Historical Trivia

I thought I’d follow up last week’s blog of New Years myths with a few tidbits of historical trivia.

Many things are going on in the world today and we tend to get tense, worried, and cynical.  But I think we need to “lighten up” … for at least a week. Also, I think humor is appropriate since Proverbs 17:22 says “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength” (NLT). So, here is some light-hearted trivia that I found many years ago. When I first read them, it looked like some had incorrect information so I did a little “lookin’ up” to get as close to the truth as I could. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the next five minutes.

Have you heard the saying “God willing and the creek don’t rise”? Some folk have a picture of an uncrossable stream or creek rising during a torrential downpour – especially with all the flooding happening in parts of the world today. However, there is one small error in that quote. The statement was written by Benjamin Hawkins, a politician and Indian diplomat in the early 1800s. While on the job in the southern USA, Hawkins was requested by President Thomas Jefferson to return to Washington D.C. and give a report about what was happening. His response was, “God willing and the Creek don’t rise.” Because of his job, and the fact that he capitalized the word “Creek,” it is deduced that he was referring to a potential Creek Indian uprising, and not a flooded body of water.

In George Washington’s days, there were no cameras. One’s image was either sculpted or painted. Some paintings of George Washington show him standing behind a desk with one arm behind his back, while others showed both legs and both arms. In fact, many paintings show people with arms or legs out of sight. That’s because prices were based on how big the canvas was, how many objects (things and people) were to be painted, and by how many fingers, hands, arms, legs, and feet were to be painted. Arms and legs are more difficult to paint, therefore painting them raised the price considerably. This is one probable origin of the expression, “It’ll cost you an arm and a leg.” By the way, that’s why many (if not most) cartoons show the characters with only three fingers and a thumb. Omitting the fourth finger reduced the production costs.

In centuries past, personal hygiene was not understood, and people didn’t bathe very often, which aided in the profusion of lice. Therefore, many women and most men in the European higher social strata shaved their heads because of lice and bugs, then wore wigs. This continued in colonial America – which, of course, was primarily an extension of British society. Wealthy and influential people could afford to buy larger wigs – and they did. Today we still use the term “He’s a big wig” because someone appears to be, or is, powerful and wealthy.

You might have heard various stories about the origin of “chairman of the board.” Well, some of the stories are flakey, but this is probably correct. The word “chair” infers sitting in the chair, or seat of authority (at times, perhaps the only chair while others sat on benches), and “board” (as we know it) was first heard of in the 13th century spelled borde, and means “table” – such as “God’s borde” (meaning “the Lord’s table.”) A mother’s call to the family was: “Mi bord is maked. Cumed to borde.” – meaning, “The table is set [for a meal]. Come to the table.” Also, people pay a fee or rent for “room and board” – sleeping quarters and food at the table. So, chairman of the board would be the person in charge at the table where business is conducted: be it church, industry, restaurant, or government.

Here’s one more. Have you heard the phrase, “turn a blind eye” in a situation?

In the naval battle of Copenhagen in 1801, British Admiral Horatio Nelson (who was blind in one eye) lead the attack against a joint Danish/Norwegian flotilla. The British fleet was commanded by Admiral Sir Hyde Parker. Sensing defeat, Parker sent a signal for Nelson to disengage, but Nelson was convinced he could win if he persisted. In Clarke and M’Arthur’s biography, Life of Nelson, published around 1809, they printed what they said was Nelson’s actual words at the time: [Putting the field glass to his blind eye and addressing his assistant] “You know, Foley, I have only one eye – and I have a right to be blind sometimes. I really do not see the signal.” So, turning a blind eye to Admiral Parker’s order, Nelson proceeded to defeat the enemy.

Thank you for reading, and I hope you have a pleasant week.

New Year Traditions

Several readers asked me if I would write about New Year’s traditions. Although late, I agreed to their request; and as the old saying goes: better late than never.

For thousands of years, people have had the idea that what they do on the first day of the year will set the stage for the next twelve months.

Maybe – maybe not.

