Friday, November 09, 2018

Whatever Your Tradition

We’re fast approaching the time of year that some view with great anticipation and excitement.  Others view it with an attitude more like that when in the dentist office waiting for a root canal.  The Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season can be the most exciting and pleasant time of the year for some.  But for others, the holidays bring back memories better left forgotten, or bring with them the inevitable family quarrels and struggles.  This time also brings shortened days, which can lead to a very real physiological reaction known as Seasonal Affective Disorder.
I don’t know how you and your family react to the holidays.  For the Planks, it’s a time of family dinners, get-togethers, present exchanges, and celebrating the grace and goodness of God in our lives.  We make a big deal out of Thanksgiving, and enjoy the nieces, nephews, and grand kids as they experience the wonder of Christmas.  We have traditions that we repeat year after year which are important to us as a family.
One of those traditions is song.  At virtually all of our family gatherings, we sing.  The Doxology is a must-sing.  We also will sometimes sing other songs out of the older genre of hymns that we mostly all know…many of which are imbedded into our minds from long, long ago during the acappella days at the old Pleasant Valley church in Harper.  It’s a special time for us, and we hope to pass the tradition along to those in our family who come after us.  Those who have married into the family, or have been adopted have quickly caught on and join in.
I don’t know what your family traditions are during this time of year.  But I’d like for you to take some time this week and just think about some things that are traditional with you…how the tradition started, why you continue it, and what the value of the tradition is.
My prayer for you is that you will discover anew the wonder that is the love and grace of God this season.  Whatever your tradition—however you celebrate—do so with a grateful heart and joyful spirit.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Least of These

Each day when I wake up, I do my bathroom stuff, then come out and check my phone for appointments I have that day, or messages I need to know about.  Today when I checked, I saw one from a good friend of ours…I’ll call her Sarah.  Sarah’s immediate family consists of herself, her husband of almost 30 years, and a daughter who is now a young adult.  They were our neighbors for several years, and we became well-acquainted with them over the years.
Sarah texted me this morning before I woke, telling me she was homeless as her husband was seeing another woman, filed for divorce, and threw her out of the house via temporary restraining order.  She said she was living at a homeless shelter in central Wichita, but had spent some nights in her car before getting a bed at the shelter.  This was all quite a shock to her, as she had no clue what was going on.
Additionally, Sarah’s husband cleaned out the bank accounts and absconded with a lot of community property.  The hearing on the temporary order is this coming Tuesday when it will either be lifted, modified, or made permanent.  She has very little in the way of “things” right now, and an income of a little over $900 a month from a disability.  Sarah was in shock, had no idea what to do next, and was pretty much lost.
I texted Sarah and invited her to come to the office so we could talk.  She did, and we talked for an hour or more.  As today was her birthday, I took her to lunch and we talked more.  We talked about a lot of things, but one thing stands out.  Sarah, almost 50 years old, raised middle class, living a middle class life, suddenly within minutes was thrust into the culture of the homeless.  She has no family she can rely upon, and was able to sleep on the floor of a friend’s house for a short time, but needed to quickly do something besides that.  So she found the Interfaith Inn in downtown Wichita.  It was there where she ran headlong into the homeless and poverty culture, which provided her with an additional shock to her already fragile situation.
She said to me, “Jay, I don’t even know the language they are speaking.  I don’t understand what they are saying.”  Additionally, she went on, they behave differently; they think differently; they think of their families differently; they live differently; they use money differently…in short, the entire world view of the homeless and poverty-stricken is different than the typical middle class outlook on life.
That, to Sarah, seemed to be the biggest hurdle of all…the sudden immersion in another culture and another way of life and living…no, make that survival.  And that’s what most people don’t “get” when thinking of ways to work with the homeless and poverty-stricken folks.  Politicians don’t have a clue.  Bureaucrats don’t have a clue.  Churches don’t, by and large, have a clue.  And the general public certainly doesn’t have a clue.
The old, “pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” is a good one-liner, but is useless in the poverty and homeless culture.  These people don’t have bootstraps…and if they happen to have them, they haven’t a clue how to grab hold of them; they haven’t a clue what they are for; they haven’t a clue what it means to pull themselves up by them.  The barriers to an education, gainful employment, and middle class life start with having to obtain an ID, which means they have to have Internet access, transportation, a mailing address (not a P.O. Box) to have the ID mailed to, money to send off to get a birth certificate, marriage certificate, etc., a utility bill or some such to use as proof of address, and so on.  Additionally, they need to know the state or jurisdiction where their birth certificate is kept, which for some is an unknown.
Getting a valid ID is just almost impossible for a homeless person.  And without a valid ID, there is no job.  There is no renting an apartment.  There is no checking into a motel.  In many cases the shelters and pantries are closed to them.  Government assistance is difficult or impossible to get without a valid ID.  The middle class and ruling class have effectively relegated the homeless person without an ID to the status of non-person.  He or she doesn’t exist.  And the barriers to getting an ID are pretty much insurmountable.
I know I’ve talked about this before…but it hurts me greatly to see this culture relegated into non-existence.  These are human beings.  These are people.  These are the “least of these” that I believe will surround the throne of God Himself while those of us who had lives of comfort are judged according to whether or not we recognized these people as our neighbors and loved them as we loved ourselves.

