Lessons From A Shoplifter

“Why don’t we steal away.
Why don’t we steal away,
Into the night.
I know it ain’t right.”
(1980) “Steal Away” Recorded By: Robbie Dupree Composers: Rick Chudacoff & Robbie Dupree

Some will say, karma rules. Some will say, too bad. Some will say, just deserts. (Yes, that’s the correct spelling for this old phrase. I had to look it up to be sure.)

Let me just start by denouncing any such phrase reflecting judgement here. Judgement toward another is easy to slip into, but more harsh when inflicted. Judging this young woman, described below, is not the intension of this post. I am not one who attempts to execute God’s edicts.

What a 24 year old shoplifter from Orlando, Florida did recently could cost her a hand, or arm in some systems of law around the world. It very well might have been more acceptable to her in lieu of what actually occurred.

Photo by Kindel Media on Pexels.com

A young career criminal, caught up in a sucking whirlpool of misdeeds in her life, partnered up with a man for a shoplifting spree at a Dillard’s store at a Florida mall on May 26th. As been her routine in past crimes, she left her two little children in the car while she spent an hour inside Dillard’s collecting products. Because this was not her first heist, plus the fact that it has become well-known that major retailers are now trained to avoid conflict, or aggression with shoplifters, like many, she felt “safe” in blatantly stealing merchandise around noon that day. With the current culture’s relaxed laws, many give themselves a sense of justification to commit crimes. This particular crime has become a national plague of late.

After a good haul of free stuff (not free for you or for me), she walked toward Dillard’s exit with her arms full. As she looked up toward her parked vehicle, she could hardly believe her eyes. Running through her mind at that exact moment must have been,

“Is that MY car? No, it must be somebody else’s car. Oh, no! That IS my car!”

Photo: NBC News. Car fire at a Florida Dillard’s.

Her mind wanted to deny, at first, the horrid truth that her car was engulfed in flames. This 24 year old mother of two, dropped all of her stolen goods and ran to her burning car with only two thoughts purging her brain…her trapped kids. One child tried to escape the flames. Good Samaritan bystanders rushed to the engulfed 2016 Ford Lincoln and thankfully rescued the screaming children. They both were sped away to Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital. One child received severe first degree burns to her face and ears. Their ages have not been released as I write this. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

I wouldn’t wish that scenario on my most aggressive enemy. I don’t know this young mother, this young criminal, so I can’t say what she may be pondering today. One would hope that the sheer tragedy of the event will cause this woman to turn from her feelings of license to commit crimes against the public and start anew. One would hope this woman will reject her negative influencers, make new friends, and discover the richness of a life free from lawbreaking.

No matter what future she is allowed from this point onward, one thing is certain. She taught us a little bit about the hardness of the wall of truth. Notice how even though the heist was all planned, the get-away was designed, the dollar signs in her mind from a potential black market resale may have floated like balloons in her dreams, it took one second, a wisp of a moment of clarity to let it all go. Even though somewhere in her youthful past her heart had turned to stone, to some degree, she had a love for her kids. Her love may had been tainted, seared, or covered over by her lust for crime, it all melted instantly when she saw her two children in a torched sedan.

What would you do? Sometimes it takes a burning car in life to shake us to wake us. Sometimes a horrible event can slap us into reason. Other times, the vision of seeing your family go up in proverbial flames can cause a turning from a life of deceit, abuse, petty theft, or infidelity, and the people who enable such infractions. Still, when the snares of pet sin freezes its victim in a cold, hard grip, it has teeth causing lifelong scars.

Photo by Tomu00e1u0161 Malu00edk on Pexels.com

King David wrote a prayer reflecting this thought:

“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.” Psalm 199:71 (NIV)

The marble wall can be brutal.

My hope is, someone will read her story and maybe feel the winds of a change of heart deep in the core of the soul. After all, this young mother, no matter how twisted her life had become, suddenly understood the goods she nabbed illegally was not worth a dime in real life. She knew where her true treasure really was. They were behind the licking flames.

Unfortunately for the woman, the harsh truth also catches up regardless of lessons learned. The young mother is now facing two felony charges. She will be in court fighting charges of aggravated child neglect and arson, although the cause of the fire has yet to been determined, the arrest report states her neglect contributed to the children’s injuries while in the process of the commission of a felony. Roosters do roost.

Photo by EKATERINA BOLOVTSOVA on Pexels.com

As an added note of reality, the Seminole County Sheriff’s office also presented an outstanding warrant for her arrest detailing charges from a past petty theft, combined with, assault and battery on a 65 year old victim in another county, about 55 miles west of Orlando. The cows do come home.

Again, I will not trash this individual for her choice of lifestyle. There, but for the grace of God, go I. It is enough to know the God of the universe, the One Who loves this misguided mother, and her innocent children, was there on the scene. It is this Wonderful Counselor, Who also happens to be the Earth’s Ultimate Judge, Who will speak to her heart through His Spirit concerning a release from sin, a redemption reserved for her, with keys to His kingdom. Meanwhile, I will pray for her to listen to His promptings.

One more note of observation.

Did her partner in crime hang around to help rescue the kids, or comfort his accomplice? No dice. This is the “enemy’s” playbook. That reveal says so much, doesn’t it?

Grabbing true treasure of lasting value can always be discovered in fuel for the race.

“And I (he) will say to myself, ‘You have many goods stored up for many years to come; relax, eat, drink, and enjoy yourself!’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is demanded of you; and as for all that you have prepared, who will own it now?’ Such is the one who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich in relation to God.” -Jesus – Luke 12:19-21 (NAS)


Oh, Claire

The moment I met you, I swear,
I felt as if something, somewhere,
Had happened to me,
Which I couldn’t see.
And then,
The moment I met you again,
I knew in my heart that we were friends.
It had to be so.
It couldn’t be no.
But try,
As hard as I might do, I don’t know why,
You get to me in a way I can’t describe,
Words mean so little when you look up and smile…Oh, Clair”
(1972) “Clair” Recorded By: Gilbert O’Sullivan Composer: Gilbert O’Sullivan

It’s funny how someone can unexpectedly impact your life. Do you know what I mean? That one person, you may be thinking of right now, who came along out of the blue which affected your heart, is the one I’m blindly talking about. Gilbert O’Sullivan wrote, “Clair” based upon his unexpected love toward his new baby girl. If you listen to the cut, at the very end, he included her giggle which made it on the classic hit record. Being impacted so greatly by someone else can truly manifest action in so many ways.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you may already know a bit about my middle daughter, Megan. She’s a well-known, highly acclaimed rock star/recording artist in the western New York area. There’s no embellishment here when I say that.

Photo: Megan Brown on stage 2023

She has multiple accolades under her belt now, including several Best Female Vocalist awards. Her band, Grosh, is a very busy working group on stage and in the studio. She gets to know a lot of interesting people in her line of work among the club scene in Buffalo, Rochester, New York City, Chicago and Cleveland, to the various recording studio sessions, to the streets themselves.

