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.