Looking into the topic, I found hundreds of myths but I’ll present only twelve. As you read these, keep in mind that we should not base our lives on superstitions or myths. We should be careful about what we believe, for what we believe becomes part of our worldview.

Here are the twelve, and I’ll add comments later.

  • Being debt-free. The year should be started owing no man anything; so all debt should be paid before the year ends. But do not repay debt on January 1 or you might be paying out all year long.
  • Kissing at midnight. The year is started out with affection to ensure that a loving year will follow. Otherwise, strife could be in the house all year long, and the sofa or couch might be the spare bedroom.
  • Eating black-eyed peas. This attracts good social favor, and financial prosperity. But poultry should be avoided lest poverty (scratching for food) overtake you.
  • Wear something new. This assures that you’ll receive new things throughout the year.
  • Stock your pantry. Be sure to have your cupboards or pantry filled with food before the old year ends, or you might have a lack of food for the remainder of the year.
  • Money available. Be sure to have plenty of money in the wallet or purse; this attracts prosperity throughout the year.
  • Breaking things. Whatever you do, do not break anything on January 1 or many things (business deals, cars, glass, etc.) may be broken or wrecked throughout the year.
  • Nothing should leave the house. Don’t even step through the door to get the newspaper. Nothing and no one is to cross the threshold on January 1 in order to ensure safety and conservation throughout the year.
  • Be kind. Be considerate and caring to others so that kindness will fill your house all year.
  • Let the old year out. Open all house doors before midnight to release the old year. The new year cannot enter until the old has left.
  • Make loud noises. Loud noise scares away the devil and evil spirits, so make as much noise as possible.
  • Be praying at the stroke of midnight. If you start the year praying, you will receive blessings all year long.

Most of those myths are only superstitions and we should not base our lives on myths or superstitions. However, several of them are not myths, but are good ideas to follow all year long. For example:

Being debt-free: Romans 13:8 says, “Do not owe people anything, except always owe love to each other, because the person who loves others has obeyed all the law.” Think that one through.

Kissing at midnight: My wife and I kiss often, even when it is broad daylight. We love each other. Also, sleep is more complete when we end the day with a loving attitude. Ephesians 4:26 hints at this: “…be sure to stop being angry before the end of the day.” In other words, solve the problems before you “hit the sack”. One woman asked, “That’s good advice, but what do you do if the offence takes place after sundown?” The counselor said, “Well, if it’s not a ‘9-1-1’ situation, the couch in the living room might provide emotional space; then you can handle the problem in the morning.”  Hmmmmm……

Be kind: Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind and loving to each other, and forgive each other just as God forgave you.” This exhortation could prevent sleeping on the couch.

Praying at the stroke of midnight: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Always be joyful. Pray continually, and give thanks whatever happens. That is what God wants for you in Christ Jesus.” So don’t base your life on superstitions or myths which generate fear. Instead, base your life on sound Biblical instruction. This will enhance your quality of life all year long.

On January 24, 2022 I wrote … “In Case You’re Interested”

 

In that blog I talked about this book, Charter of the Christian Faith. I said that it would be beneficial to whoever wanted to enhance their relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. And that is absolutely true.

After hearing from many folks commenting on it and how it helped them, I took the privilege of writing a second edition. I refocused the message and gave the book a new title. Also, in order for readers to get the updated edition and not be confused with the two books, I took Charter of the Christian Faith off the market.

I replaced it with the new edition, Truth not meant to be Hidden, pictured here, and I’ve kept the price the same. This is a power-packed message you might never have heard before. And it does reveal truth that has long been hidden.

You’ll find the book at: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=S.+Eugene+Linzey&i=stripbooks&crid=NO0PDTQR3CQL&sprefix=s.+eugene+linzey%2Cstripbooks%2C107&ref=nb_sb_noss.

If you copy that url address and paste it into your browser, it will make finding this book very easy. It was published just last week, and I believe you will want to read it. You will see life in a way you’ve never seen it before.

The reason I wrote the book in the first place is although I know that all Christians go to heaven, much of the Church seemed to have forgotten how Jesus wanted a Christian to live while on earth. I didn’t see much difference in many people’s lives when they became a Christian or joined a church. On Sundays, most people talked about the Lord, sang, bowed heads in prayer, listened to the pastor – most of them – but something was missing.

