Clackety, Clackety, Clackety…. Whoosh! (Updated)

Clackety, Clackety, Clackety…. Whoosh! (Updated)

AstroworldWhen I was a youngster, there was a place that was pure joy to visit – and, although I remember being there with the family, there came a time when we were dropped off and picked up later in the evening to enjoy as only kids can enjoy without parents. Maybe just once or twice, but having the responsibility to enjoy this special place without parents? Priceless!

What was that place? Astroworld! It was across the freeway from the Astrodome – the home of the Houston Astros and the place where AstroTurf found its first home. A safe place, as I remember it, for kids to be kids. I do not remember anybody getting into trouble. There were no cell phones to keep track of each other. Our method of communication was to say that we would meet at a certain place in the park by a certain time. And then we would all way until every person showed up at the meeting place.

And, because this is Houston…just about every ride had A/C vents pouring relief over those in line…Yep. A/C in the out doors! It was heavenly! Maybe this is where I learned how much I love cold! I judge all outdoor theme parks by this standard!

Regardless, you paid your admission price and every ride was free. Even though Astroworld was in our neck of the woods, Six Flags Over Texas was a days drive north of us, between Ft Worth and Dallas and was another favorite spot – although we did not go there as often.

My favorite rides had something to do with speed, high hills, precipitous drops, and high “G” turns. I do not remember all their names, but there was one that was called something like “Runaway Mine Train.” It was designed like an ore car used to transport miners and ore from one end of a mine to another. Never mind that we had no mines like this around us, but it was a pure delight to get into the car – hopefully in the front car. In this favorite spot, you would leave the station and begin to enter the mine. The very first thing you hear is “clackety, clackety, clackety” as the cars are pulled upwards to the top of the hill. You see, for the most part, the thrill of the roller coaster is the unbridled speed that begins as that last “clackety” ends – Whoosh, you head down the hill and into the turns that bring screams and a joy of speed like you can never get on your bicycle.

Gravity never felt so fun!

These names sort of burn into my memory from my time as a kid, and later as an adult – Runaway Mine Train, XLR8, Space Mountain, Cannonball Run, and the list seems endless as I try to remember all the key words that give some the willies to just think about it.

Now. Bring it to the moment you live in right now. Take the theme park out of the picture, take the roller coaster car off the tracks. Instead, put your life into its place. Feel like your life is the roller coaster. Your life is now taking fearless drops into the unknown high “G” turns defying gravity. This will wake you up in the middle of the night just sweating through the challenges that life presents to you in the daytime.

Here’s my thought: We have all been here. Life is a challenge and there seem to be times that everything is out of control. You forget that the tracks you are attached to give you a semblance of order. You forget the limits of the design that God has built into your story gives you hope of successful completion. You fail to realize you do not have to worry about coming off the tracks and flying through the air to certain destruction.

You see, it is Satan’s plan to make sure you focus on the tragedy and uncertainty of life. That becomes bigger than life! We forget the blessings of who we are, and where we are going. Satan wants your life to be thrown suddenly off the top of a hill that you have been climbing and hoping the fall will cause you to flee your relationship with God!

But God knows you are better than the trials of life! His Word speaks to us:

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28 NKJV)

Note it! “All things”…. The good. The bad. Yes, and even the ugly. There is something to be gained from every thing we face. Every harrowing drop into the valley. Every hard fought climb to the peak. The swift turns. The sounds. The wind. The gravity! Everything.

Consider the man Job. Satan did. He saw a man that was seemingly perfect in God’s eyes.

There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil. (Job 1:1 NKJV)

Oh what a marvelous life he must have lived. Clackety, Clackety, Clackety – he grows his family and vast holdings. Life is good. Everything is growing and going good. 10 children, 11,000 animals, a large household.

Not only did he “own” a lot, but his character was not even called into question – he was BLAMELESS and UPRIGHT. He Feared God. He rejected evil. He made sacrifices to God in case his sons and daughters had sinned.

When Satan came before God, it was The Lord that asked Satan if he had taken note of His Servant, Job. (Job 1;8) Wait a moment! Did God just set up Job for failure? It seems like the deck is stacked against Job. Satan is allowed to do ANYTHING to Job, except take his life. Can you feel it? Life is about at the top of the tracks. The last Clackety sound is fading and the downward Whoosh is coming. Can you feel the gravity take hold of your life. Where you once were on that really nice upward climb, the bottom starts to drop out from under you.

