Friday, February 26, 2010

The Third Little Girl

Maybe it’s because I wasn’t able to play football in high school, having to help out in the family business. Or maybe I just had more skeletal fortitude, but in my 53+ years I have never had a broken bone. Oh, I’ve had my bumps and bruises… but no breaks.

But let me to tell you about a little girl who wasn’t so fortunate. And what may be the most amazing thing I ever saw with my own two eyes!

I saw three… and then there were two, in almost the twinkling of an eye. But what happened to the third little girl?

The year was 1982 and I was the youth pastor of a mid-size church in Oklahoma City. The kids jokingly referred to themselves as “Reece’s Pieces”. One of my responsibilities – and indeed a great pleasure – was to take a couple dozen of “my kids” to youth camp that summer.

One of the greatest things about summer camp is the new friends you meet. We were sister churches with a church in Tulsa, a much larger church with more kids, and they invited us to come along with them to camp. They also invited a church from Little Rock. And not only did the campers and counselors from three churches congregate in the mountains of SE Oklahoma… God came along for the fun! And as it turns out, He’s had previous experience with tabernacles in the wilderness!

One particular afternoon most of the campers had taken the busses from the main camp area to the swimming hole down the road. But, for various reasons a few of the kids stayed behind, and they needed supervision, so I too stayed behind. And that’s when it happened. Within a five minute span I witnessed what may have been the most horrific event I’ve ever seen… and then one of the most amazing!

There were three little girls from the Little Rock church sitting on top of a large propane tank, like the ones you see at farm houses. They were probably 12 or 13 years old and just as silly as could be. I saw them there and walked over to see how they were doing, and to engage in a moment of silliness myself. I had been talking with them for a short while when I turned and looked away for a brief moment. When I turned back there were only two little girls sitting on that tank.

My mind was confused. It saw three… and then there were two, in almost the twinkling of an eye. I liken it to what folks will experience when the believers are caught away before their very eyes. But what happened to the third little girl?

Then one of the two, looking down at the ground behind the tank, screamed out, “Oh, my God… look at her arm!” I hurried around the tank to see this little girl lying on the ground with her arm broken. Sometimes when someone hurts their arm they go to the doctor to find out if it’s broken. But half way between her wrist and elbow there was an extra elbow. And the lower half of her arm was sticking straight out.

Any other time my instinct would have been to turn away from such a repugnant sight, but I was the adult, and the counselor… and all this little girl had! I scooped her up in my arms and headed up to the main building, praying all the way. And she was praying too… through her tears!

Standing on the porch of the main building was one of the leaders from her home church, so I headed toward him, with her still in my arms. And when he realized what was going on he immediately joined in the prayer. Then we heard it… a loud “SNAP”! And right there on the porch of that building at that state park in southeast Oklahoma, I saw God supernaturally set a broken arm! That extra elbow disappeared and her arm was made straight.

Please understand that nobody tried to straighten or “set” her arm. It wasn’t anything I did, or anything she did. It was something God did! And I’m not just repeating to you some story I heard some preacher tell. I was there. I had that little girl cradled in my arms when God set that broken bone.

They took her on to town for a doctor to have a look at it, and his x-ray confirmed that it had been broken. Then he asked, “Who set the break? He did an excellent job.” No doubt!

That night in tabernacle many arms were raised in praise to All Mighty God! And one of them had the cutest little pink cast on it!

Photo Cross by Josée Holland Eclipse. Used by permission.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

An Idiotic Idiom

An Idiom is a phrase that has a meaning different from the dictionary definitions of the individual words themselves. Idioms are pretty common in the day to day language of we Americans. But imagine being in America from a foreign country – say France, and trying to figure out with a French-to-English Dictionary how to interpret an idiom.

Consider the phrase - “Keep your shirt on”. The poor Frenchman is standing there looking up the words – “Let’s see, ‘keep’ translates Écouter… meaning to continue”. And while he’s trying to determine what it is he needs to continue, an American would have already given the appropriate response, “Oh yeah? Well, blow it out your ear, buddy!”

You may think I got up on the wrong side of the bed, or that I’m not playing with a full deck, but I have an ax to grind...

Another good example of an idiom would be “fire a shot across his bow”. It comes from naval warfare, when they want to fire a warning shot without doing damage to the other ship. You don’t actually get a gun and shoot across somebody’s bow. I’m not even sure what somebody’s bow would refer to (although I’m quite sure what somebody’s stern refers to!) Nowadays such a warning shot would probably be performed with a letter or a phone call… a stern phone call.

A really bad example of an idiom would be “wrap my head around that”. I heard one of the singers on American Idol say that the other night, and I thought “that’s been used to death”. It apparently means someone is having a difficult time understanding something, or perhaps accepting something.

Country singer Lucinda Williams has a song titled “Wrap My Head Around That”. I’d never heard of it – or her either for that matter - so I went and listened to it on the internet. Well, in truth I only listened to about half of it. It was so bad it made me want to wrap my head - into a wall. Hey, that makes more sense anyway, doesn’t it! Maybe I should write a song.

Now, I’m not pulling your leg, and I don’t mean to get in your face, but lend me an ear. You may be on the fence about this, or we may be on the same page. See, the overuse of idioms just drives me up the wall. You may think I got up on the wrong side of the bed, or that I’m not playing with a full deck, but I have an ax to grind. So, at the risk of going out on a limb, let me cut to the chase.

I may be barking up the wrong tree, I may have bitten off more than I can chew, but, come hell or high water, I’m ready to get down to brass tacks. Maybe I should just let sleeping dogs lie, but I’m not going to pass the buck... in fact, the buck stops here! I’m ready to pull the plug. The past is water under the bridge, but now I’m going to use everything but the kitchen sink to put a stop to the use of annoying idioms. And I’m not quittin’ ‘til the cows come home! You can bet your bottom dollar on it.

That hits the nail on the head!

Photo Columbia Figurehead by Andrew Schmidt

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

You Are What You Are

Awhile back a store cashier accidentally gave me too much change. I realized it and returned the overage. While thankful, she was astonished that somebody would reject free money. My answer to her was, “My honesty comes at a higher price than a couple of bucks!”

Did you know that if a stamp is used to mail a letter, and then the machine at the post office fails to cancel that stamp, it is still considered by federal law to be a used stamp? Would you peel it off and reuse it? Nobody would ever know. But forty-four cents? Surely you’re integrity is worth more than that! If you’re going to be a thief, you may as well steal a car or something else of real value!

How many people would you have to kill to be a murderer? The obvious answer is one. But I disagree...

I’ve cleaned up an off-color joke to make a point. If you’re concerned you may be offended, please turn away. But in all fairness, it’s wasn’t that off-color in the first place... and besides, you’ve heard it before.

A man at a party had been noticing a beautiful woman all evening. Finally he approached her. “Miss, would you spend time with me for a million dollars?” he asked. She was taken aback by the proposition, and actually found herself overwhelmed at the prospect of becoming an instant millionaire. “Yes, I believe I would.” she answered.

