Friday, June 08, 2018

A Tragedy All Around

I know some of my friends have already tried and convicted Emily Glass in the death of Lucas Hernandez. I know some are saying that her apparent suicide saves the State of Kansas a lot of time and money by it not having to try, convict, and incarcerate her. I know others are saying that she got only what she deserved, and good riddance. To those of my friends who are saying those things, I am truly sorry. You have taken upon yourselves the role of judge, jury, and executioner. Of all people, you probably are the least qualified for any of those jobs, yet you gladly wade into the tar pits of judgment, self-righteousness, and smug assurance along with others of similar ilk. I am truly sorry that you don’t value the rule of law or the Constitutional concept that is the basis for our law…the concept of innocent until proven guilty. I pray you are never put into a position where you have to rely on those concepts for your own protection. I pray that if you do find yourself in that position, others do not try, convict, and execute judgment on you as you are on Ms. Glass. I pray that these Constitutional protections remain alive and well in our society.
The deaths of Lucas Hernandez and Ms. Glass are equally tragic. Both are human beings. Both are loved by God. Both had lives of intrinsic value and self-worth. Both apparently met with the end of this life entirely too soon and in a less-than dignified manner.
We may well never know exactly what happened to Lucas. We may never know what part Ms. Glass had or did not have in his demise. What we do know is that one tragic death is one too many. May God have mercy on His people, on this society, and on those who are struggling with the demons that constantly haunt, torment, and plague their souls.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Facing Mortality


As I write this, Karl is dying.  My childhood best friend is dying from cancer.
Karl has led a wonderful life.  Raised on a farm, Karl got up each morning to “chore.”  Cows needed to be milked, hogs needed to be fed, and the chickens and other animals needed daily care as well.  Then it was off to school or if in the summer, on to the tractor to work the ground, mow hay, or whatever else needed to be done.
Sometimes I would be able to help, and always marveled at the work ethic of his family.  They seemed to always have several irons in the fire at the same time, and managed to keep them all going strong.
I learned a lot from Karl in my younger days.  He had a small-engine repair shop where I learned to repair small engines myself.  He raised domestic rabbits, which I picked up on, and to this day enjoy seeing the rabbit exhibit at the state fair.  He was a fair basketball player and a follower of WSU (then WU…Wichita University) basketball on KFH radio (1330 on your AM dial).
 Sand creek flowed through their pasture.  We often would take our .22 rifles there and plink at things.  We’d camp overnight there.  We’d explore along the creek.  In those days, we were much more nimble and quick than we are now, and had great fun along the creek.
Karl had a great career in aviation.  I’m not sure exactly what he did, but he ended up at Duncan Aviation in Omaha as a company rep.  I lost track of him for many years, and only relatively recently made contact again.  Duncan has been good to him and his family, even during these dark days of cancer.
He has always maintained his faith, and although more conservative than I politically, was empathetic for those who were struggling or dealing with the bad things in life.  He and his wife were foster parents, and also raised their own kids.  Living in a modest area of Omaha for much of his adult life, Karl made it a point to leave the world a better place for his having been here.
But now he is struggling himself.  About a year ago, he went to the doctor for some unexplained internal issues, and discovered a stage 4 cancer had been silently growing within him.  Given six months to live, he continued to work as best he could, and also began therapy of different kinds.  The treatments have prolonged his life, but did not cure him.  He is now in hospice care.
Karl has always relied on God for his strength, peace, and courage.  He has cried out to God in his pain and grief much the same way as the Psalmist did centuries ago.  Family and friends have prayed for healing and now are praying for relief.  One of Karl’s last posts had this from him in it, “I am in desperate need of prayers for you to stand in the gap for me when I cannot think and need your strength when my strength does not work.”
And so we basically wait, as does Karl, for him to be called to his forever home.  And it makes me think yet again of the fragility of life, the vaporous nature of our time on this earth, and what is really important.  For, you see, Karl is not talking at this end stage of his life about how well the Chiefs did last year, or what the stock market is doing.  He’s not discussing the latest clothing trends or the hit movies of last year.  And he isn’t thinking much about international politics or the royal wedding.
No.  He’s thinking about eternity.  He’s thinking about life.  He’s thinking about suffering.  He’s thinking about the forever that looms before him.  And he’s resting in the arms of the Almighty God, drawing from Him the strength and sustenance he needs right now…and that he will experience in the full in the hereafter.
It would do us well to do the same, at least from time to time in our busy-ness and in the rat race we call living.  It would do us well to relieve ourselves of the stupidity of materialism for just a moment or two and consider what our treasure in heaven may look like.  It would do us well to evaluate our relationships and truly consider the well-being of others…even at our own expense.  Because one of these days, we will be where Karl is…facing our own mortality, and drawing on the strength of what we have laid up during our younger years.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Reminiscing (Continued)