Photo: Megan Brown with her band, Grosh

Early in her career, it was the norm to end a gig at midnight, or 2am, then walk a few blocks to her apartment in downtown Buffalo, NY. As a long-distance dad, it worried me to bits. However, usually she had a bandmate, or close friend with her on the way. Megan has encountered many street people, mostly homeless individuals, in those late night hours, and at other times. Using intuition, and great dose of caution, she often would befriend certain people walking the streets during those times. There have been individuals she has helped out with money, food, and even clothing. Claire is one of those people.

Often in the inner city, longtime homeless people become acquaintances, becoming well-known to those who traffic the area from a business or apartment, to the subway station. Megan tells me most of those she knows are truly harmless, while others need to be avoided for safety sake. Megan, along with her peers, describe Claire as a sweet soul.

Photo by MART PRODUCTION on Pexels.com

Not much is known about Clair. Megan describes her age as maybe 62-65 years old. However, being a longtime character of the streets, the lifestyle itself can age a person even more quickly, not to mention the harsh winters of the region are not kind to the skin. Still, Clair gets around very well and can be seen in almost any section of the downtown Buffalo area day or night. There are some who claim Clair was once a nurse in her former life. However, nobody really knows for sure her background. According to my daughter, unlike many well-known homeless individuals, Clair doesn’t have any family in the area. Clair is truly alone.

Often we wonder how a person finds themselves in such a position in life. Sure, there are those who have been drug users for many years which can derail a life and its potential trajectory. Others testify they became homeless due to job loss, or eviction. Some confirm their state in life on the streets can be a result of a mental health disorder. Either way, it is not known just how Clair found herself roaming the streets. One thing is certain, Clair is one of the fixtures seen on any curb or sidewalk, subway station, or bus stop. She is most often seen in the General Dollar Store parking lot. What little money she can get, it is a good place to get what she needs.

Megan has given Clair money dozens of times during her encounters with her. In fact, a couple of times, Megan has given her a piece of clothing she was wearing for extra warmth. Not too long ago, Clair felt comfortable enough with my daughter to ask for a lift in her car. Although Megan admits to being a bit nervous about the scenario, she agreed to take her wherever she needed to go. She figured it was to get her closer to wherever Clair was staying that night. On the way, Clair gave her directions to a heavy trafficked intersection in downtown at Main St. and Utica St. There is a Family Dollar Store close by that intersection, as well as a food market. Megan was overcome by Clair’s reaction as she thanked her for taking her to the location. Clair seemed to gush with appreciation with tears in her eyes. Suddenly, the nervousness and caution my daughter harbored on the way melted at that point. Megan told me she cried all the way home after dropping her off. she said,

“Oh, dad. It’s just in the way she thanked me for the quick lift which touched me so much.”

A few days ago, Megan posted about Clair on Facebook. She mentioned how she hadn’t seen her in a while and heard a disturbing rumor that upset her. Some of her friends confirmed the rumors were true.

Apparently, there was a drive-by shooting. An SUV swerved to dodge the multiple rounds being sprayed in its direction. In doing so, the SUV lost control, jumped the curb, rolled over and rested on its side on the sidewalk area. After the EMTs and police arrived, they discovered Clair. She was there when the SUV flew off the street and rolled, landing on her. They say she died instantly. This event occurred at Main & Utica.

Oh, Clair. Why did you want Megan to take you to that spot? Why couldn’t you run when the gunfire rang out? Why couldn’t you have been on the other side of the street? Oh, Clair.

In doing what I could to console my girl, I mentioned to her that what she did for Clair throughout the years, the extended hand, the funds, the clothing, the car ride, were of eternity. Though her heart is hurting, Megan must recall that the all-knowing, the Omni-Present One, not only knows of her outreach, but loves it. If filtered correctly, this truth should comfort Megan for a long time to come. At least, this is my new prayer.

Could it be, viewing through biblical eyes, Megan’s outreach to Clair benefitted Mega more than it did for Clair?

The ingredients which are mixed and found in eternity are listed in fuel for the race.

34“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, 36I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you visited Me.’

37Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? 38When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39When did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?’

40And the King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’” – Jesus – Matthew 25:34-40 (Berean Standard Bible)

Being Hawkish

“Private Eyes,
They’re watching you.
They see your every move.
Private Eyes,
They’re watching you…”
(1981) “Private Eyes” Recorded By: Hall & Oates Composers: Janna Allen, Sara Allen, Daryl Hall, Warren Pash

Bird-watching can be a great hobby for some. Lots of time hiking in the woods with a great set of binoculars, a reliable camera, along with sunblock would be the norm for bird-watching enthusiasts. My wife is an artist, and pours over sharp digital pictures of some of the most brilliant birds of color under the sun. Her drawings and paintings reflect that fascination. As for me, not so much. I do enjoy watching the Eagles and Seahawks play on an NFL Sunday, but that’s about it.

Maybe I should take that back. When I lived in Buffalo, NY, our house was two blocks from a nature preserve where many a creature flew, crawled, or roamed. On occasion, you could see an eagle perched high on a tree branch. I always watched for those moments. From time to time, I had the pleasure of discovering ripped up animal parts resting on my lawn from a bird of prey who must have let go of his would-be lunch on his way to Denny’s. Such a joy. Here, in the Dallas, Texas area, I rarely see any bird quiet that large.

I will say I do have a fondness for bright red male cardinals, north Texas woodpeckers with their red heads, and blue jays…even though they have an attitude problem. At my house, I don’t have to gear-up to go hunting for them. My eyes can’t help but catch their identifying colors as they streak by the window.

At various nights we are visited by an owl or two. I am amazed at the quietness of their flight. One can swoop down in the darkness, from one of our many trees, without a sound of warning, then back up again like a wispy cloaked ghost.

One afternoon, my wife came in from the backyard really excited about seeing a hawk. Keep in mind, we live in a northern suburb of Dallas. Hardly the woods. It’s a bit of a rarity.

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

Apparently, on this particular day, a hawk made a dive to assess our small dog, Sammie. She recently had to be put down. She was half chihuahua, half schnauzer. (Talk about an attitude.) Although Sammie was small, the hawk was able to get his eye up close and personal to find she was too large to be prey. As it turned out, their is a hawk family who made their home in our large fruitless mulberry tree in the backyard. Before you could say, “Birds of a feather”, I began to do some bird-watching myself, constantly rolling my eyes up and down the branches to spot one of the hawks nesting in the tree tops. One thing is for sure, they know how to use the branches and leaves to conceal themselves, but their vocals are very evident.

Photo: Fruitless Mulberry in the backyard.

Studying the nature of birds and their habitat is not anything I get excited about, but this hawk family has me paying attention. Just yesterday, I was sitting out on the back steps just casually spying on our feathered tenets. I was truly amazed at the laser beam focus they have on their surroundings. From their perch, a squirrel, a mouse, or a rabbit doesn’t go unnoticed from their diligent gaze. They have such keen vision. Small animals don’t have a chance. At one point, a hawk streaked across the yard from their tree to our pecan tree on the other side in a flash, landing on a large limb. I couldn’t tell what he was after, however, as his talons latched to the bark, his head jerked with Ninjalike speed, and off he flew with some poor unidentified critter hanging from his beak. Nabbed, just like that.

