when I was emotionally well enough and mature enough to re-attach with my siblings and parents. God loves us and brings into our lives special gifts at crucial times.

When you are hurting, look for God’s interaction in your life. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and don’t depend on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge God, and he will guide you.” God loves you more than you know; and He uses animals, friends, and situations to help you heal.

God used Tiger to help me for a year in my childhood; but God, Himself, will help me forever.

Reset the Computer

At a National Laboratory where I worked, one of our scientists called our computer tech to fix his computer.

“What’s wrong with it?” Nolan asked.

Allen responded, “It won’t do anything. It’s been working fine through all my research and writing. But now I’m ready to print my report for the symposium at Washington, DC. I gave the computer a command to print, but it just sat there. I pushed the print command several times and nothing. I think the hard drive crashed.”

Nolan, one of the best in his field, needed to take Allen’s computer to his shop to check it out. He asked, “How long can you be without your computer?”

“I can’t be without it at all!” Allen exclaimed.

Nolan was smart. “Well, you’re without it right now, and it’s almost noon. Are you going to lunch in a few minutes?”

“Okay,” Allen said. “You got me. When do you think you can fix this thing?”

“I’ll get on it right away.”

As the group’s security officer, I was in Nolan’s office working with him on another issue. Nolan didn’t immediately turn the laptop computer off because he wanted to see how the machine was being used. What he found didn’t surprise him.

Without shutting it down for the past two months, Allen had used eighteen high-powered programs, searched on the internet several times every day, and worked on twenty-three detailed reports including complex mathematical databases. He currently had thirteen documents open and six programs running while compiling his final report.

“No wonder the computer decided to take a nap.” Nolan said. “It’s just plain tired!”

Saving Allen’s work, Nolan shut the laptop down, let it sleep for a minute, then restarted it. Next, he ran a program that cleaned out the junk that accumulates over time. This “junk” consists of temporary files, broken shortcuts, damaged registry, and other associated problems. He ran a “disk fix” program to repair any potentially damaged sectors, and finally he defragged the computer.

Fragmentation happens every time a computer is used. Because files are constantly being created, written, deleted and resized, pieces of data are scattered across the hard drive and creates a mess which sometimes causes the RAM (Random Access Memory) to overwork. Fragmentation causes slow performance, longer boot-up-times, seemingly interminable pauses, and freeze-ups–sometimes even the inability to shut down. Defragmentation gathers all of the separated pieces of data and puts them back together, and places the files where they belong.

Nolan said, “We need to clean up our computers periodically.”

Two hours later when he took the laptop back to Allen, Nolan told him, “When you close a program or put down a document, mini-programs continue running in the background which gradually usurp more of your RAM; and that slows things down. Also, unless you shut the computer down, it never stops ‘thinking’ and cannot reset. I know you’re busy, but try to remember to shut down your computer once a week to let the thing reset itself. And try not to have more than three or four programs open simultaneously.

Allen blurted, “I don’t have time to remember all that!”

“That’s okay. Just call me when it freezes up again.”

Walking back to Nolan’s office, we began talking about our biological computers–our brains. Communication across the cranial network is similar to the communication between computers, routers, servers and the internet. Brains don’t totally shut down, but they do need to “reset” often; and God designed that reset to take place when we sleep.

Our sleep must be sufficient in quantity and quality to rest our bodies as well as our brains; and in the deepest part of sleep the brain closes down most of its connections–it resets. However, always active to some degree, the brain is on “standby” mode; and most dreams are our thoughts in pictorial format.

When we get proper sleep, the brain “saves” the learning we experienced during the day; therefore, sufficient sleep completes the learning process. After rest and mental reset, we are more prepared for the next days’ challenges.

But a lot of junk–worry, animosity, fear, etc.–enters our minds every day and generates mental fragmentation. The way to “clean up” or “defrag” is found in 1Peter 5:7 – “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you.” and Proverbs 3:5 – “Seek God’s will in all you do, and he will direct your paths.”

Why don’t you sit down, get a cup of coffee, tea, or milk, relax and think about it? It’ll do you some good.

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Death Is Not Final

I read an article many years ago titled: “Was Jesus the First Psychiatrist?” I think it’s worth reading. The author mentioned that there are “300 or so [mental] disorders” that plague mankind; and discusses what he sees as the similarity of Godly teachings and the teachings of psychiatry. 

Please remember that where all Scripture is correct (2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”), not all conclusions in the field of psychiatry and psychology are correct.

I thought long on the following statement: “People suffer to the extent that they are removed from the truth.”

That is partly true, and the reason it stuck in my mind is a conversation I had earlier with a very close friend in the southwest. His wife was nearing the end of her life, and Chuck was experiencing anger and frustration. When I mentioned that facing the truth promotes emotional healing, he blurted out, “I don’t want the truth! I want my wife to live!” I asked him if he wanted to face reality. He exclaimed “NO!”

I understood; his precious wife meant the world to him, and he didn’t want to lose her. Later, in deep depression, Chuck said several times regarding his wife’s condition, “It’s hopeless.”

