Same Ground – Different Results

Carol and I love nature. We both were raised “in-town”, but we thoroughly enjoy driving along the coastlines, through forests, prairies, mountains, and even deserts. There is beauty in all of nature even though some people cannot see it.

The first time Carol’s mother drove from Washington State to New Mexico, she thought New Mexico was a wasted desert. However, after living there for several years, she learned to enjoy its beauty and didn’t want to leave. New Mexico is called “The Land of Enchantment” for good reason.

But we are also farmers at heart. We enjoy planting seeds, flowers, bushes, and trees and watching them grow. In 1974 we planted a Banana-Apple tree sapling in our front yard in Los Alamos, NM. We moved to Tulsa in 1978 so we didn’t have the privilege of eating its fruit at the 5-year mark. But in 1988 we moved back to Los Alamos (not to the same house) and visited the old place. Believe-it-or-not, the tree had grown so large that it nearly overshadowed the front yard! We had done a good job in preparing the ground prior to planting it, and the underlying soil was good for the tree. The owners gladly allowed us to take as many apples as we wanted, and we belatedly enjoyed the fruit of our labors. The apples were delicious in pies, strudel, crisp – and eating raw. They were good!

Even though I understand nature and farming, something always surprises me. I plant anything that crosses my fingertips in the same dirt. I give them all the same water. I treat them all with the same care. But different things sprout out of that same dirt. Although the same environment may be used, onions, potatoes, corn, yams, cucumbers, zucchini, beets, carrots and the rest are programmed to grow at different rates, to different sizes, to look differently, and to taste differently. The same ground produces different results.

The environment is basically the same – dirt, water, air, cultivation, weeding, debugging, etc. – but with minor variations, the results can be remarkable! We fertilize the ground and adjust the nutrients and minerals to match the needs of the seeds or bulbs, and that produces a difference in the quality of the product. If I kept everything exactly the same, something would still grow; but seeds respond differently to variations in the environment.

Do you know that we plant seeds into our own minds? Day after day we watch or listen to television, radio, the theater, DVDs, CDs, etc. We listen to all kinds of music and bombard our bodies with various levels of noise. We read books, magazines, newspapers, advertisements. We listen to audio books, gossip, slander, political debates, classroom teaching, sermons. What goes into the eyes and ears enters our minds and becomes part of us. Stuff is being planted into the garden of our minds day after day, and what we fertilize grows the best. The method of “fertilizing” what is in our mind is called “meditation”; and a simple definition of meditation is: “spending time thinking about what we have seen and heard.”

Psalm 19:14 says, ‘Let the words of my mouth and the meditation [thoughts] of my heart [mind] be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

You should ask yourself: Is God pleased with my thoughts?

We also “plant” seeds into other people’s lives. What we say to others – whether good or bad – produces a harvest. We either help others live a higher quality, more productive life, or we stunt their growth to where they don’t live up to their God-given potential. We must assure that we make positive comments for people to meditate on.

However, don’t confuse “negative comments” with “corrective statements.” Life doesn’t consist of a “Pollyanna World” or a 100% positive environment; therefore, we should learn to make necessary corrective statements in the proper attitude. Also, we should learn to make corrective adjustments in our own attitude. This is a lifetime process and I am still working on it.

I hope you understand that our minds are fertile ground, and what we see and hear eventually produces a harvest: some good fruit and some bad. Our character may be blossoming and maturing to where we can bless God and man, or it may be stunted as a sterile tree planted in contaminated ground. Sometimes a sterile tree looks wonderful until “harvest time”. That’s when the real nature of the tree is revealed. (Read Matthew 13:25-30 about the wheat and tares.)

Friend, what’s growing in the garden of your mind? What do you meditate on?

London Bridge – Redeemed History

In April of 2015, Carol and I went to California to speak at the annual USS Yorktown Survivor’s Club Reunion. The keynote speaker, Rear Admiral Mac McClaughlin, spoke at our banquet on the USS Midway in San Diego Harbor.