Friday, October 05, 2018

God At Work


RiverWalk Church of Christ
Wichita Ks<span style= 
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What follows was written by a dear friend who I have known since her childhood days.  Her story is real.  It is riveting.  It is brutally honest.  If you follow this blog, you know I’ve talked of her in prior posts.  Recently, she wrote and posted this on Facebook.  Somehow, it went viral and she has over 87,0000 shares and 18,000 comments on this post.  Even if you’re familiar with her story, read it again.  And again.  And know that God does indeed work in the hearts and lives of men and women.
If someone would’ve told me three years ago what the love of Christ would do in my heart and life I would have given you and God the middle finger. If someone would’ve told me that in the next three years that same God that I spent the last nine running away from would restore relationships with my family and with my children...out of fear…I would’ve told you I’ll only mess it up. Three years ago, I had two options to die or live, and to be completely honest I didn’t want either of the two but somewhere within my broken heart I chose to reach out that day and went to detox. (Kicking and screaming might I add)
I had about two weeks clean when I was invited to a Bible study at a little coffee shop that I really had no interest in going to at the time. It was in that place that I met a woman and eventually an entire family that whether by word or selfless deed would show me the grace and love of Christ. There was something different in this woman that The Lord used to speak truth into my heart. She still does. 
Samantha Sutton Duncan and Heath Duncan I am forever grateful to you both for loving me and showing me grace and a different way of life.
I’m grateful to my family…all of my sisters and brothers for all that you are. Which is a lot of goodness. Thank you to all the new relationships and reconnections that have been beautifully placed in my life. I deeply love you all and I’m so excited for what the future holds.
But beyond all of the many blessings and even beyond my sobriety I am thankful for the gospel of Jesus Christ. I don’t deserve a single ounce of your never-ending eternal love and yet here you are still loyal and so faithful in all your promises. You and I both know God that it wouldn’t have mattered if a million someone’s told me what all you could do within my life over the past three years. But you had a very specific way of revealing it to my heart, because you know every intricate part about us.
To all the men and woman reading this that struggle with addiction...there is hope. You are not too far gone. You are not forgotten, and you have a father in heaven longing for you to let him in.
To the children and the families affected by addiction. Do not lose hope and NEVER cease praying. 

Friday, September 07, 2018

Do We Really "Lose Everything?"

Michael Horton has written an excellent opinion piece in Christianity Today.  He talks about President Trump’s announcement to an evangelical gathering at the White House recently in which the President said this regarding the upcoming election.  Evangelicals, he said, were “one election away from losing everything.”
I commend Mr. Horton’s comments which follow to you.  I thought about condensing his thoughts; however, it all needs to be said.  The words speak for themselves.  I can add no more.
As evangelicals, we would do well to correct the president on this point.  If an election can cause us to lose everything, what is it exactly that we have in the first place?
Surely we can be grateful for any public servant who upholds the First Amendment.  And we should applaud fellow believers who ply their education and experience as lawyers to defend religious freedom (as long as they don’t seek to privilege Christianity legally above other religions).
However, the church does not preach the gospel at the pleasure of any administration or decline to preach it at another administration’s displeasure.  We preach at Christ’s pleasure. And we don’t make his policies but communicate them.  It’s not when we’re fed to lions that we lose everything; it’s when we preach another gospel.  “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Matt. 16:26).
And yet, swinging from triumphalism to seething despair, many pastors are conveying to the wider, watching public a faith in political power that stands in sharp opposition to everything we say we believe in. To many of our neighbors, the court chaplains appear more like jesters.
Something tremendous is at stake here: whether evangelical Christians place their faith more in Caesar and his kingdom than in Christ and his reign. On that one, we do have everything to lose—this November and every other election cycle. When we seek special political favors for the church, we communicate to the masses that Christ’s kingdom is just another demographic in the US electorate.
Let’s face it. Liberal and conservative, Catholic and Protestant, have courted political power and happily allowed themselves to be used by it. This always happens when the church confuses the kingdom of Christ with the kingdoms of this present age. Jesus came not to jump-start the theocracy in Israel, much less to be the founding father of any other nation. Even during his ministry, two disciples—James and John—wanted to call down judgment on a village that rejected their message, but “Jesus turned to them and rebuked them” (Luke 9:54–55). He is not a mascot for a voting bloc but the savior of the world. He came to forgive sins and bring everlasting life, to die and rise again so that through faith in him we too can share in his new creation.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Monarch