Look at what happens to Job: The Sabeans, the Fire of God, the Chaldeans and a great wind destroys all he has – except for his wife and the four servants who come to report the tragedies. All in one day! This is one of the worst tragedies recorded in scripture – it happens fast and without warning.

Job is a hero – he’s blameless, upright, rejects evil and he fears God. Even in the face of disaster. He keeps his character.

Bring this home to us and remember how we act when something goes wrong in our life!

Life is often like this roller coaster experience. We leave the station and begin to climb the hill of life. Regardless of how long this growth period is, compare your life to the stock market and realize that every day we face challenges. Some of which can cause us to spin in a seemingly death ordained spiral to low points and we have to Clackety, Clackety, Clackety, climb again to regain.

Remember Paul’s admonition, “…all things…” work together for Good.

What you are going through may seem to be the worst trial ever, but God knows exactly what you are facing. He knows the twists, turns and drops that are coming fast. He also knows when the next Clackety sound will bring joy to your life. It’s time to climb!

And He’s on your side!

Retreat, Retreat!

Retreat, Retreat!

I know and understand that in times of battle, a signal must be broadcasted for soldiers to hear and react to the certain sound. Often, in older times, it was a Bugle, and more often than not, it was a young lad who’s only job was to play certain sounds on the Bugle that could be interpreted far afield.

A certain sound played sent the message that it’s time to Retreat… In the face of certain defeat, superior enemy strength, or simply, we need to re-think this plan, soldiers would follow a path away from the battlefield. Of course, the word may sound like a defeatist is speaking, so let’s just use other words that essentially means the same but sounds more aesthetically appealing.

Withdraw, retire, draw back,
Pull back/out, fall back, give way, give ground,
Beat a retreat, beat a hasty retreat!

There is still another use of the word that perhaps has a similar meaning, but definitely is more appealing to the work weary person. How about going on, or to, a Retreat! You know, a place of privacy or safety, a refuge from the busy life you have been living. A place to R&R, rest and recuperate! Escape the noise and distractions of the world, and enter a place and time of peace and silence, a time to restore.

It’s not that you are worn out by living in the media frenzy world that surrounds us all, rather, you need a place to regroup. Rethink. Unwind. Recharge. A place, and time, to set your priorities back in order. A time to perhaps let the mind rest from all it’s focus.

This is not a vacation location, although I comically call them vaccinations and I want to be vaccinated as often as needed! No. This can even be a “working” retreat. Your busy world has no place for the thinking and working that is required to pen your next book, paint your next canvas, or even build your next application.

Our Lady of the Oaks, Jesus Retreat Center – photo sketched into a painting.

Through the years I have often called my homestead the “place I retreat from the world so that I can live in the world.” With the kids grown and gone, the home has become that place where I want to lock the doors and escape from any and every distraction. A place of retreat. A time of retreat. Even a place for working hard on the things I want to do away from the job or calling of my life.

In fact, my home office has become that place of deepest withdrawal. It’s messy and comfortable. There’s always something to be done, and get done. I’m even thinking I want an office away from the house so I feel like I’m withdrawing even deeper from the busy place I find myself to be consistently involved in.

This home office is even my secret place of deepest prayer, devotion and study. Oft times it is the quietest place. Except for the keyboard, or pen scratch, there’s hardly a sound. Wait… That chair does squeak way too much! Occasionally, there may be some noise I play in the background to not feel so alone. But most of the time it’s just a quiet, restful, albeit it busy, place.

But there are other activities that I involve myself in that replaces the office retreat even differently… Tractor time! Road trip! Even sitting in an overlook enjoying the quiet beauty of a valley, mountain or stream… And, it’s funny, sometimes sitting in a busy place and simply watching people is a strange place to call a Retreat, but it sometimes works out that way.

We even find that Jesus sought places and times away from all others. Places of quiet. Places to pray. Places away from his busy demands. Rest. Regroup. Reconnect with self.

Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there. (Matthew 14:22-23 NKJV)

One final thought of retreat.

Perhaps the neatest place is anywhere I can be with my bride. Just the two of us. We’ve been friends for over 45 years, and married for 43 years next month.  We are not social butterflies in constant need of outside sources to make us feel relaxed and restored. No. There’s something to be said for the longevity that can simply let two people co-exist with each other. Receiving, and providing a place and time of Retreat. Our thoughts are often the same and the other speaks what we are both thinking. There’s something to be said for having that life-long companion to enjoy the journey of life, and retreats.

I feel a Retreat coming on! Bugler!?!!