He immediately responded, “How about for twenty bucks?” Quite offended, she sharply replied, “What do you think I am… an escort?” His answer … “Miss, that fact has already been established. Now we’re just negotiating the price!”

How many people would you have to kill to be a murderer? The obvious answer is one. But I disagree. I say zero. See, The 1970s TV detective Baretta said, “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.” But the bible puts it another way, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”

I believe that what you harbor in your heart defines you. Oh sure, we all joke about wanting to “kill” someone from time to time. But in your heart of hearts, if the only thing keeping you from strangling somebody is the thought of lethal injection, gas chamber, electric chair or firing squad… well, you are what you are. And if you don’t steal because you might get caught… well, you are what you are.

And that’s where Grace comes in. Man could not save himself from himself. And all the law can say is, “Don’t do it”, and then dictate the punishment when he does act on the evil in his heart. It takes Grace to save a man from himself. And then you no longer are what you were! Thank God for Grace. And Grace is only available in one place.

If you don’t know where that is, ask.

Photo courtesy of

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

An Unexpected Windfall

My first thought was, “I’ve been poisoned!” Then I got to thinking, “Maybe I have a lawsuit here.” But I can hear the defense attorney now… “Mr. Kepler, do you usually put food in your mouth without making sure it’s dead first?” I’m in trouble on that one. I better not sue…

When we were kids there was this really cool amusement park in town. We got to go once or twice, but mom and dad couldn’t afford to take us very often, so instead mom would take us with her to the market for groceries. Granted there weren’t roller coasters or arcade games at the market, but there were shopping carts to ride, and fruits and vegetables to throw at each other.

...after about my third spoon full, I realized something unusual. My cereal was moving!

One of the things we looked forward to was picking which breakfast cereal we wanted. We would each get to pick one box. I remember standing on the cereal aisle for what seemed like hours trying to decide. Actually though, the only criteria for my choice was the toy in the box. Mom probably had to pay an extra buck for me to get a little trinket worth a penny.

I’m all grown up now, but that tradition is still intact – I still stand for hours on the cereal aisle comparing the boxes. But now I select my cereal according to my adult taste buds, and seldom get a toy. However, occasionally you get something in your cereal you didn’t bargain for.

I grabbed the box of Mueslix from the pantry and filled my bowl - poured on the milk and dug in. Then, after about my third spoon full, I realized something unusual. My cereal was moving! At first I noticed one little feller doing the backstroke. But, like a movie where the camera pans out slowly, revealing a whole screen full of action, I realized the entire bowl was bustling with activity.

What was really bad about it was that I was on a diet at the time; ©Weight Watchers to be specific. And if you’ve ever done ©Weight Watchers you know how important it is to count the points for every bite. But I couldn’t find little white worms in the book. It really wouldn’t have helped because I didn’t know how many of them I’d eaten anyway. As it turned out that wasn’t a problem though - I wasn’t in an eating mood for the rest of the day so I had plenty of points so spare.

I called Kellogg’s customer service line and was informed by this really calm sounding lady that I had ingested Indian Meal Worms. She chuckled, and assured me that I was in no danger, and that actually they were a great source of protein. She didn’t come right out and say they eat them as snacks at the Kellogg’s corporate office, but she kind of left that impression. Wow, should I send in extra money for this unexpected windfall?

The grocery store refunded my money and replaced the product, and Kellogg’s sent me a batch of coupons for more boxes of cereal. OH BOY! Just what I wanted – more boxes of cereal! They should have sent me a box of those little toys instead!

But I guess we all get over the gross things we’ve eaten – or we’d never go back to McDonalds, huh!

Photo courtesy of

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Religious Guy

Jack was tall and slim, with black hair and a full beard, albeit somewhat scraggly. But what made Jack so noticeable were the scars on his forearms. At some point in his life, and not too terribly long ago, Jack had taken a knife and torn open his arms from the wrist to the inside of his elbow – on both sides! Jack joked about it, about how he'd "botched the job". But it was obvious by the depth and width of the scars that his attempt was real and he’d given it his best shot.

...the guy that gets to pray with someone and lead them to Christ gets to see the result of all that labor. With Jack, I wanted to be that guy!

“You’re a religious guy, aren’t you?” Jack asked me as he passed by, pushing a load to be dumped down the chute. I’d just met Jack about an hour before, and all I’d done was assign to him a sledge hammer and wheelbarrow, and point him to the area I needed him to work. “I guess you could call me religious”, I answered. He dumped the busted up concrete and went back for another load.

It was 1980 and I was working for a guy that had the contract to gut the interior of an old office building slated for remodel. Needing some help I called a temp agency and they sent over two guys, one of which was Jack. I gave these two workmen their assignments, and turned back to my own sledgehammer.

The highest goal for an Evangelical Christian is to be a ‘soul-winner’. That is, somebody who will share his faith in Jesus Christ with others who do not have such a relationship, and persuade them, convince them… convert them – if you will, to their own, new-found faith in Christ. There are people who have daily goals for how many souls they can win. But, sadly, they are the exception rather than the rule. The ‘average’ Christian may have led a handful of people to Christ, if that many.

Don’t misunderstand me - no man is alone in his labors for the Lord. The Apostle Paul wrote that one man plants a seed, another man waters that seed, and God gets the increase thereof. But the guy that gets to pray with someone and lead them to Christ gets to see the result of all that labor. With Jack, I wanted to be that guy!

As he rolled by with his next wheelbarrow load I asked him, “Are you a religious guy?” He replied, “I’m what you’d call a lost soul!” And back he went to fetch another load. On his next pass I simply asked him “…Wanna talk about it?” We took an early lunch.

Jack and I sat down right there at that construction site and I shared with him about who Jesus Christ is and what he means to me… and what he could mean to him. I can’t recall the exact words I said, but then again they really weren’t my words. This was one of those times the Holy Spirit just kind of takes over and uses your voice – like the alien in “Independence Day” did with that freaky scientist guy. OK… maybe not quite like that, but you know what I mean.

Finally I talked myself out, and so I cleared my throat… and summoned my courage… and looked Jack straight in the eye and asked, “Would you like to invite Jesus into your heart?” Jack gave me an honest answer, “I could say the words, but I don’t know if I’d really believe it or not.”

“Fair enough”, I said, as disappointed as a hunter who just missed a shot at a trophy buck. So I asked him if I could pray for him. I figured I’d say a quick prayer and we’d get back to work. He consented, and so I bowed my head and prayed.

All I did was ask God to show Jack how much He loved him and to answer the questions Jack had in his heart, and I said Amen. Then Jack looked up at me with these big, wide silver dollar eyes. “What did you do?” he asked. “I felt something happen inside me!” Not knowing what else to say I immediately asked him, “Can you believe it now?” “YES”, he said. So - right then and there - I led him in what we call the sinner’s prayer. And Jack became a Believer!

