“Sometimes even now, When I’m feelin’ lonely and beat, I drift back in time and I find my feet, Down on Mainstreet… Down on Mainstreet” (1977) “Mainstreet” Written & Recorded By: Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
(I’ve always wondered if Bob Seger meant to write, “Main Street” vs “Mainstreet”. Oh, well.)
Deep Ellum is an old section of Dallas, Texas, just off the east cusp of the downtown area. The “main” street is Elm Street. However, over the decades, during the development and expansion of what is now known as Deep Ellum, it is a full-blown artsy neighborhood of small businesses dishing up terrific nightlife, complete with restaurants, sidewalk cafes, coffee shops, and live music clubs. You can also expect a plethora of outdoor festivals. A pedestrian’s party haven.
The last time I was there, I was enjoying my daughter’s band at a quaint brick-walled night club. She was on a national concert tour that year out of Buffalo, NY.
Deep Ellum was one of the scheduled gigs before performing at the annual SXSW Fest in Austin, Texas.
There’s nothing like the sound of live music, Texas sunshine, and the smell of street tacos in the air. In a bohemian part of any large city, you can always expect street vendors.
Allow me to introduce you to one of Dallas’ most beloved street vendors, 60 year old, Leobardo Torres Sanchez.
Like a ripple of joy expanding out into the streets of Deep Ellum from Leobardo’s goodies cart-on-wheels, comes the opportunity for cotton candy in a bag, or on a stick, (He always wants you to know it was grown right here in Texas. Come to think of it, I might have seen a crop or two myself). He’s also loaded down with apples, popcorn balls, and often in the summer, balloons on a stick. Along with the tasty treats, he has a gift for dancing up a storm, including a pretty mean moonwalk. Those who frequent Deep Ellum know of the exuberant Leobardo very well. He is hard to miss…or hard to miss hearing.
Originally from Mexico, Leobardo has been selling his stuff on the curbs of Dallas for over eight years now. Like many men south of the border, Leobardo left his poor village, leaving his family behind, to find work away from home. He did just that with his focus on chipping-in on the American dream. According to his daughter, Miriam Torres Leon in Mexico, he faithfully sends money back to his family. He is seen as wealthy to others back home. He lives alone in a rented room, lives humbly, but considered blessed. He is a man who truly loves what he does each day.
If you visit this section of Dallas, you not only will hear good things concerning Leobardo from the business owners, their patrons, and the cops on bikes or horses assigned to the streets of Deep Ellum, but also the homeless and fellow street vendors. Many of the homeless have had their hands filled with free goods straight from Leobardo’s cart. Another street vendor mentioned recently to the Dallas Morning News how when he was robbed, Leobardo gave him 40 bags of cotton candy to sell to help stretch the dollar. That is a good reflection of the kind of heart you can expect from this man of commerce on wheels.
As you may have heard, Texas was hit in mid February with a freak winter 100 year storm with temps plunging to zero and single digits for much of Valentine’s Week. Leobardo, and street entrepreneurs like him, were forced off the streets. Being concerned after hearing of the Texas freezing storm, his daughter in Mexico called him. On the 12th, he told her the plummeting temperatures was unbearable to him. He told her not to worry, even though he lost electrical power due to an unprepared power grid, explaining to her that he was in his rental room wearing several jackets and had wrapped himself in layers of blankets. His circumstances was not unique here. Millions of Texans lost power, water, and sometimes gas.
After several days, Leobardo’s daughter could not contact her dad. However, she did put out a message on social media about the situation in hopes the Deep Ellum community might be able to locate him. Unfortunately, his daughter, Miriam, didn’t know his address, or just what part of Dallas he lived in. A couple of street vendors who knew Leobardo, and his location, heard of her digital posts and fought through the frigid weather to check on him.
On Tuesday, the 22nd, as the thawing was welcomed in Dallas, the police did a welfare check on Leobardo. He was found deceased in his frozen room. His body was found in his bed under several layers of blankets and wearing multiple coats. This poor man was one of a multitude of Texans who did not survive the single digit blast from a very rare weather tragedy. The heartbreak is real. Leobardo and I were the same age.
As the news of Leobardo’s death began to circulate, the mourners responded in droves with cash funds for his family in Mexico, flowers, written tributes, and a Go-Fund-Me account. It seems Leobardo was indeed a man of poverty. but wealthy in heart.
As I read of Leobardo’s passing, I was awestruck by the outpouring of the kind citizens affected by this man with what many would consider an insignificant life. Knowing that sounds harsh to read, or say aloud, I must state the following. Many who walked by his cart-on-wheels, maybe even purchased an apple from him on a hot summer day, might have seen him as a “lower rung” individual. Those who drove by Leobardo’s cotton candy stand, while on their way to Del Frisco’s for a $350.00 dinner, may have smirked at his efforts to scrape out a buck, or laughed at his dancing in the dust around his cart. Tears filled my eyes when imagining a man or woman seeing Leobardo ahead at the corner, crossing Elm Street just so they wouldn’t hear him ask in his broken English if they would like a popcorn ball. You know why, right? Because if one avoids someone like him, they are conveniently cancelled in one’s mind, as if they don’t exist. It’s that easy to put someone under the foot.
Then, at some point in my thoughts and imagination of these things, I remembered the outpouring of love from gentler hearts. Some of which who knew him, some who just gave him a smile as they walked around his cart, or perhaps some who bought one of his balloons for their child. I read more of the comments made by the many he impacted with his humble life. That’s when I smiled through a tear which had escaped.
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main.” – John Donne’s Devotions (1624)
A pebble can be so insignificant under foot. The sound of a hiking boot crushing many pebbles, as the weight is distributed, has a unique tenor. Yet, when the sole applies weight to just one pebble, the resonance is hardly noticeable. But, pick up that single insignificant pebble, toss it into a still street puddle then count the ripples from the point of contact to the outer edges on all sides. Isn’t that all God asks of us while we walk our various pavements? Impact others around you. Sway individuals with your light, so that everyone will see how God works in your heart. In doing so, we make waves.
Making a ripple around you has a blueprint in fuel for the race.
“For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone.” Romans 14:7 (NIV)
“I really can’t stay. But baby it’s cold outside. Got to go away. But baby it’s cold outside. This evening has been… Been hoping you’d drop in. So very nice. I’ll hold your hands they’re just like ice…” (1949 release) “Baby It’s Cold Outside” Composer: Frank Loesser
My posts are written from my desktop computer in our study/studio in the north Dallas suburb of Carrollton, Texas. Today, Saturday, Feb 20th, is the first day this week I felt comfortable enough to plug the computer back into the wall socket. We have been practicing electrical limits, among other outages here.
In case you haven’t seen the news this week, Alaska got mad at Texas and threw-up all over us. For my friends up north, and around the globe in winter-friendly areas, allow me to apologize on this printed line before I continue. I spent five years in Buffalo, NY and know how piercing winter can be north of Oklahoma. However, this week in Texas was historical.
It’s a very rare thing, almost unheard of, if we see zero degrees on the thermometer in Texas. It’s also rare to see single digit temps in the winter. We see the teens, but only once or twice a winter, if that. Yet, in the last few days we saw zero and the single digits. To accompany the drastic frigid blasts, we were dipped in snow and ice for much of Texas.