Spending a night in Kingman, Arizona, Carol said, “In 50 miles we’ll get to Arizona Highway 95. Driving south on 95, it is only about 25 miles to Lake Havasu and the London Bridge, and we haven’t seen the London Bridge for about 40 years. Let’s go see it.”

“Your wish is my command, my love.”

Some travelers say the scenery in that part of the country is desolate, hot, and dry. Well, it may be hot and dry in the summer, but I’m not sure it’s desolate: you should see the numerous animals inhabiting the land. And it is beautiful! Between Kingman and the southern tip of the Lake, we took over 200 pictures.

Does the bridge look any different from 40 years ago? It is the same, but the town has certainly grown around it.

But the bridge! Straight from London, it is redeemed history! When you look at the bridge you are looking at part of London in 1831AD. But you see the Stars and Stripes and the British Jack flying alternately on poles on the bridge because it is also now part of American history.

The first bridge over the Thames (pronounced Tĕmz) was of wood construction probably built by the Romans near the village of Londinium prior to Jesus’ time. Destroyed and rebuild numerous times, Henry II chose Peter of Colechurch to oversee the reconstruction of the bridge, but this time it would be a substantial structure. Finished in 1163, it was the last wooden London Bridge. Lasting for over 600 years, it was considered a “wonder of the world.”

But it, too, eventually had to be replaced. John Rennie and his son oversaw the work, and you might say it was a “rock-solid structure” because this bridge, completed in 1831, was made of stone. The bridge weighed about 130,000 tons. The USS Ronald Reagan, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, has a displacement of over 103,000 tons, so you get an idea of the bridge’s weight.

However, not having a stable foundation, the bridge sank about one-fourth inch annually. Another problem: it wasn’t made to withstand the heavy traffic of modern society. By 1924, the east side had sunk about four inches lower than the west side. The bridge had become a concern to the community, and they considered tearing it down.

But someone had a novel idea: Council member Ivan Luckin suggested selling the bridge. The rest of the London City Council thought he was crazy! However, with no other viable idea forth-coming, they decided to look for a buyer. Surprisingly, Robert P. McCulloch was interested.

McCulloch is the founder of Lake Havasu City, Arizona – a retirement and real estate development project on the east shore of Lake Havasu. He bought the bridge in 1964 for $2,460,000 as a tourist attraction to his city. But it was a chore getting it to Arizona. He couldn’t just pick it up by helicopter and haul it over. In time, they developed a plan.

The stones of the bridge were individually numbered as the bridge was disassembled, and the plan for reassembly was simultaneously drawn up. The stones were shipped through the Panama Canal to California, then hauled by truck to Lake Havasu, Arizona. The Sundt Construction Company laboriously reassembled it, but modified the plan and reassembly procedure to meet current safety code for bridges. Therefore, the bridge is hollow with substantial steel reinforcement, and was fully reassembled in 1971. The weight of the modified bridge is about 30,000 tons.

The lamp posts on the bridge were made from Napoleon Bonaparte’s cannons, and the bridge has been in two American movies (“Day Of The Wolves” and “Bridge Across Time”). And, of course, it is the world’s largest antique.

In 1960, the bridge was considered useless, and was to be destroyed. But in 1964 Robert McCulluch redeemed it and made it a magnificent, important part of his plan in Lake Havasu.

Jesus did the same for you and me. Having sunk in the muck and mire of sin, mankind had become useless to God. But God, in the person of Jesus Christ, died on the cross for us and provided redemption for “whosoever will.” All that’s required of us is to stop living to please ourselves, ask God to forgive us for our sin and selfishness, live for Jesus Christ, honor God with our whole life, and help others.

And we will become an important part of God’s magnificent, eternal plan.

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?

Insufficient Power

In November of 2012, Carol and I were in Dulce (pronounced:  Dool-say), a small town on the Jicarilla (Hickareeya) Apache reservation in Northern New Mexico. On Friday afternoon, Carol was preparing lunch and I was preparing a sermon; but my computer was having difficulty conducting simple operations.
Then it informed me that the battery was exhausted and would shut down in ten minutes. It had been plugged in all day, so how could it be that tired?  Thinking that a restart might wake it up, I decided to shut it down manually; but I first saved my work and printed my sermon notes. Good decision! An unhappy surprise was awaiting me.

