Friday, December 31, 2010

The Kepler Dynasty

I need your help with something. I don’t understand the concept of royalty. Oh, I fully comprehend how a family would rise up to rule over their friends and neighbors – offering a safe haven back when defense and conquest were ugly realities of life.

I’ve seen all the movies with good kings (Robin Hood) and bad kings (Braveheart). It’s easy to understand how dynasties rose and fell in centuries gone by. I just don’t see the need for royalty in this 21st century.


Why can’t my family be a 21st century dynasty? I could be King Reece...

Take Prince William, for instance. You remember Prince William don’t you? He’s the eldest son of Princess Diana, of fame for a number of reasons, not the least of which was her fiery death in a tunnel in Paris; and Prince Charles, famous primarily for his royal divorce and his extremely large honker.

I see where Prince William is getting married. And the whole world is glued to their sets to see what church they will select, and what flavor their cake will be, and at what opulent vacation retreat they will honeymoon. I see these “news” stories over my morning coffee, and I think to myself, “who cares?”!

My question is this – What makes these people any better than… say, my people? Why can’t my family be a 21st century dynasty? I could be King Reece and Queen Stephanie would never have to clean the house again. Her 149 servants would do that. By the way, that number, 149, is not an arbitrary number. That’s how many servants Prince Charles has.

Believe it or not, no press at all reported on it when Stephanie and I drove to Vegas to get married. By the way, in case you’re interested, the “church” we chose was A Hollywood Wedding Chapel on Las Vegas Blvd. Our cake was whatever Planet Hollywood serves as complementary to newlyweds, and our honeymoon spot was that opulent vacation retreat known as Las Vegas, Nevada.

But back to the Kepler Dynasty – I would be a good king, like Richard the Lionhearted, not an evil king like Edward Longshanks, the Hammer of the Scots. Would you be willing to bow down and kiss the Kepler Crest on the Royal Ring? No? I didn’t think so.

Now I read where Prince William and his fiancée Kate Middleton, after their wedding in April, will not have ANY servants. Not a butler, not a chef (apparently Kate’s a pretty good cook), not even a personal valet (although I’m betting they will at least have maid service come in once a week to run the vacuum).

You know, this “no servants” policy makes me wonder if Prince William just doesn’t get the concept of royalty.

I wonder if he would kiss the Kepler Crest.


Photo "Prince Dillon, Princess Rebekah and future Queen Kiley" used without permission

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Heart to Heart

Remember eating those little candy hearts on Valentine’s Day? You know… the ones with cute sayings stamped on them. Perhaps you even gave a little candy heart with just the right saying to that special someone. I’m sure there are couples happily married today all because of a little candy heart.

When I was a teenager the church I attended sent out letters to its members with one of those little hearts glued to it. I don’t recall the nature of the letter, but what I do remember is that the machines at the post office crushed the candy hearts. So when you opened your letter from the church you got a lap full of candy dust. When teased about it the church staff just grinned in embarrassment.


I remembered the testimony of that little old lady…

But let me tell you something else I remember about the candy-heart-letter story. There was a little old lady that attended the church whose letter must have missed the posting machine or something, because her heart wasn’t crushed... at least not her candy heart!

The reason I know this is because one Sunday evening, back when churches still had what they called “testimony service”, this little old lady stood up and shared about how she was struggling with a trial in her life, and the day that letter arrived she was having an especially difficult day. Then she opened the letter, and there glued to the paper was a candy heart. And printed on that little candy heart were the words TRUST ME.

And she received that little candy heart as a word from God that all is well. And the peace of God flooded from that little candy heart to her aching heart.

I don’t remember that little old lady's name and I would suppose that now, some 40 years later, she is surely absent from the body and present with the Lord. But if not… if she’s still with us, I hope she’s reading this story right now. Because I would like for her to know that many times over the last 40 years, when I was going through a trial and having an especially difficult day, I remembered the testimony of that little old lady… and the peace of God flooded my heart!


Photo Melt My Heart used by permission


Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Flying Monkey Movie

It’s the baby boomer generation that finally changed the way we look at things. Before, if a man got old and forgetful they laughed at him and said he had “Old Timer’s Disease”. Now, with sympathy and respect, that forgetful gentleman is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

I remember when, if a man just ate and ate and ate, and then went out behind the shed and stuck his finger down his throat to throw up, he was laughingly judged a glutton. Now that man (although it’s more often a teenage girl) is diagnosed with Anorexia, and offered treatment by medical science.


We snickered when we heard that Gomer Pyle was married to Rock Hudson...


But alas, not all changes are for the better.

When I was a child there were two men who lived together down the street. They dressed kind of funny, and even as a young boy I recognized that their home was expensively, if not oddly decorated. And we laughed about these men being “married” to each other. And we snickered when we heard that Gomer Pyle was married to Rock Hudson; although to the best of my knowledge that rumor turned out to be false.

Let’s face it. Not too many years ago, homosexuality was carried forth behind closed doors, at the risk of shame and banishment from the community. Now parades are held where those who embrace the “lifestyle” frolic gaily along as if they are the normal ones.

You may be of the attitude that this new acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle is a sign that the world has at last caught up with wisdom and sanity. If so, your beliefs disagree with the rest of us, who recognize homosexuality for what it is – deviant behavior that is frowned upon by the Creator of the Universe.

One wonders just how much more “change” this old world can absorb. Some changes are for the better. Others we recognize for what they are – harbingers of the inevitable finality we all will soon share.

So please indulge this old geezer when I forget the name of that “Flying Monkey” movie I’ve watched each year with fondness and joy. I may be getting older, but my mind is still sharp enough to know one thing...

Toto, we aren’t in Kansas anymore!



Photo Musical Monkeys used by permission

Saturday, December 11, 2010

An Angel Gets His Wings

The Movie
If your holiday traditions are like mine the time of year has come to watch that classic of all Christmas classics. I’m talking about the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”. But there’s one scene in that movie that hits so close to home it’s scary - and I don’t mean funny-scary, I mean petrifying-scary.

The Scene
The scene that brings me to the brink of nightmare is not really the scene itself, but the memory it evokes. The scene is when George Bailey’s brother, Harry, sled out of control, ends up in the water. Of course, George saves Harry, but in the alternate world of Clarence the Angel, Harry sleds his way to a watery grave.

The Memory
A few years before my wife Stephanie and I met, I was married to someone else, and had two step-children, a girl named Amy and a boy named Casey. I well remember one year when we were in Colorado for Christmas with Amy and Casey’s grandparents. It was Christmas morning and Casey had found a brand new, bright red plastic snow sled under the tree. He was anxious to try out his new sled and everyone was antsy to get out of the house so we took a road trip to Wolf Creek Pass, a ski resort close by.

The Sled
We checked out the prices to rent equipment and buy a lift ticket, and decided just to hang out and have some fun instead. There was a really cool hill above the parking lot where we decided Casey could walk up and then sled back down to us – a controlled area where he would never be out of sight. And so up the hill he shot, grin on face and sled in tow. And then, with reckless abandon he yelled out a “whoooooopieeeee” as he jumped on his sled and headed down the hill.

The Mountain
What we had not taken time to notice was that just past the parking lot was the rest of the mountain – the downward side of the mountain! In fact, the parking lot we were playing in was located at an elevation of a little over 10,000 feet. And with gravity being what it is, if something (or someone) was to slide past the parking lot, the results would be… well… let’s just say far reaching!

The Terror
I would say we never noticed the danger of letting Casey sled past us and on down the mountain, but the truth is I did realize the danger. The problem is – I realized it only after I saw the terror in Casey’s eyes as he hit the parking lot and sledded right past me – out of control and unable to stop.