Why would the Church of Jesus Christ—including all divisions and denominations–be confused as to what the Christian life is all about? Simply because I know many Christians who don’t seem to understand the Faith they claim to believe. Going to church and joining it is not the same as understanding the faith.

The Church, including each member of it, needs to keep in mind that our goal in life is not merely to get to heaven. Our goal in life, both on earth and in heaven, is to be a member of Jesus’ team and grow the Kingdom of God throughout eternity. It is by becoming an adopted child of God, and growing into a mature spokesman for God, that we can fully take our place in the Kingdom. That is why we need to know and understand the teaching in Matthew 5:1-12.

This book, Truth not meant to be Hidden, addresses this topic.

Set Beneficial, Wise Goals

An acquaintance was driving on a cross-country trip and spotted something vaguely familiar beside a barn. He stopped at the farm house to enquire about it. The farmer hadn’t thought about selling it, but gave George permission to check it out.

As George approached the car, his eyes saw a rusty, dilapidated, 1958 Buick Roadmaster. The leather seats were shredded with springs protruding, covered with animal fur and chicken feathers – in much the same condition as pictured here.. Two windows were broken with the other two down. The chrome was peeling, and all four tires were cracked like a dried up lake bed, and flat. As he managed to open the hood, the scared cat hissed and jumped off the engine, and George saw what used to be radiator hoses and electrical wiring dangling uselessly: they had long-ago deteriorated.

But in George’s mind, he saw something else.

He saw a bright, shiny, light-burgundy, 1958 Buick Roadmaster with a circled V on the front grill, and a gleaming white roof. In his mind he saw the shiny chrome all around the car with sunlight glinting off it, the electric windows working, and new soft and pliable leather seating inviting him. Ultimately, he saw himself slowly cruising through town, smiling as the men oohed and aahed over it. In George’s mind, it looked just like the one his dad owned when George was in elementary school. THIS is what he longed for.

George’s new years resolution was to make this dream come true.

George had a garage where he would do most of the work himself. He would buy the books for body, engine, and electrical work; he knew a painter in a nearby town who would paint it that beautiful light-burgundy color; and knew a man who could replace the windows.

He made the farmer an offer, and after a little negotiating the deal was done. In two days, the cat had to find a different hiding place as a truck hauled the soon-to-be-renovated-beauty to George’s garage. He was ecstatic!

That was four years ago.

How many times had his wife said, “George, when are you going to stop procrastinating.” It wasn’t a question – it was a demand. “Why did you bring it here in the first place! Will you please do something with that rusty hulk?” That last one was a plea.

What happened? Very simply, George found himself not wanting to do the work. With all the right intentions and a dream to be fulfilled, George set unrealistic goals for himself. In the vernacular, he bit off more than he could chew.

He envisioned the finished product, but he didn’t know how to go about it. He also found out that he didn’t have the desire to get out the sander and throw sparks all around the garage and smelling ozone while sanding every square inch of the rusty hulk (the title given to it by George’s wife). Every time he looked at the ghost-of-the-past, he mentally sunk lower.

Why did I ever bring it home? He wondered.

When he finally prayed about it, asking the Lord if he should start the project, or perhaps if there was something else he should do with it, an interesting idea came to him. Perhaps it was from the Lord. He made an appointment with the pastor and shared the idea with him.

“Great idea!” boomed the clergyman, and he called in the youth director.

“This could be the answer to one of my prayers.” the youth pastor said. “I’ve been looking for a project for the high school boys.”

George gave Rusty Hulk to the church as a gift, and George’s wife got her garage back. Borrowing tools from their parents, the teen-age boys had a ball removing old seats, stripping the rusty shell of everything that was possibly removable, and throwing sparks as shiny metal emerged.  

To make the story short, George wasn’t procrastinating. Desiring to fulfill a childhood dream, George attempted to do something that was not his calling. When he finally realized it, he was able to let it go.