Oh, sure, one might ask what the fuss is about. We love snow here in Texas. We rarely see it. When we do, it may be an inch or two once a year for a day, or even an overnight and morning before it vanishes. However, with the record breaking lows on the temperature scales, the snow and ice didn’t melt all week. Only today we crawled over the freezing mark with snow melting slowly. Swimming pools, ponds, rivers, lakes, and creeks froze. Kids took up ice hockey. Pile-up crashes occurred on the freeways, due to dangerous black ice on the pavement. One event involved a multi-vehicle pile-up in Ft Worth where over 130 vehicles were involved, several fatalities, and dozens injured.
All of Texas was hit.
Apparently, Texas can handle a day of the extreme single digit temps, with minus wind chill factors to boot, but if it continues…real problems arise.
The investigations are ongoing, but Texans were struck hard this week. It began with enforced rolling blackout power outages. Then for many, in fact over 4 million, were without power in weather only Canadians could love. The wind turbines, which partially fuels power transfers, froze. The oil and gas pipelines were frozen or interrupted. The cascading rolled along as so many had to go without water, too. At one point, over 13 million, nearly half of Texas, experienced water boiling orders due to water treatment facilities grinding to a halt. I know several in my own circle who went without gas, water, and electric for 3-4 days. A friend posted this shot of how she got her meals together as if it were the 1800’s.
Organizations amassed efforts to help in Texas-sized fashion. Water and food lines became the norm. Here’s one at a local church parking lot waiting for cases of water.
For some, desperation took over as grocery stores were raided, leaving empty shelves.
Sadly, various ranchers began cutting off the ears of their cattle due to frostbite. Many farmers with hogs and goats had to do the same. Without gas, electric and water, many poultry plants stopped production as chickens and eggs froze in the hatcheries. Even feed and seed couldn’t be shipped to the ranchers and farmers. Hundreds of sea turtles were rescued on Texas beaches as they could no longer move. The Texas citrus crops are done for in the Rio Grande Valley. It was reported today by Sid Miller, Secretary of Texas Agriculture, that volunteers are harvesting frozen wildlife, deer, wild hogs, antelope, rabbit, etc, for massive BBQ’s and wood smoking to aid in feeding the public. He went on to say that even dairy plants need natural gas to pasteurize milk products. No doubt, Texans are in for a food shortage. Who knows how long it will last?
Unfortunately dozens of Texans have been found dead, and I’m sure many more will be found as the thawing has just begun.
Mistakes were made around the desks of decision in preparing for the unthinkable this past week. Lessons have been harshly learned. Preparedness will be reviewed and replaced for any future natural disasters, even those which Texas doesn’t normally see.
As pipes are being repaired, and shortages hover over us, I know One who is never short on power, and everlasting water.
This classical Greek word, ἐνδυναμοῦντί, changes everything about running on empty while facing outages. The Darby Bible Translation states it very closely to the original Greek text:
“I have strength for all things in him that gives me power.” – Philippians 4;13
The Greek directly places the emphasis on tasks, or circumstances being wooden horses which can be hurdled.
“(For) all things I have strength in the One (endynamounti)strengthening me.” -Direct Greek translation as Paul wrote it. FOREVER CHURNING! No frozen wind turbines here!
Often this verse is taken out of context. Remembering, that text without context is pretext. You really should read the complete chapter in Philippians. Many times Paul admitted he suffered when stuff happened that he could not control. Way too often God allowed Paul to experience the fan being hit. Early Christians were getting hit hard in their own type of cancel culture, not to mention the local government restraints, as well as, Rome itself. But Paul is so encouraging by saying, when the trials come, I know I can, and do, get through them by the One who continually pumps in, like a rushing fountain of water, the ability to overcome by a power which is outside of myself.
Texans are tough, but God is tougher. If we break chains, if we move mountains, it’s because He infuses the strength into us for the purpose. If even hell freezes over, because of his ongoing distribution of His all-powerful grip, we will skate over it. If He should send snow to our rooftops, in a state that takes on 110 degrees in the summer, then He will give us a transfusion of His ability to walk through it.
He will never lose His distributed power. There are no outages in fuel for the race.
“I am the vine, you are the branches; the one who remains in Me, and I in him bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” – (Jesus) John 15:5 (NAS)
“I see you, you see me, Watch you blowin’ the lines…Private eyes, They’re watching you. They see your every move…” (1981) “Private Eyes” Recorded By: Hall & Oates Composers: Warren Pash, Sara Allen, Janna Allen, Daryl Hall.
Just when you think the tortured memories of this year’s Super Bowl was finally beginning to ebb away, I have to drag you back. Not to Tom Brady, or the political stances taken, or even the rhetorically infused high-priced commercials, nope. I will spare you from the very forgettable items of the game itself…or maybe I should ask if there really was a game at all that day.
To be brutally honest here, there should be hats off to the NFL for being able to punch through the doubters who took a stand to say there couldn’t be a football season in a COVID laced year. You might not be aware of the fear mongers who tried to persuade the NFL from even attempting a football season with fears of contagion mastered locker rooms. The debate was real, as well as, the fear of a pre-season, or spring training in the midst of a pandemic. It’s true, some teams did see some team members infected with COVID, but they were few and far between.
The teacher’s union should take notes.
One of the sacrifices made was the lack of live spectators in the stands. “Ouch”, said the players. What performer doesn’t want a full-house to pull from? Here in Dallas, Texas, the Dallas Cowboys elected to have a smattering of fans in the stands, where as some team owners decided to have 100% empty stadiums. For viewers at home, watching the games, at least they fed us with fake crowd noise, complete with cheers and boos. At some point, the NFL commissioner allowed percentages of ticket holders with strategic seating for healthy social distancing for attending fans.
The first time I saw cardboard cutouts of fans in the stands, early in the season, I laughed out loud. Seeing cardboard cutouts of people planted in the seats looked very much like a joke from a team owner with a great sense of humor. Before the following Sunday, many stadiums were filled with people made from trees. A psychological boost, maybe? What a hoot!
As for the Super Bowl in Tampa Bay, Florida, there was a twist of all the fiber represented. 25,000 live fans paid dearly for the few seats available to watch the Chiefs play the Buccaneers. There, alongside live spectators, were 30,000 strategically placed cardboard cutouts of fake fans with splashes of red, yellow, bronze, and white. There was one camera shot of four cheering Chief fans in masks standing, jumping, and cheering Kansas City onward as the cardboard cutout fans next to them were being pushed aside and stepped on. In the end, it didn’t help the Chiefs pull off a win. A mannequin in the seat is just a dummy of wax. Cardboard falls apart in the rain. I guess the lack of people with depth flattens a lot of expectations.
Maybe the most bizarre experience seen, other than the live streaker running onto the field, were the faces on the cardboard cutout fans. The last time I checked, the NFL offered to place a picture of your face on one of the cardboard cutouts for a price of $100.00. (Frankly, I’m surprised the offer was that cheap.) Yes, for a Ben Franklin you could place your silent face on a cardboard figure overlooking the field. Forget that many have been out of a job because of COVID, living off unemployment, or was once living off unemployment. Forget about the many who are standing in food lines to feed their kids. Forget that many have have faced bankruptcy, foreclosures, repossessions, hospitalization, etc. For me, it had the odor of insensitivity. A move like that smacked of “Because we can!” thinking from the haughty high towered offices of the suits. Don’t get me wrong, I am an NFL fan. I disagree with many things the NFL chooses as they boldly tend to bend to the left in our society, but still, I’m a fan. At the same time, it leaves a stain on their reputation, like a white jersey on freshly cut blades of grass. With the politicization shown by the NFL, I may never see them in the same way again.