The Grab
The outcome of our little road trip that day could have been quite different – in fact it may have made the 11 o’clock news all across America, had Casey’s big sister Amy not grabbed him by the collar of his jacket and pulled him from the careening toboggan.

The Vanishing
And so there we stood, watching that bright red plastic luge as it flew down the side of the hill and into the valley. Down, down, down went Casey’s Christmas sled. And we watched and watched…and watched and watched, until the sled finally was so far down and away that it disappeared from sight, never to be seen again.

The Silence
As I remember it we didn’t say much about what might have happened, had Amy not been standing where she was, or had she not had the presence of mind to grab his jacket. I think it was just too overwhelming to think about. But I assure you, the outcome could have been devastating.

The Reward
After the divorce I lost touch with Amy and Casey, but I’ve heard Casey grew up to be a mighty man of God. And one thing I know – for every good thing Casey does for the Kingdom of God, Amy will get a jewel for her crown.

The End
I’ve often wondered if George Bailey and I have the same guardian angel, because I'm pretty sure I remember hearing a bell ring.

Hee Haw - Thanks, Clarence. And by the way, if Casey forgot to say it, Thanks Amy!

Photo used by permission

Friday, December 3, 2010

Uncle Dick and His Ship

When a man grows old and dies, his legacy – or at least the memory of his life – passes to his sons, and then to his son’s sons. Of course, if he doesn’t have sons it passes to his daughters. But if a man has no sons or daughters, will he be forgotten?

I remember meeting Uncle Dick only once in my life, or maybe twice. He was born on 11/11/11 and died in February 1980. And, while my father and I drove to San Diego for his funeral, we pulled into town just as it was taking place, and so we missed it. Uncle Dick is buried in a beautiful cemetery out on Point Loma.


This truly remarkable feat of seamanship was the only time in recorded naval history that such an event occurred...


But it is Uncle Dick’s death that really defines his legacy, or – not really his death, but more so how he died. In 1955 Navy Captain Richard Purdy, a WWII combat veteran, was the skipper of the USS Marion County (LST-975) when he and his ship were ordered to participate in an experiment code-named “Operation Wigwam”, a nuclear weapon test so secret that even its codename was classified and could not be mentioned without the highest clearances, and under penalty of imprisonment.

In Operation Wigwam, conducted by The Department of Defense and The Scripps Institution of Oceanography, three submarines were placed underwater, 500 miles off the coast of San Diego, and then a 30 kiloton nuclear bomb was detonated in a 12,000 foot ocean, at a depth of 2,000 feet. The objective was to see if a surface vessel could use nuclear weapons to destroy submerged enemy submarines without causing harm to itself.

At 1:00 pm Pacific Time on May 14, 1955 the bomb was detonated… and three submarines were obliterated. But that detonation also sent a fireball-bubble 12,000 feet into the air, covering a one and a half mile area of the ocean and sending highly radioactive seawater in all directions.

The Marion County was an LST-542-class tank landing ship, a ship with a set of large doors on the bow (front) that opened to off-load tanks, cargo and troops onto an unimproved shore. The Marion County’s role in the experiment placed it in close proximity to Surface Zero. And so, when the bomb exploded, the crewmen were overwhelmed with fear as they witnessed the 1,200 foot tidal wave surging their way. Using the ship’s loudspeaker system Commander Purdy was able to calm the crew, who braced themselves for impact.

Damages to the Marion County were extensive. At first Commander Purdy thought the ship would surely sink as a result of the blast. But after the shock passed and the water settled, the Marion County was still afloat. However, those huge bow doors mentioned earlier were damaged to the extent that the ship could not move forward. And so, Uncle Dick had to navigate his damaged ship back to Long Beach Harbor, a trip of over 500 miles, in reverse! To sail a ship in reverse for more than a few hundred yards had never before been attempted, nor has it since. This truly remarkable feat of seamanship was the only time in recorded naval history that such an event occurred.

When the Marion County finally reached dock, Captain Purdy’s wife, my Aunt Ruth, was there to meet him. But Uncle Dick was not allowed to leave the ship. A technician from the Scripps Institute checked him for radiation and found his shoes were too “hot” to allow him to leave the vessel. In fact, the deck was so hot with radiation that all who had walked on it had to change clothes and shoes before departing.

If you looked up “Operation Wigwam” on Wikipedia.com you would read the government’s official version of the event. You would read that, “…The test was carried out without incident, and radiation effects were negligible.” The brief, three paragraph account closes with the statement that “… only three personnel received doses (of radiation) of over 0.5 rems.” What you would not read about are the dozens of sailors, contractors and civilians who participated in Operation Wigwam, and have since died of various types of cancer.

On his deathbed, suffering the ravages of leukemia and lung cancer, Commander Purdy, my Uncle Dick, called in a young neighbor, Ron Josephson, and spoke haltingly into a tape recorder, detailing and setting down the record on Wigwam. "It's too late for me, son, but I feel that we're all left holding the bag, all those crews, not just on my ship, but all those crews."

A crack investigative reporting team broke the story of Operation Wigwam, and the December 2, 1980 issue of New West Magazine published the full account. A short time later the story was scheduled to run on the television news magazine show “20/20”, but as I remember it, the segment was pulled at the last minute.

Incidentally, according to Wikipedia.com, the USS Marion County was transferred to the Republic of Vietnam, where she served South Vietnam as RVNS Cam Ranh (HQ-500). Following the Fall of Saigon on 29 April 1975, Cam Ranh escaped to the Philippines, was renamed BRP Zamboanga Del Sur (LT-86), and serves the Philippine Navy to this day.

Captain Richard Purdy (USN), current status – deceased.

RIP Uncle Dick - you are not forgotten.





Read more about Uncle Dick and his ship:

The Marion County (History Central)


The Marion County (Wikipedia)

Operation Wigwam (Wikipedia)

Operation Wigwam - Washington Nuclear Museum and Educational Center

Operation Wigwam - National Association of Atomic Veterans Newsletter


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Losing the Faith

The worst part about growing up is losing that faith born of wide-eyed innocence. Tell a kid a story and he takes it as the gospel. In fact, a small boy will believe pretty much anything he’s told. But as he grows a little older he grows a little wiser. And after he’s been the butt of a few jokes he learns not to be so quick to take the bait.

But if, like me, the kid is very fortunate he gets to grow up in a home where he’s only told the truth, and so the disappointments are few… at least as long as he doesn’t leave the house!

But in reality, one of the biggest disappointments of my childhood happened in my very own home – right in the middle of the living room, on a summertime Saturday night.


Being such a naïve and sheltered little guy it took me longer than it should have to realize it...

It was the early 60s and every Saturday night without fail my brother and I would join dad in front of the TV set to watch our favorite show – Championship Wrestling! Championship Wrestling was a local show, filmed in the studios of Oklahoma City’s NBC affiliate, Channel 4. It was hosted by beloved radio and television celebrity Danny Williams, and it was THE event of the week. If you could stay awake all the way to the end you got to hear Danny Williams signature closing, “Good night, and watch out for flying chairs!”

Because it was filmed in the TV studio the crowd was small and the tickets were free. You just had to write and request them. We begged and begged, and finally dad broke down and ordered tickets. We could hardly wait for Saturday night. And then we were there. And then the wrestling started. I remember the sweat flying off the wrestlers and into the crowd.

Another thing I remember was how intrigued I was with the cameras. I waited for them to pan my direction and I did what most kids would do… I waved. And then I saw the cop coming my direction – and then I heard the cop say, “Kid, don’t wave at the camera.” That was my first experience going cross-ways with the law!