In a prior blog, I talked about the earlier days (1950’s for me) of telephone service.  My, my, how it has changed.  Where in those days I would have given my right arm for a dial tone in my car or on my hip, now many people have never heard a dial tone.  Most of the world now has cell phones, and many have “free” phones given to them by the government so they can be connected to the outside world.
Imagine, if you will, making a long distance call in the 1950’s.  As I said in my earlier blog, to do that, one would dial “0” on the old rotary phone, wait for the operator to answer, and tell her what number in what city you wanted to call.  You would give her your own number for billing purposes; she would connect you, and you would talk to whoever was at the other end of the call.
In those days, operators had no way to know who you were when you called, unless you told her.  There was no such thing as caller ID.  The entire system was electro-mechanical, which made it impossible to tell what number the caller who was making the long distance call was calling from.
The system worked well, too.  People were very good about giving their own numbers for billing purposes.  There was virtually none of the business of giving someone else’s number, thereby avoiding having to pay for the call.
Additionally, it was relatively easy to shinny up a phone pole or attach wires to someone’s home phone line and use it for your calls.  But it just wasn’t done in any major way.
Think of today, however.  How would that kind of thing go over in today’s society?  What if today we had to tell the phone company who we were in order to be properly billed for calls?  How much fraud do you think would happen today in that scenario?  My guess is that there would be so much that the system would totally break down into chaos.
And while we’re at it, years ago, one could stay at a motel or hotel, and pay for the services when they checked out.  Now, payment up front is required, and a credit card is required to even hold a room.  What happened to society that caused an industry to effect such a change in how things are done?
And when was the last time you pumped gas, then went inside to pay for it without giving them a credit card or cash up front?  When was the last time you special-ordered something from a retail store and paid for it when you received it rather than when you ordered it?  I will ask again, what has happened to society that has caused these changes in the way things are done?
What ever happened to “key” gas pumps where you would open a 30-day account with the business and they would issue a key with which you could activate a pump that recorded the gallons of gas you pumped that month?  The station would then bill you and you’d pay the balance in full by the 10th, 15th, or 25th of the following month, depending on the specific policy of the station.  I had such a key for many years.  And, by the way, if you forgot and left your key in the pump, the next guy who came to use it would take the key out and give it to the station…and NOT use it to pump his gas.  Even key gas pumps had unwritten etiquette rules…one of which was never use someone else’s key that they inadvertently left in the pump, and instead always turn it in to the station.
My boys, by the way, could go to that same station, fill up their tanks at the self-service, tell the attendant to “Charge it to Dad” and it would appear on my bill that month.  What has happened to those days?  Why can we not do that any more?
I realize that in some smaller communities, such things still take place.  People know one-another and know who is and who isn’t reliable.  People still care for one-another in those places and look out for others.  So these things haven’t entirely gone away; but their days, I fear, are numbered.  And many there are who have never had the privilege of paying for gas after pumping it or paying a motel bill when checking out.  And what a privilege it is…to be counted as one who can be trusted.

A Little Reminiscing


It wasn’t that many years ago, in the age of the AT&T monopoly and rotary telephones, that long distance calls were a kind of a big deal, and were placed much differently than they are today.  In those days, we knew nothing about area codes, 1+ dialing, and free long distance.  Larger cities had seven-digit phone numbers, and smaller towns probably had four digit phone numbers.  Some towns that were served by independent phone companies may have had three digit or five digit phone numbers.
Even though larger cities had seven digit phone numbers, the prefix was usually a name followed by the third number of the seven-number series.  In Wichita, for example, your phone number might be Whitehall 3-something.  Other prefixes might have been Murray, Temple, Amherst, Forest, Jackson, Parkview, or others.  The idea was that you dial the first two letters of the prefix, then the rest of the numbers.  So, Whitehall 3-4221 (KAKE TV’s phone number, which they still have, by the way), would be 943-4221.
And long distance?  That cost ten cents a minute or more, depending on the distance.  The farther away, the more it cost.  One never dialed long distance in Kansas until the mid to late 1960’s.  If you wanted to make a long distance call, you dialed the Operator and placed the call through (usually) her.  You told her your own number, told her the number you wanted to reach, told her whether station to station or person to person or collect, and had her dial the number for you.  Station to station was where the time started whenever the other phone answered, regardless of who answered it.  Person to person was that you asked for a specific person and the time wouldn’t start charging until that person came to the phone.  Collect was reversing the charges, and the person answering agree to it before you could talk.
Sometimes, you could tell the operator you wanted to talk to, say, Mike’s Corner Grocery in Engleville, Kansas, and she would call the local operator in Engleville and get the connection for you.  If the phone went unanswered, the operator often would volunteer to place the call for you later and ring you back when the other party was on the line.
Most towns of any size at all had a local Bell System (or independent phone company) office.  That office had central office switching equipment in it and operators stationed there 24/7.  Sometimes operators did double duty by taking emergency calls for fires, calling the volunteer firemen’s phones, and activating the local town fire whistle.
There were party lines, especially in the country.  That meant that upwards of eight phones were attached to the same pair of wires, and if one phone was busy, none of the others could make a call.  But they could listen in on the conversation, and often did.  Rings were different on the different phones.  Four of the phones would ring at one time.  The rings would be different.  One might be one long and one short.  One might be two shorts.  One might be one long.  One might be a long and two shorts.  And so on.  You knew which ring was yours, and you were only supposed to answer your ring.  The other four phones on the line rang when the ring voltage came down the other wire of the pair, and they had similar rings to the first four.  But all eight phones could hear a conversation that was taking place.
In some of the rougher countryside, phone lines sometimes consisted of the wires of a fence as it ran along a section line or road.  Or it consisted of a single wire and used the earth ground as the return path.  Neither of those options did much for reliability, but most of the time it worked, sort of.
Of course, this was in the 1950’s and early 1960’s that I recall.  Before that were hand crank phones, operators placing even local calls for people, and other such that I don’t well recall as I wasn’t living then.  All in all a very inefficient, but viable service for many years.  More in the next blog.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Right, Good, and Honor