Being “hawkish” surely suits what I have been observing in my backyard’s wild kingdom. For example, one thing I took mental note of was the tree top chosen by our feathered predator. Instead of nesting in one of our many other trees covering our back lawn, this family selected the tallest tree, one which sits on the edge of our property close to the back corner of our house. It appears to be a strategic pick as this particular tree overlooks not only the entire backyard, as well as, our surrounding neighbor’s back properties, but it also is situated where they can scout out the entire scope of our roof, along with all areas in front of our house, as well as, properties across the street. One could easily sit on the highest branches and say it’s the top of their world.

Photo: Backyard tree view from our front lawn.

It reminded me of a couple of biblical concepts and definitions. For instance, our beloved hawk displayed the action of where we get the word, “Rapture”. Paul uses it in the New Testament, translated in the King James as, “caught up”. “Raptura” is the Medieval Latin word which literally means, “Seized, fetched, taken up”. The Latin also renders a form of the word, “Rapere”, translated, “Raptor”, a bird which swoops down to seize, to overtake. Paul chose a great visual to depict this miraculous event to come. The Lord God is our Raptor.

“Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” I Thes 4:17

Before I get into eschatology, and I could, I better move on now, or we will be here all day.

Our hawk also reminds me of how we are to be aware in life with all of its unknowns, agents of the enemy, and opportunities. Are we parents and grandparents hawkish enough concerning what our school boards allow in curriculum? Are we hawkish enough to be “salt and light” as Jesus commanded us to be? How astute do we dare to be in the degradation, the erosion, and the demolition of our U.S. Constitution and culture? It takes hawkish citizens to stand against growing crime, encroachment of liberties, and the corruption so evident in the highest tree tops of government. Jesus told His followers to be, “wise as serpents, but harmless as doves”. He very well could have said, be hawkish with the vision, the speed, and the strategy of a bird of prey.

The staircase taken by a watchman on a high tower is located in fuel for the race.

“For the eyes of the Lord look upon all the earth, to strengthen every heart that is perfect toward him…” 2 Chronicles 16:9a (Brenton Septuagint Translation)

Fit For A King

“Crown Him the Lord of heav’n!
One with the Father known,
One with the Spirit through Him giv’n,
From yonder glorious throne,
To Thee be endless praise,
For Thou for us hast died;
Be Thou, O Lord, through endless days,
Adored and magnified.”
(1852 & 1874) “Crown Him With Many Crowns” Composers: Matthew Bridges & Godfrey Thring

Were you watching early that morning in the U.S. time zones? My alarm went off just before 4am central in Texas so I could catch every moment of the historical day in England.

Coronations of this magnitude are rare, especially internationally broadcast coronation ceremonies. It was all as it was supposed to be from the royal carriage ride to Westminster Abby, not far from the phenomenal Buckingham Palace, to the eye-popping parades, to the presentations of the richly meaningful symbolic items displayed before King Charles.

It’s important to note, King Charles was already King at the moment of his mother’s death last year. This coronation was the spectacular official crowning for the world to see, and his official acceptance of the throne.

Events this grand are very carefully organized and rehearsed to the fullest extent. King Charles himself has been prepping for the pomp and circumstance of this day all of his life.

However, there always tends to be little glitches which are bound to happen in the protocols of such a formal colossal event. Lip readers report an awkward verbal moment. At one point, His Highness was left sitting in the carriage on that rainy morning in front of the Abby due to the delayed arrival of his son, Prince William. The King was not pleased, and stated so. Nor was he pleased when a footman opened the carriage door prematurely as it was raining. Again, King Charles, sitting inside with Camilla, had some rather tough words to the man holding the door open. Of course, he shut the carriage door.

Photo: Fox News – King Charles crowning.

Another noticeable moment of uneasiness was the actual “crowning”. It seems the Arch Bishop of Canterbury had to slightly turn the five pound crown to adjust it correctly after he had already placed it on King Charles’ head. As I watched that flub over my coffee mug, I said, “Come on, man. How hard can it be?” You know the guy had to be nervous.

Of course, King Charles is only a figure head, just as his mother, Queen Elizabeth. This monarch reigns, but does not actually rule. “Service” was the theme of the ceremony, in the order of the servanthood of Jesus. Of course, the servanthood of King Charles only goes so far due to security, and his own decision of what “service” means to him. I doubt if you will see His Highness washing the feet of the homeless in an alley with his robe, certainly away from the cameras. No judgement here on my part. Like me, King Charles is a faulty man, as is all royals, presidents, and heads of state.

Photo: Fox News – Not unlike Cinderella’s carriage, the Coronation Carriage is something to behold.

As stated, all went swimmingly well, even the bumpy ride in the golden Coronation Carriage, all 8, 800 pounds of it, dating back to the 1760’s.

As I was watching, I couldn’t help think of how a monarch SHOULD be able to snap a finger and change their kingdom for the better. Still, that remains in the hands of the people of the U.K. and their parliament. Even if King Charles had such powers, he is 74 years old. Someday, for King Charles, this will all go away. His reign is short-lived.

Watching the pomp and circumstance, with all of the seemingly endless parade of military and horses decked in brilliant colors, my mind wondered what it will be like when The King Of Kings returns. His Kingdom will lack controversy, mishaps, or crowns which do not quite fit. His rule will be of pure righteousness, without fault.

His timing will be exact, impeccable, and publicly précised to the second. Weather will not be an issue for the footman, for He, The Lord Of Lords commands even the elements.

When King Charles entered Westminster Abby, he was donning a royal red robe topped in white. It turns out, that was his grandfather’s robe, King George VI. It’s highly appropriate as it reflects his lineage, his kingly line. After the actual coronation, His Majesty was decked out in a purple robe as he slowly exited the ceremony.

Photo: Fox News – King Charles holding the golden orb and scepter, wearing royal purple.

Purple is the color of royalty. I can visualize The Ancient of Days draped in the finest purple robe we have yet to lay our eyes on. Moreover, the world has yet to witness the robe of God, His Father, which one day may be presented to us to indicate the true lineage of Jesus. For now, all we can do is witness a contemporary coronation ceremony to get just a glimpse of a shade of what is to come. Still, this ceremony in London will not be able to be compared to when the King Of The Universe stands on our soil.

Photo: fox News – King Charles’ Train

Vastly different from the train of King Charles, His train, the train of His robe, will be so visually enormous, it will cover the floors of the temple to be built before He arrives. Scripture details this well. Most scholars see this passage as a symbolic idea of Messiah’s rule, the extent thereof, and maybe that is an accurate interpretation. Yet, I fully am expecting the longest train ever weaved.

His crown, no longer an assembly of thorns, will be of “crownS”. He will wear a diadem which will not just represent the U.K., or America, or the U.N., but the entire universe. It will fit perfectly. No adjustment will be needed.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

As the scripture says of His appearing, who among us all will be able to stay standing on our feet?