But back to the fights - After a couple of warm-up matches, the main event of the program would be a best-of-three tag-team match between the good guys and the villains. The villains would usually win the first match. Then the good guys would rally and take the second. The third match would tell the tale – crown the champs – settle the score once and for all.

But… the third match always ended in a draw! Then they would hastily announce a rematch to be added to the card the following Friday night at the REAL fights. See, the REAL fights were held every Friday night at the Stockyards Coliseum. And those tickets weren’t free, but they sold like hotcakes!

And now for the big disappointment – Championship Wrestling was all FAKE!

Being such a naïve and sheltered little guy it took me longer than it should have to realize that it was really just the 1960s version of the modern day “info-mercial”, pitching those afore-mentioned tickets to the REAL fights. And another kid loses the faith!

With the arrival of cable TV's superstations, the phenomenon that is “Wrestling” spread like wildfire, almost like a religion. And it amazes me the number of grown men who worship at the altar of sleeper holds and pile drivers.

I’m guessing they were all hit by flying chairs.


Photo WWE Classics used by permission

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Crime of the Decade

Every decade or so I am presented with the opportunity to commit a crime for personal gain. Am I incredibly honest, incredibly naïve, or just the average guy that keeps company with crooks?

The 80s
In the early 80s I was working in construction, building inexpensive houses that may or may not still be standing today - I would fear for my safety to go back into those neighborhoods to see.

The builder to whom I was employed was also into real estate investments, buying houses to rent out and depreciate for a tax shelter and a hefty profit. He had a standing offer – anyone who would buy a house on an FHA loan and then sign it over to him after six months would make $500 for their efforts.


I'm batting three for three in the "Kickbacks for Christians" program...


See, back in those days FHA backed loans could be signed over to a new owner without that new owner having to “qualify” for that loan. The term was “simple assumption”, and because of it many people owned houses who had no visible means make the payments. Hmmmmm… sounds oddly familiar, huh!

“But why the six month wait?” you might ask. Well, FHA backed loans were supposed to be so that Americans could realize the dream of home ownership. So the misuse of the program by investors was frowned upon by the law of the land. In other words… it was a crime. So if a new buyer were to immediately sign over his loan it would be an obvious violation. But wait six months, and the deal would probably fly under the radar.

So profitable… and so illegal – and I had the credit worthiness to obtain such a loan. I found the whole thing most uncomfortable, not so much because this guy was my boss, but because he was also a deacon at my church! Several months later, when news of FHA fraud investigations were reported, I was so glad I passed on the offer, and watched the newspaper for his name.

The 90s

In the early 90s, in a time of financial hardship, I was offered the opportunity to go to Phoenix and move a computer network for a company. I was the guy that had installed their system and so when they decided to move they called me. It was a chance to make a good deal of money for one week of hard work.

The manager of the branch asked me for a quote, but told me to “pad” $1,000 into the quote for him. I toiled with the concept – I looked up the Arizona statutes on fraud on the internet, and was assured that what I was being asked to do was a crime. And so, I refused to do it. I told him he would need to get somebody else because I wasn’t going to pay a kickback.

But he asked me for my quote anyway, and so I submitted it - without the kickback. He took my deal and I made 4 grand in a week. Did I mention that this guy was a church going “Charismatic” Christian?

The Aughts
Stephanie and I have been blessed with a beautiful home. But it almost didn’t happen.

When we first saw this house we fell in love with it. But it seemed out of reach for us. It took a brazen show of nerve to even pursue the possibility. But pursue we did. We called the builder, talked figures and hammered out what appeared to be a “do-able” deal.

However, having been around real estate matters for quite a while, I knew what kind of things oft happened for deals to “close”. And so I made it clear to the seller, I made it clear to the mortgage officer, I believe I even made it clear to the guy I buy minnows from, that I would not be a party to any underhanded deals.

If there was a document that had to be hidden from somebody, if there was an untrue claim that had to be made, if money had to be “parked” in an account for the appearance of assets… anything that even hinted at being underhanded – and our deal would be a bust. We were assured by all that no such thing would happen, and so we marveled and crossed our fingers for closing day.

That day finally came, and we sat down, pens in hand. But the figures weren’t right. We were netting $1,500 too much. “Oh”, the loan officer explained, “we had to show you with a little more cash in hand for the figures to work. You just need to write a personal check back.” When I raised an objection I was told, “Everybody does it!”

And so I asked her, “Who is it that can’t know about this $1,500 check?” “The loan underwriter”, she answered sheepishly. “But everybody does it”, she reiterated.

Guess what – not everybody does it! We got up from the table to walk away from our dream house, frustrated at the deception sprung on us at the last minute. When they realized we were serious, and with the figures on paper as approved by the loan officer, she made a phone call.

Then three things happened: 1) The deal closed with the figures as approved by the underwriter; 3) Somebody else lost $1,500, and 3) Stephanie and I were able to buy blinds for all the windows in our new home. And again, the builder in this deal is a spirit-filled Christian!

I guess I'm batting three for three in the "Kickbacks for Christians" program! You know, they say every man has his price. That may be true, and I may have just not yet been offered enough to trash my integrity.

So far I have resisted, but what will the “teens” bring?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Pollyanna and the Box Turtle

Back in the 60s every town big enough to have a TV station had characters famous for their afternoon childrens shows. The shows were locally produced and usually starred either a clown or a guy in a Halloween costume… with a clown for a sidekick. I’m sure they all went to yearly conventions where they wore their outfits and had the world’s weirdest party.

If you’re close to my age and you grew up in Oklahoma City then you probably remember The Foreman Scotty Show. Scotty wore white denim cowboy clothes topped off with a white hat (because he was a good guy). Kids would visit the studio to sit on a bench and have this guy stick a microphone in their face just long enough to shout their names. If it was your birthday you got to sit on a wooden horse with other kids who were also celebrating their birthday. I watched the show just hoping to see a kid fall off the horse.


I’m probably the only guy you know that actually had his pet box turtle run away from home...

Every self respecting kid in town sent in their name and received a membership card in the mail, and every day they had a drawing and gave away prizes. I never made it to the studio but I’ll never forget the day Foreman Scotty stuck his arm in that hopper and pulled out the card with my name on it. I had 30 minutes to call the show and claim my prize. I was so excited to hear Foreman Scotty call my name on TV, and when I read off my secret number into the phone Foreman Scotty declared me “A Winner”.

Imagine my excitement when I heard what I’d won for having my name drawn – a Pollyanna game and a box turtle! Now I didn’t know who or what Pollyanna was, but hey, it was FREE and it was MINE. I did know what a box turtle was. You know, now that I’m older and wiser I look back and realize that game was something the game store couldn’t sell, and the box turtle was probably picked up on the road by the pet store owner so could get the advertising without having to give away a real pet.

I soon learned that Pollyanna was a fictional character in a book – a little orphan girl whose optimism was so contagious that she brought gladness to the dispirited town in which she lived. Even when she was run over by a car and crippled she never lost her happiness and optimism in life. And even now in some circles her name is synonymous with a person who always finds something to be glad about. I’m guessing she wouldn’t have kept that goofy grin if she knew that nobody wanted to buy her game, and it had to be given away for free to some kid that got his name drawn out of a hopper.

I don’t recall ever actually playing the Pollyanna game (after all, it was named after a girl). I probably threw the game pieces at my brother for making fun of my girlie game.

And I’m probably the only guy you know that actually had his pet box turtle run away from home. I didn’t even have time to name it before it was gone with the wind.

You’d think I would have been warped for life by the whole affair. But hey, Foreman Scotty called me a winner!


photo courtesy of http://www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=903044

Friday, July 23, 2010

Infidels in the Cross Hairs?