I don’t know what it was about me that caused Jack to ask me that opening question. But I know enough about how the Kingdom of God works to know that I wasn’t the first religious guy to cross his path. I’m just thankful I was the one that got to “close the deal”.

I took Jack and bought him a good leather-bound bible that day, and made sure he was in church the next Sunday. But Jack was a transient, sleeping in flop houses and cheap hotels. He’d just blown into town and didn't stay too long. He worked with me for a few days, and we talked about the things of God. And then I never saw him again.

But I will!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Distinguished Gentleman

Personally I blame the affordability of air conditioning for herding people off their front porches and into their living rooms… well, that and television. Before those two “modern miracles” folks used to stroll the avenues, waiving and ‘howdy-do’ing’, and everybody knew everybody. Now we can live in the same place for years and never learn the first names of our neighbors, or where they work, or what they do to unwind.

A couple of years ago Stephanie and I moved into a new home in a new subdivision, and frankly, coming from an area of more humble incomes, I wondered what kind of folks we’d be living among, and how well received we would find ourselves. I didn’t have to wonder for long. On the afternoon of our first day, two… count ‘em, two sets of our new neighbors introduced themselves. Kim and Mary Beth even presented us with a home-baked apple pie!

I started addressing Patrick as sir and referring to him as The Distinguished Gentleman. Then it dawned on me where that term comes from...

Having similar interests with our new neighbors Patrick and Angela, we became fast friends, and even met up on vacation in Vegas. They flew, we drove. Oh, we had our separate agendas. We didn’t do everything together. Stephanie and I had a dress-up evening where just the two of us went to dinner in our Sunday best. And we marveled at how we were treated - the respect shown us because of our attire. People actually scurried to clear a path for us.

It’s amazing the respect shown a well dressed person in Vegas... as you will soon see!

Patrick had a business conference one day, and so he dressed up… way up – suit and tie. Patrick is a handsome man anyway; a black man with the popular shaved head look, a little on the tall side and with an athletic build, and a personality that could sell… well pretty much anything to anybody. After his meeting he gave me a call and I swung by and picked him up.

Now, if you fly into Vegas you probably never get off the strip, except maybe for that one memorable night downtown. But because we drive out, I know many of those out-of-the-way places where the locals go to play. The girls had scheduled a day of shopping, so Patrick and I drove out to a casino I knew that had dollar craps (on the strip you can’t shoot craps for less that 5 bucks a play). We carved out our positions at the craps table.

I’m not sure where the thought originated - I would think it’s because of how sharp he looked - I started addressing Patrick as sir and referring to him as The Distinguished Gentleman. Then it dawned on me where that term comes from. That’s how U.S. Senators address one another.

About that time Patrick tossed a chip down and declared, “This is for the boys”, a term that indicates he is placing a bet for the dealers – that is, if it wins, the bet and its winnings go to them as a tip. Of course, if it loses, it loses. The stickman didn’t see where the bet came from, so he asked. I immediately pointed to Patrick and said, “The Senator placed that bet for the team”.

Thenceforth, and for the remainder of the session not only I, but everyone at the table referred to Patrick as “The Senator”. I tried to work into the conversation how I was a bodyguard or a driver, but I had my tourist costume on, you know – shorts and a Hawaiian shirt, so I’m sure they concluded that I was the Senator’s brother-in-law or some other social appendage whose company he was forced to endure.

Stephanie and I had a great time that year. And I’m sure Patrick and Angela had a wonderful time too. But just think of all those locals at that craps table… the old geezer with the oxygen tank, the off duty cocktail waitress, the construction worker from Phoenix that had chased the building boom to Sin City. They ALL have the story of their life – I shot craps with a U.S. Senator! And they have us to thank for it.

How much you wanna bet they’re all at home right now watching C-SPAN to catch a glimpse of Patrick? I know a place that will give you great odds!

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Swiss Army Knife

I saw this cool Swiss Army Knife you can buy for your dad next Father’s Day – or if your father has passed on as mine has, you can buy it for me. This knife costs 180 bucks, and I counted no less than 20 functions for which it has a unique tool. What’s more, it comes with band-aids, a pressure pencil (whatever that is), writing paper, safety pens, matches and sewing thread. Of course these accessories aren’t built in, so you’ll lose them pretty quickly. But it’s still cool that they come with the knife.

This got me wondering – if GOD had a Swiss Army Knife, what would it look like?

He’s not just that church’s Swiss Army Knife… He’s GOD’S Swiss Army Knife...

There’s this guy I know that works at a church. Now, in respect to him I shouldn’t use his real name so I’ll use an alias. Let’s just call him Randy. That’s a good, strong yet generic name, don’t you think? Randy is the “go-to” guy for whatever’s going on in this church he works at. If the rainy season finds cracks in the roof, call Randy. If the snowstorm of the century leaves the parking lot impassable, call Randy. Air conditioner broke? Water line busted? Toilet paper too coarse? Call Randy!

In all fairness, I’m sure most churches have their Swiss Army Knife. But this guy I’m calling Randy for purposes of this story… he’s not just that church’s Swiss Army Knife … He’s GOD’S Swiss Army Knife. See, his usefulness is not just limited to the mechanical, electrical or structural functions of the facility. If they need somebody to make the announcements on Sunday morning, or be a prayer partner or head up the men’s ministries or teach in the bible school, they call Randy.

And that’s all in addition to him being a husband, a father, a grandfather and a son (and probably a cousin and a nephew and an uncle), as well as being a pretty cool guy in his own right. He even finds the time to play a round of golf occasionally, should the sun cooperate.

This guy goes overseas to minister to the needs of others, both spiritual and physical. And he even shares his wit, wisdom and humor in a blog on the internet. I’d give you a link to it, but I’ve decided to keep this guy’s real identity a secret.

Oh, I’m sure if this guy I’m calling Randy chose to leave this church he’s serving, someone would step in to take his place… or more realistically, about 11 someones! Hey, that would make Randy God’s one-man football team!

So if your church has one of these Swiss Army Knives, even if his name isn’t Randy, make sure he knows how much he is loved – how much he is appreciated – how incredibly special he is to God and to everyone in the church… and to you! And you might even think about rolling up your sleeves and helping him out with the church’s next catastrophe.

And by the way, I was just kidding about giving me that Swiss Army Knife for Father’s Day. Give it to Randy! He’d actually use it!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

It Ain’t All Bad

I waited nervously for the doctor to give me the verdict. Your health is no laughing matter, unless it has to do with your funny bone I guess. And after what I had to endure for the test itself, I figured my dues were paid in full on this one. Then the Doctor said it – and I turned white as a polar bear in a blizzard. “The results are negative!”

OH NO! I started planning my funeral right there in the exam room – let’s see – I’d like a mahogany coffin with brass trim…’s going to take an Ovaltine Decoder Ring to understand that joke.

“How long do I have?” I asked him. “How long for what…” he responded. “…to pay your bill?” Then he explained that negative is good – positive would be bad.

