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.

Thursday, August 24, 2017


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.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Under All Is the Land

We have just come back from a ten-day trip to the Great Southwest where there are miles and miles of canyons, mountains, valleys, and generally rugged country.  While we were there, that area was also suffering from a heat wave that even natives were complaining about.  Temperatures of 115 degrees or more were common.
When this farm boy travels and looks over the countryside, he thinks about how the land is useful in some way.  Farming, ranching, irrigation, growing things; these are things that make the land valuable.  Human beings always seem to find ways to make the land work for them and be productive in some way.
But out in the Great American Desert, there isn’t really much that can be done.  Much of that land has never been touched by human feet, and may never be.  Water remains scarce, with just a few patches of valley or mesa here and there being irrigated and suitable for some kind of crop or livestock operation.  Deep canyons, steep mountain sides, dangerous weather conditions, remoteness and lack of availability of basic services…all of this and more make the notion of putting the land to productive use even more remote.
Yes, I know there are great scenes out there.  I know there are fantastic and incredible views.  I understand the magnificence of the mountains, canyons, and starry canopy.  There are truly great wonders of the world in the Great Southwest, and you should strive to see them at least once in your lifetime.  But the thought remains…what good is the land?  Are the thousands of square miles of this kind of country useless?  Is there no purpose in it?  Should we just write off this entire area as flyover country as we travel from Chicago to Los Angeles?
I don’t think so.  I came up with a statement during our trip out that I kind of like.  “We should appreciate the land for what it is; not for what it can do for us.”
It’s great to be able to work the land.  It’s a wonderful thing to coax the land to produce crops…fruits, vegetables, grains.  It’s good to use the land in some useful and productive way.  But it’s also good to understand that we aren’t masters over the land.  The land allows us to be stewards of it.  The land allows us to work it.  The land allows us to profit from it and have better lives because of it.  And it tells us that by holding back some of itself in the form of impenetrable wilderness and wild country.  Try as we might, we find it virtually impossible to tame all of the land.  So we go for only the small part of it that it allows us to have.
Our Lord created the land for many reasons.  Among them, I believe, is so we will appreciate that we are not the masters, but the caretakers.  We aren’t the dominating influence; we are part of the whole.  We don’t dictate the eventual outcome; we ride along with the creation as God moves it through time.
The Code of Ethics of the National Association of Realtors begins this way:  “Under all is the land. Upon its wise utilization and widely allocated ownership depend the survival and growth of free institutions and of our civilization.”
It seems to me that the wise utilization of much of the Southwest Desert should be to remind humanity of the greatness of the God who created it (and us), and that we are the caretakers …not the masters…of the land upon which we live.  If we get it…if we understand that…the land will have done the job for which it was created, and we will be enriched immeasurably.