I believe there are two kinds of people in this world; people who divide people into two kinds of people and people who don't. It makes me wonder which kind I am (hint - read the first 10 words again).

Of late we have been told that there are two kinds of Muslims, those who follow a radical agenda and those who embrace a vision of peaceful co-existance.

Now I don't know if this is true or not, and with so many talking heads betraying their own vanity on the idiot box, it's hard to know what to believe, but some say the Koran demands that true believers kill all infidels. And, my fellow Christian brothers, you and I would be those infidels in the cross-hairs.


I now confess that I believe while there are many kinds of Muslims - there's really only one kind of Muslim...


But of course, there are just as many who proclaim that a true believer of the Koran seeks to extend a hand of friendship to all men, in hopes that they might win some to their cause. Sounds oddly similar to another global religion - known as Christianity.

And I'm pretty sure that in at least one way Islam is like Christianity. In Christianity there are so many factions saying so many different things that an outsider would be confused about what Christianity really teaches. One TV preacher says there is no other way to heaven but by receiving Jesus Christ as your savior. Another says God would never send anybody to a literal hell, and so you've got it made-in-the-shade-with-a-lemonade!

I remember a Baptist minister from Oklahoma City who made the statement, "God does not hear the prayers of Jews". It made the national news. Many were outraged (especially the Jews). "God cut an eternal covenant with Abraham!" they pointed out, "And eternity hasn't ended yet".

Truth is that a sparrow doesn't fall to the ground without God seeing it, and he knows the number of hairs on our head. To say he can't hear a Jew is to put a limit on a limitless God. I believe what that preacher probably meant was that we are living in a different time with a different game plan, and only prayers made to God in the Name of Jesus are effectual in these "days of the Gentiles".

It would be safe to say that there are many kinds of Christians just as there are probably many kinds of Muslims. That being said, I now confess that I believe while there are many kinds of Muslims - there's really only one kind of Muslim... a person without Jesus Christ as Savior.

But in fact, I do believe there are two kinds of people in this world. There are those without Christ and without hope, and those who have made Jesus Christ their Lord and Savior.

Which kind are you?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Lorem Ipsum

In the publishing and graphic design business there comes an occasion when someone wants to display the graphic design style of a document or visual presentation. But if they present that product with actual words, then one would have a tendency to be distracted by what those words say, and not pay attention to the graphic design style they are supposed to be seeing.

So the language Lorem Ipsum was developed.


Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat.

Lorem Ipsum is a nonsensical bunch of words that appear to be Latin, but as any Latin speaking guy would tell you, aren’t really Latin. These phony words just sit there pretending to be real words, but saying nothing. Of course, the nonsense words are eventually replaced with real words before the document is actually published.

What if that document was your spiritual life – or more specifically God’s plan for your life? Would you be a graphically eloquent design with images of angels etched in the margins, but with Lorem Ipsum where your message should have been? Or have you replaced all the nonsense with a real message – a message so powerful it will change the lives of those who read it?

Your assignment for today – delete the Lorem Ipsum and begin to write God's Word in your heart. Oh, you've already started that process? Way to go!

Monday, June 21, 2010

No Buts About It

“He Claims to be Christian – but…”

I’m not sure what his name is, where he comes from or what values he holds dear to his heart, but I know what people say about him. They say, “He claims to be a Christian – but…!” The reason I know this is because I heard it said yet again a few days ago.

Oh, I’ve heard it before, many times… and so have you. Of course it’s not about the same person, but it’s about some person. Somebody sees somebody behaving in an unsavory manner or hears him speaking words considered unacceptable to “decent” folk… or perhaps he’s just downright living in open sin. And then you hear it… “He claims to be a Christian – but…!”

Perhaps you’ve even heard it coming out of your own mouth, as have I.

We all know what it takes to become a Christian, and we all know what it takes to remain a Christian. The problem is – what we all know… is different for each of us. We apply our standards of living - that unique combination of the experiences of our past, the sermons we’ve heard, the mistakes for which we have felt conviction – as the very path to eternal life. And “he’s” just not keeping it on the straight and narrow.

Don’t get me wrong here. I believe in living a righteous and upright lifestyle, bringing honor to the Lord Jesus Christ who purchased our salvation. But that’s the point, isn’t it…He purchased our salvation! And then he gave it to us as a gift to be freely received, not to be earned by a certain standard of living.

It was Saul of Tarsus; later known as the Apostle Paul to whom God chose to unveil the truths of this new covenant we call Christianity. And he wrote that if a man will believe it in his heart and confess it with his mouth ("it" being that Jesus Christ is his Lord) the he “shall” be saved.

I heard a story once about a guy that just kept going to the police station and confessing to every crime that had been written about in the newspaper. He’d claim to be the guy that robbed the bank, and he’d claim to be the guy that committed the murder. See, confessing something and claiming something… well, that’s the same thing.

So next time you hear somebody snarling about a guy that “claims to be a Christian – but…! You might want to point out to him that the guy that’s doing the claiming… well… the fact that he’s doing the claiming means he’s half way there already!

No buts about it!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Chicago Dogs

I find myself in the awkward position of owing an apology to an entire city. See, I had to visit the city of Chicago several years ago to install a computer network for a client. Actually I was in a sleepy bedroom community several miles west of Chicago proper, but as with most metro areas, you don’t really notice when you have passed from one hamlet to another… except for maybe the color of the street signs – the street “name” signs I mean. The stop signs are all red just like back home.

But back to the apology – When you’re on the road alone there’s nothing to do from quitting time to starting time, at least without getting yourself into trouble. So I decided to drive into the “city”. Having never been to Chicago all I had to go by was a map, so I plotted a route and headed in.


Little did I know that I was about to drive through the worst part of the city… in fact, the worst part of the Country – an area known as “The Projects”

My plans were to stay on the interstate until a certain exit that dropped me right into the heart of the city. But I didn’t factor in the traffic – wow, I’d never seen such heavy traffic. So I took a quick look at the map and grabbed an exit. I saw a street that pretty much paralleled the interstate all the way in; a street named Madison. Little did I know that I was about to drive through the worst part of the city… in fact, the worst part of the Country – an area known as “The Projects”. I saw burned out cars. I saw boarded up buildings. I saw drunks and druggies laying in the gutters and prostitutes plying their trade.

At one point I realized I did not dare stop for stop signs (the red ones), so I started “floating” them. At one intersection I barely got through in time, almost being cut off by a gang of hooligans. I had never been so scared in my life, and in fact never since. The next day I was told by a local, “heck, the cops don’t even drive through that neighborhood!”

But back to the apology - I have always been quick to report that the city of Chicago has no redeeming value. But alas, they have the Chicago Dog. See, once I safely reached the heart of the Second City I stumbled across this little hole in the wall bar built into the side of an old office building. And that’s where I discovered the Chicago Dog! Mercy Sakes Alive! These people put peppers and pickles and tomatoes on a hot dog. Back home we just slather mustard on the dog or drown it in ketchup. (In fact, a lot of Okies drown “everything” in ketchup.)

Since that day I have ordered Chicago dogs in dozens of diners, drive-ins and dives all over the country (apologies to Guy Fieri). There was even a time when Stephanie had a lay-over in Chicago, and she actually bought a couple from a vender in the airport and hand-carried them to me. I wolfed them down standing in baggage claim at the OKC airport. Have I got a wonderful bride, or what?

So when I sat down today at a little joint in Edmond and discovered a Chicago Dog on the menu I couldn’t pass it up. But… where were the peppers? I didn’t remember whether the menu actually listed peppers, but doesn’t it go without saying? That disappointment put me in the mood for a real Chicago Dog.