When the church youth group was through, it wasn’t the Light-Burgundy Blazing Beauty that George imagined, but it was nice. The church sold the Roadmaster, and the substantial profit was used to set up a workshop where the youth group could do other projects. George’s gift kept on giving.

Do you find yourself procrastinating when it comes to finishing a project or reaching a goal? The solution might be to create a workable New Year’s Resolution. Pray about each project, and see if that’s what the Lord wants you to do. See if it’s something you really want to spend your time doing … or even have the skills to do. Setting goals too high might not be compatible with your God-given creativity. So, don’t do that.

May the Lord bless you as you wisely set goals this year.

Happy New Year!

Christ Changes Lives

Caleb was puzzled. He had been training four other shepherds for a year now, and a new trainee, Micha, had been assigned to him last week. Caleb was accustomed to his helpers cooperating with him, and he was a little uneasy because they were late bringing in the sheep.

Being a shepherd wasn’t an easy task. Learning to know each animal by name was time-consuming, but that wasn’t the hardest part. Although shepherds need to know about the growing seasons, where the best fields are for grazing, what foliage is unhealthy for the critters, what predators are lurking nearby, how to fight them off, and how to tend the newborn and the wounded, a good shepherd also needs to know how to negotiate with other shepherds who may have trespassed into “their” territory. Caleb was wondering if a problem had erupted, so taking Micha with him, he decided to go out and find out what was happening.

It hadn’t rained for two weeks, so they walked more than an hour over several rather sparse hills to where Caleb had sent the men and flocks.

Tuvia saw Caleb first and joyfully shouted, “God is Good!”

“Not so loud, Tuvia. Yes, God is good. But you must be careful not to startle the sheep.”

“Oh Nahum, you’re always trying to comfort the sheep. But allow me some fun out here in the vast wilderness. I need to let off some energy, and the animals will survive.”

Caleb walked up to them, smiling. “I truly enjoy your enthusiasm, Tuvia. Please never let it leave you. But Nahum does have a point. Where is Levi?”

Ariel responded, “Levi is over the hill tending a ewe giving birth.” Micha immediately ran to watch.

“Over the hill, is he?” mused Caleb. “Well, I suppose we’ll be spending the night out here. It will be a warm and remarkably clear night for the middle of Tishrei (early October), and the sheep seem to be settling down. Yes. tell Levi and Micha to take their time; and Ariel, will you please prepare a meal for us?”

“Yes, Caleb, I’ll have it ready soon.”

After the meal a half-moon was glowing, the stars were shining brightly, a gentle breeze was wafting across the land. And Levi reported that the new birth was a healthy ram lamb.

But Micha sat apart from the rest. His parents taught him the prophecies that the Messiah should be coming soon. He was also taught to always look for deeper meanings to life’s experiences.

Suddenly, he sat up and looked around. He sensed something in the air. The others were relaxing and telling stories, but Micha jumped to his feet and cried out, “Look! Do you see what I see?”

Startled, the others quickly looked – then covering their faces in fear, they fell to the ground. A shining angel appeared and made an announcement! We read the angel’s announcement in Luke 2:10-12

Do not be afraid. I am bringing you good news that will be a great joy to all people. Today your Savior was born in the town of David. He is Christ, the Lord. This is how you will know him: You will find a new-born baby wrapped in white cloth, lying in a manger.

Then, many other glowing angels appeared which lit up the night sky; and they were shouting, “Glory to God in the highest! Peace to all men on earth!”

Or were they singing? It was hard to tell for their voices sounded musical.

The lead angel again told the shepherds not to be afraid and urged them to go.

Finally overcoming their fear, Caleb left Ariel with the sheep. The others followed the heavenly directions, taking a one-month-old lamb with them, and quickly went to Bethlehem. It was just as the angel announced: they found the stable where Joseph and Mary were. When they saw the new-born baby, who was declared by the angels to be God, Micha slowly knelt and softly but incredulously asked, “Look, do you see what I see?”

Caleb and the others, presenting the lamb as a gift, knelt beside Micha and looked at baby Jesus with profound awe.