Shakespeare wrote it, “All the world is a stage. And all the men and women, merely players. They have their exits and their entrances…” (From the pastoral comedy, “As You Like It”) So true. I’m an old singer and actor. I learned early as a kid that it was considered bad luck to take a peek out the curtain at the house prior to the rising of the curtain. Many times, I broke protocol. Never once would I have been thrilled to see cardboard cutouts in the house seats. In fact, as a performer, I would not have put out a top-shelf effort. Why? Because we draw from one another. Is it not true? Whether good or bad, we pull out energy from each other.
If I act badly in a road rage fiasco, I guarantee the driver in focus will not be made of trees. My actions and language inside my home will be performed in front of my family…made of flesh and blood. If I do a lax job at writing this post, YOU will notice. If I stop you in the grocery store to insult you for your politically printed t-shirt, your face will change expression, unlike a picture. Why? Because you are not a painted piece of cardboard.
Biblically, a believer’s directive is to be careful that your sin finds you out. Why?
A – God, your Judge, is not a mannequin of wax.
B – Because you and I are on a stage, washed in light, and the spectators are not fiberboard cutouts.
Trees were created on a different day than you were, in fuel for the race.
“Therefore, since we also have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let’s rid ourselves of every obstacle and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let’s run with endurance the race that is set before us.” – Hebrews 12:1 (NAS)
“…But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes Indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody. Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord. But you’re gonna have to serve somebody…”(1979)“Gotta Serve Somebody”Written and Recorded By: Bob Dylan
Dylan had gone through a spiritual heart conversion, and with it came this song. Many scoffed at it, including John Lennon, who cruelly responded publicly with his own cut entitled, “Serve Yourself”. It was one of Lennon’s final recordings before his death.
His name was, Uncle Doss. At least that’s how I knew him. He was an intriguing, somewhat mysterious man in my early childhood. I was always trying to figure him out.
My Grandmother Swindell lived in the country, just about six miles away from my grandparent’s house in Greenville, Texas. Now, I realize that sentence looks odd, but allow me to explain.
You might be wondering how many grands did I have as the crow flies. Ella Swindell was my grandmother’s mom. Although she was my Great-Grandmother Swindell, my mom called her, “Grandmother”, so I did, too.
To describe her at all would be best done to mention Aunt Bea (Frances Bavier) from The Andy Griffith Show. Although shorter than Frances Bavier, she dressed just like her. Her hair was arranged as Aunt Bea, most of the time. And on Sunday, like Aunt Bea, she wore the little pill hat, combined with a thin netting veil over her face, white cotton dress gloves, and a small black patent leather purse with a short strap. Oh, and yes, she had the “work your fingers to the bone” ethic, with the quick on the draw attitude of Aunt Bea. She was a green-thumb, no-nonsense, get-it-done worker of the soil. My mom called her a workhorse of a woman.
Generally, a few times a year in the early to late 1960’s, we visited her little cottage, out in the east Texas farm country, during weekend visits to my grandparent’s house. (If you’re a longtime blogging friend of mine, you might recall that I have written a snippet about Ella Swindell before. However, it’s been a long while.) We would drive down the county dirt road, passing corn and cotton fields, then pull up onto her makeshift driveway of chalky white rocks. I couldn’t wait to jump out in my cowboy boots, crisp blue jeans, and straw cowboy hat, run through her pasture behind the little frame house, and explore the old, haunted barn which rattled and groaned in the Hunt County winds. This city boy truly loved the adventure.
After I was called from the house porch to sit and visit, I would bounce through her opened screen door, greeted by her little Manchester black dog called, “Little Bit”. There was always a memorable aroma wafting from her tiny kitchen as we inched our way toward lunchtime, (Dinnertime, in her vernacular.) She made the best cornmeal fried okra and fried yellow squash you can possibly imagine, all grown from her garden. After hugging my 4′-11″ish Grandmother Swindell, I would immediately ask where Uncle Doss was, if he wasn’t already sitting in his chair in the far back corner of the front living room. Usually, her reply went something like; “Awe, he’ll be along dreckly. He knows when to come eat.” Being such a young lad, I didn’t have my arms around just why Uncle Doss wasn’t always around. After all, he was not what you would call friendly, sociable, or a chatter box. In fact, he was the opposite. He was evidently born without facial expressions, complete sentences, and topical interests. Yet, I couldn’t wait to see him.
Nobody had told me just yet how older generational married couples of certain upbringing lived. A good example was the fact Uncle Doss and Grandmother Swindell had separate bedrooms. Anytime I went to the back of the house toward the back door, which opened up to the back pasture, his room was the door just prior to the back exit. The door was always shut when visiting. My curious little brain always wanted to put my ear to the door to hear if he was in there. The temptation to slowly turn the glass doorknob for a quick covert peek into his domain was great. Before I had a chance to try the door, I usually heard; “Alan, leave your Uncle Doss be!” From kindergarten through 4th grade, I spent a week with my Grandmother Swindell during summer vacation. Once I ventured toward the back of the house, while she was out picking green beans for dinner (Supper, in her vernacular.) When I turned the corner for the back door, I saw his bedroom door wide opened. I tip-toed across the creaking wooden plank floor and took a gander. He was away fishing, or down at the general store trading fishing lures with some other old men in overalls. The room looked like something from a ranch bunkhouse for hired hands. It had a vaulted ceiling, and was just big enough for a single spring bed, a small chest-of-drawers, and a closet. I remember being amazed at how tiny it was. Maybe more amazed why he closed himself up in there whenever he was home.
But there we were, visiting with my Grandmother Swindell and Little Bit as he jumped into our laps begging for scratches behind his ears. When it came time for lunch, you could always expect the back door to open and close as Uncle Doss arrived from wherever he had been that particular day. As Uncle Doss walked into the the living room, I would look up at this tall, thin elderly man with a full head of snow white straight hair, ever-present stubble on his carved handsome face with bushy eyebrows. I was always stunned at how long his nose hairs were. I regret I don’t have a photo of him, but he looked a lot like the old western movie star, Randolph Scott.
Unlike Randolph Scott, he was not dapper, or even clean most of the time. He smelled of hay, dead fish, and chewing tobacco. He wore old faded denim overalls, a farmer’s cap, and dirty old lace-up rounded toe boots. With a sparkle in my eye, my exuberance in seeing him again would blurt out like water from a spillway, “Hi, Uncle Doss!” My Grandmother Swindell was regularly and surprisingly a bit sharp with him, “Doss, you go get yourself cleaned up right now! It’s dinnertime. Be quick about it. And scrape off those boots, for Pete’s sake!” He would nod his head at us in a down-home greeting, grunt at her, and head off to the bathroom built just for him. As a kid, I thought it funny, and a bit scary, how he was clearly older than she, and yet she inflicted her husband with such a quick tongue in front of us. Frankly, it was a tad embarrassing.