What is that – Doctor Code? And if so, I’m just a lowly desk jockey. Is he supposed to expose it to the likes of me? But as it turns out, everybody knows that. I guess I don’t watch enough Real TV.

I told my son the results of my tests were negative. “That’s bad”, he said. “Why is it bad, son? Do you want me to die? You know I don’t have anything worth inheriting!” “No, dad, bad means good.” Oh really? What are you? A doctor? My son, the doctor!

So negative means good and positive means bad – and bad means good. I’m reminded of a joke we used to tell. It starts like this:

Two fellers were talking about their weekend. “I went skydiving this weekend”, says the first feller.
The other feller replies, “Oh, that’s good.”
“Well, it ain’t all good”, answers the first feller. “My parachute didn’t open.”
“Oh, that’s bad.”
“Well, it ain’t all bad; I looked down and saw a big ole’ haystack.”
“Oh, that’s good.”
“Well, it ain’t all good; there was a pitchfork in the haystack.”
“Oh, that’s bad.”
“Well, it ain’t all bad, I missed the pitchfork.”
“Oh, that’s good.”
“Well, it ain’t all good, I missed the haystack…”

And the joke goes on, ad infinitum, ad nauseam. (I think that’s Latin for “egad, does this joke ever get funny?”)

With my new knowledge of the English language (or lack thereof) I’ve decided it’s going to take an Ovaltine Decoder Ring to understand that joke. And it takes several box tops to get one, so I’ve got the kids and grandkids drinking chocolate milk with double straws.

I showed this story to my wife and she said, “Oh, that’s bad!” Bad means good, right? Boy, I hope that ring gets here quick!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Pendulum

I’m one of those “white collar” types, although I don’t actually wear a white collar. I think the last time I wore a white shirt was when Stephanie and I stood up in front of a preacher. But I do sit at a desk, in front of a computer screen. Day after day after day after day… after day, inside those same four walls I sit.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my job and am truly blessed of God to have it. But there’s a yearning inside me to get away. Field personnel come into the office and I bite my lip with envy at the places they go. Just the other day I overheard a guy that’s working in Pennsylvania right now. He was talking about how he drives over to DC or NY for the weekend, just to goof off. I closed my office door so they wouldn’t have to see a grown man cry.

I started this job in 2002, and by late 2005 I found myself with such a yearning to get “out there” that I resigned the desk job to take a field job. Finally – on the road again! Stephanie and I stowed our stuff in a mini storage, put the house on the market and drove to Illinois to do field work. It was cool getting away, but I soon remembered the problem with being on the road. You wish you had a job where you could be home! And so I got this job back.

The saying goes, “Be careful what you wish for – you just might get it!” We want what we can’t have. And then when we get it we realize we want what we used to have. It’s called the pendulum effect.

It’s too hot so you turn the air conditioner on high. It gets too cold real fast so you turn the heater on high to warm things up. You know you should set the thermostat at a happy medium… but you need relief, and you need it now! And the pendulum swings. Single folk are dying for companionship while married folk remember with fondness the fun side of being single. And the pendulum swings.

Over the ages the church has experienced the pendulum effect… back – and – forth… and back again. We recognize the truth that to be a Christian means to be different than the world. “We’re in the world but we’re not of the world.” “Come out from amongst them,” the Bible says, “And be separate”. “Narrow is the path and few they are that find it…” So Christianity becomes about how you dress and what you drive and how you act… and if you’re caught having “fun” – you’re branded with a scarlet letter and excommunicated from the church. And we look down our noses at those “carnal Christians”.

But the pendulum swings. And we realize that our salvation is by grace and through faith, and not of works. And we revel in that grace, so rich and so free. And we call upon the Lord for forgiveness when we miss it… and we begin to find it so easy to miss it. We find ourselves doing what those in the world do – viewing the same Godless movies without remorse… indulging in the excesses that make up “the good life”… because we’re “under grace”. And we look down our noses at those “legalists”.

Caught between two worlds – and constantly being knocked off our feet by that pesky pendulum.

Hey, I have an idea… Let’s set the spiritual thermostat at a happy medium. Let’s realize that we’re living under grace, and honor God with a lifestyle that pleases Him. We might be surprised at how pleased we’d be also. Let’s grow up in this thing to a point that “outsiders” can’t tell whether we’re one of the “preachy” types or one of the “grace-y” types. Actually we’d be both… and we’d be neither. And that pendulum will cease to reverse itself and find rest… in the Lord!

Ahhhhh… that feels good!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Thunder and Lightning - Bells and Whistles

It was the early 80s and we were opening a bible school at our church. I was working late one evening, laying carpet with one of the guys who would be one of my students at the school when the church phone rang. I answered and the caller identified herself as a woman who attended the church. She was afraid because a guy she used to be involved with was banging on her door.

Why she didn’t call the police I do not know. She apparently felt her best chance was the church… kind of like calling God I guess. Well, all we could do was advise her to hang up and call the police… and that we would pray. And we did pray. Then we returned to our carpet laying.

Thunder and lightning, bells and whistles - that’s what we expect or we deem God to have “not shown up”...

A few minutes later she called back. She said she didn’t need to call the police beause as soon as we hung up this big ole’ guy came up to the lunatic banging on her door, tapped him on the shoulder, and said, “You need to leave”. At that point the bad guy ran off. She said she watched him run off, and when she looked back, the big guy was gone.

Visitation from an Angel? Perhaps.

My dad used to say to me, “Son, If you don’t remember anything else I ever say, remember this…”, and then he would say something profound… or not so much. But to him it was important, and in fact, of such great consequence that he wanted me to remember that point above all others. I could fill a book with the “only things” dad wanted me to remember, if only I hadn’t forgotten them all!

But in truth I didn’t forget everything my father told me. I remember him saying, “Son, Don’t miss the miraculous looking for the spectacular!”

We have a tendency to want God to come on the scene in a BIG way; an overwhelming way. Indisputable, undeniable, photographable evidence – thunder and lightning, bells and whistles - that’s what we expect or we deem God to have “not shown up”.

I knew a little spit-fire of an evangelist named Sandy. Sandy used to be a cocktail waitress in Las Vegas, but she got saved and she just went all out for God. She preached and prayed for the sick with a vengeance; a one-woman mission to bring down the kingdom of darkness.

Somebody once asked Sandy if she had ever raised anyone from the dead. She answered that once she saw a wreck on the road and an ambulance pulling away. She said a prayer for the patient in the ambulance, that God would touch him or her. Later she heard that the man in the ambulance died on the way to the hospital, but then came back to life.

Sandy wasn’t seeking credit for that person being raised from the dead, but her prayer very well may have been the difference in the matter – the life or death difference. In fact, doctors see that type of thing occasionally – somebody coming back after having gone too far. But what they don’t see is the prayer chain at the church, or somebody’s grandma on her knees in her closet. If we required the blasting of angelic trumpets and beams of light from heaven to believe God is on the scene, well - we’d miss most of what God does.