“But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire, and like launderer’s soap.” – Malachi 3:2 (NAS)

No doubt He will arrive in pomp and circumstance, which may include a golden carriage, but I personally believe He will mount a great spotless white steed. But, because of His nature, His character, I also can see Him dismounting to walk alongside His subjects lining the streets. He will be the King of the people. No lip service. No fuzzy wording. No shell games. No smoke and mirrors.

According to biblical text, His throne will be adorned like nothing our natural world has seen to date. Special effects will not be needed. No special lighting crews assembled. No CGI software will be engaged. The shockingly dazzling visuals will come from Him, and created around Him. It will be as it is in heaven. Truly, fit for a King.

No figurehead monarch involved when He arrives. From Genesis to Revelation, over the four thousand year history of holy writ, details are recorded of what we can expect. The story is the same. He will RULE and REIGN physically here on the planet. No parliament needed. Nations will be inspected, and filtered out like a shepherd dividing the sheep and the goats. He knows the difference.

Photo: Fox News – King Charles Coronation with Queen Camilla to his right.

Camilla was crowned Queen during the coronation. There are those who grumble about this title for her, but still, she is the wife of King Charles.

According to the pages of scripture, to His right, seated with Him, will be His Queen, His bride. He wooed her from afar. He spoke to her heart before her eyes saw Him. He graciously extended His royal hand to her when she was just a sin-filled faulty commoner. When she accepted His proposal, drinking from His offered cup, He nourished her, held her high, and promised her a Kingdom which shall never end. She will sit at His right hand due to her being His promised bride, made to be immaculately cleansed. Like Camilla, she will be adorned, but not by her own funds, initiatives, or toil. She will be remarkably garnish. She will be gloriously enhanced. She will be presented to the universe bejeweled by the King Himself. She will be, as she is in our present reality, His beloved redeemed ones, the betrothed of God, saved from themselves by His grace.

The coronation from the days of eternity past will never be overthrown, disassembled, or voted out. In fact, the prophesy from the ancient scrolls state that when this earthly event occurs, every knee will bend, confessions in every language from every tribe and every nation will admit that He is not only King Of The Universe, but Lord Of All.

An international coronation for the world to behold is still to come. Find out where you can stream it live inside fuel for the race.

“Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.'” – Rev 11:15 (ESV)

House Of Refuge

“Ain’t gonna need this house no longer.
Ain’t gonna need this house no more.
Ain’t got time to fix the shingles.
Ain’t got time to fix the floor.
Ain’t got time to oil the hinges,
Nor to mend no window pane…”
(1954) “This Old House”, Recorded and Composed By: Stuart Hamblen (And many others recorded it.)

Sometime in the early 1950’s, the songwriter and singer, Stuart Hamblen, was on a hunting trip in the Sierra with his friend, John Wayne along with a guide. They found an old broken down shack up in the mountains with a barking dog guarding the old place. When there was no sign of a home owner answering their knocks and vocal calls, they entered finding an deceased old man. Stuart took to pen and paper writing what this old man might have said in his final words about the old broken down house. He wrote of how the old house once knew his wife and his children. It knew shouting, laughter, and the storms of life. In other words, it had a history.

That’s exactly what has been going through my mind in recent months.

It’s been awhile since I have written about the house my mom lived in. Let me give you an update. First a refresher on the background.

The original house itself was built back in the 1840’s in Greenville, Texas, just about an hour east of Dallas. I say, “original” in that it had additions made over the decades. My grandparents, (My mom’s folks) bought the place in 1955, some 110 years after the first owner. The Atherton clan, (my clan) consisted of a husband, wife with two boys, one girl and a little terrier named, Prince. It’s a 3 bedroom, 1 bath, with a kitchen and adjacent breakfast nook, along with a separate dinning room. There are beautiful double French doors, with cut glass door knobs, dividing the dining room and the living room, as well as two of the skeleton keyhole bedrooms. The living room is large, with tall ceilings throughout the house. The windows consist of large sashes as common for the era prior to electricity. It has an aluminum roof, long before it became a modern architectural fashion.

Photo: Front yard on a rare snow dusting. The front porch was one screened-in.

I wasn’t born in the house, but they brought me to the house from the hospital in May of 1960. My mom was just 16 years old. My grandmother was only 40, and my granddad was at the ripe old age of 42. As a toddler, my mom and I lived there after a divorce from my bio-father. Over the decades I have spent hundreds of weekends there, as well as major holidays, just as my children did growing up.

Photo: My grandmother and I on Easter morning in the front yard (1962)

Reading my posts concerning my childhood, you will find a troubled background, including being somewhat of a pinball, bouncing around from one town to another, one school to another, one church to another. The old house on 1613 Jones St in Greenville, Tx was a place of safety, love, a true haven of rest for a young lad. It was there where there was a lack of periodic yelling, abuse, unknowns, and fear. My Christian grandparents were such loving people, full of compassion and care.

Photo: In 2008, after my granddad passed away, Google came out with a new curbside shot of the old house, and my granddad is standing there on the front porch. It was a sweet shock.

Following my grandparent’s passing, my mom inherited the house. She never had been a homeowner, due to her hard circumstances. I was unaware, but in recent years she had the beginnings of Lewy Bodies Disease under the dementia umbrella. For years she wouldn’t allow me entrance to the place, or anyone else. In October of 2021, only after she became ill, which landed her in the hospital after emergency hernia surgery, did I find the reason why. Unfortunately, I discovered she had become a hoarder. Serious hoarding had allowed only a 6″ pathway from one room to the next. Trash and a decade of junk mail littered the floors, along with packed boxes of storage and garbage stacked some 5-6 feet high in every room. A well-known author once wrote that a decaying old house, in much need of repair, is due to loneliness. I believe it. Desperate repairs needed to be done, but she never chose to invest in the upkeep it deserved. She had accepted a growing roof rat infestation, which only became worse after a tornado brought down one of her giant sycamores down on the roof a few years back, bringing major structural damage to the place, including a partial cave-in of the floor in my mom’s childhood bedroom.

Photo: Post-tornado damage. Pictured is my mom, a family friend, and my cousin assessing the damage to the roof.

Although the roof was patched by a well-meaning cousin and neighbor, leakage ensued into the attic, eventually bringing black mold crawling across her childhood bedroom ceiling.

Photo: Black mold in what we always called, “The Pink Room”, with pictures still on the far wall of my years growing up. The floor beneath that wall has fallen in by 2 feet.

That is a precious room, filled with antiques belonging to two different great-grandmothers. It was my first room as a baby, sharing it with my mom.

Because I live about 90 minutes away from the old family house, I can only get back there every so often. Certainly not as much as I need to be. My goal is to get the place cleaned out by a professional team suited for that kind of work, give away the family heirlooms and antique furniture, or sell whatever is left, then sell the property.