When Your Voice Is Gone

When Your Voice Is Gone:

This past week has put me into a corner of realization. What do I do if my voice is gone? And it is true my voice was silenced for a bit from the surgery, and it is different as a result of the surgery – I have a lisp and there are sounds hard to make. It will get better and return to normal after a while, but for a little time it is not what it was…

As a pastor, teacher, and someone who enjoys talking to people, then what to do if my voice is gone? True, I can write my message, publish my voice via my blog, but how do I have discourse with treasured family or friends? Conversation, even debate, is not a one way street. It’s two-way. It’s give, and take.

It seems we are living in times when the voice of protesters want the street to be a one-way direction. You are either with them, or against them. Protesters are more interested that their voice is to be the only voice heard. They are right. You are wrong. Nor are they interested in dialogue. We have seen a lot of this over the past few years and I’m not sure where these actions are taking us.

The challenge is learning how to live and speak when your voice has been lost to the noise of the protester.

What’s the power of the protester? One leads a chant, and seemingly without a true thought, others join the chant. The louder, the better. Drown out all opposing noises and voices. I’ve heard some of the chants from some of the most recent events, and I’m not sure that any of them believe what they are saying. It just sounds good, it’s got cadence, and it’s easy to repeat.

It’s evident there is no rational discussion taking place, and when one attempts to make it through the protesters voice, then the dissenter gets shouted down, threatened with job, life, and health.

This made me think of all the voices that are drowned out that can never have anything to say. You get to fill in the blank on this one, but have not we all been one of the ones that could not be heard for all the shouting of the other side? Please, take a moment and answer my poll.

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What’s Overrated or Undervalued in Your Life?

What’s Overrated or Undervalued in Your Life?

For the first time in days, maybe weeks and months, I slept 8 hours without waking up till my normal time. About 5:30 a.m. Looked at the clock and I was shocked. Literally. Just knew I was dreaming! My jaw is still sore from the surgery last Monday. My cheeks are swelled, but reducing. And sleeping in my own bed was heavenly, no more recliner for me!

But find 8 hours of restorative rest in my world?

This made me think about the simple things in life we think are overrated. So, we undervalue them. Like sleep. Have you heard the cliche, “Sleep all your cares away!”   That’s a lie…

I seldom struggle with getting to sleep, but ever since I started following my calling, then sleep was often interrupted with dreams, worry and concern, even fear of decisions being made that I believe are eternal and struggling with my part in the decision. Middle of the night prayer would help, but the subconscious keeps on pounding. During the day, I can shrug my shoulders and keep on marching, and let the subconscious handle the load. At night, the subconscious wakes up and begins to work as the brain rearranges it’s memory into different storage banks.

Peaceful sleep is fleeting and restorative rest flees.

I’ve learned that stress is bad for sleep, and the loads of stress are not chased away by taking a sleeping pill. Forced sleep is not true rest. Handling stress when awake can make it easier for the night to be enjoyed. Learning this is a lesson we all need to grasp.

It’s not just with sleep. There are other things we often take for granted. We overrate, or undervalue, the experience and shrug it out of our world.

I do not take some things for granted… You know. Happy wife, happy life… Don’t leave the house without kissing the spouse. And it’s good to call parents every so often.

But there are other things on the edges of my mind that I’m beginning to rethink and revalue. We often think these thoughts standing at the edge of a casket, or visiting a hospital room, feeling guilty that we let precious time slip through our fingers. Guilt leads to a rapid decline into stress as we attempt to recreate a better world. And stress will lead to all kinds of issues that are not profitable to your soul.

Maybe like Solomon, we need to think through what we value in life the most. There’s nothing new under the sun…(Ecclesiastes 1:9) Because of this thought, we should rethink and revalue our world.

So, think it through with me a moment.
These things should not be overrated.
Nor undervalued.
Beauty of nature.
The importance of the circle of family, friends, and loved ones.
The pleasure of meeting and engaging with a stranger.
Reconnecting with someone from my past.
Sharing, caring, conversation and loving the experience.
Holding Hands.
A good book that engages my mind,
Poetry (of all things),
More history and less future,
How we got to where we are, instead of where we are going,
And simple stories instead of complex machinations.
Hugs for my family and friends.
Comfortable chairs,
Fire on a cold night,
Less noise and more silence.
Balladeers with a story to tell.
Simple Needs.
Good neighbors.
Healthy habits.
Take care of yourself.
There’s only one of you!
Spiritual as well as physical.
Prayer that keeps me connected.
Quiet times of devotions and reflection.
Quiet times of His Word.
Journaling my journey.