A guy tapping a guy on the shoulder – a girl saying a prayer over a passing ambulance… Spectacular? Maybe not, or at least it doesn’t appear to be. But miraculous? Don’t ask me… ask the girl in the apartment… or the guy in the ambulance.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Fool and His Money

Red was a good man, and he had a good heart – a heart for the Lord. Red spent hours daydreaming about what he would do with the money, should his numbers be called. He even went so far as to draw up a spreadsheet on his laptop, listing all the folks with which he’d share the winnings, and the largest chunk of the cash would go into the ministry...

Red wasn’t his real name, but all his life he wanted to have a nickname… a handle if you will, that people would grab onto, making him more memorable. One of his favorite movies was The Shawshank Redemption, where Morgan Freeman’s character has the nickname ‘Red’. That seemed odd to Red because Morgan isn’t red…he’s black. And then there’s Red Foxx, again a black man. The only thing red about Red Foxx were the faces of his audience, when he told his off-color jokes. But our Red IS red. At least his hair is, and so it seemed fitting.

Like all of us, Red had his pet vices. For instance, he loved to gamble. Now we’re not talking about gambling as in taking chances in life. Red’s gambling was more along the line of shooting craps and playing poker…and pulling the one armed bandits... you know - slot machines. And if you don’t know – well then, all the better for you. But that’s how Red spent his entertainment dollar.

Now the mother lode of all wagers is the infamous lottery ticket. And Red, who was otherwise a pretty careful guy with the budget, always found a way to get his coveted semi-weekly numbers. Those are the numbers he dreamed would be called. In fact, the spreadsheet on his laptop was file-named “The Dream”.

A foundation would be set up, Red imagined. He’d name it “Win the Lost Foundation” or “Omega Ministries” (because we’re living in the end-times, ya know) or something cool like that. And Red promised God he would do it right, cutting out the wasteful overhead that other ministries carelessly ignore – trimming the fat so that the lean beef of the gospel could go forth to all the corners of the Earth.

“Oh, God”, Red prayed, “If you chose to ‘use’ me in this way, I’ll be SO jealous over every penny…” AND GOD SPOKE, and said, “Do that now, Red. Get jealous over every penny you have now.” Then Red remembered something he’d seen in a book once about being faithful over little, and THEN being made ruler over much. “Let’s see”, Red thought. “What book was that?”

You’re probably screaming right now, “It’s the Bible!” And of course, you’re right. And Red realized it too. In fact, Red realized that what he was dealing with here is not just good advice, but a Spiritual Law – one of those Laws of the Universe that God set up, that scientists have not discovered and that Red had ignored… up until now.

So Red quit buying lottery tickets, and he quit going to casinos. Oh, not because he felt like it was a ‘sin’ or anything like that. Red quit listening to condemnation preachers years ago. But Red didn’t quit listening to God. And God had reminded him of something that, rather than being an onerous rule to be followed, was actually a game plan for victory.

Maybe Red will get that opportunity to cut out the fat and help win the world. But he now understands the metaphor of building one house at a time. And to build a strong house you start with a firm foundation, laid stone by stone with a jealous watch over the laying of each.

You go, Red!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Pillars of the Community

She’s my wife, she’s my lover, she’s my best friend. But on top of all that – she’s my hero! If you know me well, you know I’m a man of strong beliefs and opinions. But this beautiful woman, who was once a fragile little girl did as much to change my thinking as any philosopher, teacher or preacher who ever crossed my path.

See, I grew up in a nuclear family, a thing that wasn’t as rare in those days as now. When I was in grade school the kid whose parents were divorced was the exception – today, the rule. But our family was not only intact, it was strong. And we came from sturdy stock. Our German heritage went back several generations, with hard working, God revering men who fought in wars and served as deacons of their church - real pillars of the community.

Suffice it to say that if ever there was one who could point to society and say, “It’s your fault!” that right would belong to Stephanie.

But a word often used to describe those staunch German pillar types is PROUD! And the problem with pride is that it can manifest in more than one way. It may present as a profound virtue, tempered with great humility and engendering excellence. Aristotle considered it the crown of all virtues. But on the other side of that coin can be found self-importance, smugness, arrogance and conceit. Heads or Tails? As a young man I tended more to the latter.

So how did Stephanie change my thinking? Oh, every married man or woman will testify to how their spouse changed their thinking. But I’m not talking about the normal, kissy smoochy stuff; or even that change in lifestyle we married folk grow to embrace. I’m talking about a change in the way I understand humanity itself.

See, I had always subscribed to the theory that people are a product of their heredity. Nature-versus-Nurture… I was a nature-boy! If you came from “good blood” you became a “good person”, but if you were born of “bad blood”… well, you get the picture. Even my friend Dave who 28 years ago served on staff with me at the church in Oklahoma City recognized it in me. I remember him saying, “You don’t believe people can change, do you?” I had to admit he was right.

But then I met Stephanie. Now it’s not my intention to lay out the qualities of her pedigree, or lack thereof. The truth is I don’t know that much about her heritage. But I do know that Stephanie came from the quintessential dysfunctional family. It's not needful to list the influences, circumstances or events of her life here. Suffice it to say that if ever there was one who could point to society and say, “It’s your fault!” that right would belong to Stephanie.

And yet, rather than blaming her environment she chose to change her environment. Rather than falling back on the excuse of heredity she drew a line in the sand and said, “This stops now!” And she provided a new heritage for her son, and her son’s sons. A Godly heritage. And the generations to follow will be able to say, we come from sturdy stock… pillars of the community!

So never again will I look at a man and say, “He can’t help it – look where he came from.” Never again will I think, “People can't change.” I have Stephanie to thank for that epiphany.

If you don’t know Stephanie, get to know her. You’ll be better because of it. And if you can figure out why God would grace me with such a precious gift, clue me in. And by the way, she’s not my hero because she changed my thinking. She’s my hero because she changed my World!

Nature or Nurture? I say Neither - But God, and Him glorified. That's the measure of a man... or in this case, a woman! Selah.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

My Darkest Hour - My Brightest Day

The Doctor, a personable young woman, went out of her way to compliment us on doing “everything” a good parent could by getting the child to a doctor and on to the hospital. Later we realized she was just trying to ease the pain we would surely face when daybreak found the baby no longer alive. But there were forces at work the likes of which this doctor was not aware…

In April 1987 I was blessed with the birth of my second child; a man-cub I named John Reece. When you have a girl and a boy they call that a millionaire’s family. And I think I know why. I felt like the richest man on earth. But nine months later I found myself facing the darkest hour a man could know. My baby boy was sick - and getting sicker.

I found myself facing the darkest hour a man could know. My baby boy was sick - and getting sicker...

