Ability versus Availability

In mid-June several years ago, Carol and I were returning home after visiting Jeremy (our son) and his family in Perkins, Oklahoma. We were on highway 33 about halfway between Perkins and Tulsa when I suddenly stopped the car and turned around. Carol asked, “What are you doing?”

Pulling onto the shoulder on the north side of the road, I said, “Look.”

Carol incredulously exclaimed, “Oh no, a fire!”

I was already calling 9-1-1. When the operator asked about my specific location, I said, “I am on Oklahoma highway 33, east of the intersection of highway 48; but I don’t know how far.”

The operator said, “No problem: we’ve got you pegged. Stay there; a truck will be on the way.”

When Carol asked how they knew where we were, I said, “GPS on my cell phone.” (That’s another story.)

Fires generate their own weather-patterns and can produce fierce winds. That becomes a major factor in the growth of wild fires, and is why they need to be spotted and put out early. In the past several years, fires had ravaged that portion of the state.

It was after 10:00 pm, dark, and we had nothing with which to douse the fire; so we were merely a landmark, waiting for someone who could extinguish the growing blaze. About six minutes later, a fire-truck pulled up in back of us. The driver said, “Thank you for calling it in, and thank you for waiting for us. You are free to go now.” That was a hint to get out of his way.

Carol and I didn’t have the ability to quench the fire, but we were available to contact those who could do the job.

Ability versus availability.

Another time, in the summer in 1976 in the heat of the day, Carol, the kids, and I were heading south on Arizona highway 89. We were almost to the little town of Congress when we saw a small brushfire beside the road. We surmised that the fire was caused by a foolish person throwing a cigarette out the window. It was hot, and a lot of dried vegetation (fuel for the fire) covered the country-side.

Cell phones were not invented until the mid-1980s, and I didn’t have one until the mid-90s. With no way to call for help, 6-year-old Ron, 4-year-old Jeremy, and I used a cardboard box, dirt, and our 5-gallon container of water to extinguish the small-but-growing blaze. In that situation, we were available and had the ability to complete the task.

What is the common denominator in those two events? Availability.

Without our presence and alertness in each of those situations, both fires might have caused great physical damage and possible bodily harm.

No, I’m not bragging; merely explaining the concept of availability. The idea is: no matter what you know or what you think you know, your knowledge cannot benefit anyone unless you are available to apply it.

“Available” means: Present and ready for use; at hand; accessible.

What about you? Are you available to mankind and to God? Although an unlikely candidate, Abraham Lincoln was available. God, Himself, doesn’t need our skills and abilities, but He does give us the privilege of exercising our gifts and abilities—what He gave us or enabled us to learn—to fulfill our portion of His plan: thus, growing His kingdom and helping mankind. You may be a computer technician, auto mechanic, writer, pastor, secretary, lawyer, politician, policeman, or fireman. Whatever your vocation, God calls each of us to work as though He (God) is our supervisor. He then helps us to be alert to situations, such as the fires, and directs us as to our part in putting them out.

Psalm 147:10-11 says, “His pleasure is not in strong horses, nor his delight in brave soldiers; but he takes pleasure in those who honor him, in those who trust in his constant love” (GNT).

The psalmist tells us that God does not rejoice in our strength and ability, but He finds pleasure in our attitude. Are we available to Him and mankind, or are we stuck on our own desires? It is our attitude that determines whether or not we are available.

I am not inferring that you need to accept every offer that comes your way. You need to pray about all that. But we can take a hint from Jesus’ parable of The Good Samaritan. Are you available to help? Are you available to put out various “fires” (physical, emotional, relational, etc.) that you encounter?

Pray about it. It is great to be part of God’s team.

Seeing Things Differently

Dandelions! Disgracing the yard. I want grass to mow, not weeds to grow!

One day when I got home from work back in New Mexico, I found the yard blanketed with yellow flowers that would soon be replaced by round, geodesic white puff balls that easily break apart.

To eradicate the pest from the yard, we need to kill the entire plant. If we don’t kill the taproot, the plant will grow back; so something like Ortho Weed-B-Gone, or Scotts Turf Builder Weed & Feed is needed.

When we were kids in Southern California, we picked dandelions and had a grand time blowing them to pieces and watching them waft away in the breeze. We were cooperating with nature by seeding the countryside, but we didn’t know we were irritating the neighbors by seeding their yards with these vicious weeds.

And now we watch our grandkids do the same thing; but we watch with mixed emotions. It’s great watching the kids having fun, but we also know we are involved in spreading the dandelion scourge.

But wait a minute. What’s so bad about these beautiful yellow-then white geodesic weeds? And are they really weeds? Do they really disgrace the yard? After that day on our half-acre up at 7,834 feet altitude, I gained a different perspective of these beautiful specimens of life.

Some folk believe the dandelion evolved about 30 million years ago in Eurasia. But no one but God, and possibly some angels, existed that far back; so how would they know. God didn’t tell anyone. The angels probably didn’t, either.