Recently, we have begun to watch the Cowboy Channel on cable TV. We found that the channel is now running the old Roy Rogers show, followed by The Lone Ranger between 9pm and 10pm most weeknights. Of course, growing up when those shows were on TV, we can relate to them and appreciate being able to watch them again.
Yes, by today's standards, the shows are rather hokey. The good guys always win. There is always some kind of morality lesson. The heroes are able to do near super-human feats (such as shooting a gun out of someone's hand from 20 paces). People seldom are killed. Women are treated with respect. The scenery seems to be the same from show to show. Stock footage is extensively used.
Here's the deal. I like those shows. I like seeing the good guy win. I like seeing women treated with respect. I like the morality lessons. I like those things...I like to see them...I like to know that others are seeing them. And I am not the least bit hesitant to say so.
Yes, I know that real life isn't always like that. I know that the bad guys win sometimes in real life. I know that women (and kids) are treated badly in real life.. I know that people are senselessly killed. As the benevolence minister at a downtown church, I see these things. I try to help mitigate these things. I rub shoulders with those of God's children who are affected by the things that are not moral...not right...not rosy.
And maybe that's why, for a short time in the later evening, I like to see something positive. I like to see something uplifting. I like to see right prevail. Because it seems to happen so seldom in my real life, maybe that's why I like to revert back to my childhood and cheer when Tonto and The Lone Ranger catch the bad guys. I do a fist pump when Roy and Dale make everything right again.
To carry that farther, I also think of the modern-day Lone Rangers...the modern-day Roy and Dale combos. I think of the Homeless Outreach Team of the Wichita Police Department. I think of Jennifer White and all who work at the Child Advocacy Center. I think of those who contribute treasure to the cause. I think of various public servants, volunteers, workers, and all I know who work to make their corner of the world a better place for their having been there.
So, laugh all you want at Clayton Moore, Jay Silverheels, Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, and others who years ago in the early day of television did their best to teach morality and goodness to a generation of kids through a western show. ROTFL as much as you like when you think of these shows and these people. But I dare you to do the same when you think of the people who work the Exploited and Missing Children's Unit, the Internet Crimes Against Children unit, school resource officers, school psychologists, those who rescue children from sex slavery, those who feed the hungry, those who organize and coordinate various recovery, grief, and help groups, those who teach our children, and those who are on the front lines...running toward an emergency rather than running away. Go on. I dare you.
The Lone Ranger lives. He lives in the hearts of all who care...of all who do...of all who are on the front lines of right and good and honor.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Who Is He?