Since she came to live with me, I have done what I could to recover precious items. My focus has been to locate family photo albums, as well as, slides, family Bibles and diaries, redeem paintings from my grandmother’s brush, and any other little treasures I have known all of my days. But, alas, it literally is like searching for a needle in a haystack. For most of his life, my granddad was a well sought after master car mechanic, and parts manager for a Cadillac and Oldsmobile dealer in town. There is a huge assortment of expensive tools and auto parts in a two car garage. All of which I cannot just send to the dump. His blood, sweat and tears are glazed over those tools. Again, these things are precious to me.

I see a cap my big-hearted granddad wore, or a well worn mixing bowl my serving grandmother used, or the old Singer sowing machine which my great-grandmother once used to make my baby clothes, and I become overwhelmed resorting to sitting among the mounds of trash that now fills what was once a showplace and cry.


I suppose it has to do with the idea of it all going away in a heap of rubbish. Tears come down when I consider the thousands of golden memories of love I have in each and every room. I lose sleep as I stare at my bedroom ceiling at night thinking about the energy it will take to complete what needs to be done, energy I do not have. I dream of the glorious days that are now snipped due to destruction, neglect, illness, and procrastination. My heart breaks over and over again when I open a closet door to find my granddad’s WWII Navy uniform under plastic wrap, or my grandmother’s hat box from an era which our culture no longer reveres as valuable. When exhausted from the sorting, dizzied by the stench of rat urine, and finding no vacant place to physically sit, a daydream of hiding behind my granddad’s chair, next to the aluminum Christmas tree, waiting to spot Santa’s arrival floods my thoughts.

Photo: A Christmas tree with its color wheel, which I thought was magical.

Where once I could not wait to get to my grandparents house, I now dread arriving there. Where once, a house of refuge, is now a house of refuse. Where once a house of shelter, now a house of horrors.

Why do we “hang on” to “things”? Why is it that I have a longing to hold precious old inanimate objects? Why do I grieve over a WWII duffle bag? Could it be, like many, I don’t want to say goodbye to the times of innocence? Could it be, like many, I am haunted by the wrong impression that my loved ones are confined to a wrench, an 1890’s sowing machine, a mixing bowl, or a 1960 television set? Could it be that somehow, if I keep such things in good clean order, in a safe place for usage or revisiting, that somehow I still have my deceased loved ones with me? Could that be true?

I am a Christian, a follower of Jesus! I should know better than this! Why am I grieving so? These are not the treasures of my relatives. The treasures of my relatives consist of the love they shared freely and openly. It’s something God-breathed a rat cannot corrupt. Their treasures are made up of the sweet memories I hold close to my heart. That will never rust, wither, or rot away. When they passed away, I let them go into the arms of their Savior, and there they remain with Him to this moment.

I’m spewing here. I apologize. No doubt, you have heard the angst in my written word voice. Tendencies to spill out how I feel are fairly common on my blog. Still, these are the truths I wrestle with currently.

Do you believe in special touches from God? I mean, moments of very personal messages which come out of nowhere that you yourself didn’t conjure up, or receive from some premeditated thought. Instances of sparkling in the hanging fog of depression, or disarray, a light dawns illuminating the hurting heart, or like a balm on a sore muscle.

Last weekend, while shuffling through the garbage of the house, I unexpectedly spotted this….

Photo: Old paining from a dark corner of my grandparent’s living room.

When my eyes caught it, I just froze. It’s not my grandmother’s work. In fact, it is not signed at all by the artist, so it will remain a mystery. The moment spoke to me in my distress and exhaustion. It’s a painting I have known about, hanging in that corner, most all my life. I think I had become so accustomed to the framed piece being there, that I long since had stopped noticing it. But this day was different. My youngest daughter, D’Anna was with me to help my efforts. She said, “Dad, who did this one? Was it Great-Gran?” I couldn’t tell her, and no one is left alive, or cognitive enough to tell me.

Standing there, staring at it, as if for the first time, I felt a gentle warmth flow through me. It was speaking to me, as great artwork should. Yes, it should all be well with me. It is well that all has come to ruin. It is well that all things are not retrievable. It is well my precious grandparents, most aunts and uncles are gone. Why? Because they have experienced their present reality, which is no longer here where I am. If they were here, they would tell me that all of this I am surrounded by is like, “hay, wood and stubble”, as scripture so well describes it. Thus, it should be very well with my soul, in the midst of raging waves. There is a Light that shines through all of the angry refuse, the stuff of life. HE is my source, my love, my refuge, not the “things” of this earth. There lies the struggle…to remember it.

Scripture, the text I study, tells me to not place my heart on the things of earth, things that decay, rust and wither away, but to place my focus on what is above and eternal.

Find what doesn’t get consumed by time or conditions in fuel for the race.

“Certainly goodness and faithfulness will follow me all the days of my life, And my dwelling will be in the house of the LORD forever” Psalm 23:6 (NAS).

Got Milk?

“There’s a feeling I get,
When I look to the west,
And my spirit is crying for leaving.
In my thoughts I have seen,
Rings of smoke through the trees,
And the voices of those who stand looking.”
(1971) “Stairway To Heaven” Recorded By: Led Zeppelin Composers: Jimmy page & Robert Plant

He just folded up his legs planting himself under the old live oak, facing the west toward the Brazos River, with a full pitcher tightly gripped in his weathered hands.

Photo: His actual view from the old live oak tree.

A few times I have written about the family homestead from my dad’s side of the clan. It’s about 2.5 hours west of Dallas, Texas, just outside of Graham, Texas, in historic Young County. My Great-Grandfather, Lewis Pinkney Books built the house in 1874/1875. (A Texas Historical Marker is proudly displayed on the stone wall on the front porch. Only three generations of family have resided in the house, including my cousin who is the current owner.) My Grandpa Brooks came from Georgia on a mule shortly after the Civil War (1866), where he was a lieutenant in the 7th Georgia Infantry. He served three terms as sheriff of Young County during a wild and wooly part of Young County history. Some of the stories handed down from my Grandpa Brooks and his wife, Cinnie, along with extended family who helped to settle the land, can be described as simply hair-raising.

Photo: Lewis Pinkney Brooks – Civil War

Photo: Cinnie Brooks

Although a tough Civil War vet, pioneer, and rancher, Grandpa Brooks, and my Granma Brooks, believed in friendly hospitality and compassion. Even the homestead served as a stagecoach stop for weary travelers for a time. My Grandma Brooks served the community as a makeshift medic, even though she never went to med school.

Photo: Lewis Pinkney and Cinnie Brooks on the front porch of the homestead (1920s).

One of the troubling times in the growth of Young County was the periodic uprising of the local native American tribes in the area. Some of the tribes in and around Young County included, Tonkawa, Waco, and Comanche, The majority of the local Indians were Tonkawa. Even the section of Young County where the homestead sits is called Tonk Valley. There is a Lower Tonk Valley, and an Upper Tonk Valley with a state highway separating the two.

Photo: Genealogy Access – Tonkawa tribal members.