All weekend long he cried. His mother and I tried everything to ease his pain, and when the meds knocked him out he slept. But when he woke up he cried… and cried. And I cried. Then he quit crying. He went to the sitters on Monday, and she said he just wanted to lie in her lap and sleep all day. When he wouldn’t wake up on Tuesday we decided it was time for him to be seen by a doctor.

The doctor drew some blood and did a quick test. Then he said something that grips my heart to this day, “Drive him to Children’s Hospital as quickly as possible. It would take too long to get an ambulance.” The Doctor called ahead and they were waiting for us. And a spinal tap confirmed every parent’s worst nightmare. My baby boy had spinal meningitis! Now there are two types of meningitis, viral and bacterial. His was bacterial – the kind with the highest mortality rate.

I must now confess that if John Reece Kepler had to rely on the faith of his father alone to live and not die, he probably would not have seen another sunrise. I looked at the pale white complexion of that lifeless ragdoll of a child and it took all the fortitude I could muster to keep from collapsing on the floor. But thank God I was not alone in this battle.

After a short while family began to arrive at the hospital – praying family. First my parents, then my sister Linda and her husband Dan, and then my brother Joe and his wife Brenda. We stood in a circle around John’s bed to pray. But I didn’t have any prayer in me… I was whipped. And dad was whipped. He’d stepped into the room, and at the first sight of John he lost his color too. You know, it’s wonderful how God puts the right person in the right place at the right time. My brother-in-law Dan Oden led the prayer. And he prayed a bold prayer, a powerful prayer, a Word of God prayer… the kind of prayer you want when you’re at that place in life you hoped you’d never see.

And my spirits started to lift. A slight hint of boldness began to eek its way back into my heart again. In warfare there sometimes comes a point where the shift in momentum is obvious. Soon the doctor came in to check on John. “This child is 100% improved over the last half hour!” he declared. And we rejoiced.

But the battle was not yet over. It was actually at this point the personable young doctor offered her words of encouragement that failed to mask her expectation of what the night would bring. And when she came in the next morning and found the child still alive, her amazement was just as evident.

All in all John spent 10 days and nights in a bed in Children’s Hospital. And during those 10 days we were counseled on what we might encounter as a result of such a devastating illness. We were warned of the possibility of deafness, epilepsy, learning or behavioral disabilities as well as decreased intelligence. But all I could think was, “I don’t care! I don’t care what condition he’s in. I just want my boy to live!”

Now I might sound like a father without objectivity if I told you that John is perfect. So I’ll just say that his recovery was 100%. I’m not aware of a single lingering hint of the terrible battle he fought and won. His healing was and is complete. To God be the Glory!

I’ve heard people say, “God must have something special for him to have saved him from such a sure death.” But I don’t agree. Oh, I believe God has something special for him… but no more than he has something special for you and for me. So why was John healed to go on to a full and happy life when others die? I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but one thing I know – spiritual warfare was waged… and our side was victorious!

So John, know that God loves you and He has a plan for your life. And son, it’s a Wonderful Life!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

To The Moon, Stephanie

Every year my wife Stephanie and I take a vacation. If you don’t get away from it all at least once a year, you should! I used to have a pastor that said he got away one day a week, one weekend a month and one month a year. I remember wondering if he takes one year per decade. How about one decade per century?

This year we’re considering an unusual destination for our trip – The Moon!

See, I saw a news report that the President has nixed the funding for NASA to go back to the moon. Folks, nobody in this country that’s my age or younger can even remember a United States of America without a space program. So I figure it’s our patriotic duty to do this thing.

“How can you get to the Moon?” you might ask. Well… I think I have that figured out. We’re all aware of the fact that the entire technological capabilities used by NASA for the Apollo missions can now be duplicated with one laptop computer. As it happens, I have a laptop computer. In fact, in the spirit of the redundancy that is so important in space exploration, I actually have two laptop computers. Well, one is Stephanie’s, but if she’s going along I’m sure she won’t mind loaning it to the cause.

“But do you have a rocket-ship?” you might ask. OK… good question. I remember this movie I saw once, starring Andy Griffith, where they used a cement mixer truck as a rocket ship (the mixer part, not the truck part). So I know it’s do-able. Now I can’t afford one of those big cement trucks, and I’m afraid a scaled down, home-use model might not have a big enough mixer can for... uhummmm - my can (as it were). Besides, I’m not going alone. Stephanie is going with me. So I did some figuring, and I determined that a Volkswagen Beetle is about the same size as a commercial cement mixer. It’s also about as ugly – but that’s just one man’s opinion.

So, for the price of a used VW Bug and a bunch of Tang we’re off on the adventure of a lifetime. We enjoyed the Rocky Mountains last year, but I’m guessing they will pale in comparison to this trip. Last year we fished. This year I’m thinking I’ll take my golf clubs. I understand you can get a lot of distance out of your driver up there.

“But can you muster the G-Force necessary to leave the atmosphere?” you might ask. Boy, you’re sure full of questions today! Do I drill you about all the details of your vacation? OK… fair question I guess. I figure if NASA isn’t using those solid rocket fuel cells maybe they’re going to be offered in a Government Surplus Auction. I’m watching the website, to place my bid. I’ll just duct tape one of those babies to my Bug – problem solved.

“But those Bugs have a pretty thin skin. Aren’t you worried it’ll burn up on re-entry?” you might ask. Who says we’re coming back?! Of course, if you go somewhere and don’t come back, that’s not a vacation – it’s a move. Maybe I better get a U-Haul truck for this trip… and a couple more of those surplus fuel cells!

Of course I’m just kidding about not coming back. We always pretend we’re not coming back. But I’ve never taken a vacation where I had all the details worked out in advance. We’ll deal with getting there first. Then, when we’re ready to come home we’ll figure out the particulars of the return trip. And I’m thinking that by then there’ll be new technologies to provide us with an easy answer.

See, we’re going to be there for quite a while - it’s our decade to get away this century.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Fairgrounds 500

If you live in or near Oklahoma City you know what this city excels at – tearing things down. You may have been around back in the 70s when a program called Urban Renewal ripped and tore its way through downtown OKC, replacing beautiful architecture with parking lots. Reference the old Biltmore Hotel.

I remember when I was a kid and dad told me, “Son, they’re gonna build a highway across downtown Oklahoma City that’s up in the air…on stilts.” “No way, dad!” But they did. It’s called Interstate 40. But it won’t be for much longer. We’re poised to tear it down soon.

But the next domino to fall is the State Fairgrounds Speedway. Now, I will confess it’s been years since I’ve visited the speedway. In fact, I can only recall attending one or two events there in my life. When I was about 12 dad took me to a Mustang Precision Driving event. It was so cool to see those Mustangs jump over each other and weave between one another at high speeds, barely avoiding catastrophe. It was entirely awesome.

What I remember most are the clowns. Now those guys could drive! Until one of the little clown cars broke down. The clown got out and raised the hood - and called out his findings to the announcer, who repeated them to the crowd. “The generator won’t gen… the carburetor won’t carb … the pistons won’t - WAIT A MINUTE! This is a family show.” The crowd roared in laughter - probably because they were starved for entertainment. I laughed too, after dad explained it to me.