Dr. Charles Allen (United Methodist minister, deceased) who received an honorary doctorate from John Brown University, and is author of “God’s Psychiatry” said, “When you say a situation or a person is hopeless, you are slamming the door in the face of God.” However, people must not give up on life, but neither should we demand what God is not giving.

Meditate on those statements.

Chuck had given me the freedom to talk bluntly with him. He knew that I loved him unconditionally, and I gave him the freedom to vent his frustrations at me without fear of reprisal or ill feelings. And I went to be with him when his wife left this life.

Later that day Chuck expressed his appreciation for my helping him to face reality, and said, “A load has been lifted from my shoulders; thank you for helping me accept the truth.” And that reflects another statement from Dr. Allen: “The mind is like the body. It can be wounded. Sorrow is a wound. It cuts deeply; but sorrow can be a clean wound and can heal unless something gets into the wound, such as bitterness, self-pity, or resentment.”

Bitterness, self-pity, and resentment oppose faith in God. I continued working with Chuck: a loving, passionate man with a tendency toward depression.

People must reawaken what they were born with: the God-given, inexplicable, ultimately undefeatable capacity to move in the direction of their own interests, abilities, beliefs and dreams. That’s why the image of Christ is such a powerful one.

It’s not wrong to ask the Lord to heal someone. In fact, it’s healthy and necessary to have a living, vital relationship with Jehovah-Raphah – the Lord who heals. Doctors, psychiatrists, and psychologists help, but God alone can ultimately heal the body and mind.

We must all remember that until Jesus returns, physical death is part of life; and for the Christian, death must not be feared for it is the door to heaven. Psalm 90:10 tells us that our lifespan will be an average of 70-80 years although individual lifetimes vary. My father lived to be eighty-nine, his father lived to ninety-nine, and my mother left this life at the age of 97. But until Jesus returns, we all will leave this life. 

Chuck was facing the reality of his wife’s immanent departure. Was the situation truly hopeless? The answer was a resounding “No.” Death is not the end of the story. Those who trust God with their lives will be given eternal life. 

Chuck’s wife left this earth, but accepting the truth had set him free. Was there sorrow? Yes, but not as others sorrow. 1 Thessalonians 4:13–14 says, “Brothers and sisters, we want you to know about those Christians who have died so you will not be sad, as others who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and that he rose again. So, because of him, God will raise with Jesus those who have died.”

Chuck will see his wife again.

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.

Enduring the Storm

I don’t know why the tree died. Without exaggeration, most the needles on the pine tree were DSCN2258green, but four weeks later the entire tree was a desert brown. It was fascinating because all our other trees were in great shape. Well, I do need to tend the crepe myrtles and prune them a bit. Back to the pine tree later.

On May 20th, Pastor Bruce Boehmer (Siloam Springs Bible Church), his wife Julianna, and their family of five growing kids were here for dinner; but in the middle of the meal we had an interruption. The wind picked up; the tornado siren at the First Baptist Church sounded off; the trees began bowing, twisting, and seemingly dancing with the cyclonic air movements; and the rain blocked the view of the street from our front door.

Carol began packing the Boehmer family into the central bathroom, and Brother Bruce and I prayed at the front door. (Is that wise? Only God knows, but we are still here.) Suddenly a tremendous, long, deep-throated SWOOOOOSH sounded outside … and it was over. Maybe swoosh isn’t the correct word, but that’s the best I can do.

After a brief discussion we reconvened around the table to finish the wonderful meal Carol prepared, when suddenly, all electrical power went out! It was nearly dark outside, and darker inside. Still possessing my “safety officer” mindset, I ordered, “Everyone sit still. Don’t move.”

I have the house layout memorized so in the dark I headed for several flashlights that are strategically placed around the house for situations like this. Then Carol lit the ever-present candles we have around the house … for situations like this.

Bruce and Julianna decided to stay and finish “Dinner-by-Candlelight.” It wasn’t a romantic dinner but it sure was fun. In fact, Bruce said, “If I’d have known we would eat by candlelight, I’d have dressed differently. We all had a good laugh.

The Boehmers stayed another three hours and we were truly blessed by their visit. As they were leaving, Brother Bruce said, “This is one of the most memorable visits we’ve ever had; a visit we won’t forget for a long time!”

Carol and I slept in our LAZBOY® chairs that night because we wanted to be ready – just in case. I wondered if the tree house that our grandkids (Kitten and Lamb) had played in several months previously had blown over, but we’d have to wait until morning to find out.

The power came back on around 8:02 the next morning, and all was well in our neck of the woods … sort of. A number of trees in our neighborhood had been damaged, and the steeple of First Baptist was at an awkward angle. Upon inspection, the tree house in the back yard was just as sturdy as ever; but we thought for sure the dead pine tree in our back yard would be down. It was a concern because it was oddly-shaped and heavy; and if it had dropped it would have badly damaged the house. Amazingly it withstood the tempest.