During Grandpa’s settling, although the heartbreaking times of the removal of tribes to forts and reservations were in process, or already accomplished, there were occasions of crimes committed by some of the braves of the region. More than a few full-blown battles erupted between settlers and local native Americans, including soldiers dispatched from various forts. To be a pioneer in Texas in those days was not for the fainthearted.

While Grandpa Brooks, and half a dozen other family and friends, were building a stone wall on the edge of the escarpment of the Brazos on his land, a group of eight Indian braves took the opportunity to attempt a theft of their horses. The horses were tied up a few yards down as the men were working. As you can imagine, a gun battle immediately broke out with only a horse being injured. Gun turrets were built on the roof of the homestead for self-defense.

Photo: Taken in 1983. An old barn from a Tonk Valley neighbor’s land.

The barn sat a bit from the house, maybe 40-50 yards to the northwest of the front porch. There were times, during the overnight hours, Indians raided the barn for the horses.

Photo: Genealogy Access – (1898) John Williams, a Tonkawa brave.

Unfortunately, some Indians were known to dig up graves in our family cemetery across the road to steal jewelry and clothing. Grandpa Brooks put a stop to that morbid theft by building 4-foot stone walls around the grave plots. The land was beautiful, but hard.

One story that always struck me, was a small gesture made by my Grandma Cinnie Brooks. The story has been passed down through the generations, and an official account was detailed in the memoirs of my Aunt Ina Dell, now 92 years old as I write this.

The Tonkawa were one of the last of the tribes to leave the region. The government moved them to a fort near Abilene, Texas, west of Young County, before relocating again to a reservation elsewhere.

(Before I go any further, I need to make a side note here. To me, it is a heart-wrenching thing to review this part of American history. Of course, I feel for my family and their growing community at the time, as they had to put their lives on the line to defend their loved ones, property, and livestock. I get it. In the same circumstance, I would do the same to stand between armed raiders and my property and loved ones. Stealing, torture, arson, and murder will always be wrong, no matter what culture, creed, or color of skin. At the same time, I hurt for the tribes. Putting myself in their moccasins, I can honestly feel the tears, the hardships, and the giving up of lands which fed them for ions of time. Still, I also understand “progress” concerning what was then, an expanding frontier. I am not a “woke” person, but I do wish that part of our history could have been different. Why couldn’t we have taken our lead from the scriptures modeling the 12 tribes of Israel living in a shared land together? Trust and goodwill are difficult to grasp when treaties are broken.)

It was at the well on a hot Texas day, Grandma Brooks was busy drawing water. As she lifted her apron to wipe her brow beneath the bill of her bonnet, something caught her attention down the red dirt road leading to the house. Clearing the sweat from her face, she squinted to get a better view. At first she gasped at what her eyes beheld. It was a sight she hadn’t imagined she would ever see again. There, about 50 yards from the gate, was an old Tonkawa man in long white hair wearing a faded top hat, very thin and looking dehydrated. He was alone, carrying a walking stick, stammering with a shortened gate, and weary in overall appearance. Her first thought was to run to the house for the rifle leaning against the inside front doorframe. Yet, something came over her in that moment and thought better of it. Cinnie Brooks was a tough pioneer woman who had seen the unthinkable, who wrestled with brutal truths of her day. Her husband fulfilled his promise to her as he mounted his mule for opportunities awaiting him in Texas. After staking his claim of Texas land, he returned to Georgia for her. They married in 1870 and loaded a covered wagon for a hard journey to west Texas. Over many years, she incurred a thick hide as a settler with grace and loveliness.

Photo: Taken in 1983. Brooks homestead front gate.

As the old man approached the gate of the property, she bit down on her fear and bravely went out to meet him. The closer she got the more she could see his frailty. The old man also showed signs of malnourishment. As she drew closer to him, she greeted him with a slightly nervous smile. With a grunt, he touched his badly chapped lips then motioned for a drink. He spoke very little English, but she was an expert in body language. He was obviously dangerously parched and road weary.

Without hesitation, she responded as she motioned him to step through the gate.

“Come. I have water.”

She brought him to the well not far from the back of the house. With rough dry hands, he grabbed the bucket she had drawn and began to chug as quickly as he could. She knew the Tonkawa had been taken to a fort near Abilene, and reasoned that he had travelled back to his old hunting grounds, his home where his fathers were from.

After he had his fill of well water, he slowly looked at his surroundings. The homestead is built on an elevated part of the valley close to the banks of the Brazos. The view from there is like seeing forever to the edge of the sky. She could see in his eyes, he not only was soaking in the view, but in a daze of a thousand personal memories of years taken from him.

Photo: A view from the homestead in Tonk Valley during sunset.

His feeble appearance concerned her more and more as they stood there at the well. She had some bread in her kitchen, along with some fresh buttermilk. (It had been told to me that she always kept buttermilk on hand.) She motioned to him to stay put and left him there for the house. When she returned she carried a glass of buttermilk and a good chunk of bread to offer the old man. His eyes brightened as he began to chug the glass until it was empty in short order. With a gruff, yet weak voice, he uttered words of approval and displayed a toothless smile. She asked him if he wanted more as she motioned a pouring over the empty glass. With a nod, she rushed back to the kitchen and fetched the entire morning’s pitcher of buttermilk.

Photo by Dominika Roseclay on Pexels.com

Knowing he didn’t understand her words, she nodded her head and held out the pitcher to the old Indian.

“Here, you can have it all.”

The old man raised his white eyebrows showing his approval while uttering another word in his native dialect. He took the pitcher in his hands, and with the bread in the crook of his arm, he walked slowly over to the live oak tree just off the back of the house.

Photo: This is the tree as it is today. Notice the well in the background.

He just folded up his legs planting himself under the old live oak, facing the west toward the Brazos River, with a full pitcher tightly gripped in his weathered hands.

Grandma Brooks left him there as he seemed to be at ease with his back to the trunk and his gaze over the Brazos valley. Off she went to her never ending chores on the ranch.

Photo: Today’s view of the back of the house from underneath the old tree.

A few minutes later, she looked out the back window toward the live oak tree only to find the buttermilk pitcher sitting on the ground. It was as if the old man was never there. With a big sigh she stopped what she was doing and went to retrieve the pitcher beneath the tree. There was no sign of the old man, only an empty pitcher. He drank the entire lot.

As the story has been handed down to my generation, we understand that he came back at least twice more at other times. Each visit, he would come to the gate and sit until he was noticed. When greeted, he would point toward the cattle while motioning for a drink…with both hands. Just like the time before, he took a pitcher of the buttermilk offered and sat beneath the old tree overlooking the land he once called his own. And as before, he drank it all, leaving the empty pitcher beneath the tree and vanished without a goodbye. Then, after a time, as expected, he never returned.

Photo: A side view of the homestead with the live oak shading the back exterior.

At some point it was learned that the old man was the actual chief of the Tonkawa tribe.