Joseph announced, “His name is Yohoshua (Jesus) – God is salvation. He will save us from our sin-laden existence.”

Mary gently added, “The prophecy proclaimed he will also be called Immanuel, for he is ‘God with us’.”  The shepherds joyfully returned to their flocks. But they told everyone they encountered about the newborn Christ, for their lives were changed forever!

What is Christmas About?

Can you believe it? Christmas Day is just around the corner! People are buying gifts and are getting ready for big celebrations. But do you know what Christmas is really all about?

Christmas – Christ-mas – Christ’s Mass – is a gathering of people who want to honor the birth of our Lord: Jesus, the Christ. It’s really that simple.

“In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.”

What makes Jesus our Lord? Maybe we should back up and bring in some out-of-this-world history. Let’s read the first three verses in the Gospel of John (NLT).

Verse 14 says, “So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only [begotten] Son.”

These four verses tell us the Word (who is God) came to earth in the form of Jesus; and Jesus, before he was born as a human, actually created the entire universe. However, when the Word came to earth as Jesus, He continued to be God.

Why did I insert the King James word “begotten”? It’s important because Christians are adopted sons of God, but Jesus was born as the son of God. He was God prior to His human birth, continued to be God in His human existence, and is still God in heaven.

When your baby is born, you remember his/her birth every year – many times with cake, ice cream, and gifts. It’s a way to honor your child and to give him special recognition which helps establish his identity within your family.

But Christmas turns it around. As we honor the birth of Jesus, we are recognizing the fact that God loves us with all His heavenly heart and came to give US a gift: the gift of eternal life. That gives us special recognition and establishes our identity within God’s family.

And that brings us back to Christ’s Mass, or Christmas.

God created man in a perfect, sinless state; but man disobeyed. He sinned. That set the stage for all the rest of humanity to be born in sin. Was that fair? Since that took place well over 5,000 years ago, that’s not our concern. But it was, and is, God’s concern. He didn’t want to lose His special creation, so He activated the plan of redemption.

A sinless being had to die in order to redeem the one who had sinned. God took the life of at least two animals to make clothing to cover Adam and Eve’s sin, or error. That was a foreshadowing or omen of what was to come. Then in Moses’ time, God initiated Pesach, or Passover, to make the proposed plan of redemption more understandable.

All through history, the sacrificial animals had to be without spot or blemish which pointed to the Final Sacrifice who would be without sin. The reason is this: if I died because of my own sin, justice would be served, but there would be no redemption. However, if an innocent person died in my place, justice would still be served, and I would be declared innocent and could go free.

That’s why Jesus entered humanity as a baby. Every person, except Jesus, who ever lived was guilty of sin, so someone needed to come who was perfectly innocent: without spot or blemish. Only God was without sin, so only He could be the sacrifice to atone for everyone’s sin, which could set us free.

So God, the Word, entered humanity. He was given the name of Johoshua, which means God is salvation He grew up and experienced pain, mockery, and rejection as a child. He was tempted in every way man can be tempted, and suffered the most gruesome, torturous death man could experience. Yet He never sinned. Jesus was that perfect, spotless sacrifice for you and me to save us from an eternal separation from God.

Oh yes, there is one condition: I have to agree with God that I am not perfect, that I am guilty of breaking His law, and that I need to be redeemed.

So, I acknowledged my sin, asked God to forgive me, and purposely turned from a life of sin. Therefore, I am forgiven. You can be forgiven, too.

That is what Christmas is all about.

The shepherds welcomed Jesus (God) as a baby. The Wise Men welcomed Jesus (God) as a child. You and I need to welcome Jesus (God) as our Savior.

I wish you a Joyful, a Blessed, and a Merry Christmas.

Pearl Harbor: December 7, 1941

On December 7, 1941, at 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time, a dive bomber from the Japanese Imperial Navy flew unchallenged over the mountains on the island of Oahu. Then 360 Japanese warplanes, following closely behind, thundered over the mountains, descended on and attacked the U.S. naval base and the Army air base at Pearl Harbor. That catapulted the United States into World War II.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt then galvanized the US Congress and the nation into action with his memorable speech which started with: “Yesterday, December 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”

Part of our Pacific fleet was crippled. Included in the destruction were: four battleships, three cruisers, three destroyers, several other ships and subs, and almost 200 planes. Over 2,300 Americans were killed and 1,200 wounded in that disaster. That debacle could not and would not be ignored.