After a made-from-scratch country lunch, which could win awards at the State Fair Of Texas, we would sit a bit longer in the living room, complete with sweetened iced tea, for more east Texas accented chatter. That was my cue to prepare to head out the door to have make-believe adventures in the old rickety barn, and visit a my great-aunt Madge across the dirt road for a slice of freshly baked homemade pecan or apple pie. No doubt, that woman baked all day, every day. She was invariably such a joy to spend time with, and treated me as if I were the only boy on the planet. But she knew I wouldn’t stay long. After all, there were hay stacks to jump on, and corn fields to get lost in.
Prior to my quick escape from the Swindell cottage, I would try to get Uncle Doss to talk with me. After lunch he would sit in his corner chair and light up his pipe. I would sit on the floor in front of him, next to his tobacco spittin’ can, made from a discarded coffee can, with his knees about eye level to me. My goal was to launch my usual start-up questions. “What kind of a pipe is that, Uncle Doss?” Or, “How long have you been wearing those old dirty overalls?” Or, “Can I touch your prickly whiskers?” (He would allow it. As if it were yesterday, it felt like sandpaper.) Otherwise, if he gave me answers, they were usually one or two word sentences coming from his stone face, “Yep”, “Nope”, and “Oh, a bit.” The dog, Little Bit, loved that old man. Anytime Uncle Doss planted himself in his chair, Little Bit abandoned whatever lap he was on, hopping right up on his dusty lap in one leap. By the time I got back from running around the countryside, Uncle Doss would be gone, or shut-up in his small back room. It didn’t seem like much of a marriage to me, not like the union my grandparents displayed day in and day out.
Later in my childhood, maybe third grade, I was saddened, as well as curious, when finding Uncle Doss in a bed in the front living room off in the corner where his chair would normally sit. I didn’t ask questions of him. I think my mom prepared me beforehand. Although surprised by the living room bed, she must have simply told me he was sick and needed more rest. Frankly, seeing him in that bed spooked me just a little. For some reason I was feeling a little frightened by it all.
It was one of the last times I saw Uncle Doss. However, I did find out it was only a temporary illness at the time. Later, he didn’t need the bed in the living room.
Being a tiny bit afraid of my Uncle Doss was the norm. That may be why I tried so hard to get to know him better, which never happened. While in Jr, high school, after seeing the movie, “To Kill A Mockingbird”, I recognized the feeling I had for Uncle Doss in the view of the children constantly trying to understand their spooky, mysterious neighbor, Boo Radley. I then understood, Uncle Doss was my Boo Radley.
I’m not sure how old I was when my mom finally broke the news to me. There must have come a time when she thought I could handle the unfortunate truth concerning my Uncle Doss. My Uncle Doss was my Grandmother Swindell’s oldest brother, not her husband. If memory serves me right, there were six brothers, and two sisters in that clan, my grandmother Swindell being the youngest sister, the youngest of all of her sibs. My mom also let me know why Uncle Doss was such a strange individual. Even though he was the oldest, he was like a nine year old child. He was the only one in the family who was stricken with a mental disorder. Being born in the late 1880’s, very little was known on how and why childhood illnesses often caused long-term effects. I’ve been told, Uncle Doss was left with some slight brain damage after a hard bout with a version of the measles when he was a child. Today we know, acute encephalitis can be the result of a measles infection, causing permanent brain damage.
The family was mostly poor share croppers, working the black soil of east Texas, more times than not, travelling from one cotton farm to another, wherever there was work available. Their mother, my great-great-grandmother Molly, was an invalid. The title of, “Invalid” could have various definitions back in those days to country doctors. Nevertheless, their mother was a sickly woman, and unable to take care of her kids. So, Ella, dropped out of school at 2nd grade to become the caretaker of her mom and the sibs who were too young to take care of themselves.
After their mother, Molly died, Ella became the mom of the clan. After everyone was grown and went off on their own, Ella continued to take care of her dad and her oldest brother, Doss full-time.
Sometime in the teens, Ella Tapp became Ella Swindell when she married Claude Swindell, but it was understood how life would be. So, for many years she took care of the three men in her life until her husband died in the late 1940’s. (Records for that branch of my family are scarce. I’m unsure of actual dates of some events.)
This is Ella on the far left next to her daughter & son-in-law, (my grandparents), my mom as a baby, with her two brothers in front. Ella’s husband, Claude, my Great Grandfather Swindell in the back.
A couple of years after I was born in 1960, Ella’s dad passed away, leaving her with her brother, Doss.
In 1971, Doss got out of bed in his long-johns to find the kitchen dark and quiet. He wondered why his breakfast wasn’t waiting for him. After walking to his sister’s bedroom, he saw the door was still closed. He knocked and called her name, “Ella?” Silence. He tried the glass doorknob, opened the door to find her sleeping soundly under a sheet and blanket. He spoke to her again and again. She didn’t rouse. He approached her bed, nudged her, and found her to be cold. All attempts to wake her fell short. Because she was cold, he went back to his room to fetch his patchwork quilt she had made him and covered her. Uncle Doss lit up his pipe and sat in his chair for some time. Getting a little hungry, he called to her several times without any response. At that point he began to believe Aunt Madge, across the road, might be helpful in getting Ella out of bed. He walked over to his brother’s house, still in his long-johns, where his sister-in-law, Madge was busy washing dishes after breakfast. Still wearing her apron, my Aunt Madge rushed over to the cottage to find my Grandmother Swindell had easily roused…in the arms of Jesus at about 67/68 years old.
It may come as no surprise to let you know, my Uncle Doss Tapp passed away not long after, within the following year.
In short, if my Uncle Doss were here today, with a full healthy mind, he would testify of the great and strong servanthood his sister Ella display for her entire life. Literally, she gave over 60 years of her life to serve others. Unlike John Lennon’s response to Bob Dylan’s musical statement on finding someone to serve, without demanding something in return, was about an unselfishness, putting one’s “self” last.
A hero of mine gave 33 years of service to others. He taught the servant was more valuable than a ruling king. Much like today, he served during civil unrest, crude political scandals and unlawful corruption, economic hardships, incurable diseases among the public, violence in the streets, etc. Still, he found a way NOT to say, “Every man for himself!“
In that bright “gettin’ up” early morning, when my Aunt Madge walked into her sister-in-law’s bedroom, the words could’ve well been spoken of Ella, “Here is one who emptied herself out because of unconditional, gracious love.”
About ten years ago, after many decades had passed, I chose to drive out to my Grandmother Swindell’s old place in the country. Most all expected a new parking lot over her pasture with a sprawling office complex. Rumors about the area had grown concerning new neighborhoods of expansion for new home buyers, along with zoning for business developments. I was emotionally prepared, or so I thought. Yet, not much had changed down her dirt road. It’s been crudely paved now, but that’s almost all the change. When I turned the corner to that favorite stretch of familiar road, I saw my Aunt Madge’s old house still standing next to the cornfield. Shock came over me to find the old rickety haunted barn was still erect. Her pasture was still wild and free from builder’s dreams. Before I move on, have you ever smiled and shed tears at the same time? That’s what happened to me as I pulled up in front of her cottage, or rather, where her cottage once stood. Seeing that her little humble house had been removed wasn’t the cause of my facial reaction at all. Rather, it was the arranged perennial flowers which continued to bloom, outlining where the edge of her house once was, in a rectangle just where she planted them back in the early 1960’s.
God speaks in various ways, doesn’t He? I heard Him loud and clear that day.
The greatest servant of all is highlighted and illustrated in fuel for the race.