Upon restart, an information box appeared. It told me that the computer requires a 130-watt power supply to operate, but that I was using an insufficient 65-watt supply. I remember buying this travel transformer when I bought the computer, so how could it be the wrong one? Then the dreaded order appeared: “Restart using a 130-watt power supply.” Guess what? I had left my primary power supply at home 854 miles away.

I took the fussy computer – and the insufficient power supply – fifty-three miles to a computer shop in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. During the interrogation, it slowly dawned on me: the 65-watt transformer came with my previous computer! When I upgraded to my Dell Precision M6300, I didn’t think of purchasing an updated travel power supply, and had not needed a backup power supply again until this trip.

I had two options: either go home to retrieve the primary power supply, or … no. Driving a round trip of 1,708 miles in eighteen hours was impractical. Even if I could average 95.44 mph for the entire trip, the police wouldn’t approve. I had only one, real option: buy another one!

The store manager said she could have a new power supply in two weeks and my machine would be down-n-out until then. But after making an emotional appeal – and paying an extra $20 – the 130-watt power supply arrived in only five days. “Live and Learn” is what they say. But I was happy that I had printed my sermon notes!

Do you realize that we humans sometimes develop the same problem of exhausting our batteries? We often find ourselves with insufficient power to finish the job at hand. Sometimes we even start a job without the appropriate power. Perhaps we are either not plugged in, or maybe we are plugged into an improper power supply. Attempting to operate on low or inappropriate power often works for a while, but living that way can eventually generate a nasty little condition called burnout. Or even Failure!

There are various reasons for exhaustion or lack of power, but a major principle that my friend (Tom Whittlesey) and I learned decades ago addresses many of them. A simplified version is: “God’s work, done in God’s time, done God’s way, will never lack God’s provision.” Let’s break it down for easy understanding.

  1. A pastor in New Mexico decided to tear down a historic church edifice and build a modern one. He presented the idea to the church body and it was voted down. Nevertheless, he persuaded the board to approve it. He then overcame numerous roadblocks, and arduously accomplished the project. Half the people left the church, and the other half was saddled with an almost bankrupting million-dollar debt. The pastor had his monument but his anticipated feeling of accomplishment and elation never materialized. It wasn’t God’s work; and demoralized, he resigned within a year.
  2. William Booth was a pastor/evangelist with the Methodist Connexion in England. Ministering to thousands every week, he was stopped one day by a beggar who said, “Mr. Booth, if I believed what you say you believe, I’d do something about it.” During the next few weeks, Booth began to realize that it was God’s time to start a different kind of ministry. He resigned from the pastorate and in 1865 started what became the Salvation Army. It was God’s time.
  3. Years ago, the director of the YMCA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, had worried himself almost to a nervous breakdown. He was working about 85 hours a week while worrying about the myriads of problems that surrounded him. Depressed, he finally went for counsel.

The doctor said, “George, you’re going to ruin your health with worry unless you back off. You must turn all your worries over to God, and learn to trust your staff.”

After thinking it over, George took a long walk in the woods. Sitting down against a tree, he got out his pencil and paper, and wrote:

Dear God,

I hereby resign as Executive Director and General Manager of the Universe.

Love, George

“Wonder of Wonders,” George said later, “God accepted my resignation!” Within days his strength returned and he could think more clearly. And within a few months the YMCA operation improved dramatically. He learned to do things God’s way.

  1. God rewards and blesses those who cooperate with Him to the best of their abilities.

Living this way, we can experience a fulfilled, balanced life. We’ll get sufficient rest, eat properly, see life more clearly, and our batteries won’t run down.

God’s work, done in God’s time, done God’s way, will never lack God’s provision.

Wind Power

As we were driving through the Texas panhandle, we saw more towers being installed in the Texas wind-farms. You know what they are, I am sure. There are several manufacturers and sizes of these super windmills, and they are huge.