Oh, how I wish I could have seen the video of his mind as he sat under that live oak. The memories of buffalo, bear and antelope. I can imagine the memories of the aroma of mesquite, oak and pecan from the village campfires as the children played. No doubt, he reminisced of his fathers, his wife (wives), his children and grandchildren running through the sage without barbed wire, rock walls, or property borders.

As for my Grandma Cinnie Brooks. She was an angel living in a harsh environment, holding to hope, God, charity, and community. She didn’t think so much about the arrows this man’s braves hurled at her husband in the past. She cared not for the scathing memories of her loved ones being robbed as they rested in their coffins. This was a pioneer woman who looked beyond the battle cries which once shattered the peaceful night air in Tonk Valley. This was a pioneer woman who knew what God expected of her in frightening moments. She gazed not at a chief who ordered the theft of their horses. This woman did not fear for her life, but treasured the life of a stranger, a former enemy. She chose not to “cancel” him for his different views, or his religious beliefs, or his moments of offence. When faced with the fork in her road to hurl insults, to scream obscenities in his wrinkled face, or to ride to town with the intension of murdering his character, she denied herself and served for his sake.

In today’s culture of hatred and violence, we can choose to rise above it with fuel for the race.

Thank you, Grandma Brooks.

“You there! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance. Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live…” Isaiah 55: 1-3a (NAS)

Our Millstones

“I used to be a rolling stone you know,
If a cause was right.
I’d leave to find the answer on the road…”
(1975) “Philadelphia Freedom” Recorded By: Elton John Composers: Elton John and Bernie Taupin

We don’t see them much. If you do, it’s because you are visiting another country to see the processing of grain, wine, or flour. Here in America, if you find yourself at a museum with early American settings, you might see one. Today, at least in America, working millstones are hard to find.

Photo by Ranadipta Sadhukhan on Pexels.com

The history of the working millstone goes way back to the first written records of human documentation, ironically on stone. It’s where hard work took place to crush seeds and grains, or fruits. Some were smaller for hand grinding a bowl of grain. Then there were the round, flat, heavy stones cut from a hillside, cave or quarry. They usually came in pairs, one upper, one lower. It took lots of muscle to work a millstone. So much so, often beasts of burden were used to grind at the larger millstones. Remarkably, the millstone itself was often seen as a burden, a necessary burden. Yet, livelihoods depended upon these carved heavy stones in biblical times.

Photo: Steve Stanford

Scripture mentions this hefty processing tool a few times. Not surprisingly, considering the weight of the larger millstones, some millstones in scripture were tools of punishment, torture, or death. Check this out:

“And Abimelech came to the tower and fought against it and drew near to the door of the tower to burn it with fire. And a certain woman threw an upper millstone on Abimelech’s head and crushed his skull.” – Judges 9: 52-53 (ESV)

That’s one way of using the tools at hand to deliver a blow. He met his millstone for good reason. He was one evil, conniving, murderous king who even had several siblings slaughtered for his selfish ways. For him, the millstone on his head was his reward. for such a wonderful, satisfying life. I hope she got a plot of land for her quick thinking.

Photo: Millstone in Israel

Another entry into the biblical account appears in a troubling scene toward the end of a troubling life. As a kid, I remember crying when my mom read the story to me.

“And having lulled him to sleep on her lap, she called a man to shave off the seven braids of his head. In this way she began to subdue him,  and his strength left him.  Then she called out, ‘Samson, the Philistines are here!’

When Samson awoke from his sleep, he thought, ‘I will escape as I did before and shake myself free.’ But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him.

Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, where he was bound with bronze shackles and forced to grind grain in the prison.” – Judges 16: 19-21 (BSB)

Photo: Samson At The Mill By: Helck

The children’s Bible I had at the time displayed an artist’s rendition of Samson struggling to push a thick beam protruding from the center hub of a massive circular millstone with a wrapping over his empty eye sockets. Once a great leader, with amazing beast-like strength, reduced to a blind, enslaved donkey on two legs. His bad behavior, his longing to run from God to feed his desires, turning him away from a Devine plan for his life, earned him with a millstone day in and day out. Such a tragedy.

Yet, the most severe, ominous, and devastating image we have of a millstone was painted by the Messiah Himself. It’s such a daunting warning that it seems to rise off the page for the times in which we live. The world, our world, needs to read this from Jesus:

“Now He said to His disciples, “It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to one through whom they come! It is better for him if a millstone is hung around his neck and he is thrown into the sea, than that he may cause one of these little ones to sin.'” – Luke 17:1-2 (NAS)

Thus a future for today’s abuser. Jesus left this as a bit of a mystery. He didn’t depict the graphic gravity of what would be worse than having a millstone tied around the neck and thrown into the ocean. Only He would know what is in store for the child-abusing soul. Just the fact that He warned the adult who robs the innocence of a child, delivering harm in measurable ways, tells us the urgency of this matter, and how God rewards such sin. Apparently, being forever attached to a millstone in the depths of the sea is nothing in comparison.

Allow me to be blunt here.

So, all who applaud, support, and defend those who subject children to drag queen shows to further indoctrinate evil into developing minds, take notice. For those who willingly inflict harm and pain to our children from the womb onward, take notice. For those who ram pornographic images and literature onto the bookshelves of our schools and children’s sections at the public libraries to further groom our children toward what God Himself has warned us about, take notice. To those who urge, supply, support the mutilation of children in the name of “Tran’s Rights“, take notice. You have been weighed in God’s scales, and so has the millstone. If this offends you, it should.

At this time of the year, another stone of death comes to mind.

After Jesus was crucified, he was placed in a tomb which was sealed up by a large, rolling stone over the opening of the crypt. This was much like a large, Samson-like stone. It was a new grave, so more than likely it had been carved for the purpose of the freshly hewed cave. Still, from what we know, it could’ve been used as a millstone at a nearby winery. If you visit the empty garden tomb in Jerusalem, you will see a stone track in front of the entrance where the stone once rolled from side to side in a bit of a trough. Most archeologists believe a 1st century grave stone of this type would have weighed 2 tons or more.

A wealthy secret follower of Jesus named, Joseph, who was one of the religious leaders of Israel, gave his own pre-paid tomb to place Jesus. No doubt, he had servants to help him with the tomb’s rolling stone.

“And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth (burial wrapping), and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock; and he rolled a large stone over the entrance of the tomb and went away.” – Matthew 27:59-60 (Amplified Bible Version)

Well, like Samson, what a tragic story with a tragic ending. Right?


Just like the other millstones mention above, the circular stone rolled over the door of the tomb which Jesus was laid in, represented an ending of days, a covering for putrid corruption, a true indication of death, which is the ancient penalty of sinful humanity. However, you might say it could’ve been rented. The Easter event tells us this millstone was easily rolled away from the entrance, probably with a bounce.

Photo: Christian Faith Guide

That’s the visual sign of victory. A true Champion over sin and sin’s penalty had risen to teach again, to fellowship again, to invite us into life everlasting with Him.

This Easter is for you!

So whatever your millstone, no matter the size of your millstone, no matter the weight of your millstone, the grinding ends with Jesus. “Whosever will may come!”