For several days, we saw the sea of yellow flowers open in the morning when sunlight hit them, and close in the shade of the evening—much like the Morning Glory, Gazania Daisy, the California Poppy, and others.

Some theorize that these type flowers close up at night to save their nectar from nighttime plant-eating thieves. Others think that these plants close up to protect themselves from nighttime chill. Who knows? Either way, we enjoyed seeing a yard of green turn to a blazing bright yellow every morning.

Dandelion—a French word—literally means “tooth of lion” or “lion’s tooth”. (I don’t know why it was given that name.) Dandelions are officially known as Taraxacum officinale; and maybe—just maybe—we shouldn’t call them weeds. I won’t itemize all the ailments they have allegedly cured because some of it is hearsay and part is doubtful folklore. But this prolific bit of vegetation does provide benefits.

In addition to preventing soil erosion, they are loaded with vitamins and minerals. Vitamins A, B, C, and D, and iron, potassium, calcium, zinc, and some detoxifiers, are available right in your yard. Yes, they are edible both raw and cooked. It is best to harvest them before they blossom; but be sure to get them before the white geodesic puff-balls make their grand appearance.

Dandelion tea is an inexpensive diuretic. As a diuretic (it also aids in pancreatic operation), the tea can aid diabetics and those with urinary disorders. Containing antioxidants, dandelions could be useful in reducing free radicals in the body, which, in turn, could reduce the risk of cancer. Dandelions, like celery, are beneficial regarding intestinal health.

The greatest benefit comes from eating the dandelion greens raw. If you do cook them, drink the juice to retrieve what you just cooked out.

I suppose I should add a note of caution. Diabetics who are taking blood-sugar modulators might stay away from eating dandelions; it could result in hypoglycemia. Also, many folks might be allergic to the plant. So, do your research related to your own health status.

But this whole concept (eradicating dandelions) reminds me of many who want to stay away from Jesus and His church. They think “church” or the Christian religion will hinder their lifestyle; and they want to eradicate Christ from their life.

They don’t understand that, as the dandelion has healing properties that can benefit their physical health, on a much higher plane Jesus Christ has made available benefits that will aid us both physically and spiritually; both in this human life, and forever.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Our lives began at conception; but we will live forever somewhere.

Where will you spend eternity? Jesus is truly God, and He gave His life to save you from an eternity of desolation. Don’t eradicate Him from your life. Study the Bible. Live for Jesus. Enjoy eternity with Christ. His benefits are—quite literally—out of this world.

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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I Can’t Get Lost

1951 Del Mar FairWhen I was five years old, my parents took my four sisters and me to the San Diego County Fair in Del Mar, California. My paternal grandparents went with us, so Dad was not paying as close attention to me as he normally did.

We entered the east gate and the first exhibit we encountered was the reptile building. Snakes, especially big ones like the boa constrictor and anaconda, had my attention. Boas and anacondas are non-poisonous constrictors and kill their prey by squeezing them. Green anacondas grow to about 30 feet, weigh up to 550 pounds, and live about 10 years; while boas can grow to 14 feet long, weigh up to 100 pounds, and live up to 30 years. Female Boas can give birth to litters of up to 60 live babies that are two feet long.

I was spell-bound by the size of these critters and was fascinated by the way they moved, so I didn’t notice when the family walked away. Dad probably called my name and expected me to follow, but I heard nothing because of the high volume of thoughts racing around the corridors of my little mind.

At one point, a sheriff walked up to me and asked, “Son, are you lost?” Startled, I said, “I’m not lost because I know where daddy’s car is.” Because of the potential for getting lost in a crowd, dad ALWAYS made sure we knew where the car was.

When the sheriff asked me where my parents were, I looked around, and not seeing them I said, “I guess my mommy and daddy are lost.” Chuckling at the rationale of this five-year-old, the sheriff took my hand and said, “Well, let’s go and find them.”

We hadn’t walked far when I saw dad walking quickly toward us. I said, “That’s my daddy!” When the sheriff asked, “What’s his name?” I said, “Daddy.”

“Well”, he said, chuckling again, “I guess your daddy’s not lost anymore.” After explaining the situation to dad, he suggested to him “go light on the boy” and not punish me. But he also advised him to keep a tighter rein on me.

This concept of not being lost has followed me through life. It doesn’t matter where I am, I’m never lost because I always have a fixed point of reference. Whether it was daddy’s car as a child or my home as an adult, I always have a “home base.”

Oh, I might have an interesting time finding a place where I have never been – Carol calls that getting lost. But for me, “being lost” is not knowing how to get back to the house. But I don’t get lost because even without a GPS unit, I always know how to get back home and that brings comfort to my soul. I have a deep-seated security knowing where home is and how to get there.