As of March of 2017, over forty projects with over 10,800 wind turbines throughout Texas provided electricity through wind power – called renewable energy – and generated approximately 15.7% of the electricity used in Texas. That’s more wind-powered electricity than is generated in any other state. This industry also provides over 24,000 jobs in Texas.

As I said, these towers are big. The Vestas V90 tower is 262 feet tall and weighs 152 tons; the nacelle (including the actual turbine) weighs over 75 tons; and the blade assembly weighs over 40 tons (with each of the three blades being 148 feet, or a half a football field, long). That’s a total of 267 tons per windmill. From ground to tip of blade pointing straight up, the entire height is 410 feet. But there is more.

The towers are anchored on a base of concrete and steel that is 30-50 feet wide, up to 30 feet deep, and weighs over 1,000 tons. And some nacelles are built with a helicopter landing pad on top. By 2025, Texas hopes to generate 10,000 megawatts annually through wind-power.

The towers begin electrical generation at a wind speed of 7-10 mph, and generation ceases at 50-80 mph. The most efficient speed is 25-35 mph. As the direction of the wind changes, the nacelle/blade systems turn to face the wind. The reason for cut-out (stopping the blade rotation) at high wind velocity is to keep the long blades from breaking up due to the physical stress of high centrifugal force.

There are over 550 facilities who manufacture the various parts for the wind towers, with at least 45 of those facilities in Texas. Farmers and ranchers are gaining income from the power companies because they can obtain annual royalties of $3,000 to $6,000 per tower on their land.

The wind farm towers can be seen for miles around, are quite impressive, and are becoming more and more popular around the world. Without wind, our summer days can become oppressively hot, and rain would not be able to water the land. Wind has been a necessary component of life throughout history.

All of that reminds me of the wind mentioned several times in Scripture, and it often refers to the power of God. Acts 2:2 says, “Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm in the skies above them, and it [the noise] filled the house where they were meeting.”

Without the power of God available to us through the life of Jesus Christ, humanity would not have love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance (Galatians 5:22-23). The world would be totally overcome with the cruel and barbarous domination of cultures such as Nazi Germany, murderous Babylon, Imperial Japan, Atheistic China, and Sharia Law of Islam.

The only hope for the human race lies in faith placed in Jesus who died for us, but raised three days later to live forever more. If we believe in and place our faith in Him, we, also, will have eternal life and will live with God in heaven forever. If we accept Christ into our lives and live for Him, we will have peace that passes all understanding even in the midst of turmoil. We will be able to stand tall and strong through any windstorm we may face, just like the Vestas V90 wind towers in the plains of Texas.

Allow the wind of the Holy Spirit to turn your turbines and release the power of God in your life. You can start by reading the Gospel of John in the New Testament. Have a blessed day.

Hot Air Balloons

After speaking for the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Chapter in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I was going to take Pastor Clarence Gutierrez of the Christian Family Church (Taos, NM) back to Taos. The pastor’s daughter was driving him up from Albuquerque, and I thought I’d have a 15-minute wait. But it’s a good thing I learned not to be in a hurry because the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta generated so much traffic on I-25 that traffic was stalled for more than an hour. I kept in touch with Clarence by cell phone, and relaxed as I drank coffee and talked with other friends.

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is an annual festival that takes place for My Pictures0008nine days in October and is the largest balloon event in the world. Several balloon shapes include: an F/A-18 fighter jet, giant turtle, a car, telephone, cow, covered wagon, soda cans, and hundreds more. Over 1,000 balloons participated in the year 2000, but in order to focus on quality, event organizers now limit the number to 600. Over 100,000 spectators are present each day during the event, with untold thousands more throughout the city observing the balloons as they rise high in the Southwestern sky.

One popular night-time portion of the event is called the “Glowdeo” (glowing rodeo). That’s when participating balloons are inflated but do not lift off the ground, while the propane flames illuminate the various-shaped balloons.

