Archive for December, 2005


Monuments To Regret

December 31, 2005

Most of my three year tour with the US Army was spent in Baumholder Germany. There was little to do there in the early sixties so when I wanted to get away, I went to the small town of Idar Oberstein. To my knowledge Idar Oberstein is known for three things. It was famous for its gem stones. It was the birth place of movie star Bruce Willis and finally, the church in the side of the mountain. The town is built in a valley that runs around small mountains. Castle ruins can be seen on top of one mountain. About half way down another is the church that was built into the side of the mountain. Legend has it that two brothers fought on top of the mountain and one of them fell to his death landing where the church stands today. His brother, filled with regret and remorse, tried to deal with his guilt by building this church.

It is a beautiful building. It has a stream from the mountain that runs through the inside of the building. It is not very large and is still used to this day. In all its beauty it stands today as a testimony to guilt and regret.

Father thank you for taking away our guilt and regret. We build no monument to our past of failure. We simply stand in the shadow of the cross where one without guilt and regret died for those filled with both. There in the shadow we simply offer you our praise.


Begin With The End In Mind

December 29, 2005

Jeff Garrett had a hilarious post on his blog on the 21st. of this month. I haven’t had a lot of time to post this week, I will just share it here for you. Get ready, you are going to laugh!

Larry Walter’s childhood dream was to fly but his poor eyesight disqualified him from becoming a pilot in the Air Force. Determined to fulfill his dream, he purchased 45 weather balloons, filled them with helium, and tied them to his lawn chair which was anchored to the bumper of his jeep. In preparation for his flight he strapped on a parachute, took a CB radio to communicate with his friends on the ground, packed some soda, and a BB gun to shoot the balloons when he wanted to come down. Larry planned to float about 100 feet off the ground and come back down after a couple of hours. But things did not go as he planned.

When Larry’s friends helped him cut the cords that anchored the lawn chair to his jeep he shot up into the LA sky as if he were fired from a cannon. He leveled off at 16,000 feet (about 3 miles high!). At this altitude he was cold, frightened, and helpless. He was afraid to shoot the balloons because it may unbalance the load. When he drifted into the primary approach corridor of the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) he knew that he was in trouble.

A TWA pilot passed Larry and radioed the airport explaining that he had just past a man in a lawn chair with a gun in his lap. Radar confirmed that there was an object floating 16,000 feet above the airport. LAX declared an emergency and dispatched a helicopter. Larry continued to drift toward the Pacific Ocean. The helicopter finally lowered a rescue line and pulled Larry to safety. He was arrested by LAPD for violating LAX airspace. As he was carried away in handcuffs a reporter asked him why he had done it. Larry nonchalantly responded, “A man just can’t sit around.”

This story illustrates the futility and danger of taking off without knowing where you are going to land. Many people intend to float through life aimlessly. It’s always a good idea to pray, plan well, and seek advice from people who have experience. Don’t just take off. Begin with the end in mind.

This true story, which happened in 1982, was reported by the Associated Press. You can listen to the tape recorded CB conversation between Larry and his friends during his flight at


The Older I Get, The More I Reflect

December 27, 2005

The older I get, the more I reflect. For some reason a few days ago I began to think about my army days. My serial number began with RA, which means Regular Army. It also means I enlisted of my own free will. The draft was in effect back them, but I had this wild idea that at 17 I needed my freedom!. I had been a handful for my dad. He was frustrated just enough to sign for me to go in at such a young age. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the Army was the last place I should have gone to secure my freedom.

I had told my recruiter that I want to do something in the Army that I could use when I got out. I suggested heavy equipment operator. He said OK, and I ended up in Armor – Tanks! Have you ever seen a Tank on a construction site? Me neither.

It finally hit me that I was in the Army and would be for three years like it or not. So I tried to make the best of it. I moved through the ranks at a pretty good clip for a kid. I was a Specialist Five after two years. (That is the equivalent of a buck sargent.) I went to NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) academy and that helped. There were four position on a Tank, Loader, the guy that puts the 105 round in the breach. The driver, what he does should be obvious. The Gunner, the guy that sites the target and pulls the trigger. And finally, the Tank commander. He has the highest vantage point on a tank and shoots the 50 Caliber machine gun mounted on the turret. During my stint, I had all four positions.