This weekend, Easter weekend, I've been pausing every so often in my daily activities, thinking about what it may have been like in the Jerusalem area of Israel some 2,000 years ago. The historical records are there, and have been confirmed and validated by innumerable archaeologists and others of the scientific and historic literature sort as genuine and worth consideration as accurate & truthful. Something happened all of those years ago that brought birth to a movement that has survived over the centuries, and grown & flourished in all parts of the world.
That movement has given us orderly societies, the rule of law, a moral compass, schools, hospitals, adoption services, and many other social service entities. It has changed the world view of countless millions of people. And it has brought hope, peace, and love to a world wallowing in despair, anger, and jealousy.
I know there are those who pooh-pooh the whole thing. They have their own archeologists and their own scientific wizards who say just the opposite. And they have elaborate theories about why this or that could not possibly be the way it was back then. They talk of collusion among the authors of any material that might talk of anything out of the ordinary. But I submit that they have far less evidence...evidence for their theories than others do who believe that something wondrous happened then.
There is no question, except in the minds of those who embrace “alternative facts,” that there was a man who lived in the ancient Roman empire, in the environs of what is now Israel, whose name was Jesus. There is no question that this man was seen as someone different...someone special...someone who attracted great crowds to hear what this Rabbi had to say. There is no question that this man Jesus attracted the attention of both the Roman authorities as well as the Jewish authorities because of his teaching and his work. And there is no question that because of his teaching and work, the authorities took it upon themselves to eliminate him, hanging him on a Roman cross.
The great question always comes in what happened after that. Are his bones still buried somewhere in Israel? Or did they somehow have life returned to them after about three days in the tomb, never to die again?
Yes, I know it's a fantastic proposition. But belief that it really happened gave rise to a movement that endures, grows, and prospers even today. Even today, in the world of Facebook, the Internet, space travel, and instant oatmeal, people believe the story. People who are sane, sober, intelligent, and quizzical believe the story. And their lives are changed because of it.
And for those first believers...those who, it is said, saw the risen Jesus...those first believers endured torture and unspeakable cruelty because of their faith. Of that, there also is no question. Would all of these people endure what they endured for what they knew was a lie? Would they go to the cross themselves for what they knew was fake, phony, and totally dreamed up by a few of his followers in some kind of dastardly scheme?
And what of those writings that we KNOW were written hundreds of years before all of this happened that talk of the very events in a way that give one pause to wonder just where it was these writers got their inspiration? How was it that those writers knew in advance about all of the things that would happen...and happen they did just as it was foretold? Do we dismiss those writings as mere coincidence? Do we choose again the “alternative facts” that do their best to obfuscate and change the subject to something more palatable? How do we deal with that?
And where is this man now? Is he still wandering around on the earth somewhere? Or did he really rise up into the air and was “taken into the clouds” one day about 40 days after his death and burial? Did he really send the Comforter to be present in a real way with his followers? Will he really return some day to “judge the quick and the dead?” What about all of that?
The answers to those questions will have to wait, I suppose, until they either do or never happen. But we will know, one way or the other, upon our own demise. There either is or is not an afterlife. There either is or is not a God. There either is or is not a heaven. There either is or is not a hell. And we will, indeed, know. Or we will cease to exist in any form, and it won't matter.
So, what about you? Have you carefully weighed the evidence? Have you done your research? Have you observed, thought, and have you pondered the meaning of life? What answers do you have? What about this man Jesus? Who is he?

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Integrity

How would you like to have something like this said about you? The quote below was written by a friend and fellow officer of the Kansas Highway Patrol about one of our members who passed away recently. He had a career in the Highway Patrol and retired as a Major.

Your integrity was never questioned as a member of the Kansas Highway Patrol nor has ever been surpassed. It was an honor to work under your command.”

Integrity can be defined as a “concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations, and outcomes. In ethics, integrity is regarded as the honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of one’s actions.”

Are you a person of integrity? Do you even think of that concept in your daily life and living? On a scale of 1 to 10, how would someone else rate the measure of integrity that they see in you?

To be a person of integrity requires hard work, diligent decision-making, honest debate within oneself, and the willingness to do the right thing even when there is a cost. A person of true integrity will lay it all on the line...job, status, wealth...it doesn't matter...in order to make the consistently honest and truthful decisions that equate with the values and principles one espouses.

So, where does true integrity come from? What makes a person sacrifice wealth, power, and status to maintain his or her integrity? What is it that causes someone to lay it all on the line in order to do right?

There is a spiritual aspect at work here. There is a spiritual transformation that must take place in the heart and mind of the individual in order for integrity to be a normal part of that person's life. For, you see, the norm for a human being is to shun integrity and embrace greed....shun integrity and embrace the more base elements of life. It takes a transformation to embrace the good over the base. And that transformation can best be described as spiritual in nature.


Integrity. Will you be known as a person of integrity when you are no longer alive? Will you be known as one who rose above the human norm and embraced the good, the noble, and the right?