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.” – Apostle Paul – 2 Timothy 4:6 (ESV)
“Go on now, go, walk out the door. Just turn around now, ‘Cause you’re not welcome anymore. Weren’t you the one who tried to hurt me with goodbye? You think I’d crumble? You think I’d lay down and die?” (1978) “I Will Survive” Recorded By: Gloria Gaynor Composers: Freddie Perren & Dino Fekaris
If you’ve not heard about it, you soon may become a victim of it with a blindside punch.
Some say it began about 25 years ago on college campuses across America. There were “safe spaces” for young college students who wished to get away from hearing opinions which didn’t align with their’s. In fact, any speech, just right of center, began to be shunned in efforts to push a more left field of thought. As this ideology brewed over repetition, married with time, a type of brainwashing began to occur among students. Of course, silencing other points of view was dressed up to appear to be an exercise in “safety” and “chaotic avoidance”. After all, if you banish dissenting thought, which evolves into speech and writing, then debate, disruption, and deciphering another view means self-conjured peace and quiet ruling over others not in your camp. In other words, it can be translated simply as, “I WANT MY WAY, AND I WILL HAVE IT MY WAY!” That sounds strangely like little voices from the past. “I WANT THAT ICE CREAM! I WANT IT NOW!” In the end, true healthy debate will be over.
Imagine a world where your opposition is no more…all the time.
Fast forward 35 years, America is full of 40-somethings who are CEO’s, owners of corporations, and last but not least, chiefs of Big Tech Corps. With a great deal of help from social media giants and corrupt news media, we now see where a culture has risen in numbers to browbeat and intimidate anyone they do not like, or anyone they do not want to hear from. In the name of safety and concern, and protection, conflicting voices can now be silenced in America by the few, not the majority.
This culture has now spread their tentacles into a dangerous discard mode. Literally, a culture delving into “cancelling out” of the public, those who dare to disagree politically, culturally, religiously, and ideologically. Just like the little ones who marinated themselves in the make-believe magic of Harry Potter, wishing away, or vanishing, anything perceived as evil.
Moreover, it bleeds into guilt by association. A perfect example would be cancelling all who supported conservative politicians, or whoever worked for a conservative candidate, or a particular administration. If you are a famous, well-established entertainer in comedy, movies, TV, or recording artist, who happens to be a conservative thinker, if you voice it, support conservative views, via donations or speech, you are in danger of being erased in the field of your occupation. Not unlike a pack of jackals on an African prairie, you can be ganged up on, chased through the streets, harassed publicly from your front lawn to your favorite social media site. In severe high profile cases, you can be so smudged because of your views, that you find your bank will no longer serve you. Imagine being turned down for career opportunities after a good screening of who you have been associated with. THIS IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW IN AMERICA. History can be rewritten if not opposed.
Yes, the cancel culture is flexing its biceps in the current political atmosphere, in the wake of recent current events. Make no mistake, if it grows, free speech will shrink. In my opinion, free speech essentially could one day be a part of our history…unless they cancel that part in history books. To vanquish, to erase, to delete opposing opinion out of existence is the goal.
If you know world history, you have seen this before. It doesn’t take long to discover nations who lost their freedoms in this way. How about the Salem witch trials right here on our soil? Because of a few disturbed accusing girls, many were executed as they were falsely accused of being witches. It didn’t take long for that small cancel culture to ignite hysteria, anger, and ruin.
At the same time of the growth of this twisted cancel culture, who couldn’t stand up to their own standards for very long, there is a Redeemer Who spent a very short time being crushed by a cancel culture.
Throughout this Redeemer’s life, He taught and exhibited the opposite of a cancel culture. He was okay with being ridiculed to meet up with a Samaritan woman at a well in a town nobody in His culture would ever go through because they had “cancelled” the people who lived there. They thought of it as cursed land. (Sound familiar red states?) He met with her, offered her living water and freedom from accusations. After visiting another town, He invited Himself to the house of a little man who had been “cancelled” by his own fellow citizens because he was a chief tax collector for Rome. Zacchaeus soon found freedom of the spirit after this Redeemer went home with him for a dinner. One day, this Redeemer was approached by a gang of “cancellation experts” who wanted to stone a young woman to death for an accusation of adultery. Even though the law at the time demanded an execution for the crime of adultery, this Redeemer stood between the mob with stones and the accused, boldly challenging the pack of “cancel lovers”. “Whoever here is without a sin in life, let that person throw the first stone at her.”(My paraphrase.) Each one, from the oldest to the youngest, evaluated his own corrupt heart and dropped the stones while walking away. She was not cancelled that day, but rather uplifted.
Jesus was so against a culture of cancellations. He didn’t silence voices of opposition, but asked to hear them. He lived, modeled, and displayed inclusion, not exclusion. Why? Because He knew where it placed a culture. It placed them in a deadly, murderous, unforgiving, and soulless spiral into an inescapable abyss. God’s mercy and grace was rejected, cancelled from the minds of its citizens. In fact, He warned the nation that their stiff-necked destructive behavior, without a turning from it, would direct them to a physical destruction, and a spiritual cancellation. Roughly 40 years passed, and in 70 AD, the Romans utterly destroyed the nation.
In our current worship of cancelling the lives of our fellow citizens, allow me to pick one verse of scripture which shines a brilliant light on how Jesus felt about cancelling those in opposition.
“Jesus then told the crowd and the disciples to come closer, and he said: If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross and follow me.” – Jesus (Mark 8:34)- Contemporary English Version)
There’s two things Jesus did cancel. Sin as a master, and eternal death.
Freedom of speech wasn’t new in 1776. It’s first found in fuel for the race.
“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (ESV)
“…Brother, brother, brother, There’s far too many of you dying. You know we’ve got to find a way To bring some lovin’ here today,.. Picket lines and picket signs. Don’t punish me with brutality. (come)Talk to me, So you can see, Oh, what’s going on, (What’s going on)…” (1971) “What’s Going On?” Recorded By: Marvin Gaye Composers: Renaldo “Obie” Benson, Al Cleveland, Marvin Gaye.
This isn’t the first time I have started a blog release with those lyrics. Yes, it seems that the times we are living in contribute to lyrics from America’s music catalog.
So, after January 6 of 2021, may we sincerely ask Marvin’s 1971 question once again? What’s Going On? Isn’t that part of the liberty our founding fathers left with us to pledge our allegiance, to live under its banner? The freedom to ask questions and expect answers.
Once again, I must preface by saying I am not wanting to write about politics, or certain political players. However, I do, and have, written about how the wake in political gaming washes over us, and so often placing us…out to sea.
So, what’s going on? Questions hang in the American air which brews up disturbance, declination, even destruction. On January 6th, I believe a bit of the pressure valve began to open at the Capitol Building in our nation’s seat of government. Riotous instigators, among a crowd of dozens of thousands of peaceful demonstrators attending a rally and a march, attacked Capitol Hill and broke into the hallowed halls of our house. Here, in this nation, the Capitol Building, which is highly historical and honored, is owned by its citizens. WE THE PEOPLE send our own local representatives there to debate laws, to construct peaceful working relationships with political opponents, and to direct “our” business of concern. This politically sacred place of honor has not been stormed and raided since the British military did it in, what we call, the war of 1812. Shamefully, this time, America’s own sons and daughters became the marauders. As I write this, five people paid for it with their lives, two of which were honored military vets with distinguished records. Bombs were placed, but were discovered and disarmed before ignition. Thank God Almighty the body count lies at just five. If you have watched the news, or saw it happen live on screen, I don’t have to tell you much more than the above. There was no satisfaction there. There was no victory there. There was no battles won there. Only shame, and disgust was created there.