Oh. My list of overrated stuff has grown so huge! I’m thinking that there’s plenty of time over the next 30 years to get reconnected with a simpler life and value the needful and necessary things.


It’s 3 A.M.

It’s 3 A.M.

Morning. Early. Middle of the night, really. I awoke sleeping on my side and I’m trying to force myself to sleep on my back since Monday’s oral surgery. The strange thing? It’s not comfortable sleeping on your side while in your recliner!

My face is swollen, and I’m sure this is normal with this kind of surgery. But the sinus cavities are aching like allergies have hit it. Hard. But when your nose hurts… literally… well, maybe that’s something to think through. In the midst of all of this, I sneezed after letting the cool of chocolate ice cream coat my throat. Scared me for a moment. I just knew I had bust a seam in my upper jaw!

Of course, I’m really tired, and this may all be a dream.

I’ve been blessed with good health, no real major issues, other than a head full of bad teeth. Dad told me that when he finally got into the Air Force he had 17 (??) cavities to fill, because you never went to the dentist living on the farm in East Texas. You just lived with the problems. As a kid, I was with mom and dad when they had all their teeth pulled. I must have been 5 or 6, watching over the younger ones while the moans and groans came from the dentist chair that used no anesthesia. I don’t know how they did it! Definitely a tougher stock of persona back then!

In just 62 years of life, the dental experience has changed dramatically. Today, you can replace a tooth with an Implant! Titanium! Superman Teeth! Of course, you need good jaw bones and my dentist told me that the action of smoking (even enjoying a malt every few hours, sucking on a straw) helps to shrink the bone above and below the lips, and eventually there will be no bone to attach an implant to. Thankful smoking was never a habit I picked up!

So. What woke me up? Dry mouth. That’s not good with the recent surgery. You do not want the stitches or wound to “dry out”.  I’m working on hydrating right now, attempting to stay alert long enough so I can crawl back into the sack with a moist palate. Of course, it could be a different medical issue. Xerostomia (zeer-o-STOE-me-uh). This is where the saliva gland does not secret enough saliva to keep the mouth moist. Result? Dry mouth… The internet is full of advice on what you need to do about it.

Who knows? This may be the root of a host of dental issues I’ve had over the years!

It’s been close to an hour. My hydration is coming to a close. It’s about time to slip back down into the recliner and face snooze land, again. I’m glad I have some down time to recover this week!

Doctor’s Humor

Doctor’s Humor:

Taken seriously, of course, doctors often have to think of all the possibilities. When their well being and “life” is in your hands, they have to know how to respond to challenges of being in charger. And, they need to know of reactions to a surgical or medical need for the patient to follow, and care givers understand the severity of possible actions.

A major oral surgery, for me, happened Monday morning. It’s a dramatic decision not taken lightly. Multiple doctor interviews, multiple consideration of costs and options, and I finally chose a good one! After all, I’ve spent 10’s of thousands of dollars to keep my teeth in my head, and I want the right one to take me to the next step.

Yesterday, I said so long to the uppers and hello to implant hybrid technology. I’m not a stranger to implants, there are several on my lower jaw, but the technology and costs have come down over the past 10 years.

But the doctors instructions are very similar, decade to decade. If you can read it in the picture, notice the last sentence in bullet number 5.

“Do not trust him/her alone.”

I mean, I’ve helped be responsible for myself since I was about 17 or 18, and now all of a sudden I am not to be trusted…Alone. Well. Okay. I’ve acted a little different and my bride as enjoyed rubbing it in! I’m not supposed to walk up and down stairs unassisted… or drive after taking the pain pills… or be responsible for any of my actions!

As the treatment was underway, the doctor/nurse told me that I would be out of it for the 5 hour procedure, but may be allowed to wake up a little and become aware of what’s happening around me if I’m needed to participate, or even at the ending so I will be ready to move out of the building and head on home… I felt  sure I was awake for all 5 hours, but, not really. Those last 20 minutes felt like 5 hours.

“You actually snored!”, said the Nurse!

We’ve seen those videos of kids coming home from the dentist and still high on anesthesia. Such humor. This did not happen to me, but I’m sure the doc has had plenty to laugh about with some patients.

After we made it home, my bride made sure I was setup for a good 24 hour recovery period. Chair. Covers. Technology. Water. Keep my head elevated. Every drink of water she provided. She declares I took some of the prescription meds earlier, and we had to count the remaining pills to make sure that I did…one thing I do not remember. Of course, that’s also in the instructions. “Caretakers must maintain control of all prescription medications prescribed.” Looks like you can’t trust the patient with the amoxicillin or hyrdrocodone. One for infection, the other for pain.