From an historical news clip, we read:

The Balloon Fiesta began in 1972 as the highlight of the 50th birthday celebration for 770 KOB Radio. Radio station manager Dick McKee asked Sid Cutter, owner of Cutter Flying Service and the first person to own a hot air balloon in New Mexico, if KOB could use his new hot-air balloon as part of the festivities. The two began discussing ballooning with Oscar Kratz, and McKee asked what the largest gathering of hot air balloons to date had been. “19 balloons in England”, Cutter replied. Kratz asked “Can we get 19 here?” Cutter agreed to try.

Twenty-one pilots agreed to come, but only thirteen showed up because of inclement weather. That event was on April 8, 1972 and it quickly became very popular. But since autumn produces better flying conditions for balloons, October was decided as the best time to continue the annual event.

The largest and most popular part of the 9-day fiesta is what they call the “MassMy Pictures0006 Ascension”. This is when participating balloons ascend in two waves – 300 in each wave – and the city is filled with “Oooohs” and “Aaaahs” as they rise majestically with the unsurpassed beauty of the 10,679 foot high mountain, called Sandia Crest, providing a spectacular backdrop.

The Balloon Fiesta is one of New Mexico’s most popular tourist attractions, and hundreds of food vendors are on hand to provide almost any kind of food your tummy might desire. For a number of years, the Kodak Company was a major sponsor, and the event was called, the “Kodak Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta”.

The balloons rise off the ground because the propane burners produce a large quantity of heated air that is less dense than the surrounding air, and rises – pulling the gondola (the basket), the propane equipment, and the people with it. This is the same principle in which lighter oil rises above denser water. The balloons stay aloft until the heat dissipates and the balloons begin to come down. The pilots skillfully operate the burners to “fly” the balloons: rising, lowering, and landing where they choose – normally

My Pictures0005But there are also problems associated with the Balloon Fiesta. Traffic gets jammed as drivers watch. Sometimes the propane burners malfunction. Balloons sometimes hit power lines. The wind may blow a balloon over while the burner is operating causing the balloon to burn. Traffic accidents happen because of gawkers.

Pastor Gutierrez finally arrived and we joyfully headed for Taos. The next day, Sunday, the District Superintendent, Mike Dickenson, ministered and we had an enjoyable meeting. Clarence, Mike, and I are long-time friends and our fellowship is based on our love for Jesus Christ.

As you travel through life, stop and smell the roses; don’t get in a hurry. Don’t allow the irritations of life (like traffic jams) bother you, and learn to see the good in every situation. Psalm 111:10 says, “Wisdom begins with respect for the Lord; those who obey his orders have good understanding.”

Take Time to Relax

Get your coffee or tea, sit back, prop up your feet, and relax while I reminisce for five minutes.

Several years ago, Carol and I spent a month in Southern California assisting with some family issues. As a native of San Diego, I don’t visit California without visiting the coast. Watching the waves roll in with the accompanying sound of the surf is therapeutic for me. I can sit for hours watching the ocean; it changes from one minute to the next. What some people call “the pounding surf” is actually music to my ears.IMG_0151

I also like to walk on the beach, especially at low tide, and collect shells. Sand-dollars are my favorite, but any pretty unbroken shell goes into my plastic bag. Many people collect sand dollars and use them in their hobbies and craft-work. They are commonly used in creating home décor: wedding favors and place cards are high on the list. Some paint beach scenes, sunsets or put personalized messages on them. But I collect the shells, clean them, and give them to family members and to children who don’t know how to find the unbroken ones.

It’s amazing to see how many people like to go surfing. No, I don’t mean surfing the internet or television. These men and women ride their surfboards (from 6 to 12 feet long) for hours, day-after-day trying to “catch the big wave.” The boards are usually tied to their ankles so they don’t get away when the surfers get dumped. Their wet-suits keep them relatively warm, but they also reduce sunburn.

Remember The Beach Boys? They enhanced the popularity of surfing by writing and singing their 1963 hit: “Surfin’ USA.” The words to the second verse are:

“You’d catch ‘em surfin at Del Mar (Inside, outside, U.S.A.), Ventura County line, Santa Cruz and Tressels, Australia’s Narabine, All over Manhattan, And down Doheny way: Everybody’s gone surfin’ — Surfin’ U.S.A.”