I couldn’t afford a plane ticket to O’Hare so I headed to the market. While admiring my creation in the photo please overlook the substitution of poppy seed rolls with white rolls and Sport peppers with hot chili peppers. In Oklahoma you just have to do the best you can.

And they say we’re a “Big League City”!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Three Old Men

A few weeks ago I wrote a story about my love of treasure hunting. It was a tongue-in-cheek piece where the treasure was a wrench lying in the road. Of course, the story was really about the treasure I found when I met the Lord Jesus Christ. You may remember it. It had a picture of a treasure map titled “Treasure Map”.

The funny thing about that story is – it has received more anonymous visitors from all across the world than any of the 70 or so other stories I have posted. See, I have this tracking program that tells me about my readers – not who they are of course, but where they are from and how much time they spend at my website.


I have watched enough episodes of “Antiques Roadshow” to know how cool it would be to find something of real value for a mere buck or two at a rummage sale...

The Treasure Hunter story has had hits from London to Moscow, from Athens to Vitry-sur-seine, from Bergen to Edmondton, from Swansea to Tripoli… every single one of them with the term “treasure map” in the search line.

Everyone is a treasure hunter. But I’ve already written this story, haven’t I? Well, not really. See, since I wrote that last story I found a “real” treasure.

Stephanie and I love to go to garage sales, and especially estate sales. But as a rule those events start on a Friday, or maybe even a Thursday, so by the time the weekend comes and we get to them we’re left to hopelessly sift through the dregs. But, there was this Friday when Stephanie and I had some business to attend to so I took the day off. We had some time to kill in the early hours of the day, so we went on a rare Friday morning treasure hunt.

We turned on a street with a “garage sale” sign at the corner and drove down to the house with all the junk strewn across the driveway. Now, I have two methods of treasure hunting. First I take a quick glance across the landscape, scanning for anything of real value, and then I start digging. (Thank goodness Stephanie carries hand sanitizer.)

But at this sale I never got to the digging stage. See, leaning up against an ugly old car in the driveway were three picture frames… with pictures in them. The first was an early American scene printed on cardboard, warped by time and in an inexpensive wooden frame. I recognized it from the days when “Home Interiors” was the house-party of the moment. This hideous item was marked $2.00. I passed on it.

The other two pictures were an obvious set, and obviously the object of this story. They were marked at $1.00 apiece. At first glance they appeared to be pencil sketches. They were framed alike, and signed by the artist. In fact, the artist’s signature was a part of the “print”, but then it was signed again down below, and had some penciled writing in a foreign language.

Like you, I have watched enough episodes of “Antiques Roadshow” to know how cool it would be to find something of real value for a mere buck or two at a rummage sale. Had I found such a treasure? I asked the lady sitting on the porch eating a donut, “What’s the story on these pictures?” “I don’t know nuthin about them,” She answered. “They were hanging in my mother’s house.”

That’s all I needed to hear. “This woman doesn’t know what she’s got here” I thought. Of course, I had no idea what they were either. But I was pretty sure they were worth more than a buck a piece. I left two bucks lighter and two pictures heavier.

I Googled the artist Paul Geissler (1881-1965) and found that I had purchased not prints, but hand tinted engravings, signed by the artist on the plate and signed and titled by the artist in pencil on the margin. And of course they were matted and framed.

I learned that the artist does the etching in copperplate and then those plates are meticulously inked and pressed onto hand-made paper to create a copy. That copy is effectively an original, as the copperplate is then cleaned and re-inked for the next work or art to be created.

I found an on-line auction site where a duplicate of one of my etchings, the “old man with a pot of flowers" gaveled at $100.00. Information on the other “old man” picture remains elusive… for now. But one thing’s for sure, a return of 100 times on your investment ain’t the chicken’s feet!

Cool find for sure! But Jesus Christ remains the greatest treasure this old man ever found!


Photo by Reece Kepler - Click on the picture to see a larger view.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A New Declaration

Memorial Day weekend causes most of us to pause for at least a few moments to remember and honor those who fought to provide us our freedom, and indeed those who continue to stand vigil for that freedom to endure. But what exactly is it those who fought and died actually secured for us? And how have we preserved what they provided us?

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – those familiar words from that awesome and precious document sum up the American experience. And yet, that document, and indeed the seemingly enduring truths spoken therein; that manuscript for which so many gave their lives… has been rewritten! Rewritten? Yes it has - at least in the hearts and minds of many.


...where along the way did the “right to pursue happiness” become the “right to happiness”?

Do you remember Don Corleone, the Godfather? He summed up the spirit of America in one short statement. The scene was a meeting with a man who wanted to corner the cocaine market. The Godfather refused to be involved in the drug trade (what an honorable man, huh?), but then he said something profound; something that in a sentence defines America - “I wish you well in your new business, so long as your interests don’t conflict with mine.”

Of course, we don’t wish drug dealers well in their endeavors, but get the point - “… so long as your interests don’t conflict with mine.” THAT, my friend, is America.

America was formed and forged by men who yearned to be free. They weren’t asking for a hand out; just the opportunity to make it on their own… the right to pursue their own brand of happiness. And for a time it was working fine. The West was won, fortunes were made, and anybody that was willing to apply the gifts the Good Lord gave them could spend a lifetime pursuing happiness.

So tell me – where along the way did the “right to pursue happiness” become the “right to happiness”? Perhaps it was the McDonald's commercial that told us that we deserve a break today. That mindset took off like wildfire so that now we are told we deserve a good night’s sleep, and we deserve a vacation in the Bahamas.

Tell me, does every kid in the local soccer league deserve a trophy, even if their team didn’t win a single game? Does every teen deserve a free college education even if his parents sat on their lazy duffs, because they deserved to? And now, if I haven’t dug a deep enough hole for myself, is someone entitled to a new house at the government’s expense because the house they bought a couple of miles from the ocean and 5 FEET BELOW SEA LEVEL was destroyed in a hurricane?

So what do we deserve? Well, first we deserve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And if we work hard we deserve a paycheck. And if we use that money wisely (or what’s left of it after the government takes a cut for all those that deserve it), perhaps we will find that happiness we have the right to pursue.

So on this Memorial Day weekend get out there and start living the dream. I wish you well in your endeavors, so long as your interests don’t conflict with mine.


Photo Statue of Liberty used by permission.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Relative Prosperity

You may be familiar with a teaching prevalent in charismatic churches known as the “prosperity message”. I have referred to it in previous writings as the Name it and Claim It, the Blab It and Grab It, and my all time favorite, the Call It and Haul It message. The prosperity message basically teaches that God’s will is for you to be prosperous and not poverty stricken. Purveyors of this doctrine find ample scriptural basis to support their contention that we have been redeemed from the “curse” of poverty, and God wants the best for his children.


The image of “prosperity” looks vastly different from one continent to another… sometimes even from one part of town to another...

Sounds cool, huh! And yet this casts an awkward shadow for those who serve God by a vow of poverty. Far be it from me to even speculate, much less opinionate on the discrepancies of these two mindsets. And yet, even a smidgen of pondering brings the realization that the image of “prosperity” looks vastly different from one continent to another… sometimes even from one part of town to another.

A pair of hand-me-down shoes acquired by the average citizen of a village in the African interior might catapult him into the realm of the elite, looking down his nose at the bare-of-foot. But on the other side of the world, driving last year’s sports car may diminish a man’s social status in the eyes of his upper middle class buddies.