Carol seldom drives on our trips because I enjoy driving. But one time I needed a break so she drove for several hours. When I woke, she said that she might have made a wrong turn and wanted to know what to do. I waited for a few minutes to see the next highway sign. I knew we were in Illinois, so when I saw South I-57 I said “We’re not lost. Keep going until you reach I-70 and turn west. That will take us toward Saint Louis, and that’s the direction for going home.”

When Carol and I decide to stop traveling, we know that someday we will have one last trip to make. That will be an exciting trip because we know our destination – heaven. We know how to get there – having accepted Jesus into our lives, He will take us. We know how long it will take to get there – immediately upon breathing our last here on earth. And we won’t have to pack anything because we will take nothing with us.dscn0464

Oh, at times I forget to follow Jesus closely, such as when I lingered too long at the reptile building at the fair. But when I ask the Lord to forgive me, I quickly get back on track.

Jesus, as presented in the Bible, is my fixed point of reference. Because I’ll serve Him and live for Him to the best of my ability for the rest of my life, I’ll never be lost. Have you made appropriate plans for your last trip?

Visit to the Smokey Mountains

In November of 2014, we drove to Tennessee to visit my 91-year-old Aunt Evelyn, and 95-year-old Uncle Bert for their 70th wedding anniversary. During that trip, we made a trek into a portion of the Smokey Mountains south of Knoxville, and that’s a spectacular part of God’s creation!

“The Smokies”, as they are often called, are a portion of the Appalachian Mountains which runs from Canada to Alabama. In the area of Lenoir, Sevier, Townsend, and Pigeon Forge, we saw beautiful scenery that far surpasses any televised armchair travelogue. (Pigeon Forge has been built up to be a lot like Branson, MO.)

Near Townsend, we took an excursion up the Foothills Parkway. Stopping at a turnoff to gawk at the beauty, we saw a red Toyota with a man inside watching us. As I approached him, he rolled down his window and asked, “How you folks doin?” And we formed a friendship.

His name is DH Tipton. Pointing southeast, he said, “I come up here every week to look at the beauty of God’s nature. See that hill right over there ‘bout a mile off? I was born there 81 years ago. I’m the last from a large family, and by the time I was born my momma ran out of names. So she just called me ‘DH’, and that’s my name: DH Tipton. DH don’t stand for anything. You should’ve seen the looks on the faces of my friends in the Army Corps of Engineers when I told them ‘DH IS my name.’ And yep, I’m a native who was born over there, right near what is now called the Foothills Parkway.”

Quoting from the Blue Ridge Highlander, “The Foothills Parkway West is a 17-mile long section of the Parkway that travels along the backbone of the Chilhowee Mountain between Chilhowee Lake and the town of Townsend in Blount County.  From this vantage point you can view not only the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park to the southeast, visitors can also enjoy views of the huge and grand valley lands of the Tennessee River Valley bordered by the long plateau of the Cumberland Mountains to the northwest.”

This mountain range is famous for its smoky haze that is actually a perpetual fog. DH said, “Anyone from California, New York, or any densely populated area thinks this haze is air pollution. But it’s not. It’s been here before man arrived. But now that I mentioned it, air pollution has been invading these parts. Visibility has been reduced by smog blowing in from both the Southeast and the Midwest.”

Over 9,000,000 people visit the Smoky Mountains National Park each year, which makes it the most visited park in the country. Clingmans Dome at 6,643 feet, is the highest peak in the Smokies. It’s the highest peak in Tennessee and the third highest in the Appalachian range. However, Mount Le Conte is an impressive sight: although it reaches an altitude of only 6,593 feet, it towers more than a mile over the town of Gatlinburg located at its base. That reminds me of Sandia Crest which towers a mile above Albuquerque, NM.

As we drove through the mountains, we would often “catch a glimpse” of a valley, waterfall, or steep mountainside in its pristine beauty. Schedules are a necessary part of life, but as we drove through this part of God’s creation, we decided to modify the schedule. We wanted to see more.

But time eventually ran out and we continued our trek. We drove to Sevierville and ate at the Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant. This restaurant has a far-reaching reputation, and we found out why: the service and the food are GOOD!

We were continually amazed at the magnificence of God during that trip through the Smokies. I know many folks who think that amoebas, salamanders, fish, dinosaurs, man, the earth, and the entire cosmos just happened to materialize out of some mythical and mysterious big bang. But when we stop and think about it both logically and scientifically, we know it’s impossible for stuff (atoms, molecules, stars, galaxies) to appear out of nothing. And it’s also impossible for rocks to morph into life.

The excellent fish dinner I ate at the Applewood Restaurant didn’t just happen to become a cooked meal and plop onto my plate. It took planning and work. Also, life didn’t just happen to exist: it took planning and work. God did both the planning and work. (The staff at the Applewood Restaurant cooked the fish.)

Visit the Smokies if you can, and check out the Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant in Sevierville, TN. You’ll enjoy the trip and the food.