I dug out my DD214 (all military personal have one that is a record of their time served.) I began to search the web to see if I could learn anything about my old unit. With the exception of one battalion, the old 68th. Armor, the unit is history. But I did find a Yahoo group for the 68th. What a blast. They all served with some part of the 68th. at one time or another. They live all over the country, and though I didn’t serve with any of them it has kind of been like old home week. We share our stories and pictures and reflect.

It has now been forty years since I was in the Army. I rotated out in October of 1965. I just missed Vietnam by a matter of months. Many of my unit ended up there.

As I reflect on my time in the military I am thankful. I am thankful it aided me in growing up. Basic training did in a few weeks what my parents had not been able to do for 17 years. It made me realize what was important in my life. Family, Friends, and My girl! Barb and I married during my military years. I am thankful that it pointed out the importance of God in my life. Without Him I would not have made it through that time. I am also thankful I missed Vietnam. Those were tough years for soldiers who served during that period. Soldiers always pay a price, but few ever paid the price that Vietnam vets paid.

The older I get, the more I reflect.


I Corinthians 13 – The Christmas Version

December 24, 2005

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinklinglights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I’m just anotherdecorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies,preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table atmealtime, but do not show love to my family, I’m just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home and give all that Ihave to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attendall of the parties and sing in the choir’s cantata, but do not focus onChrist, I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.

Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.Love is kind, though harried and tired.

Love doesn’t envy another’s home that has coordinated Christmas china andtable linens.

Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful theyare there to be in the way.

Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoicesin giving to those who can’t.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures allthings.

Love never fails.

Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust,but giving the gift of love will endure.

Author Unknown



December 22, 2005

Christmas fifty years ago. To my knowledge this is the only picture Christmas card my family ever sent. It was 1955. Dwight Eisenhower was president, Chuck Berry and Pat Boone were at the top of the music charts. Albert Einstein died and Rosa Parks would not take a back seat on the bus. This was also the year that the first U.S. Advisors were sent to Vietnam.

In 1955 you could buy a nice home for around $22,000, a Ford for $2,500 and stamps were 3 cents. You can tell from the picture that boys wore blue jeans with cuffs, and men skinny ties.

From left to right, my brother Charlie, Me, mom is holding my brother Mark, and dad. It would be four more years before my sister Beverly would arrive to complete our family. Mom and dad have gone to their reward. I miss them most when holidays and special occasions come around. We never had allot of money, but they always made Christmas special. So if you still have your parents, be sure to give them a big hug this Christmas. They won’t always be around to make your Christmas special.



December 21, 2005

This past Saturday and Sunday evening Madison’s drama group presented an adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” entitled “A Christian Carol”. The drama was written and directed by Kelly Hughes, a very talented lady in many ways. The Producer was Mark Carver who added his professional talents to a wonderful production. The lead roll of Scrooge was played by Mark Gage. Mark had never acted before, but no one would have ever guessed that from his performance. Mark never missed a line as he portrayed the transformation in the life of Ebenezer Scrooge.

Another memorable cast member was Dean Dowell, who played the character of Jacob Marley, the departed business partner of Ebenezer. Dean gave a moving portrayal of the remorseful Marley who sought to keep Ebenezer from traveling the road he had.

As the play ended the cast received a standing ovation for those in attendance. Kudos to cast and crew for a wonderful production. But this was more than just a wonderful production, its message was heard loud and clear. Kelly shared that, “Just one of the many stories we heard, one lady came who was a friend of someone in the cast. She was baptized in the church many years ago but hadn’t attended anywhere in years. She wept throughout different parts of the play and we pray for the continued impact of the play and how it may lead her back to a relationship with the Lord.”

So what is next for the drama group? Kelly says,….”Uncle Phil’s Diner” will take place April 21-22 and 28-29, starring your Uncle Phil, Phil Barnes, of course. (Phil is our Senior Minister at Madison) This interactive dinner theater will transport you back in time to the 1950’s”.


December 20, 2005

The battle over whether to say “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas” continues. It would appear that the threat of boycott has begun to turn the tide and many retailers are now bowing to the wishes of those who threaten to spend their money somewhere else. This whole debate has been a tough one for me. I don’t like the direction our country is taking away from God, and this debate seems to bring to light just another step in the wrong direction. At the same time I really have a problem with holding a gun to someone’s head to get them to parrot what I want them to say. When I was a child if my dad told me to sit down, I would do it for fear of punishment, but I was still standing up on the inside.