Many of those dedicated surfin’ souls hit the water at sunup, and surfed until they needed to eat or tuckered themselves out. And as I watched them, I couldn’t help but hear the refrain running through my mind: “Everybody’s gone surfin’ — Surfin’ U.S.A.”

Carol and I enjoyed walking on the second-longest wooden pier on the west coast (a DSCN12901,954-foot-long pier in Oceanside), eating at Ruby’s Restaurant at the end, and watching the California Brown Pelicans go fishing. They would circle an area where the school of fish were, fly to about twenty feet above the water, then drop like a dive-bomber – folding their wings before they hit the water. Under water, they immediately open their beaks and scoop up fish. Surfacing, they swallow their hapless prey, then start the process over. Many times thirty or forty pelicans were fishing simultaneously.

Where the pelicans were diving, there was often a flock of California Cormorants sitting on the water. They would dip below the surface, swim to the school of fish, grab their share of the meal, then resurface. To everyone’s delight, the dolphins would often show up. Everyone liked seeing the dolphins surfacing; leisurely taking a breath of air between gulps of fish. And, of course, the ever-present sea-gulls were squawking as they fought for the left-over food. For that group, it was definitely first-come-first-served! On our last walk on the pier, we saw a school of anchovies swimming around the pier. The school was about fifty-feet in diameter and perhaps twenty-feet deep.

No fishing license is required while fishing on the pier, and we saw people from many DSCN1358different countries tending their fishing poles. Sand-perch, sting-rays, skates, mackerel, and anchovies were the common catch on that trip.

Thinking of fishing makes me hungry, so I’ll remind you: the food in Ruby’s Restaurant at the end of the Oceanside, California Pier is very good!

I remember another trip we made to the Coast in January of 1993 for my Grandmother Linzey’s funeral. The weather in Southern California was mild, as it usually is, and Michael (our son who was ten at the time) said, “Dad, a California winter is like a New Mexico summer!” Indeed, it was. The temperature was around 73o F on the Southern California coast at the time.

That’s enough reminiscing for now. This evening, why don’t you sit back, relax, and take time to review some of your memories?

The Real Story

You think you know the story in Luke 15:11-32 because you’ve heard it a hundred times? Keep reading, because this time you might be surprised. Bear with me as I put the story in a modern setting.

*******

A man was successful as a rancher and in his investments, and his family had everything they wanted that money could buy. He had two sons, George and Jake: both of whom secretly disrespected dad, and openly hated each other.

Disillusioned with life, one day George, the younger boy, said, “Dad, I’ve thought it over and I want nothing to do with ranching. I want to live my own life without you telling me what to do. Give me my half of the inheritance and I’ll get out of your life!

The dad evaluated his business, sold enough stock that was equal to half his worth, and gave it to rebellious George. Jake was ecstatic! Now everything the old man owned was his, and he would do everything he could to build the business; for he was now heir to it all!

Over the next four years, George spent his money on prostitutes, cars, gambling, drugs and alcohol. He flew around the country and around the world  visiting the best casinos. The owners got to know him and welcomed him with open arms as they offered him free alcohol and free rooms for him and his current partner. Thinking that his friends loved him, he lavished his time and money on them, too.

But he forgot something: continual outflow, without a corresponding inflow, will dry up the money-flow. And it happened to George. Now penniless, he realized he needed a job – anything that might provide enough money for another drug fix, bottle of booze, or cheap sex.

With a four-year history of extravagant but shameful living, no one would hire him; and all the friends he thought his money had bought had deserted him. Totally abandoned, he figured that suicide was his best option. But as he began to make the plan, a thought entered his beleaguered mind: “Maybe dad will hire me to repair fences, or something. There’s enough to do on the ranch where I can stay out of his way.”

He called home from the Salvation Army office. When he asked dad if he could come home, his father said, “Son, I’ve been waiting for you and my door is open; come on home.” The Salvation Army captain took George to his house to get cleaned up. He gave him clean clothing and bought him a bus ticket.