I’ve been staying awake for about 90 minutes and sleeping for 60 minutes, all afternoon long. I don’t ever remember slipping off into slumber land.

Then, bed time creeps around and I’m in my lounge chair in the living room, packaged like a sardine in the chair with the tables around me containing anything I might need overnight. No need to trip around the house in the dark! Why the living room? The gift from the family is the lounge chair that helps we keep my head elevated for 24 hours. Guess that’s part of the healing process.

I’m feeling no pain. Just residual soreness and numbness from having my jaw propped open for hours, and the gums are hidden behind the temporary hybrid, so there’s not much to see or worry about. 2 quarts of water are part of my recovery each day. We all know water can be good for you. Nothing hot, but a lukewarm cup of coffee was enjoyable. No solid food, but some scrambled eggs hit the spot.

But I talk funny. Lisping with strange equipment that I have to get used to! And with lips that still don’t work as well as they normally do. I’m worried that I will talk funny for several weeks until I get used to learn how adapt. Fortunately I have some good men who will fill my role at church for the next few weeks as I recover to some source of normalcy.

Okay. Life after 62! Here I come!


Who Motivates You?

Who Motivates You?

(Click for Audio) It’s Sunday evening. The ending rays of Father’s Day are closing out the evening light. The trees are filtering the sun’s warm beams into cool shadows. Dogs are fed. Calls are made to those I needed to talk to, and an evening thought came that will be shared Monday morning.

Why write this on Sunday?

The thought is fresh and it feels like it needs to be birthed. I will write for a moment, pause, think, and add a few lines, re-write, think it through and move on to the next sentence. My normal habit for a blog post, but it may take me hours till I’m finished. Tonight.

During this past 24 hours I have had a number of personal friends and family members wish me Happy Father’s Day. From near, and far. I’ve watched all the social media posts of people acknowledging their dad as the Best Ever, and No One Comes close…. Some are with us, others are not. Some I know, and some I’ve never had the opportunity to meet.

But all the accolades cannot be true for everyone.
For you maybe. But not for me.
I can compare your thoughts with my own,
And maybe we think the same on some things…

But it’s my thought that makes me write slower tonight, think it through deeper, and pray it makes some sense. To someone.

We need motivators in our lives. Someone or something that causes each of us to step up and do better. Someone from our past, and others from our present, but always someone from tomorrow. It’s not that we need a motivating speech from some professional story teller, but words cause our creative juices to flow, and a temporary speaker can help us improve. We need something that makes us try harder to be the best, reach the next level, go the extra mile. Maybe our bucket is half empty, but there are ways to make it fill up quickly.

It will be left up to us to make sure our bucket gets filled as necessary.

You may have someone in your life that is your “go to” motivator, but I think the truth is we need multiple avenues from where our motivation comes. One may motivate to be a better parent, or spouse, another may challenge us to perform in our calling. Still, there are others who are not part of our daily life that create an impetuous need in our mind to reach out and become more than we ever thought possible.

It’s not a famous person I turn to, although there are some I enjoy listening to. No. I find most of my motivation in everyday people. A neighbor who shows me how to consistently be a better person to neighbors around him. A fire Marshall who pops in annually and gives me a spark of friendship.  A mother who shows the true love of a parent with a crying child. A store clerk displays a friendly demeanor in the face of negative customers. Even that customer service rep who has to learn to be nice to a nasty personality.

It turns out that I find my best motivators come from those around me. Daily. From old to young, there are many who give me my framework of betterment.

But here’s my thought for today… Too often we are needy. In need of a motivator. We yearn to find someone new. Different. Exciting. Perhaps well and good, but you cannot continually be a sponge, soaking it up.

The reality of life is that you have to learn to give back. Who are you motivating? What do you do, daily, that motivates someone else to become their personal best. Maybe it’s no one you know, but imagine there are people motivated by the very life you live. Daily they watch your faithfulness, friendliness, and enjoy feeling like they know you at your best, and learn from you at your worst.

But whether you find motivation, or give it, you need to refresh yourselves daily with motivating thoughts.

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” ~Zig Ziglar

A morning devotional thought gets me going. A word from God. A season of prayer. Some motivational thoughts from some favorite people. Then. I’m ready to face my day and be the motivator I was meant to be.