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Can't Is For Losers

So far, all I hear from our congressional representation regarding violence is what we can't do. Can't do is for losers. So far, as much as I know now, Rep. Estes, Sen. Moran, and Sen. Roberts are losers. Tell me what we can do. What is the plan? Do we wait for the next one, then offer "thoughts and prayers" again? Is that the plan?
I am not a gun control freak. It isn't about gun control. It's about the moral fiber and fabric of the nation. Government can't mandate morality; there will always be those who prefer immorality and amorality. Government can, however, enhance and encourage moral behavior...and should do so.
Moral behavior has many aspects. Adequate mental health care, positive examples of moral behavior from our leaders, encouraging the proper functioning of the foundation of society...the family unit, and positive educational opportunities all are part of moral behavior. Encouraging those who work the front lines...non-profits, churches, volunteers, foundations, endowments...should be part of the solution.
And don't get me started on "Whose morality are we going to encourage?" or "You can't legislate morality." Those are cop-outs for losers that are designed to deflect and confuse. We encourage the morality agreed-upon by the majority. We legislate morality all day, every day. That is the system we have operated under since 1789. It must be a pretty good one to last this long.

Friday, February 02, 2018

A Morning Observataion

We are having the interior of our home painted this week.  They are working in the kitchen/dining area, and have things torn up and covered up, so it’s difficult to use the kitchen for its intended purpose.  Since I get the feeling from time to time that I need some kind of sustenance, a good alternative is to find a restaurant and patronize it.  I did that this morning for breakfast.
There are many places that serve breakfast; however, I chose an old stand-by…the Town and Country Restaurant on West Kellogg near I-235.  The restaurant has been there for years, going back to the time when there was a Town and Country Motel associated with it just behind the restaurant.  In fact, the waiting area in the east end of the restaurant used to be the lobby for the motel.  I used to stay at the motel from time to time and eat at the restaurant back in the early 1970’s when I worked for a company that occupied the 4800 W Kellogg building, now vacant.
As a single this morning, I chose to sit at the counter.  It wasn’t busy, and there were plenty of chairs to choose from.  I took one on the end and was immediately approached by the waitress.  I knew what I wanted, and told her, “Bacon and two over medium, hash browns, wheat toast, decaf…black.”
We’ve eaten there many times in the past.  Usually, we would be seated in the dining room.  Once in a while, I am by myself, and if so, I like to sit at the counter.  I was thinking this morning as I observed the interactions of the wait staff, and could see into the kitchen area and hear some of what was going on there that it’s a totally different environment in the counter area than it is in the dining room.  Same building…about 20 feet separating the two…but an altogether different feel and dynamic in the air.
There was nothing particularly good or bad about either environment…just markedly different.  And that got me to thinking about how we carry around our own environments; and in so doing, we influence the environment around us.  We often color the environment that we walk into by how we are feeling, behaving, and thinking.
Have you ever known someone who could just light up a room by coming into the room?  Have you ever known someone you just didn’t like to be around because they were always pessimistic and down?  Have you ever been in a room, and suddenly it seemed that a tornado had come upon you because someone came into the area?  If so, you know what I mean when I say that we carry around our own environments and influence the environments of others.
We need to be aware of the environment we carry around, and how we influence those environments in which we live.  Without realizing it, we can sour an environment to the point that others do everything they can to avoid us.  Or we can overwhelm an environment to the point that we dominate in ways that are unproductive and selfish.
There is a middle ground here.  Sometimes, given our makeup and upbringing, it is difficult to even see the need for change, let alone know and understand that “middle ground” where we probably need to be more often than we are.  And that opens up the point that we may well need to take cues from others who we know and trust to help us.  Constructive counsel may be just what we need.  And we need to be unafraid to hear it and heed it.

Oh, by the way, the total bill was $6.64.  With a $2 tip, it still was a bargain, and decent food to boot.  Try the T & C some time if you’re in the area, and if you like good, basic meals that don’t cost an arm and a leg.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Flavor and Ambiance