Eighteen hours and two states later, the bus pulled into town around noon. Wondering howDSCN4942 he would get from the station to the ranch, the boy looked out the window. His mouth dropped open as he saw his dad and a group from the church waving signs that yelled “WELCOME HOME GEORGE!”

As he disembarked the bus, he broke down. Sobbing, he said, “Dad, I’m ashamed of what I’ve done. I’ve wasted everything, and my life is a mess. Can you hire me as one of your ranch hands until I get back on my feet?”

But his father took the young man into his big arms and said, “Son, I have been waiting every day for four years for you. Everything I own will belong to Jake, but you are still my son. And as long as I am alive, my home is your home.” When they pulled up to the big house, his mother, aunts, uncles, and neighbors had a barbeque shin-dig ready; and a huge cake had been prepared that was decorated with “Welcome Home!”

George asked, “Where’s Jake?” Dad said he was up north conducting business, but would be home in a couple of days. But someone called Jake and told him George had returned. Jake blew up!

Jake immediately called his dad and demanded, “What’s that good-for-nothing wino doing back home! I’m the one who has stayed with you and built the business. I don’t want him here living off what I’ve built! Get rid of him!”

Dad responded, “Jake, everything I have will be yours. But George asked to be forgiven, and it is only right that we let him in. After all, he is family. As long as I’m alive, George can stay.”

*******

Dear reader, you’ve been told the story was about George who wasted half the family fortune. But George’s narrative is only the background for the real story. The parable is about Jake’s rebellion, rejection, and refusal to forgive.

CrossJesus told the parable to the those who considered themselves the elite of society and heirs to the kingdom of God. The proud religious leaders thought it would lower their prestige if they accepted traitors, tax collectors, winos, and prostitutes into their society and into their church meetings.

The moral: Pride is just as bad as wasting a life. But anyone who truly repents – whether pastor or prostitute, model citizen or murderer – is accepted by the Father and welcomed into His kingdom.

Humbly turn to our heavenly Father, tell him you’re sorry for how you’ve lived. Ask him for guidance and courage to turn around, and he’ll help you.

Enjoy the Trip

SWOOOOOOOOSH!! It seems that a powerful gust of wind blew into our house, flipped 1280px-Strommast2the pages on the calendar, turned our hair a little whiter, took money out of our wallet, and blew back out of the house leaving us a little off balance. The birthdates of our kids and grandkids seemed to be but a blip on the radar screen. Does time fly that fast for you? Time seemed to 0go a lot slower when we were younger.

When Rebecca, our younger daughter, was in high school she asked me, “Daddy, how can I make time go faster?” I said, “Either learn to like what you are doing, or become very busy.” That didn’t quite satisfy her at the time. But when she went to college and loved her time there, time began to fly. Now that she is a wife and mother of five children (four girls and one boy), she is wondering how to slow time down.  However, she told me recently that she is learning to make the most of each day with her kiddos – and logging the life-enriching memories.

With the days and months seemingly whizzing by, is there something you have been intending to do? A project waiting for you? A book you want to read? A trip you want to take? Maybe something you want to write? Don’t wait too long because we never know what tomorrow brings.

Some years ago, Carol and I found a way to slow time down – a little. We refrain from putting too many items on our calendar, and we spend more time with each other, helpingjanuary-2019-calendar2 each other. Relating life to a cross-country trip, Rev. Chuck Swindoll summed it up in six syllables: “Stop, and smell the roses.” He informed us that merely putting miles behind us does not enrich our lives. We must stop! Get out of the car. Walk around. “Smell the roses.” In other words: Don’t just finish the trip – enjoy the trip. Learn something. Do something meaningful for yourself.

Make your life count or be significant within the context of other lives. This doesn’t require a New Year’s Resolution, a Masters’ Degree, or $25,000 in the bank. Instead it requires the desire to really live life fully – in a Godly context, of course. And it produces peace, less stress, a gentler pace of life, and most likely a longer life.

All that is sometimes difficult to do because we have a hard time deciding what to eliminate from our hectic, overcrowded schedule. You’ve probably heard the statement: “When you’re up to your neck in alligators, it’s easy to forget that the initial objective was to drain the swamp.” But you can ask for help getting back into the boat, and seek counsel to make better plans.