Our son, Ron, who lives in Oklahoma City, was an avionics technician at Tinker Air Force Base but he takes down trees on weekends. We called him the next day to see if he could come out and drop this one for us. A couple of weeks later he and his family of thirteen kids (they’ve grown to 16 now) came for the weekend. That was a houseful!

Upon inspecting the tree, Ron said, “Just looking at the tree, it seems that the wind should have pushed it over, but it has a very solid trunk and the roots are deep. That’s what protected your house.” Over the next twenty-four hours, Ron and his boys professionally took down the tree.

But I started thinking about the emotional and physical storms we face. What keeps us standing in the face of the devastating storms of life? We must have a solid trunk and deep roots. I call the “solid trunk” loving friends and family, and the “deep root system” is our faith in God.

Whatever storms you are facing, remember what Hebrews 13:5b says, “I [Jesus] will never leave you nor forsake you.” And remember, Matthew 8:24 informs us that Jesus can calm any storm in life; we just need to trust Him. No matter the storm you are facing, you will not fall if you keep your roots – your faith – anchored in Jesus Christ.

Here are the lyrics to the chorus of a song written by Lewis E. Jones in 1901. I learned this song as a child.DSCN1990

I’ve anchored in Jesus, the storms of life I’ll brave,     
I’ve anchored in Jesus, I fear no wind or wave;
I’ve anchored in Jesus, for He hath power to save,
I’ve anchored to the Rock of Ages.

I hope Jesus is your anchor for life.

Valentine’s Day

image00771I remember Valentine’s Day in 1965. Valentine’s Day was on Sunday that year, and Carol and I were attending SCC (Southern California College: now VUSC – Vanguard University of Southern California). I remember thinking: “If Carol accepts my invitation to the Valentine Banquet, I’ll know that she is the girl I will marry.” So, nervously, I asked her.

Laugh if you want. I am chuckling now as I write because I was somewhat immature at the time, and I was overcome with “puppy-love.” (Yes friends, she accepted.) I know that isn’t the way to1966 wedding decide whom to marry, but we DID get married a year and a half later — August 22, 1966 — and 52+ years later, we are still in love.

Someone asked Carol several years ago, “What’s it like being married to the same person for all those years?” Carol responded: “Oh, he’s not the same person I married. He’s changed.” She is right. Through time we all change — hopefully for the better. For one thing, my puppy-love grew into a true, full-fledged love for Carol. Maybe not fully-mature even now, but definitely going in that direction. I have learned (and am still learning) to love her with the love of Jesus Christ; and His love supersedes or surpasses any love humans think they have. But how do husbands and wives keep their love and devotion vibrant through the problem-laden decades?

Bishop Valentinus, or Saint Valentine as he is remembered, gave us a hint by manifesting a two-fold love: An undying, obedient, irrevocable love for God, and a deep, loyal commitment to people. And that’s what Carol and I have applied in our marriage through the years.

dscn7495Carol explains it this way: “Marriage is made in heaven. But it comes in a kit that must be assembled here on earth.” She also says, “Marriage is like a pyramid: God is at the top, with husband and wife at the bottom corners. When husband and wife focus on each other, they tend to repel each other. But if they both focus on God and grow toward Him, they inevitably grow closer together. And growing toward God helps us to become more like Him. Therefore, we find ourselves loving each other more with the pure love of God. That’s why God should be at the center of every marriage.”

That reminds me of a song written in Pasadena, California by Frederick Lehman; but the lyrics are based on a Jewish poem titled “Haddamut” written in Aramaic in 1050 AD by Meir Ben Isaac Nehorai, a cantor in Worms, Germany. The words to the chorus are: “Oh Love of God, how rich and pure! How measureless and strong! It shall forevermore endure the saints and angel’s song.”

Another supporting factor in keeping your love going strong is to let your spouse be your very best friend. That way, NO one can ever come between you! Carol has been my best friend for these 52 years, and she will never be deposed from that position as long as we both shall live.

Our friends Gary and Carol Kroah, formerly Associate Pastors of the Siloam Spring (Arkansas) Assembly of God Church say, “To start out, it’s not hard to love someone who is lovable. But our love for one another has endured through the years because of our mutual commitment to Jesus Christ and to one another. The closer we have been to Him, the closer we are to each other. Our determination to care for one another has motivated us to stay together, and love with unconditional love.”

Unconditional Love—growing toward God—growing closer together. It sounds like Bishop Valentine’s two-fold love: an undying, obedient, irrevocable love for God, and a deep, loyal commitment to people.

You’ve probably figured out that I like the Valentine’s Day celebration, but I do not subscribe to the superficiality ascribed by the world. Using the celebration as an enhancement in courting and marriage is fine, but don’t use it for defrauding someone or for sexual immorality.  A person who truly loves someone will act honorably toward that person. Acting selfishly or dishonorably is devoid of true love. Read 2 Samuel 13.DSCN0185

Jesus exhibited the purest love by sacrificially giving Himself in order that we may receive eternal life. (John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son [Jesus], that whosover believes on Him will not perish [eternally] but have everlasting life”. Respond to Jesus. Receive His love, and live. Happy Valentine’s Day.