The iron-hot investigation continues to identify these law-breakers in efforts to arrest them and federally try them in a court of law. Only God knows just where it will lead.
The question remains, “What’s going on?”
Both my wife and I have seen and heard hurtful barbs being thrown at family members within our circle of kin, both on her side and my side of relatives. Literally, brother against brother style. Now, citizen against citizen is the norm. It is so painful.
And Marvin’s song spins once again, “What’s Going On?”
There are questions unanswered, although many ignore them..
Did our President literally instigate the storming of the Capitol Building via a speech?
Let’s ask, why four straight years of constant internal assault on the President, much of which could not hold up to the accusations, and/or evidence?
Why are some out of orbit government leaders calling for the heads of conservatives, conservative backers, and conservative voters? The cancel culture wants to feed like rats to a cadaver.
Yeah, what IS going on?
Why have we seen a monumental change in America’s free press over the last four years? Fair and balanced, non-bias news coverage seems to be an extinct dinosaur in the USA. Can you fully trust the press today? If you do, have you noticed you have been fooled?
Why is there now a generation who thirst after defaming and degrading statues of our history? Do they really believe the world will get better by their vandalism? Do they really foolishly believe great things will come to them freely by taking a big eraser to our constitution and history? If so, it will be their cadavers who will be fed upon before this generation is over. They own a blind, foolish, and selfish ideology. This basement is on shifting sand at best.
Craziness will not bring justice, peace, or utopia.
Our law-makers scratch the backs of one another as they agree to send billions of our tax dollars to other countries for fluffy purposes, often not even monitored in spending. Soon, we will see taxes rise due to payments made to any person crossing our borders illegally for free health care. What? You didn’t know? Billions of our hard earned funds are approved to pay for pork projects like studying how long a lizard can work a treadmill, or how fast a tire can burn. Recently, an approved bill, over 5,000 pages long, was packed with frivolous porky pie projects most of us would never agree to. To help mask it all, our representatives were given about 2 hours to read through the 5,000 page pile of documents before voting for approval. Ching-Ching! What? You didn’t hear it? You will soon on your stub.
Top priority is deception in Washington DC. Not to mention, I’m talking about funds we do not have. We are printing money without any true value. Yep, our great grandchildren, and their children, and their children, and their children will be in debt because of this foolishness. Would you allow this in your home’s book-work? If sane, you wouldn’t.
And the question remains, “What’s going on?”
This past election was filled with very questionable tactics, along with evidence of voter fraud which has been refused in the courts. Irregularities in our voting system demands scathing investigations from all sides. I know, so many are reporting there is no proof of voter fraud. Yet, those same reporters refuse to raise the question of how some counties sent in far more ballots than there were voters. How does that happen? Scores of voters were turned down at the voting booths because they were told the system showed they already voted by mail. How does that happen? Massive resurrections occurred as thousands of the deceased voted. How does that happen? The same politicians sing from the same hymnal as some media outlets,who claim there is no fraud, ignored eye witnesses, via affidavits under penalty of perjury, who have yet to be heard in court due to failure of court filing procedures, or weak judges who wanted to pass the buck in most cases. Heads are still scratching from overnight dumps of thousands of mystery ballots, with only one candidate to choose from, or only one candidate chosen. How does that happen? Many ballots were not signed, or processed without signature verification. What are the odds? What ever your political leanings, don’t you believe this issue should be thoroughly investigated and reviewed by objective powers? Dare I say it? If America’s elections are diseased by fraudulent actions, we have no real nation of liberty. In other words, YOU and I can no longer say that WE THE PEOPLE choose our government leaders. I could share more of the election issue, but I won’t. But I will ask, what’s going on?
I had a terrific reunion with an old high school buddy today. He spent decades in the Air Force. He flew missions over the sands in Desert Storm in Iraq, and in the short conflict in Panama. He has been around the globe many times in his military career. Today he told me how he fears for where our nation is going. I couldn’t help but agree as we both know history and how civil wars are born.
My knees bend to no one but King Jesus. Through the mix of hatred and political haze of confusion, I know the One Who still has His place on the throne of the universe. Kings and kingdoms will all fade and vanish and yet, He will still be sovereign.
May our struggle be in that voting booth, and the electoral process. And if evil minded people attempt to ride roughshod over the will of the people, they must be investigated, put on trial, and the system purged by legal means.
The question remains, can we keep our freedom? It’s up to us. Is it not?
Liberty was a gift. We, the people, did not generate it ourselves. It’s clear in fuel for the race.
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!” – Isaiah 5:20-21 (ESV)
“There’s always tomorrow, For dreams to come true, Tomorrow is not far away.” (1964) From the TV production, “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer”. Composer: Johnny Marks
Our 2021 looks just like what we see in my cover photo above the title. A blank sheet, a clean slate, a fresh page. Notice the pen still has its cap over the business end.
I, for one, will be happy to kiss 2020 goodbye. What a nasty year. I mean that, too. Hard, harsh, disgusting, rude, violent, diseased, and dark. And yet, we were responsible for it all. Sure, we could blame others, and we do. But when in retrospect, the wise ones will say, “We made a terrible mess.” And we did.
My middle daughter, Megan sent me a couple of photos from her house in Buffalo, NY over the Christmas week. Here’s one for you.
I love a fresh snow. It’s the darkened, oily, old snow I look away from. Lots like 2020.
More than the blank sheet of paper, 2021 may resemble more like this…
Isn’t it true? Do you see it? If you don’t see it, you would be right. There’s 2021 right there in that shot. A fresh mound of virgin snow…lacking footprints.
With all of our flaws, our faults, our flubs, God has seen fit to graciously hand us a frsh new year for us to walk carefully onward. In a way, the Creator is saying, “Here you go. I’m allowing you another year, fresh and clean. Now walk in my ways and just see where your footprints lead.”
Our footprints will tell us not only where we go, where we’ve been, and just how heavy our stomping has been, but we will discover more about our ways.
God knows the beginning and the ending. He knows our A through Z. He knows our pre-historic days, and our eternal lives. Isn’t it fair to say, The Ancient Of Days is also, The Maker Of Our Days? With Him, the crooked is made straight. The gift of free-will demands that we choose how to walk in 2021.
It is up to us.
Tomorrow’s trek requires fuel for the race.
“You shall walk in all the way which the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days…” – Deuteronomy 5:33a (NAS)
“I believe in you You know the door to my very soul You’re the light in my deepest, darkest hour You’re my savior when I fall…” (1977) “How Deep Is Your Love?” Recorded By: Bee Gees Composers: Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb, and Blue Weaver
“Dad, I paid $90.00 for that thing!”
That’s what my eldest daughter said to me on the phone last week, in her very frantic delivery. Ever since she and her husband were able to get into a house, she has gone a bit over the top on holiday decor. (My opinion.) It doesn’t matter if it’s Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter, she decorates loudly and early.