This is the point where I confess that if the speedway was not being torn down, I still wouldn't be a patron. I just don’t enjoy it that much. Oh, I realize auto racing, and specifically NASCAR, is one of the most popular sports in America. It's just not one of my favorites. A guy waves a flag and then a few dozen cars drive around in circles for several hours. The one that doesn’t have a wreck or run out of gas wins a trophy and a bunch of money… and a kiss from a pretty girl - if his wife isn’t watching. Then they load up their cars into trucks and drive to the next state to do it all again.

There are a couple of things I’ve always wondered about with NASCAR. First, why do they put a perfectly good car inside a truck to haul it to the next race? Hey, it’s a car! You can drive it to the next race! Save some money.

The second question I have is – can I drive in your race? If you knew what my rush-hour commute is like you guys would be jealous of me. I weave back and forth, jockeying with other cars for the lead. I don’t run out of gas and I haven’t wrecked yet. All I need is a pretty girl standing in my driveway with a trophy and a check every day. My wife’s a pretty girl. How about it honey?

Didn't think so!

And so we say goodbye to OKC’s only racetrack. Well… I should say OKC’s only “legal” racetrack. We can still race our cars across I-40… for a few more weeks anyway.

Hey, at least we have plenty of places to park!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Six Bucks a Quart

There’s been a lot of talk lately about how bad the economy has been. And rightly so – things have been difficult for many if not most. It’s at times like these we find unique and creative ways to get by. Let me share a couple of the ways I’ve coped.

There’s a thrift store in town where you can get Polo, Nautica and Eddie Bauer shirts for under twenty bucks. Of course, somewhere out there is a guy that has already decided this shirt isn’t a keeper. It may be because he’s so rich he changes his wardrobe every few weeks, or it could be that he’s gone on a diet and lost a lot of weight (more likely gained). I just hope he isn’t among the “dearly departed”. I’d hate to think I’m wearing the threads a guy died in. Usually I tell myself, “Someone got this as a gift and didn’t like the color so he never wore it.” Of course, that doesn’t work if the dry cleaning service has already stenciled a name in it.

Another way to save money is to buy those cheap “knock-offs” of the expensive colognes. After all, there isn’t really a difference is there? I discovered this cheap imitation of a fragrance that works for me. It’s like Cool Water – makes me smell handsome, which, trust me, is no small task. Just look up the definition of “handsome” in the dictionary. It says, “Not Reece”. Of course it’s penciled in… and I can’t quite discern whose handwriting that is. Maybe it’s time for me to buy a new dictionary.

But a word of warning to you single guys out there. If she smells your cologne and says, “You smell nice. What’s that fragrance?” LIE, Gentlemen, LIE! Lie like a lawyer for the Mafia. Or say something vague, like, “Oh, you like it? Thanks! You smell nice too!” Notice how suave and debonair that was? She’ll think she’s dating Cary Grant. Just don’t tell her you’re wearing cologne you bought at 7-11 for six bucks a quart.

Oh, by the way, earlier I said there’s really no difference between the cheap stuff and the real stuff. Well, last Valentine’s Day my wife bought me a bottle of the original - Cool Water by Davidoff for Men. And brother let me tell you, this stuff makes the six dollar stuff smell like swamp water. And you can get it at Sam’s Club for thirty-nine bucks a bottle (a very small bottle). I’ll sure be glad when the economy bounces back. I’m tired of smelling like handsome pond scum.

And no, I’m not telling you where that thrift store is. We might wear the same size.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

All Dogs Go To Heaven

Twice every other week averages out to once per week, doesn't it? That's how often I make the drive from Oklahoma City to Tulsa, and back again. That's because every other weekend Stephanie's son Jerry comes down to spend the weekend with us. I go get him on Friday evening, and I take him home on Sunday afternoon. Today was one of those Sunday afternoons.

When I was younger I wasn't so moved by the sight of an animal in distress. But as I've aged my heart has softened - tenderized if you will. Now, when I see something in the road ahead I breathe a quick prayer that I'm not about to witness what's left over from the unfortunate meeting of a vehicle with an animal. Such prayer was not answered this afternoon.
I had been watching for deer as I like to do on this drive when I spotted something on the side or the road ahead. It was smaller than a deer, and black. As the gap closed I recognized the form of a dog standing in the grass. Then I saw why. He was standing vigil over his buddy, a beautiful brown dog that had not made it across the highway.

My heart was saddened, as it always is when I see a dog dead on the road. But today the pain was doubled by the fact that a friend was left behind. Blackie just stood there, wondering what to do. I recalled a story told me once by the shuttle driver at a hotel, about a small dog that dragged his buddy's carcass out of the road, and I wondered if Blackie was going to do this.

An hour later my trip brought me by this location again. Of course, the brown dog was still there. The highway department will deal with him - hopefully before my next trip in two weeks. But Blackie was no longer standing over his pal. I gather he finally moved along, back to his homestead and hopefully to more buddies. Those rural homes usually have more than a couple of dogs around.

As soon as I got to the house I kissed my wife and loved on our dogs. If you have dogs do me a favor - before you go to bed tonight double check your gate. Especially if you live near a route that I drive.

I'll make you laugh in tomorrow's blog. Tonight I'm just too melancholy.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Thrill of the Hunt

Usually when someone goes by an alias it’s because they’re hiding from the law, or maybe from their fans, real or imaginary. Texans often find it wise to use an alias while north of the river – especially during football season. I know of a whole species from Texas that goes by an alias when in Oklahoma…the Texas Horned Lizard.

Known in Oklahoma as the horny toad, the Texas Horned Lizard is one scary looking creature. But as they say, ugly is only skin deep. These guys are really nice little fellers. They don’t bark or bite, but when frightened they do shoot blood out of their eyes. So try not to frighten one.

Let me tell you about my favorite horny toad of all time. He wasn’t around long enough for me to catch his name… just long enough for him to steal my heart! So I’ll just call him Hellboy (because of the horns).

It was Easter Sunday and my niece Beverly and little sister Brenda, only 4 days apart in age and both just cute as a button, were itching for an Easter egg hunt. So the whole family loaded up in cars and headed to the local park. As it happened we chose the park that Hellboy called home. We weren’t there long before we discovered Hellboy, and pointed him out to the girls. They were fascinated and frightened, but there were eggs to be found. So the hunt began. And that’s when it happened.

Beverly’s Grandpa Kepler saw that she was about to step on an Easter egg, so he yelled out a warning, “Watch out Beverly!” Now if you read this blog regularly you know our family has German heritage. But you would have known it anyway if you’d been there to see little Beverly as she goose stepped across the park. Everyone laughed…except Beverly. She just screamed. As it turned out she thought Hellboy was out to get her. But I’m guessing she scared him more than he scared her.