Last year, I planted some milkweed in order to attract butterflies…and particularly, Monarch butterflies.  And although we had a caterpillar or two last year, I never saw a chrysalis or much in the way of Monarch activity.  The milkweed we planted is a perennial, so it came up again this year, much more vigorous than the first year.  And this year, I sort of hit the jackpot for Monarchs.
We have eleven in the chrysalis stage right now, with hatching to start shortly.  I never really saw any Monarch adults earlier, but evidently something happened, because the caterpillars were all over the milkweed plants.  The plants look a little haggard now, but they will recover nicely.
I have a DVD called “Metamorphosis” that describes in some detail the life cycle of butterflies, and gives some concentration on the Monarch, which is unique, they say, among the butterflies of the world.  It seems that only the Monarch as a life cycle as an adult that varies depending on the time of the year when it hatches.  Of the five or so “hatchings” of Monarchs during a calendar year, all but one of the adult life cycles is about 4 weeks.  The remaining one….the one hatching now…has a life cycle of several months.  From now until next March, these adults will live and will migrate from the USA to certain unique places in southern Mexico to winter.  They will then start back as the milkweed begins to come out of winter hibernation, lay eggs and die.  The next adults will continue the migration northward.
The DVD also describes the incredible complexity of the life cycle…from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis and finally to adult.  It gives credible information that would lead one to believe that chance and natural selection played little, if any role in the life cycle of the butterfly.  And the life cycle of the butterfly begs the question, “Why?”  Why would natural selection have resulted in such a life cycle?  And even more, how could natural selection have created such a life cycle in the first place?
The clinching factor for me regarding intelligent design versus chance evolution in the life cycle is the fact that there are two separate animals involved…the caterpillar and the adult butterfly.  Caterpillars are living stomachs, eating constantly.  There is no hint of compound eyes, articulated legs, a proboscis, or wings in the makeup of the caterpillar, except for a few cells, called imaginal cells, located in certain places within the body of the animal.
During the chrysalis stage, the caterpillar’s cells are digested into a soup…all except for the imaginal cells, which, instead of being devoured like all the other cells, go into action.  They use this soup to create wings, legs, and so on.  In other words, the caterpillar disappears…the heart, muscles, brain, nerves…all of it…are digested into a nutrient-rich soup to be used to build a butterfly.
Dr. Lincoln Brower, Entomologist and research professor at Sweet Briar College in Virginia, and recognized authority on the Monarch butterfly, says this about the chrysalis stage.  The monarch "changes its ecological niche entirely when it transforms from a caterpillar to an adult butterfly," says Dr. Brower. "They are two ecologically different organisms, as distinct as a field mouse and a hummingbird.”
I don’t know about you, but the more I see of what goes on “out  there,” the more I am convinced that there is a Force beyond the natural…beyond the chance encounter…beyond the happenstance…that has and is guiding, directing, and working in this existence.  And the quicker we acknowledge that, the more quickly we can begin to live as we were created to live…in freedom in the glorious grace of God Almighty.

Friday, August 03, 2018

The Ark Valley Interurban

Recently, I’ve become somewhat fascinated with a part of the history of Wichita and surrounding area that involves a long-abandoned rail line, the Arkansas Valley Interurban.  The Ark Valley Interurban, or AVI, was built just before WWI, and ran until WWII.  In it’s short life, it saw the explosive growth of the automobile as a favored mode of transportation, as well as great improvement in roads that those automobiles traveled upon.  And as you might surmise, that was, in large part, the reason for its eventual demise as a passenger, and later on, a freight carrier.
The AVI line began where the Drury Broadview is now in downtown Wichita, and ran northward through Valley Center, up to Newton, and over to Hutchinson.  Plans were made to expand the service south and farther to the north and west, but never really materialized.
Few remnants of the AVI are visible today.  The Broadview has an arch over a door with “AVI” inscribed in the limestone.  There are a few abandoned bridges left in rural areas, and one of the parts of the main building at Botanica is a depot for AVI.  Additionally, a few streets just to the north and east of the intersection of McLean Blvd. and 13th Street N are at a peculiar angle, which was made necessary because of the angle of the rails of the AVI line running in that area.  Other than that, not much is left except for some memorabilia and a few books.
I myself was a child toward the end of the era of what might be called “interurban” transportation.  I recall vividly the “doodlebug” that made regular trips to Harper, where I grew up, and then on to Anthony and other places before going back to Wichita.  Carrying little of anything…freight or passengers…the railroads were forced by the Interstate Commerce Commission to continue running these routes until into the 1960’s.  One could purchase a passenger ticket on the doodlebug and ride, for example, from Harper to Anthony, or from Anthony to Wichita.  Tickets were inexpensive.  My regret now is that I didn’t take advantage of that, just for the experience of having done it.  We had no need for it; we had good vehicles.  But the experience would have been one of the best of my childhood days.
I do recall being with a farmer friend of mine who had a few dairy cows on his farm.  I was going with him to run some errands.  He had a five-gallon cream can full of raw cream from his dairy that he wanted to go to a dairy in Wichita.  We stopped at the Harper depot and he dropped off the can, signed a paper or two, and we were off to another errand.  What I didn’t realize then was that the doodlebug would leave Harper soon and take that can to the dairy in Wichita.
We all have things that we wished we either had or hadn’t done earlier in life.  My hope for you is that you have few of these, and those that you do have are those which haven’t had a huge impact on your life.  We cannot live in the past.  We cannot let the past rule our present.  We must look ahead and live life as God intended, and as the people of God that we are.

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


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, doesn't 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.
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 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.