When my phone alerted me to her call, I had a gut feeling there was trouble, even before I answered. Sure ’nuff, there was a major issue going on in her world. It seems the lights on her new front lawn snowman went out. As she investigated the holiday tragedy, she found all the bulbs working when tested separately. She then followed the electrical lines from the plug and socket until she found the electrical cord cut in half. Actually, it wasn’t cut, but rather chewed in half. Some neighborhood gnawing critter decided to taste the plastic sheathing of the cords. I’m surprised she didn’t find a lifeless furry little body stretched out at the crime scene. As it turns out, this is the second year in a row a critter of the great outdoors, obviously full of humbug, chewed through electrical cords which powered the true meaning of Christmas…a reindeer, elf, or Santa. (That would be her outlook.) In her distress, she used a few choice words of holiday stress, as she told me she had to get off the phone, run to the big box home store to buy another to replace it before the sun goes down. ($$$-ching-ching) As I got off the phone, I found myself saddened by the sounds of her sheer anger, distress, and frantic obsession. I didn’t raise her to hang the importance of Christmas on trinkets, elves, and power cords.
Yet, who doesn’t love Christmas lights? I know I do.
Back in Greenville, Texas, where my mom lives, Park Street is a major attraction in December each year. It’s well known for its old homes and large trees, and one of the oldest neighborhoods established in the town. The residents of that half mile street always do it up well. It’s a Christmas village for about a month, complete with visiting carolers, local choirs, tables with spiced ciders, popcorn, and sweet Christmas goodies. On particular weekends in December, you can stroll along the old street, laced in lit lanterns made with waxed white paper bags lighting up the sidewalks. After some hot chocolate, and homemade peppermint brittle, you can hop on the various Christmas wagons up and down the street for an eye-full of the decorated Victorian homes drenched in holiday lights. It’s very festive.
Around my neighborhood, in the north Dallas area, we have some decor lighting up the streets as well, although a bit more subdued.
Some don’t mind spending major funds to hire professional decorators to wrap their property in holiday cheer. My preference are the solid colors.
This month, God did His part. He aligned for us, Saturn and Jupiter, creating a bright star-like display outshining the other heavenly bodies.
There is something to be said concerning illuminations at Christmas time. Beyond the beauty of the shimmers and glimmers, light goes well with the advent of the birth of Jesus. Hundreds of years before His arrival, one of the prophetical writings of His birth was penned by one of the Old Testament prophets, with light in mind.
“O people walking in darkness, behold a great light: ye that dwell in the region and shadow of death, a light shall shine upon you.” – Isaiah 9:2 – (Brenton Septuagint Translation)
Long before that was written, the words of Balaam, the only gentile Old Testament prophet, lit up the page with this oracle:
“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; A star shall come forth from Jacob, A scepter shall rise from Israel,..” – Number 24:17a – (NAS)
Fast forward to the wise men from the east, who had studied the old scrolls, asking Harod:
“Where is the One having been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” – Matthew 2:2 – (Berean Study Bible)
Park Street’s white paper bag lanterns, lining the sidewalks, comes to mind when reading the words of King David:
“I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path. Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” – Psalm 119:104-105 – (NIV)
Have you ever been inside Carlsbad Caverns when they turn off the lights? It’s a dark display of what true darkness is. You can’t see the nose just below your eyes in the velvet blackness never experienced above ground. When the lights come back on, you are so grateful to see the lamps planted on the edges for the pathway.
We are in a world growing darker by the day. You can pay for all the stringed lights at Home Depot, and compete with the Griswold family down the street, and still walk in darkness at Christmas. There’s truth to a line in an old song from the Eagles that reads something like; “You can gaze at the stars in the sky and still miss the light.” (My paraphrase.)
So, if 2020 chewed through your electrical cords, shutting down the man-made colored light on your every day walk, it could be you might have missed The Light. After all, a light show is just that, a light show.
There are lots of uneven sections of concrete on the sidewalks of Park Street. As it turns out, those paper bag lanterns spotlight the cracks and bumps which will disrupt the next step taken.
It’s always good to go Christmas light watching wherever you can find them. Afterwards, it’s even better to look for the True Light of Christmas to make the pathway glow.
Plastic cords can be a delight for a squirrel, yet the Forever Light can never be diminished. This Christmas, find the original illumination in fuel for the race.
“And Yeshua (Jesus) spoke again with them and he said: “I AM THE LIVING GOD, The Light of the world. Whoever follows me shall not walk in darkness but shall find the light of life.” – John 8:12 – (Aramaic Bible In Plain English)
“If the sky that we look upon Should tumble and fall Or the mountain should crumble to the sea I won’t cry, I won’t cry No, I won’t shed a tear Just as long as you stand, stand by me” (1961) “Stand By Me” Recorded By: Ben E. King Composes: Ben E. King, Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller
Did I catch you singing? Yeah, me too. WARNING: You’ll be singing it all day now.
The song, “Stand By Me” was inspired by, and derived from, a Christian song from the great, Sam Cooke & J.W. Alexander. The original was entitled, “Stand By Me Father”, and was written based upon Psalm 46:2-3. Sometimes a music hit is more than meets the ear.
Imagine for a moment that your world, and everything you built your life upon, crashes down all around your head and shoulders, where all things, seemingly solid, tumble and fall. Deep depression settles in like a thick black velvet blanket, with the exception of the fact it’s cold, not warm. Have you ever been there? I have, a few times.
During 2020’s COVID-19 crisis, many across the world have lost everything. Many are now without health, family, loved ones, houses, property, businesses, churches, neighbors, and so much more. It could be one of your trusted neighbors called 911 on you due to how many cars showed up at your house on Thanksgiving. (Truly joyful, grateful people, aren’t they?) If you are one of these smitten by the virus, you know the dull ache of loss due to something you could not control, nor could you escape.
An old friend of mine was bamboozled, broadsided, and bombarded by a tsunami of forces he didn’t see coming, nor could he escape the swinging demolition balls, nor could he control their power and pain. Steamrollers have a way of flattening you…not the curve.
I call this old friend, “old” because his story comes from the oldest biblical manuscript known. The poetic Book of Job is lengthy, and full of sorrow until the end of his ordeal. In a nutshell, Job was a wealthy, honorable man, full of righteous ways, and a full house of children, 10 in all. His marriage was solid, and had a list of many friends. Everyone looked up to Job. God was very pleased with Job and his life.
It’s important to understand, Lucifer, the adversary, was restricted from wrecking Job’s world. I love that! Obviously, the man was guarded from satanic schemes of destruction. It’s an odd scene for us, on this side of the stained glass, but this fallen angel challenged God, using Job as the subject. He wanted the Creator to allow him to tinker with Job’s life. God’s enemy swore that when he was finished with Job, he would no longer worship Him because of bitterness, rage, and a broken faith. I’ve always found it a mystery why God agreed to the experiment concerning Job. He did lay down a line that was not to be crossed. Job’s divine Shepherd gave a stipulation that Satan could not take Job’s physical life. The agreement was inked and off went the unshackled fallen one to do what he wished. Did he send his minions of shadow people to haunt and scare Job and family? If only. Nope. No Halloween tricks for Job, but rather authentic exploits of fright and terror.
If you know the record of Job’s onslaught of destruction, then you know well the hell-on-earth the poor man took on the chin. I won’t list all of the arrows which pierced Job’s existence, but I would say most of humanity never saw what Job experienced.