I took the wife to breakfast this morning. We don't often do that...maybe 3 or 4 times a year. But we were out already about 8am because I needed to take the truck in to the mechanic so he could install a new radiator (the old one developed a leak). So when she picked me up at the mechanic's, we just went on to the Town & Country and had some breakfast.
As I was sitting there, I was reminiscing, as I often do when we're there, about times past when I (and later “we”) would go to the T & C. I've been going there off and on for over 45 years. That long ago, there was also a Town & Country Motel that the restaurant was a part of. Towne West Mall wasn't there, and the motel was behind the restaurant nestled in a grove of trees and was relatively quiet and peaceful. The motel “front desk” was the east entrance to the current restaurant, with the canopy on the east side of the restaurant the place to pull into when checking in.
I worked for 3M at the time, and their office was at 4800 W Kellogg, just a couple of buildings to the west of the restaurant. Verizon was the last tenant there, but they've moved. So every so often I'd come in for some kind of meeting from Hays or Brewster and stay at the motel...and eat at the restaurant. In later years, whenever we were in Wichita, we often went there for a meal of some kind. And now that we live here, it's just a few miles away.
There are several restaurants in the area that have a “flavor” or “ambiance” that makes them special. They're not fancy, At least the ones I know of aren't fancy. I'm sure you can think of some of the ones I know of, and you also know of some that I won't list. Here's my quick list of those places with a rather unique ambiance.
Riverside Cafe on W 13th. The wall hangings, chalkboard menu, and the solid copper plated bar set this restaurant apart...along with the jukebox (which I haven't heard recently...wonder if it's broken). It's been there for years, and probably will be there for many more. Paul Cohlmia, the present owner, is expanding the Riverside Cafe into new neighborhoods, but the anchor cafe is safely ensconced across from North High School. Nothing fancy...typical diner food. But if you go in often enough, you can tell your waitress “I'll have the usual,” and she'll know what you want.
Town & Country. I've already talked a lot about this one, but there are a few more things to say. The rooster on the west wall makes this place unique, along with a big assortment of pies for dessert. Prices are reasonable and dinners still come with drinks and desserts in some cases. If you spend more than twenty dollars for dinner for two there, you've really eaten a lot. Larry Conover, owner, says his clientele is primarily older, and the younger ones aren't coming in much. He wonders how much longer he will be open, given a relative dearth of newcomers. But the building is bought and paid for, taxes are relatively low, and Larry is passing those savings on to his customers in the form of reasonable prices for decent food. Try 'em.
The Beacon on East Douglas. Set beside where the Wichita Eagle/Beacon building used to be, the Beacon has been a fixture just east of the rail crossing for many years. Although I've been going just in recent years, it obviously has it's clientele and it's charm. The chalkboard menu, wait staff with many years experience, and reasonable prices make this a good “meat & potatoes” place on the near east side
As I said earlier, I'm sure you can come up with your own places that not only bring back memories, but also are part of your life, as the Town & Country is for me. These places foster memory, bring back days past, provide a safe anchor in the middle of a sometimes stormy day, and offer a sense that the world isn't so bad after all...that there is good in the world, and that there are good people in it. They provide an anchor for the neighborhood they are in and employment for some otherwise unemployable. They are a necessary and needed part of our society.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Traditions and Rituals


Traditions and rituals. Similar in nature and definition, these are especially prominent in many families during holiday seasons. Traditions are handed down from generation to generation. Rituals are things done in the same way according to some kind of script each time they are performed. A ritual can be traditional, and traditions are often ritualistic in nature, being done the same way each time.
We have our own traditions and dare I say rituals we go through most Christmas holidays. And I'm sure you do too. Sometimes each generation adds to or creates a new tradition or perhaps even ways of doing things (rituals). Sometimes there are traditions that are generations old. The stories of those traditions are often lost in the past, and families carry them on, well, just because.
We too have traditions and dare I say almost rituals we go through during holiday time. Some of them are small things...some are rather big productions. I thought about some of them this year as we are passing through this time.
Having the kids and grands over Christmas Eve for some kind of soup and opening gifts.
Going to the storeroom and getting out the roaster for the turkey or ham.
Eggnog.
Fudge and divinity, home made.
Cookies decorated festively by the grand kids.
Attending a “Messiah” performance.
Getting a live tree, cutting off the trunk a bit and putting it into the holder...and bringing it into the house and setting it straight up.
A poinsettia.
Watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and “A Christmas Story.”
Getting out the boxes where the decorations and lights are stored.
Putting up the outside light displays.
Decorating the indoors with many of the same ornaments from year to year.
Many of these traditions are the same as those you have. Some may be different. Some of you may attend a Christmas Eve or Christmas Day religious service. Some may have a family service of some kind. Some may sing certain songs or carols, or perhaps read a poem or the Christmas story. If you have a holiday dinner, it may consist of the same foods each year from year to year. There may be certain ornaments on the tree that are carried over from year to year.
Whatever your traditions...whatever your rituals, whatever you do for the holiday season, do them with purpose and with joy. And have a merry, merry holiday season!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Stop & Listen

Sometimes when I walk in the woods in Pawnee Prairie Park right behind our house, or I sit outside during times when it's relatvely quiet outside, I can hear things that I normally couldn't hear. The traffic noise on West Kellogg sometimes wafts out to me. Sometimes I can hear planes take off...not from the Wichita Airport, but rather from McConnell some 12 to 14 miles away. And sometimes, I can hear a train coming into the City...a noise that travels 8 to 10 miles, depending on where the train is.
It's that train noise that takes me back. Because, for most of my life, I've been close enough to the rails to hear the trains as they traverse them on their way to wherever they're going. But out here it's difficult to hear them on a regular basis that is 8 to 10 miles away. So when it does happen, it's a special treat for me.
Train whistles sound much the same now, in 2017, as they did 50 or more years ago. And when they are sounded at the discretion of the engineer (some locomotives have a whistle that is pre-programmed and always sounds exactly the same), they have a distinctive sound...one the engineer possibly has perfected over the years to the point that others who know can tell who is driving the train just by the sound of the whistle.
Steam locomotives, however, are different. Their sound too is distinctive, and is made by blowing steam through some kind of whistling device. It's difficult to hear one of the steam whistles anymore unless one knows when a steam train (usually from Union Pacific, which has a great retro steam program) will be coming through and where it will be. But it's well worth the effort if you are so inclined.
What are some sounds you enjoy hearing outside? How often can you hear them? Why are they special to you? In this busy lifestyle, take some time to go outside some place where it's quiet and just enjoy being...and listening to what (and who) is out there.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Christianity & Politics