Wade Hodges, minister for the Garnet Road Church of Christ in Tusla, OK , wrote the following in Blog on 12/15/05, “So Christians are boycotting certain businesses depending on what kind of signs they have hanging out in front of their stores. A boycott has always been an effective means of applying pressure to those who won’t say what we want them to about our God. Didn’t the Romans use it against the Christian and Jewish merchants who refused to hang a banner in front of their store that said, “Caesar is Lord.”

A part of the reason for my confusion over this issue has to do with being raised in the church. For years I was taught that the 25th of December was not the birthday of Jesus. When other religious groups would lament the commercialization of Christmas, we had no problem with it. It wasn’t His birthday anyway. Now we have adopted the position that we will join with the religious world in the celebration, even if it isn’t most likely His birthday. I readily admit I am more comfortable with the latter. But what makes me uncomfortable is Christians requiring that the secular world use their terminology. Merchants with a profit motive will say just about anything to get our business. Like me as a child, they may sit when we tell them too, but they will still be standing on the inside.

My concern in this whole debate is not “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas”, but the perception the world we are trying to reach for Christ will have of us after the dust settles from all the protests. How will what we say now affect the attitude people will have toward us, and how will that affect our ability to speak to them about the Lord.? Regardless of how we feel about the issue I would hope that we would follow the wisdom of the Apostle Paul in his words in Col. 4:6, “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”


This Will Be A Special Christmas For Me

December 16, 2005

The Madison Church of Christ, where we worship, is the “Toys For Tots” distribution point for the Madison Zip Code. This year in addition to giving away the toys from the church and the Marines, we had a group of volunteers that met and visited with each of the families before they did their shopping. I was a part of that group. We worked with over 250 families that were shopping for nearly 500 children. It was an eye opening experience for me. It is one thing to know that there are a lot of hurting people in our world, it is quite another to look them in the face and hear their stories one at a time.

The first lady I visited with was a grand mother, now raising her five grand children. The parents just up and left one day and this grand mother doesn’t have a clue where they are. I can’t imagine a couple walking away from one child, much less five. The second lady was also a grand mother, now raising her four year old grand daughter. Her daughter had the child out of wed lock and a few months ago this mother called her daughter and the four year old answered the phone. “Where is your mother?”, the grand mother asked. The little girl said, “She is on the floor and I can’t wake her up.” When the grand mother arrived shortly their after at her daughter apartment she found her passed out on the floor from taking drugs.

These two ladies had already raised their children, and now they have had to start all over again with their grand children.

There was also a single dad that just rescued his two children from an abusive mother, a young mother who’s husband is on house arrest, a couple from New Orleans trying to start their life over again in Tennessee after Katrina destroyed everything they owned.

And their was Ebony. Ebony lives with her boy friend and she is raising a ten year old daughter. The night before coming to the toy give away she had watched “The Passion of Christ.” She had been blown away by what she saw. That movie really shook her up and caused her to look at herself. After she received her toys she needed a ride to work at Taco Bell. As we drove she told me how she and her boy friend talked after the movie. They have decided that living together without being married is sin and they are not going to live in sin anymore. She had many questions. She wants Bible answers. She wants to be able to answer the questions her daughter has been asking and know that it is not someone’s opinion, but what God has said about the matter. I told her I would help, and we are to get together soon.

These are only a few of the stories. Everyone of those families has their own story. I am sure that there were a few families there to just take advantage of the situation, there always are a few. But for the most part, here were families in genuine need.

This Christmas will be special for me. As I watch my grand children open their gifts I am sure in the back of my mind there will also be pictures of those grand mothers, that single father, the couple from New Orleans, and yes, Ebony as they open the gifts they will have under their tree. Yep, this is gong to be a special Christmas.


You Might Be A Scrooge If…..

December 14, 2005

If you turn on the lawn sprinklers on Christmas Eve to keep carolers away. . . you just might be a Scrooge.

If you buy all of your Christmas gifts at a store that also sells gas. . . you just might be a Scrooge.