Now, while I do recognize a certain responsibility to reach out with help to those less fortunate, I also remember that it was by hard work, sacrifice and perseverance that this experiment in democracy known as the Unites States of America became the nation to which the whole world stretches out an open hand for aid. And I feel no shame for the relative prosperity with which my nation, and indeed I have been blessed.

In light of this conversation I pray, “God, forgive me for my grumblings that I have to mow my own lawn in this time of “financial hardship”, and thank you for the riding mower you have provided… oh yeah, and the house that came with this scraggly yard!” Amen

This “prosperity message” mindset soon spilled over into other, more non-financial areas of life. When we were expecting my firstborn I determined it would be a boy. I thought I wanted a boy, so I foolishly prayed and asked God for a boy. Then I started “claiming” it. I came up with a name; Samuel Levi Kepler. (You would think I would be smarter than to give a kid the initials SLK, but then I gave my second born the initials JRK… sorry John!) And I told everybody we were having a son. I even enrolled Samuel in an NFL fan club and he got some really cool stickers in the mail. He never got the chance to play with them because he never existed, so I played with them for him.

So finally that day came - I remember it like it was yesterday. When Rebekah was born the doctor said, “Congratulations, it’s a girl!” I was so caught off guard that I had to look for myself to confirm it. Yep, that’s a girl alright. Confused, I decided to keep her anyway. And I soon learned that God knew best – this Rebekah kid was the most awesome kid a man could ever want! I’m sure Samuel could not have compared to Rebekah in cool-factor!

So, the doctrine of Blab It and Grab It notwithstanding, I have learned that it’s always best to seek out and go with God’s plan rather than dreaming up my own. See, I did get that son after all – the second time around. And John actually tied Rebekah on that cool-factor scale I mentioned earlier. Now that’s what I call Relative Prosperity (your kids are your relatives aren’t they?)!

And by the way Rebekah, I owe you some football stickers!


Photo: Sneakers used by permission

Monday, May 10, 2010

Fear and Atmosphere

My brother used to have a funny illustration he offered when somebody jokingly threatened him with bodily harm, as guys often do. He would boldly declare, “There’s nothing between us but fear and atmosphere!” Then he would make a grand and animated sucking gesture, as if to draw in all the air between him and his antagonist. What followed next was the joke’s grand finale’ - “Now there’s just fear!” Sometimes I will double up my fist and threaten him with a big ole' pop-knot just to see him do his grand sucking gesture.


When you visit a far away state and people hear you are from Oklahoma, they always say the same thing, “How can you live there with all those tornadoes?”

But as spring approaches, the phrase “Fear and Atmosphere” is something with which Oklahomans are all too familiar. Right down the middle of America is a pathway known as Tornado Alley. It starts in Texas and runs up though the entire Midwest, spreading wider as it goes. And with Oklahoma at ground zero, we have more tornadoes per whatever measure you chose to use, than all the rest.

Usually the season starts in early spring and doesn’t taper off until the heat of summer arrives. But, with very little activity so far, this year appeared as if it might be an exception to the fearful times brought on by tornado season. But alas, this evening ended that pipe dream. We were forewarned that this would be an “active” day, and active it was. I left work a bit early and hurried home, listening to the radio as a guy described a tornado headed right toward me. Just as I pulled into my driveway that tornado touched down at an intersection I had passed just a few minutes before – another bullet dodged.

And then, from the safety of my home I watched on television as tornadoes, one after another, destroyed homes and businesses as they tore through the middle of our fair state. The casualty count is just starting to be reported, and it appears that, while some have died the loss of life and limb may be relatively light considering the awesomeness of the storms. For that we thank God, and offer prayers for those that were not so fortunate.

When you visit a far away state and people hear you are from Oklahoma, they always say the same thing, “How can you live there with all those tornadoes?” I considered moving to Florida or the eastern seaboard, but I can’t imagine having to dodge those hurricanes. California seems like a great place to live until you get caught in a mudslide… or worse, an earthquake. It seems safe up north, but I’m way too claustrophobic to live under several feet of snow. I could move to Chicago, but I drove through Chicago once. No thank You!

So I’ll just stay right here in Oklahoma where I’ve learned to trust in the good Lord and the local weather men. Oh, it takes courage, as they are now reporting that the next couple of days could be a repeat of what we saw today. But we Okies are a courageous lot.

But courage can be a fleeting thing. Sometimes you have to practice it. I don’t know how other Okies practice their courage, but I like to double up my fist and threaten my brother with a big ole’ pop-knot!


http://www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=1050536

Saturday, April 24, 2010

SPOILER ALERT!

YESTERDAY
When I was a kid growing up in Oklahoma City we had three TV channels from which to select our evening viewing entertainment. That is, unless you count the educational channel, which I didn’t. So we would anxiously await the Sunday newspaper to retrieve the weekly TV guide, where we could see with which movies the programming gods had graced us.

Fast forward to the mid seventies, and the announcement that OKC is getting it’s first UHF channel. Wow, a fourth channel. That’s a 33% increase in our viewing pleasure – a windfall by any standard! And who cared if an old, burned out radio personality with his evangelist hair-do was botching the news. Hey… that’s entertainment!

Then came cable TV with its superstations - packed with I Love Lucy reruns and regional sports programming. And suddenly we all knew the names and phone numbers of all the local bail bondsmen in Chicago, Atlanta and Dallas.

TODAY
But now… now we have not three stations but three providers from which to choose. And regardless of whether you’re a cable guy or you own a dish, you have literally hundreds of stations at your finger tips. And yet, there’s nothing to watch!

For instance, here’s one sample of today’s TV fare:

Deadliest Catch – A show about fishing boats bobbing up and down in the wild and wooly Northern Pacific in quest of riches in the form of crab legs! Don’t they know you can get crab legs at your local Red Lobster?

Anyway, the first season of this show featured an episode where a boat kept pulling up empty pots, and the boat owner went bankrupt; and an episode where the storm was so fierce they almost lost their lives; and an episode where a new kid was learning the ropes; and an episode where the boat broke down.

The next season featured an episode where a boat kept pulling up empty pots, and the boat owner went bankrupt; and an episode where they storm was so fierce the almost lost their lives; and an episode where a new kid was learning the ropes; and an episode where the boat broke down.

SPOILER ALERT – I’ve heard from a reliable source down at Red Lobster that the next season of this show features an episode where a boat keeps pulling up empty pots, and the boat owner goes bankrupt; and an episode where the storm is so fierce they almost lose their lives; and an episode where a new kid is learning the ropes; and an episode where the boat breaks down.

TOMORROW
Tomorrow I think I’ll play outside!

http://www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=3236906

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Importance of Being Important

I used to be a Very Important Person. It was something I had wanted for awhile… being an important person that is; and it felt good to be so important. But after a short time of being important I learned that it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and what’s worse, there are certain hazards to being such an important person. If you have a desire to become an important person you may want to lend an ear for a moment. You’ll thank me later.

It was the year of the big San Francisco earthquake. No… not the 1906 earthquake – I was just a pup in 1906. I’m referring to the one in 1989.


There are certain hazards to being an important person. If you have a desire to become an important person you may want to lend an ear...

My daughter Rebekah turned five that year, and she spent her weekdays at a daycare that rented facilities from a local church (although not affiliated with the church). The operators of this daycare also ran a Christian school, albeit a rather small one. Well, because I came by every evening to pick up Rebekah, the headmaster of the school asked me if I would consider being on their school’s board of directors.

“Wow”, I thought. Being asked to be on the board of directors of a private school is a pretty impressive thing… something that makes a guy feel important… never mind the fact that the school was small, and as I found out later, quite in debt. (Clue – that “quite in debt” part plays in to the afore-mentioned “hazards”.) I accepted the offer to join the board and was voted in as a director at the next scheduled meeting. And because I came by each day they even made me a signatory on the school’s bank account.