I was reading one of the on-line articles regarding the Alabama Senate race, following the election results which showed that Democrat Doug Jones won.  I sometimes (although I do so with some fear and trepidation) also look at the comments following the article.  Normally those comments aren’t worth the electrons it took to get them to my computer screen.  But there was one comment that, although I don’t agree with all that was said, generally expresses my opinion on mixing Christianity with politics.
Below is that comment in full.  I don’t know the name of the commenter; otherwise I would give proper credit.  Parenthetical comments are my own.

I heard someone on the radio this morning claiming this (the election of the Democrat) was the work of Satan encouraging the abortionists and the homosexuals.  I am a devout Christian and I hate hearing stuff like this.  There is a Christian faith out there much closer to the faith intended by Jesus that is not so cynical and judgmental.  It's the one where we worry about our own sin and let others deal with issues of abortion and homosexuality according to their consciences and faith (Although I believe we have an obligation to teach and admonish wherever and whenever appropriate…in love…with grace).

This political Christianity which has abortion as its litmus test of faith is absurd.  We have this huge statement of law (the Old Testament) that includes all kinds of minutiae but never says "Abortion is bad".  The Israelites surely knew about abortion.  I can make an argument that abortion is sin just as well as anybody else.  Beyond that I think a perspective that sex is for reproduction and nothing else is a reasonable if joyless Christian perspective, so abortion is the fruit of sin is reasonable too (I don’t quite follow   And Roy Moore's position that he would jail homosexuals isn't supported by any Christianity I know about.  Jesus directly addresses that when the mob wants to stone the harlot. Jesus tells them not to do it.  (Actually, he said that whoever was without sin should cast the first stone.)  It is not our job to punish people for sexual sin.


The cool thing is that real Christianity is so much more liberating than this dark version full of sin and punishment and Hell.  It's about loving your neighbor and worshipping God and being joyful about grace.  We don't have to stomp on the faces of sinners worse than ourselves (Are there sinners “worse than ourselves,” or are we all in the same boat?) to climb the ladder to Heaven.  We can reject voting for creepy lunatics like Moore slinking around Malls looking to defile the ingenue (His description of Mr. Moore, not mine).  If that idea brought some Christians to the light, welcome!  I'm glad to worship with you.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Won't It Be Wonderful!



I was listening to NPR this morning as I was driving in to work.  Sometimes I listen to music…sometimes to NPR…often the radio is off and it’s relatively quiet in the truck.  But today, the public radio station was already on, so I listened to that.  The talk was of the tax bill that currently is winding its way through the congressional gauntlet.  Evidently, the House of Representatives has passed one version, and the Senate is slated to take up its version after Thanksgiving.
The NPR story talked about that, but also mentioned a kind of dust-up in the Senate Finance Committee where the chair, Senator Hatch, got a little testy with the opposition Democrats who continually needle the Republicans with a “Benefit the rich,” cry regarding the tax bill.  Mr. Hatch took umbrage at that, saying something to the effect that it was ludicrous to think the Republicans were sidling up to the rich with this bill.
I then thought of those who were making these decisions…those politicians, party workers, and power brokers.  I thought about the fact that they haven’t a clue how I live, just as I haven’t a clue how the rich and famous live.  They have their own morality, their own ethics, and their own standards.  And those ethics, morality, and standards aren’t the same as mine or yours.  When looked at from our perspective, their money and power have corrupted them until they cannot see that they are way off of the boat and in deep water.
Of course, from their perspective, they can’t understand why we commoners have such disdain for them, calling them every nefarious name in the book, making fun of and mocking them…lumping them all into the corrupt politician basket.  “I work hard,” they say, “in public service.”  “Why do you not appreciate what I do for you?”
And then…then…I thought that it would be wonderful when the end of it all finally comes, and we can enjoy the eternal feast of God that He is preparing for His people.  No more Republican/Democrat/Independent/Green Party/Libertarian/Socialist/Pacifist/Communist parties.  No more wrangling over who gets the biggest tax breaks.  No more fighting over health care.  No more worries about North Korea.  No more groping/harassment complaints.  No more “smoking guns.”  No more Russian collusion.  No more abortions (or abortion fights).  No more Westboro Baptist Church.
Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Hallelujah!