Interestingly, the attack was engineered to prevent the United States from entering the war which would have enabled Japan to advance her imperialistic goals.

Dad’s 1999 book was updated and in December of 2021 was released under a new title: Dead in the Water. I put in new Introduction and numerous pictures, and my brother, Paul, put in a new Afterword. You can find the book on Amazon, and you’ll be glad you bought the book.

Japan’s surprise attack – prior to declaring war – propelled this mighty nation into action. The US aircraft carriers which Japan intended to sink at Pearl Harbor were not at Pearl. Admiral Chester Nimitz, also a Texan, had sent them elsewhere, and the aircraft from those ships destroyed the core of the Japanese Imperial Navy six months later in the Battle of Midway. My father was on the USS Yorktown in that battle.

Recently we seem to have forgotten about the attack on Pearl Harbor. No, we don’t hate the Japanese, but if we forget history, we’ll forget who we are and why our nation exists.

When I worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory – where our first atomic bombs were constructed – every year well-meaning people protested on August 6 and 9. Those were the dates the US dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They thought we should never have bombed Japan.

The fact is, we didn’t want to bomb Japan; we didn’t even want to get into the war. But when we are attacked, we do respond.

Tales From the Road: Life Without Internet

Several years ago, my precious Carol and I stayed at an RV Campground for six weeks in southern Washington. It was a beautiful area, but the campground had one thing missing. It did not provide wi-fi service for us. They did provide it for people staying for two weeks or less, but those of us who stay long-term have to pay for our own internet service, wi-fi, and electricity. All you veteran RVers probably know what I’m talking about, but this was new to us.

I laughingly and facetiously asked Carol, “Is there life without internet?”

She reminded me of when our three older kids were in elementary school. The school officials were going to conduct an experiment that was titled: Is there life after TV? The Public Schools were cooperating in a research endeavor regarding the effects of television on family life.

This was not mandatory for everyone, but on Monday morning all kids in the school were encouraged to refrain from watching television for the next 7 days. The kids took notes home to their parents asking them to participate with the project.

The kids were asked to bring in daily reports of what they did each day and how life changed, but in our house, we watched very little TV anyway, so our quality of life did not change. Darlene, Ron, and Jeremy practiced their musical instruments a little more and we got into more family discussions. But I was surprised when Carol told me how much better we all got along with each other.

Guess what? Shortly after this educational experiment, we sold the TV and used the money for music lessons. Our kids were in on the family pow-wow, and that decision was unanimous.

For all the other students in the school, was there life after television? After just two days, there was weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth in many of the homes – and much of that came from the parents!

It was surprising how many families had wrapped and warped their lives around the screen that usurped so much of their time. Unplugging the television was like a divorce, and life was shattered. Many families couldn’t take it and turned the TV back on! Relief flooded their homes as each family member resumed going his or her separate way.

That was in 1979. We still do not immerse ourselves in television, theater, entertainment, etc. Our daughters and Carol & I own televisions, but the TVs are tools we use at our discretion. On the other hand, our two married boys, Ron and Jeremy, don’t own television sets. We all understand what life is about.

Now, where was I? Oh yes … is there life without the internet?

The first question Carol and I asked ourselves is: What is the purpose of this extended trip?

The purpose is two-fold. We realized that if nothing in our lives changed in these, our later years, we would not be making any new memories. So 1) I resigned from my responsibilities to reduce stress, and be with Carol. And 2) I need time to write two or three books.

And guess what? It was great! Even without internet.

But let me be open with you: I do need wi-fi and internet periodically, but not 24/7. I have to have internet capability – as when I need to email, submit blogs, send my Reflection articles to the newspaper, and do research – and the park officials allow me to intermittently use their service. But leaving the RV to do that means I plan my time judiciously because I enjoy spending time with Carol.