If you get your Christmas tree at a rest stop at night. . . you just might be a Scrooge.

If you give bathroom fixtures as Christmas gifts. . . you just might be a Scrooge.

If your favorite Christmas movie is Jurassic Park. . . you just might be a Scrooge.

If your best Christmas tradition involves a fire and reindeer meat. . . you just might be a Scrooge.

If your favorite pastime is putting defective bulbs in your neighbors’ string of Christmas lights . . . you just might be a Scrooge.

If your only holiday decoration is a rotting pumpkin. . . you just might be a Scrooge.



December 13, 2005

I receive a lot of emails. Rarely do I pass them on, but the following is an exception. I wish this FW had been signed so I could give credit to credit is due. Maybe if we could see God as Kevin does we would not make knowing Him so complicated.

I envy Kevin. My brother Kevin thinks God lives under his bed. At least that’s what I heard him say one night.He was praying out loud in his dark bedroom, and I stopped to listen, “Are you there, God?” he said. “Where are you? Oh, I see. Under the bed…”I giggled softly and tiptoed off to my own room. Kevin’s unique perspectives are often a source of amusement. But that night something else lingered long after the humor. I realized for the first time the very different world Kevin lives in.He was born 30 years ago, mentally disabled as a result of difficulties during labor.

Apart from his size (he’s 6-foot-2), there are few ways in which he is an adult.He reasons and communicates with the capabilities of a 7-year-old, and he always will. He will probably always believe that God lives under his bed, that Santa Claus is the one who fills the space under our tree every Christmas and that airplanes stay up in the sky because angels carry them.

I remember wondering if Kevin realizes he is different. Is he ever dissatisfied with his monotonous life? Up before dawn each day, off to work at a workshop for the disabled, home to walk our cocker spaniel, return to eat his favorite macaroni-and-cheese for dinner, and later to bed. The only variation in the entire scheme is laundry, when he hovers excitedly over the washing machine like a mother with her newborn child. He does not seem dissatisfied. He lopes out to the bus every morning at 7:05, eager for a day of simple work. He wrings his hands excitedly while the water boils on the st ove before dinner, and he stays up late twice a week to gather our dirty laundry for his next day’s laundry chores. And Saturdays-oh, the bliss of Saturdays! That’s the day my Dad takes Kevin to the airport to have a soft drink, watch the planes land, and speculate loudly on the destination of each passenger inside.”That one’s goin’ to Chi-car-go!” Kevin shouts as he claps his hands.His anticipation is so great he can hardly sleep on Friday nights.And so goes his world of daily rituals and weekend field trips. He doesn’t know what it means to be discontent. His life is simple. He will never know the entanglements of wealth of power, and he does not care what brand of clothing he wears or what kind of food he eats. His needs have always been met, and he never worries that one day they may not be.His hands are diligent. Kevin is never so happy as when he is working. When he unloads the dish! washer or vacuums the carpet, his heart is completely in it. He does not shrink from a job when it is begun, and he does not leave a job until it is finished. But when his tasks are done, Kevin knows how to relax. He is not obsessed with his work or the work of others. His heart is pure. He still believes everyone tells the truth, promises must be kept, and when you are wrong, you apologize instead of argue. Free from pride and unconcerned with appearances, Kevin is not afraid to cry when he is hurt, angry or sorry. He is always transparent, always sincere. And he trusts God.Not confined by intellectual reasoning, when he comes to Christ, he comes as a child. Kevin seems to know God – to really be friends with Him in a way that is difficult for an “educated” person to grasp. God seems like his closest companion.

In my moments of doubt and frustrations with my Christianity I envy the security Kevi! n has in his simple faith.It is then that I am most willing to admit that he has some divine knowledge that rises above my mortal questions. It is then I realize that perhaps he is not the one with the handicap. I am. My obligations, my fear, my pride, my circumstances – they all become disabilities when I do not trust them to God’s care. Who knows if Kevin comprehends things I can never learn? After all, he has spent his whole life in that kind of innocence, praying after dark and soaking up the goodness and love of God.And one day, when the mysteries of heaven are opened, and we are all amazed at how close God really is to our hearts, I’ll realize that God heard the simple prayers of a boy who believed that God lived under his bed.Kevin won’t be surprised at all!