His vast property was shredded and burned. All of his offspring met a violent tornado, perishing under a collapsed house. Job was robbed of his numerous and varied livestock, way up in the thousands of all kinds, was gone by fire or sword, leaving him in poverty. His hired hands were slaughtered by thieves and marauders. He became very ill, close to death himself. Racked in pain from huge boils which covered his body, his friends urged him to confess his hidden sins for relief from the devilish curses, even though Job was not guilty of gross sins. Their narrative went so far as to accuse him of being godless. (With friends like that…) His wife’s eroding spirit broke, causing her to demand that he curse God and die. He refused her shameful advice. Although Job questioned God in his torment and grief, the poor man held to his love for his Creator.
“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him…” Job 13:15a (KJV)
If Job’s story ended there, I would hang up my shield of faith forever, but there’s more.
God’s amazing personal encouragement to the battered Job reads like nothing else penned by mankind. Although God’s response covers many chapters, it is so worth the gleaning. It serves a 2020 generation well. Truly, there is nothing else like it.
Eventually, the demonic realm could not prove their projected case. God put a stop to the waves of anguish. He rewarded the faithful Job with all he had lost, and then some, by multiplying over and above what he once held dear to an abundance none had ever witnessed. He was the wealthiest man alive in his times. For Job’s day and culture, he was a billionaire…without all the corruption.
Being the earliest manuscript in the Bible, Job gave us the first human view of Christmas while sitting among the ruins. It came in Job 19, after a couple of so-called friends berated him in chapter 18. As Job responded to their emotional word-salad, Job spoke the following words which are now rich in the writings of scholars and composers across time and space to this very day…
“For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God…” Job 19:25-26 (KJV)
Did you catch it?
This man of antiquity speaks of a faith in the hereafter through a resurrection which includes his own physical body. Most astonishingly, he mentions something his friends must have been floored by. “…and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth…” WOW, says anyone who once read where God walked in the Garden of Eden in Genesis. Job knew of the event of Adam and Eve, and God physically walking in the garden at will, but THIS was an advent to come. Job had the audacity to speak of God’s feet standing, once again, on the planet in Job’s “someday”. Job, in his day, was envisioning the future, but for us, it’s already occurred.
Thousands of years later, about 3 BC, Job’s prophecy came true. Most date the birth of Jesus around 4 BC. Certainly, by 3 BC, a baby Jesus was learning to use his feet and legs to stand and walk. We know this because after the account of His birth, the scripture states…
“… And as Jesus grew older He gained in both wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man. …” Luke 2:52 (Weymouth New Testament)
(Biblically, outside of His infancy, we only have one scene of His childhood written down for us.)
I wonder if Jesus ever visited Job’s graveside. If so, I can imagine Jesus “standing” at the tombstone and saying something like, “Job, blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
Because Job’s twofold prophecy was unveiled at the first Christmas, we also wait for the promised second unveiling as His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, just across the valley opposite the Jerusalem gates. In fact, circumstances will be different. When Jesus’ little feet toddled about the house, in His meekness, it was more of a silent event. Zechariah’s prophecy details how His feet will touch the Mount of Olives in the future before walking into Jerusalem. The very act will create an earthquake, splitting the ground beneath His step. Incredible to picture it without a good dose of CGI. (In biblical times they had no way of knowing about the fault line running straight through the Mount of Olives, just east of Jerusalem.) It’s then, the ruins of life will be made new. My ruins, your ruins.
Christmas was wrapped first by fuel for the race.
“As it has been written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those proclaiming good news of good things!'” Romans 10:15b (Berean Literal Bible)
“Rikki don’t lose that number You don’t want to call nobody else Send it off in a letter to yourself Rikki don’t lose that number It’s the only one you own You might use it if you feel better When you get home” – (1974) “Rikki, Don’t Lose That Number” Recorded By: Steely Dan Composers: Walter Becker and Donald Fagen
On my Facebook page I decided to have a little fun with an age old question for old rock consumers. The question was: “Did Rikki ever lose that number?” Considering the song was recorded in 1973, along with the reveal that Rikki was an old college girlfriend of Donald Fagen from Steely Dan, it could be Rikki is in her early 70’s now. If Rikki has already experienced cognitive issues, maybe Rikki no longer has knowledge of where that number may be.
While counting down the hours to Thanksgiving this year, I watched a news feature on the growth of Dementia and Alzheimer’s in our country. Because Alzheimer’s runs through the maternal side of my family, I was glued to the report. Contrary to popular belief, Dementia and Alzheimer’s are not one and the same. The “plaque” which appears in the brain seems to be the main monkey wrench in the gears of the mind. Also, there can be shrinkage of the brain matter itself. Dementia is a general term for a slip in mental abilities which gets in the way of everyday life. Dementia is NOT a disease, but considered a brain disorder. There are various kinds of Dementia, as well. Trust me, it’s complicated and a bit over my lay-person’s head. However, if one has Dementia, the symptoms can mean troubles in connecting names of loved ones, or others. One can find it more difficult to follow driving directions, communication skills and focus, the spelling of words, and losing items like…(wait for it)…phone numbers. In the days of yesteryear, it often was referred to as “senior moments.”
Not long ago I mentioned on this platform the fact that my 76 year old mom is now wrestling with a minor form of Dementia. It does appear to be a fading of figuring out how to use her cell phone, remembering names and places on the fly, and losing train of thought in conversation. It’s difficult for me in that she has always been a sharp person with an incredible skill of trouble-shooting and memory. Before spellcheck software, she was my spellcheck. Now, she’s almost given up on texting words. And yes, she’s very much aware of the cognitive decline. It is very concerning.
It was a bittersweet privilege to watch her be a selfless 24/7 caregiver for my grandparents. My granddad had Dementia issues, and my grandmother had full-blown Alzheimer’s Disease. There was a great deal I learned from her just observing how she handled the frustration of seeing her parents traveling downhill with this issue. The main lesson i gleaned from her was how to speak to an Alzheimer’s victim. I learned to never correct the victim when they speak inaccuracies. Gently agree, or placate on a subject. Never show anger if the victim made a mess in the kitchen, or bathroom, or soiled their clothing. It’s best to approach them as you would a toddler. (In many cases, the victim almost “youthens” in their reasoning.) Most of all, we must treat them with compassion, and deliver the highest respect, even when at wits end. Remember, your Dementia or Alzheimer’s victim once was a doctor, a pastor, a teacher, a cop, or a quality control inspector, etc. Most of all, they were once loving parents in the majority of cases.
Remember, someday, it could be you needing the comfort of a champion caregiver.
It would be a crime to suddenly think less of a loved one, suffering from this disorder or disease, who once knew how to care and love you without compromise. Certainly there are exceptions in every relationship. It could be you were a child of an abusive parent who now needs your love and care in the dark years of cognitive failure. It would be a treasure to know Jesus spoke about you…
“Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” – Jesus (Matthew 5:7) KJV
An accurate Greek translation from the original text reads like this…
“Happy are the kind – – because they shall find kindness.” – Jesus (Matthew 5:7) YLT
So, Rikki, if you did lose that number, it’s okay. Maybe you ‘sent it off in a letter to yourself’. Come on, I’ll help you find it.
I am full, due to the fact God remembers the count of the hairs on my head. I found out while topping my tank with fuel for the race.
“Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.” – GOD From Isaiah 49:15 (NAS)