Some of the best counsel you can receive is found in the Bible. When my grandfather was 96 years old, he told me, “Everything you need to know is in the Bible. You can learn a lot of things, but everything you NEED to know is in the Bible. Study it.” He is right. Read the Psalms and Proverbs. You will be surprised at the wisdom for everyday decisions you will find there. The added benefit is reading, studying, and living by the Godly principles there enables us to experience a more peaceful and enjoyable life.

So, cut out a lot of the unnecessary busyness, and think about that project to do, book to image00771read, trip to plan and take, or book to write. Lighten the load by eliminating unimportant things. Keep the important items. Don’t make your life more hectic, but more valuable.

Spend time with family. Attend worship services regularly. Stop and smell the roses.

And all year long remember this: God loves you.

The Caterpillar and the Butterfly

Monarch CaterpillarThe caterpillar emerged from its egg and opened its twelve eyes. It didn’t know what to expect; all it did was to crawl out on its leaf and see what the world was all about. But the leaf turned over, and the caterpillar lost its footing and fell onto the grass. “Wow! That was fun!” it said.

The caterpillar has sixteen legs, but only six of them are true legs. The others assist in holding onto twigs and leaves.

The worm was starving, so it began eating the green things it fell on.  He liked grass, but he also ate some big flat things that fell off the trees. Leaves were stiffer and tasted better.

The little guy spent most of its waking hours eating. Over the next week, he crawled all around the yard to experience life, eating every step of the way. Then it discovered a bush – the one he fell from, but didn’t know it. “Wow! If I can get up there, I could see EVERYTHING.”

So it spent the next half hour climbing up the intertwining twigs of that three-foot bush. When it reached the summit, it looked out over the yard. “Wow! I didn’t know I could see the whole world. This is great!”

The little worm had hatched on this bush that was planted in a small enclosure that served as a safe play lot for the four-year-old human. To the worm, this was a huge world; but to an adult human, the 15’ x 15’ play lot surrounded by a six-foot wooden fence was very small.

The caterpillar looked over the world often, and was amazed at the size of it.

After several days it began thinking, “I wonder what’s on the other side of the world?” So it climbed off the bush and began climbing up the six-foot wooden fence to take a look. In a few hours it reached the top. “Wow! There are more worlds to see.”

Then something orange and black floated above its head. Monarch

“What are you doing down there?” asked the orange thing.

“I am trying to see other worlds. I’ve been searching my world and ….” The worm suddenly realized that the orange thing was flying.

“Hey! How do you do that? How did you get up there?”

“I am a monarch butterfly, just like you will be in a few days. After you crawl for the last time and wrap yourself in a blanket, you will die. But, don’t worry, you will come back alive. It will be difficult climbing out of the blanket because it gets real hard after you die. But when you come back alive, you will look different – like me. The world you know now is only a tiny part of the bigger world. You will fly like I am, and you will like it! Well, I have to go now. I am flying with hundreds of my friends to a far-away place. Don’t forget what I said. Bye.”

 “Wow! I didn’t know any of that. How did she figure it out? Well, I will think about that later because I am starving!”

About five days later, the caterpillar began feeling sick. Then it thought, “Maybe what the butterfly said is happening. I better go to the bush and start making a blanket.”

So it did. It was in the pupa stage, or chrysalis, for ten to twelve days. And it had a difficult time breaking out of its hard blanket – like the butterfly said. But that terrible ordeal was planned by God in order to make its wings strong, and able to fly.

We’re like caterpillars. We crawl around, viewing life like the worm does, thinking this DSCN0402.Bphysical life is all there is. We’re oblivious to the reality “beyond the fence.” But our world is very small, and God wants us to see “the bigger world” from his perspective – more like the butterfly.

The secret to understanding reality is to die to ourselves. Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (NKJV).

Dying to ourselves means we learn to know God and put his desires ahead of our own, and do what he wants us to do. Then we begin to see and understand from his perspective. And at the end of life, we fly to the bigger world: God’s home in heaven.

And that’s only the beginning!