So, are there benefits of not having internet and TV? Yes, that’s why I am not paying for it at RV campsites. But we are paying for electricity. That comes in handy if we want to have lights, heat, and use of the computer – wi-fi or not.

One man asked me, “Don’t you want continuous use of your e-mail service?”

I told him that I can live without most of the e-mail I receive. E-mail that friends and family send can be answered when I have time. I reminded him of the benefit of e-mail: others can send e-mail at THEIR convenience, and I can respond at MY convenience. I am not hog-tied to the internet or e-mail; the telephone is for immediate interaction – usually.

 Well, since you’re reading this, I suppose the internet is working. Have a great day.

Thanksgiving Day

I lean back in my La-z-Boy chair, prop up my feet, turn on the 10 motors in the chair to massage my tired back, and relax. I like football, but I don’t feel like watching a game right now. Carol brings me a cup of coffee with the right amount of milk and sugar. I take a sip, ahhhhhhh, close my eyes, and thank God for the wonderful life He has ….

“Sweetheart. Gene, where are you?”

“Huh … wh … what’d you say?”

“You must have fallen asleep.”

“Yeah … I guess I … was … dreaming.”

Thanksgiving Day is almost here, and I’m in front of the computer where my hand fell on the keyboard. I looked at the screen and saw a page of Js. I deleted them. I looked over to where my La-z-Boy chair is beckoning me in real life.

“The reason I called you – oh, sorry that I had to wake you up – but we got a call from family in California. The fires are raging, and many houses, barns, and businesses have gone up in flames. Are you sure we should go out west?”

I thought back on the dream I was enjoying.

Not many bad things have happened to us, and I’m thankful. But what about my friends and family members? We are mourning for the family whose father and daughter recently drowned. Fires have ravaged multi-thousands of acres and several towns, and tornados have created havoc in many places. How will those whose lives have been turned upside down celebrate? Or can they truthfully celebrate Thanksgiving with the turmoil they’re experiencing?

I thought about the smoke would encounter if we went west. That shouldn’t be too bad, and we probably would not meet up with any flames. At least, I hope not. The smoke is devastating for some folks with bronchial problems, but my allergy pills should help me.

“Precious, I think we should go to our daughter and family south instead of our son and family out west.”

Years ago, two of my sisters lost houses in fires, and some friends are currently without electricity. Friends whose houses were damaged by the twisters are waiting for the repairs or reconstruction to take place. With that in mind, a question hung heavily in my mind, so I asked the Lord. “Father, how can people be thankful in the face of disaster? How can they actually be grateful when so much has been taken from them?”

Then I remembered asking my sister, Jan, how she felt when her house was destroyed. She responded, “Eugene, it’s only stuff. Whatever we want to replace, we can. But it’s only stuff. We’re still alive. That’s what counts.” That was an excellent, mature response.

I asked our friends how they’re doing after the tornado damaged their house. One of them responded, “We’re doing fine. It was hard to sleep afterwards, but it’s only a house. God has taken care of us.” The other said, “We’re doing fine. It’ll get repaired, and we are thankful to the Lord.”

I’ve never heard God speak out loud, but He answered my prayer with the following thoughts.

I give many kinds of blessings, many of them are material. Most people, even those who don’t know Me, are generally happy about what they have. But those who know Me are grateful for our relationship, and they don’t wait for this day of the year to show it. Their gratefulness, their thankfulness, is not based on what they have, but what they are. They are thankful for life. And when their human life is over, they will thank Me face-to-face.

Some time ago, a missionary couple at church told us about a poor family overseas. With barely enough money to buy food, they received a gift of $70. They were excited, but they knew another family who had no food at all. Following God’s leadership, they joyfully gave that $70 to the other family. Their generosity revealed not only a grateful spirit, but a deep, mature relationship with God.

“Precious, I called to see if the repairs on the trailer were complete. It’s almost ready.”

“What if the weather gets stormy?”

“We’ll go without the trailer.”

It isn’t what we have or don’t have that produces joy, and it isn’t whether or not we’ve experienced hardship in life that prompts us to be thankful. What engenders gratefulness is knowing Jesus Who offers us eternal life.