I served proudly for a few months with other parents who had been recruited in the same manner. I signed a lot of checks, and I even got to present a few of those cool motions with lots of “Whereases” and “Therefores” in them. We met once a month, and at every meeting the headmaster would report the financial condition of the school, and then offer his slant on the situation. He always left us with the peaceful feeling that things weren’t as out of control as they appeared, and we were staying a step ahead of financial ruin.

But one of the matters discussed each month was the fact that the taxes withheld from the salaries of the teachers and workers were not being sent in to the IRS regularly… or, as it turned out, at all! Oh, I’m sure you are too smart to serve on a board of directors for an outfit that doesn’t pay its taxes, but have you ever considered how cool it would be to be a Very Important Person? Such a trivial thing as being on the bad side of the IRS pales in comparison to having “Director” on your resume’!

And now it’s time for me to tell you something about the IRS you may not know. When a business such as this doesn’t pay their taxes, the IRS doesn’t care who the board members are or who has been calling the shots. They only want to know who the signatories on the checking account are. See, they figure that the ones signing the checks are the ones who effectively made the decision to pay other things before the taxes. So the teachers and workers got paid, and the venders got paid (at least the lucky ones), and I’m sure the headmaster got paid. But it was “tough luck Uncle Sam” - you’ll get what’s left over, if there ever is any! But there never was.

When I caught wind of the impending IRS problems I tendered my resignation from the board. But alas, by that time I had signed dozens of checks. After several weeks of fear and trembling, the IRS goon called all us signatories to his office for the “settlement conference”. That’s the meeting where you have to disclose every penny, nickel, dime and quarter you own, so they can confiscate it all. But God is good! See, this happened at a time in my life when I was recently divorced and owned nothing but the clothes on my back and a car I would have had to pay to have towed off. I was what they call “judgement proof”!

Oh, they could have won their judgement I suppose. But the IRS apparently figured that our great nation would stand a better chance of remaining a great nation if I got to keep my clothes, and there wasn’t anything else to seize. It never felt so good to be dirt poor and… unimportant!

One of the other guys in the group wasn’t so poor, so he took the lead in working out an arrangement and carried the rest of us on promissory notes. And what did I get out of all this? Well, for a few months I was a Very Important Persona Director… in fact, a Signatory! I also got to learn more about the IRS than they teach in those big fancy colleges with the shrubs growing on the walls.

And I didn’t even have to get a student loan for all that education. Tough luck, Sally Mae!

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Treasure Hunter

NEWS FLASH: Treasure hunters believe they have found a legendary trove of 18th century jewels and gold coins worth $13 billion on Chile's Robinson Crusoe Island.

Since the beginning of time man has had an unquenchable yearning for a treasure hunt. To find something that doesn’t belong to anybody else and lay claim to it as your own brings a satisfaction beyond compare. Men have spent their entire lives in their quest for treasure, living on the go and sometimes dying in a strange and foreign land… usually just short of their fortune.


...as would any treasure hunter with an ounce of self respect, I’ve made a map, with an “X” where the treasure is located.

The tools of a treasure hunter vary, depending on the nature of the booty. A man in search of gold needs a claim and a sluice, a shovel and pick ax, or at least a pan and a strong back. A beachcomber racing the morning tide needs a metal detector if he wants to locate that sun worshiper’s mislaid watch and ring. A kid retrieving the toy from the bottom of a new box of cereal just needs that five digit tool protruding from the end of his arm.

I address this subject with some authority. See, all my life I have been a treasure hunter. Oh, I’ve never had the chance to pan for gold or scuba dive an ancient shipwreck. I did try metal detecting at a beach once. I didn’t find anything but bottle caps. But I’ve always had the heart of a treasure hunter. In fact, not a day passes that I don’t have a keen eye on the road I’m driving or the path I’m walking, in search of that lost item of great value that was dropped by an unidentifiable party (else I’d be obliged to return it to its rightful owner).

My most recent find was on the way to work this morning. There it was, lying right in the middle of a busy street - a wrench. Traffic was too busy for me to retrieve it, but as would any treasure hunter with an ounce of self respect, I’ve made a map, with an “X” where the treasure is located. And if another lucky seeker of riches doesn’t beat me to it, it will someday be mine!

Now, I already have a toolbox full of wrenches, many of which I found in the middle of the street. And, truth be told, I only use a wrench about three or four times a year. But you have to understand, it’s not the wrench itself; it’s the fact that I found it! That’s the reality of a treasure hunter! My wife will tell you (with much chagrin) that I will drive around 4 city miles just to get a second look at an object in the road, on the slim chance this is has some value… to somebody!

So, what is the most valuable thing I’ve ever found? Well, I found a diamond ring once in the parking lot of a movie theater. And there was that $20 bill blown up against the fence in high school. I actually found a $100 bill once, but it was behind a file cabinet in a county courthouse, so I turned it in to the court clerk, lest I spend more "time" in that courthouse than intended.

But anything I’ve ever found or will find on this earth cannot begin to compare with that great treasure I found the day I met my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The Amplified Bible calls it “this precious treasure [the divine Light of the Gospel]”, and folks – THAT’S A FIND!

Have you found this great treasure? If not, come on… I’ll help you search!

Photo-Treasure Map used by permission

Sunday, April 11, 2010

An Athlete Extraordinaire

Every once in a while there comes along an athlete extraordinaire. We’re talking about a Cy Young Award or a Heisman Trophy winner… perhaps even someone as dominating of his or her particular sport as a Tiger Woods. I believe I have discovered such an incredible athlete.

Now, I’m not really sure how the sports agent business works, but if this kid is really as good as I think he is I may go ahead and make a drastic career change, to represent this boy. Of course, I’m going to have to track him down first. Let me explain.

Tonight was my bi-weekly trip to take my stepson Jerry home to Broken Arrow after a weekend at his mom’s (and my) house. We were driving through Tulsa up the BA Expressway when I noticed a couple of kids playing in a creek bed that passed under the highway. Just as we approached the boys I saw one go into a perfect wind up, as if he were pitching a baseball. But it wasn’t a baseball… it was a rock!


Maybe I’ve discovered a future Cy Young or Heisman winner...

And folks, that rock hit my car dead center. Now, had it been high and outside or low and off a tire I wouldn’t have been so impressed. But this rock was definitely in the strike zone. And you have to realize I was driving 65 miles an hour at the time. (In fact, as long as you’re not a State Trooper, I was probably driving about 70).

A few random thoughts:

First, I gather there weren’t any other cars on base or the boy would have thrown from his stretch instead of his windup. (You’d have to be a baseball fan to get that joke, and it still wouldn’t be funny. Sorry.)

Second, right after the kid threw the rock, he ran. Everyone knows the pitcher doesn’t run… the batter does. I’ll probably have to teach him some rules.

Third, the boys were wearing soccer uniforms. I remember thinking, “It’s a crying shame these kids are relegated to playing a sport where you don’t use your arms. Such an arm this kid has!

And fourth, this guy really ought to be playing football. Anyone that can hit a car traveling 70 miles per hour can certainly lead a receiver at any speed and distance!

So maybe I’ve discovered a future Cy Young or Heisman winner... maybe not. But of one thing I am certain – when this boy grows up he will be the star of his ball team… at the State Prison!



Photo Pitcher used by permission

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Colossal Backfire

One of things I always enjoyed about traveling to other states was the chance to play their lottery. See, before October 2005 Oklahoma didn’t have a lottery, which was fine with me. That only served to make it more fun to play when traveling. And I only spent pocket change anyway. It wasn’t like I was blowing the grocery or rent money on a downward spiral into financial ruin.

