Saturday, April 24, 2010


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.

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 I think I’ll play outside!

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. 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!

Friday, April 2, 2010


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!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Proceed With Caution

On April 1, 1998 the restaurant chain Burger King introduced the Whopper for Left-Handers. The primary difference in the Left-Handed Whopper and the regular Whopper was that it was designed for the condiments to drip out on the right side. Being left-handed, I couldn’t wait to try this new culinary delight. But then April 2nd rolled around, and everyone had a big laugh at the witty April Fools’ joke.

I was only kidding about wanting to try the Left-Handed Whopper. I’m really not that gullible. But seriously, several people did specifically request the new burger, as well as a good number of people actually ordering the “original” Whopper. Those are probably the same people responsible for the demise of New Coke, which itself was probably an April Fools’ joke gone terribly wrong.

When I heard laughter I got even more scared. The IRS is not only auditing me… they’re LAUGHING about it!

And just one year ago today - April 1, 2009 - Car and Driver Magazine announced on their website that President Barack Obama had pulled all government funding for NASCAR. I’ll bet you didn’t know your tax dollars went to finance the number one sport south of the Mason Dixon line! That prank had to be retracted with an apology after NASCAR fans raised a major ruckus.

Ahhh Yes, April Fools’ Day – arguably the most dreaded day of the year. On St. Patrick’s Day you might find a good sized bruise pinched on your arm if you forget to wear your green, but that’s nothing compared to the angst suffered from the perils of April Fools’ Day. Of course, the highest satisfaction one can experience in life is to pull off a great prank on a family member or (soon to be ex) friend. But if you find yourself on the butt end of that prank… well, then you understand how the day got its name.

I’ll never forget a phone call I received on April 1, 1981. I was summoned to the phone by a co-worker to take a personal call. “Mr. Kepler, this is Sam Tucker with the IRS. We need to schedule a time for you to come in for an audit.” I was stunned. I was horrified. I was petrified. See, I had just finished up a very hard year where I had done a lot of jobs for a general contractor, and to put it kindly, my records were… not entirely accurate. (Does anybody know the statute of limitations on tax fraud?)

I stammered and stuttered for several moments, then swallowed hard and asked, "What year?" The voice on the other end broke into laughter. Now, I told you earlier that I’m not a real gullible guy. Well, apparently that hasn’t always been the case, because when I heard that laughter I got even more scared. The IRS is not only auditing me… they’re LAUGHING about it!

Mercifully, Sam Tucker quickly confessed that his real name is Joe Kepler and he was just calling to take his brother to lunch. Whewwwwwwwwwww!

They say revenge is a dish best served cold, but it’s only been 29 years. I’ll get him back as soon as I cool down.