James 1:17 tells us that every good gift comes from God. Let’s express our gratitude to God every day. Let’s be generous to others. And let’s be compassionate and help those who are experiencing hardship and tragedy. Allow God to bless others through you.

Tales From the Road: Tillamook Cheese

Years ago, I saw a movie about a woman who wrote for a newspaper. She ran out of ideas, so she began writing about different uses of cheese. After five weeks, the editor called her into his office. When the writer revealed what amounted to burnout or loss of imagination, the editor blurted out: “You’re a good writer – write about anything. But no more cheese, lady!”

That was the best line in the movie.

However, since I hadn’t written about that use of milk, since Carol and I were in the town of Tillamook, Oregon, and since I really like cheese, I decided it was time to write about it. When my editor read it, he approved, so I sent him some.

Tillamook is a Native American tribal name, but that’s another story.

Mankind has been making cheese for over 4,000 years, and I read that there are 1,831 kinds of cheese. Cheese is classified by geographic origin, what animal gave the milk, the animal’s diet, age of cheese, texture, added ingredients, butterfat content, and a lot more, and by combinations of all the above. Most milk used in cheese production is from cows, but cheese is also made of milk from goats, camels, sheep, yaks, buffalo, and even reindeer. I wonder if anyone tried giraffe milk.

Tillamook is my favorite brand of cheese, and Colby Jack (marbled yellow & white) is my favorite kind. Don’t ever confuse Colby Jack with Pepper Jack. That stuff is hot! (My editor liked it.)

The Tillamook Cheese Factory is a dairy cooperative that was founded in 1909. My first visit was in the summer of 1991 with Carol and the younger two kids (Rebecca and Michael), and this is my third visit. Over a million people a year must have the same taste for cheese as I do and visit the Tillamook Cheese Factory, so they built a new visitor center, updated its name to Tillamook Creamery, and added a food court.

There is no admission price. You walk in and learn while you enjoy all the free cheese samples.

So, how is cheese made? If you already know, skip the next four paragraphs.

Milk is poured into a vat and an enzyme, rennet, is added to coagulate it. (But juice from fruit, fig leaves, melons, safflower, vinegar, lemons, and other vegetation can be added instead.) This causes the milk to curdle and separate from the liquid whey. Tillamook’s vats hold 53,500 pounds (over 6,300 gallons) of fresh milk. As the milk is stirred, the curds and whey separate. The whey is drained into another container while the curds begin to stick or knit together. This is called cheddaring.

Ten pounds (1 gallon plus 2.5 cups) of cow milk will produce one pound of cheese, while six pounds of sheep milk will produce a pound of cheese because of its much higher fat content. Goat cheese production is similar to cows.

I hope this isn’t boring you. The whole process fascinates me.

The curds are chopped, cut, and pressed to release more liquid. Then the cheese curds are poured into a square column and pressure is slowly increased. When pressure finally reaches 800 pounds, it is held for two minutes then cut into 40-pound blocks. The blocks are stored and aged from 60 days to five years – depending on their intended use.

After the proper aging, the blocks are cut into smaller blocks – normally, half-pound, pound, and two-pound blocks. Mis-shaped or broken pieces are made into shredded-cheese. The Tillamook Creamery packages about a million pounds of cheese a week, and that takes about 1,160,000 gallons of milk each week.

There are hundreds of uses for the whey. It is commonly used as an ingredient in some drink mixes, protein bars, and other foods. Whey powder is often added to smoothies and other workout foods for its protein.

The Tillamook Creamery center is a 38,500-square-foot building that allows visitors the privilege of learning about each step of the milk-to-cheese process and allows them to actually see production from the second-floor level.

We visited the facility twice this week and really enjoyed learning. We ate lunch there, but the best part was the large Tillamook ice cream cones! Carol got huckleberry and chocolate-peanut butter, while I got chocolate and vanilla. That, with the free cheese samples on the second floor, topped off our meal.

If you get a chance, visit the Tillamook Creamery in Tillamook, Oregon.

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