And while I occasionally bought a Powerball© or Mega-Millions© ticket, what I mostly enjoyed were the scratch-offs. Scratch-offs are little cards you buy for a buck or two (or more if you’re a real sucker) and scratch off a silver film of latex to reveal a dollar amount or a picture of a chicken or whatever the particular game offers, and see if you’re a winner. Of course, the real winners are the people who never buy these things in the first place… well, them and the ones that hit it big! I’d have to call them real winners too.


I knew the old adage about walking the walk – not just talking the talk. But I was kind of hoping to be the exception to that rule...

And I must confess that while I felt comfortable buying the occasional lottery game piece, I wasn’t quite as at ease with the thought of passing this values-judgment on to my children. Oh, I knew the old adage about walking the walk – not just talking the talk. But I was kind of hoping to be the exception to that rule. However, fate had another idea.

It was 1997 and the kids were 13 and 10 years old. We were on a trip that took us across Arizona when late one evening at a rest stop off I-40 in Nowhere, America John offered up a one dollar bill with the request, “Dad, will you buy me a scratch-off?” He even showed me the particular game he wanted.

Now, I had been buying them and scratching them off in front of the kids all during the trip, so his request shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me. I had even been letting them have the ones that were losers. John was quite adept at making paper footballs out of them, which by that time were all over the car. I remember seeing them and thinking, “Wow, am I spending that much on lottery tickets?” But then I’d remember one or two that paid a buck or two and convince myself I was “at least breaking even”.

I suddenly had the brilliant thought that this would be a good lesson for John to learn – to show him the folly of wasting his valuable spending money on gambling. A life-changing object lesson for only a buck - a bargain at twice the price… What’s more, it wasn’t even my buck!

So I took his dollar and bought the ticket, and I waited until we were back in the car to give it to him. Just as I was driving out of the parking lot I heard him say in a confused voice, “I think I won a hundred dollars.”

“Let me see that,” I barked. I turned on the dome light and took the game piece from John’s tightly clinched fist. Sure enough, the little goober had won a hundred dollars! So much for that object lesson…

John turned 18 the year the lottery came to Oklahoma – something I’ve always considered most ironic – God’s way of giving me one gigantic divine raspberry, I suppose! See, the minimum age to play the lottery in Oklahoma is 18. In Las Vegas you have to be 21 to gamble, and we call it Sin City!

And while I wish to avoid the classic debate of societal ruin versus personal rights (as I see merit in both views) I will admit I voted against the lottery. See, I knew the grip gambling can have on a guy. And the lottery has borne that out with such a vast number of teens and 20-somethings spending so much on the pursuit of the magic ticket to overnight riches.

But my kids have made some pretty good decisions in life, and have stayed out of the poor house, in spite of the “wild west gambler” lifestyle I lived in front of them. I would have been more proud of myself as a father had I taken a stronger stand for the sake of the kids.

Or else if I had won the “big” one! That wouldn’t have been so bad.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Jesus Freaks

A Facebook friend of mine named Dean posts songs to FB on a frequent basis. He posts songs he is fond of and songs that have a message… a wide genre, but always inspiring. Yesterday was Easter Sunday and he posted a YouTube clip of Keith Green singing a live performance of The Easter Song.

I was moved to tears as I listened again to a song we all remember from our past. But as I listened I recalled the day Keith died. In fact, that sad day in July 1982, when my morning alarm awoke me to the sounds of the local contemporary Christian music station, it was the news story of the hour. And it was a day of heaviness for us in the Christian community.


It appeared the world was changing in a way that would bring an end to the moral fiber of society as we had known it...

Today, as I listened again to one of the most remarkable Christian musicians to ever grace this planet, I was reminded of the Jesus Movement of the late 1960s, 70s and early 80s. The United States, and indeed the world were in turmoil from the volatility of the times – the war in Vietnam sparking such protest, and the kids experimenting with more and more drugs or different types. “Tune in, Turn on and Drop out” was the cry of a new generation! It appeared the world was changing in a way that would bring an end to the moral fiber of society as we had known it. And to watch the evening news, with the Manson murders and the Kent State shootings and the Watts riots, we had ample reason to despair.

But alas, where sin abounds Grace does much more abound. While the modern day equivalent of the Sharks and the Jets were rioting in the streets of New York City, a meek and mild mannered preacher by the name of David Wilkerson was answering the call to go to this strange and distant land to carry the gospel of Jesus Christ to a generation lost to their parents, lost to their nation, and lost in their sins. And from that humble beginning this generation and the next were blessed with the story of “The Cross and the Switchblade” and the ministry of “Teen Challenge”. And both have touched countless lives, mine included!

And then there’s Keith! Keith Green was a modern day “John the Baptist” who had mastered classical music by the age of 6, and laid it down to write and perform his own songs. Keith had a recording contract by age 11 and even appeared on the TV show “I’ve Got a Secret”. As Keith grew up he turned to drugs, eastern religions and the hippie lifestyle. But this Jewish man had a hunger in his heart that led him to the Bible and to a relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. And Keith went on to write and sing with an incredible anointing of the Holy Spirit, touching the lives of countless thousands... again of which I was one.

These two gentlemen, and many others I could name if time and space permitted, were modern day trailblazers, carving out a path that led from the fear and despair of the times, forward to a revival known as the Jesus Movement. And this Jesus Movement, with its Jesus Freaks and its confusing imitation in dress and appearance of the rebels it sought to redeem, indeed saw those rebels redeemed! And it changed the World… again!

Thanks David Wilkerson. Thanks Keith Green. And thanks, Dean, for the reminder.

And thank you God for that first Easter that made it all possible!


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Friday, April 2, 2010

Seasons

The other day I was daydreaming about this year’s vacation – where to go – where to stay when we get there. I did some looking on-line at the town we’re considering for our get-away and saw the Four Seasons Inn. That got me to thinking… where did anyone come up with the idea that there are only four seasons?

OK… granted, there may be four seasons of weather. I say “may be” because if you’ve ever lived in Oklahoma you know that some years there may only be two or three seasons. How often do we see winter fast forward into summer with springtime just a faint memory from years past? And likewise summer to winter. Is this nature’s way of trying to cheat us out of seedtime and harvest… perhaps an attempt to thin the herd?


So you see - there aren’t just four seasons… probably closer to four thousand. And everybody has their favorite...

But how can you talk about seasons without paying tribute to the most popular seasons of all – sports seasons. The primary sports seasons are football season and baseball season. And then there are a few others - what I like to call secondary seasons – to fill those voids between the primaries.

Basketball season comes to mind… and volleyball season, badminton season, ping pong season and everyone’s favorite of late – curling. You remember curling don’t you? That’s where you project a 42 pound granite stone from one end of an ice rink to the other. It’s kind of like bowling, only you wear a coat. Oh yeah, and there’s bowling season.

When I was a kid we had bona fide television seasons. The Andy Griffith Show ran for eight seasons, with 30 or more episodes in each one. Today’s programs just don’t have legs. One of the more popular shows right now is Burn Notice; a spy show on the USA Network. Its first season had a whopping 12 episodes… 12… yep… twelve. No legs.

So you see - there aren’t just four seasons… probably closer to four thousand. And everybody has their favorite. I haven’t even mentioned my favorite season of the year – Girl Scout Cookie Season - that’s my favorite! What’s yours?

Four Seasons? Pishaw! I think we’ll stay at a bed and breakfast!

Gotta run now. See, it's my favorite season of the year, and I'm going to go celebrate!


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