Horny toads aren’t as common as they once were. In fact, they are protected now by the State. But occasionally I do see one. And when I do, it conjures up this image in my mind of Beverly and Hellboy goose stepping across the park together, hand in paw.

I’m not sure what ever happened to Hellboy. Beverly moved on to bigger lizards!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Famous People Born Today

All things being equal, today is a special day for 18,611,111 people, more or less. See, the United States Census Bureau estimates the world population as of today to be 6,800,500,000. An easier way to say that would be a little over 6.8 billion people. And they’re all coming to your house for dinner! Ok…not really. Just me!

Anyway, if you take that 6.8 billion and divide by 365.4 (the approximate number of days in a year) you come up with 18.6 million people – having a birthday today. OK…I know more people are born in certain months, and nine months after a cold snap or a power outage, and blah blah blah. That’s why I said, “All things being equal…”

Some of the more famous people having birthdays today: Charles Lindbergh, who crossed an ocean to get away from a crowd of people. And then there’s Oscar De La Hoya, the boxer who’s famous for his baby face, or at least he was before Floyd Mayweather gave him a 12 round facelift.

I see that Alice Cooper and Dan Quayle are having birthdays today. I get those two mixed up. One of them sang about school being out and the other was out of school on the day they taught spelling.

And a couple more famous people with birthdays today are Brandon “Bug” Hall and Rebekah Flanagan. You remember “Bug” Hall. He played Buster, the kid in the movie “The Stupids”. If you haven’t seen “The Stupids”… don’t! It's just too stupid. And Rebekah Flanagan played the role of Reece’s firstborn child in the movie….wait a minute! That‘s not a movie. It’s REAL LIFE!

Rebekah is famous in my eyes for so many things I couldn’t start to name them all. Her entire childhood is one fond memory after another - mostly of her beautiful smile, or when she gave me “the look”! And I’ll never forget when she came to me and said, “Dad, I need to tell you something…” She didn’t even have the words out of her mouth yet and my grin was ear to ear. A few months later she gave me my granddaughter, Kiley! If you didn't get to see Rebekah's smile as a kid, just look at Kiley's!

If Rebekah had never accomplished anything of note in her life I would still be proud of her. But listen to this – she put herself through college…and graduated! I would have loved to have been able to pay for my kids to get their degree, but it just wasn’t happening. Undeterred, she arranged the grants and loans, juggled her schedule, attended night classes and got her sheepskin – all the while working full time and having a kid! This one's gonna go far in life.

So join me in wishing my beautiful daughter Rebekah a happy birthday today.

♫ “Happy birthday to you ♫ Happy Birthday to you ♫ Happy Birthday, Dear Rebekah ♫ Happy birthday to youuuuuuuu!” ♫

I love you, sweetheart!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Malice of Four Thoughts

Driving my granddaughter home from church tonight I saw a marquee at the corner drug store that read “HINI SHOTS, $15.00”.

My first thought was, “If hiney shots are fifteen bucks, I wonder how much shots in the arm are.” My second thought was, “They misspelled hiney. It’s not H-i-n-i… it’s H-i-n-e-y."

My third thought was, “Oh…that doesn’t say hiney, it says H-1-N-1”. You know - what we used to call swine flu, until the pig farmers got upset because people were thinking you could catch it from eating a ham sandwich.

My fourth thought was, “I never got one of those shots. I wonder if I should.” See, I heard that if you caught it back in the 70’s when swine flu was making its last appearance, you may be immune now. And I remember being pretty sick back in the 70’s. But then, I was doing some things in the 70’s that can make a guy pretty sick. And to quote Forrest Gump, “That’s all I’ve got to say about thayat!”

My wife Stephanie struggled with a bout of the swine flu a couple of months ago, and I tended to her needs. You’d think if I was going to catch it, it would have back then. So I figure I’m good to go in the flu department.

But then again, for fifteen bucks, you’re better safe than sorry. So I was just about to decide in favor of getting that shot, when I saw another sign. Across the street from the corner drugstore is the corner convenience store. Their sign reads “Hotdog meal, $2.00”. You mean to tell me, for the cost of a flu shot I could kill 7 ½ hotdog meals?

But then it dawned on me – aren’t hotdogs made out of swine? I better get that shot first, just in case.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Oh Brother, Who Art Thou?

History and literature are full of intriguing stories of babies being switched at birth. It’s usually the story of a poor fellow finding out he’s really the son of a rich family, or even royalty…and vice versa. Mark Twain kicked it up a notch in his story “Pudd’nhead Wilson”, where a white baby and a black baby were switched, with both passing for members of the other’s race.

Babies being switched at birth – that just doesn’t really happen much in modern society. Hospitals go to great lengths to document which baby goes with which mommy. I think it’s to avoid getting sued. Having said that let me say…I’m pretty sure my brother was switched at birth!

Andy-ites, we’re called. We recognize one another… I’m not permitted to tell you how. I will say there’s a handshake involved...

Why do I say that? Well, all my life I was called Opie. The reason for that is because I resembled Ronnie Howard, who played the role of Opie Taylor, the fictional son of fictional Sheriff Andy Taylor, of the fictional town of Mayberry. Ron Howard (he goes by Ron now) was born in Duncan, Oklahoma in 1954. My brother Joe was born in Duncan, Oklahoma in 1954. Ron Howard resembles me. I resemble my dad…ergo Ron Howard resembles my dad. My brother Joe does not bear resemblance to my dad…well, not as much as me and my real brother, Ron. Ron and I have the red hair and the freckles. Joe has black hair. Now that I think about it, Ron’s little brother, Clint Howard has black hair, or at least he did when he had hair. And Joe kind of resembles Clint (except not nearly as scary looking). How much more proof do we need?!

Granted, Ron was born on March 1, whereas Joe was born on July 10. But that’s only 4 months and 10 days difference. Perhaps Joe’s real mom took him in for his 4 month and 10 day checkup, and then, in her haste to get home and catch the latest movie about babies being switched at birth, she accidentally grabbed the wrong kid. See, they didn’t have VCRs back then.

I would like to tell you here and now that “The Andy Griffith Show” is my wife’s favorite program. That’s what I’d like to tell you. The truth is - she can’t stand it. But it is my favorite program. And, like the Shriners or the Skull and Crossbones, many are the followers of “The Society of Mayberry”. Andy-ites, we’re called. We recognize one another… I’m not permitted to tell you how. I will say there’s a handshake involved. The reason this is relevant is because, like me, Ron is an Andy-ite. Joe may claim to be an Andy-ite, but he doesn’t know the handshake. I think he might actually be a Barney-ite, or even an Otis-ite.

But mom and dad did take him in and raise him as their own. Perhaps it was to save 4 months and 10 days of diapers. After all, money was tight for mom and dad. But I will say this - Joe and I grew up together, and we love each other as brothers would. So maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he really is my “blood” brother. But if you don’t mind, I’ll wait for the DNA results. In the mean time…Ron – I’m here for you if you need me, “Bro”!