I normally don’t write about the everyday things I do, but this week has to be special, and an exception to the rule.  Let me tell you about my week.
Starting Sunday, we had a special guest at church.  Trinna is someone I’ve known since her childhood.  She visited us Sunday and gave her testimony in front of the combined adult class.  She has a powerful story to tell of sin and redemption.  Breathtakingly honest, Trinna captivated the class as she told of her former life and of her transformation in Jesus Christ.
Sunday afternoon, my brother, sister-in-law and I went to Nebraska for the upcoming eclipse.  We stopped in Lincoln so I could see a childhood friend who now has incurable liver cancer.  He was home waiting for us, and we had a great visit of about 1 ½ hours, reminiscing, talking about the present, and looking ahead to the future.  His attitude seems great even in the face of the constant pain and bleak outlook for a long life.  It is cliché, but I’ll say he is truly an inspiration.
To York we went to spend the night before the Great Eclipse.  Next day we went down to the Strang, Nebraska area to actually watch it.  We went there because of a sentimental attachment to the area, as our dad was born somewhere in that area and his family lived there for a time.
The eclipse was all we thought it would be…a magnificent celestial display that takes one’s breath away.  It didn’t get pitch-black, but was dark enough we had trouble making out the colors of the flora around us, and it got noticeably cooler as well.  Additionally, we could see the circle of the shadow as it approached, came overhead, and left us in the sky and clouds.  An awesome, awesome sight to behold it was.
While in Strang, we met a woman who, it turns out, lives in the very same house that our grandparents and my dad lived in in the early 1900’s.  The story of how we found this out is too long to print here; suffice it to say that we were taken aback by the coincidences that came together to put this woman and us together.  We were able to see the house, confirm it was indeed the house by comparing it to an old photo we had, and plan to come back for more research.
On Tuesday, I had a pleasant and informative visit with Stephanie, who is starting her own business consulting with non-profit organizations on best practices, and helping them with things such as grants and funding.  She would like to expand into churches and health care, and has asked me if I would be willing to help her do that.  I am flattered that she asked and will
do what I can to help, because her services, if done properly, are sorely needed.
Wednesday, I received a fanciful book about Unicorns in the mail, written by the daughter of a friend of mine.  Dayna has written a wonderful children’s book called “The Majesstic Unicorn,” which just has to become a best-seller.  I enjoyed both reading it as well as the illustrations that are part of it.  You can get it on Amazon, by the way.
Today I visited, along with Curtis, the mother of one of our Elders who is in her last hours on earth.  She has lived a rich and full life in the Lord, and is ready to go home.  We had a pleasant visit with her family, and trust we were some blessing to them and to her.
The week isn’t over yet.  But so far, it’s been good and productive.  I like weeks like that, especially ones that start out as this one did…with tangible, real-life evidence of what the Gospel of Jesus Christ can do in the life of someone who by faith puts all of her trust in the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus Christ.  Hallelujah!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Just Be...



I attended a memorial service this past week.  During the service, the minister (our own Rick Cline) mentioned a passage in Ecclesiastes.  The wise man, in chapter 7, says this:  “It is better to go to a funeral than to a banquet because that is where everyone will end up. Everyone who is alive should take this to heart!”
At the first, this would seem an appropriate verse for a funeral, and an appropriate verse if one wanted to cause everyone to be depressed and sad.  But that’s not the intent of the wise man.  His intent is that everyone know and understand that from time to time we need to stop and think…ponder our life, our existence, and our destination.  It’s time for some quiet reflection on life lived and what remains of life.
We are a distracted and busy people.  We’re always going somewhere.  We’re always moving.  We’re always inundated with sight and sound.  Our minds are going in fifty different directions.  It’s like we don’t WANT to slow down and think, ponder, and reflect.  For if we do, we have to do some serious thinking about life.  Who am I?  Why am I here?  Where am I going?
Those questions…oldies but goodies…remain the basis for our discovering the meaning of life.  And the fact that those questions are best answered during times of quiet reflection lead me to ask you to set aside some time to just be.  Just be.  No earbuds.  No phone.  No TV.  No ROKU.  No noisy restaurant.  Just be.
And while we’re “just being,” perhaps it would be a good time to find God;  to open the lines of communication with Him.  As the old hymn says, “Take time to be holy; speak oft with thy Lord.  Abide in Him always, and feed on His word.”
It can be a scary time; this time of reflection.  It can also be some of the best use of time that you’ll ever have.  Try it.