When stones need to roll away from your yesterdays, today and tomorrows, there is a millstone Remover in fuel for the race.

“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.'” Matthew 28: 1-6 (NIV)

Teeth Of The Enemy

“You lying so low in the weeds,

I bet you gonna ambush me.

You’d have me down, down, down on my knees.

Now wouldn’t you, Barracuda?” (1977) “Barracuda” Recorded By: Heart Composers: Ann Wilson, Roger Fisher, Nancy Wilson, Michael Derosier

He was slithering along the grassy trail he had etched through his life without struggle. He was on his way to his favorite place, his home in the hollow log sitting by the riverbank. It was not much to look at, and that’s why he chose it. It was an inconspicuous place to rest and sleep. Inside, danger couldn’t touch him.

It was a sunny day, with no particular unanticipated activity among the neighboring wildlife. All was as it tended to be on this certain afternoon of fate, with the exception of one thing.

Earlier that morning, he was captured by a curious sight. He found himself staring at a team of men close by, studying one looming oak tree along his path. The men had since left after his excursion into the taller grass during his stalking of prey. They left something odd behind that he didn’t quite understand. It was a bright pink thing tied around the trunk of the tree. He had never seen anything like it before, but with humans, anything was possible. At least, that’s what was reasoned in the tiny brain he had. With snakes, any animal, or human with hands and arms had an advantage in life. Nothing seemed to be out of reach for them. This made him feel disadvantaged, even cursed somehow.

Once he fully contemplated the pink thing wrapped around the tree, he went on with his belly pushing the turf behind him as he made his way closer to where he wanted to be. Until he was stopped cold in his tracks.

His scales bristled as he focused his eyes ahead. Just inches away, blocking his trail through the grassy meadow, was a new enemy, a likeness he had never confronted before. At first glance, he thought it was another alligator from the river. But, no. The coloring wasn’t right. It didn’t have hair like those dreaded possums, but like the alligator and the possum, its jaw was lined with formidable sharp teeth. It was two-toned, like he was, with tan and silver skin and piercing, steely, gazing eyes. Immediately, he drew back into a defensive coil as he perceived the animal to be a dangerous predator.

There was the birth of a standoff. The new enemy didn’t make an aggressive move toward him, nor did it hiss, bark, or growl. Just like the possum, it was playing dead. Obviously, it was a crafty, calculating beast. He wondered if it crawled out of the river, or maybe it was a new kind of fish discarded by a fisherman. A closer look made him aware it was similar to his kind. It had a sleek long body, without fins, arms or claws. After a time of visual analysis, he decided to approach the beast with all caution, inch by inch. His nose didn’t indicate any scent rising from the beast. Closer, and closer he crawled toward the jaws of this new enemy. Still, no advancement did the animal make, not fearing his slivering approach.

As he reached within striking distance, he thought it safe to first circle the mysterious carnivore. With most battles won, his strategy was to flank the enemy in order to strike at its hind quarters. As he began to navigate around the mouth of the animal, he felt the sting of a vicious bite as he was dragging his body toward the back of the threatening creature. Although injured, with lightning speed, he lunged toward the enemy, striking the beast near the jawline. Immediately, he drew back with the astonishment of what he had experienced. This new enemy had skin as tough as a tortoise shell. He lunged once again with his fangs leading the way. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t penetrate the hide. Before the beast could strike back in retaliation, he initiated the only other weapon available to him.

With the power of his tail, and the strength in his belly, he attacked the beast with his entire body, quickly wrapping himself around the enemy’s frame. Strategically, he maneuvered himself around its jaw to inflict his well-known death squeeze until the beast submitted with every ounce of dying breath. The grip he had was tight around the jaw, giving him access to even a better opportunity to strike with his fangs over and over again. Yet, the skin of the animal never broke, regardless of the strength in his jaw. Afterward, he tightened himself around the enemy even more so.

He said to himself, “It must die! It must be squeezed until it can no longer strike at me!”

As he continued to squeeze his victim, he detected no heartbeat, no lung activity, no movement at all from the enemy. No doubt, he had a successful kill.

It was at this point he raised his triangular head to detect if any other beast like him was also in the grass, or approaching him for a rescue operation. But in his 360 turn, he spied nothing unusual around him. But, he did see a sure, unmistakable sign of success. Blood.

In a sense of victory he congratulated himself, “YES! I am bleeding my enemy to death. Soon, I will render this enemy lifeless, and no longer a threat.”

The blood began to run alongside the body of the beast, seeping out from underneath the lifeless enemy in his ever tightening grasp.

Soon, he became tired. He felt his strength waning as he began to ease his grip from around the beast. As he did, he found his chin resting on the body of his now conquered enemy. His vision began to fade as he watched the blood flow down the beaten pathway.

Suddenly, in his exhaustion, he discovered another mystery. The scent of the beast’s blood caught his attention. He recognized the scent. It wasn’t the scent from the blood of a rabbit, a chicken, or a possum. With another slow inhale, he realized it wasn’t the scent of his new enemy. With his long, thin forked tongue, he tasted the fluid of life with a new realization.

With a final breath, he acknowledged to himself, “This…this is my own blood.”

Photo; Facebook

Doctors tell us the medical field discovered long ago that what we harbor in our minds can be even more dangerous than what we put into our bodies. Anger, anxiety, fear, worry, guilt, thoughts feeding on past failures, can literally eat away at our physical bodies. We tend to gnaw away at what we can’t control around us. Emotionally we strike out at those who have hurt us, often over and over again. We beat ourselves up over failures, missed opportunities, and the, “what might have beens”. Sometimes we have been called, “worry wart” for good reason. The list can be long. Am I right?

The danger is, we squeeze these dangerous thoughts as we inwardly attempt to solve them, or find resolution and peace. Somehow we get the idea we can squeeze them to death in search for release. Yet, like the snake squeezing the saw blade, it slowly changes our make-up, or mentality, even our physical organs. Such haunts can even deliver cancer cells. I know, I am guilty of squeezing my own saw.

In the end, dwelling on painful, or harmful thoughts, will have teeth. Beware of the real enemy.

Letting go is a concept taught in fuel for the race.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.” Matthew 6:25-28 (NIV)

What’s Tomorrow?

“Why not think about times to come?
And not about the things that you’ve done?
If your life was bad to you,
Just think what tomorrow will do.”
(1977) “Don’t Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)” Recorded By: Fleetwood Mac Composer: Christine McVie

Looking back, I guess I have always been a newshound. Since I was a kid, I always enjoyed watching the news. I’m not sure what that says about me, but it’s an honest statement.

Here in the Dallas/Ft Worth Metroplex, WFAA has seemingly always been around since the early days of radio. In fact, radio is where WFAA started, only to naturally branch out when television became a new medium. It became an ABC affiliate. Although WFAA kept their radio station buzzing, they eventually opened up a huge three-studio television station in their broadcast building at Record St and Young St in downtown Dallas. The radio station moved to the second floor while the television station, Channel 8, took the first floor. To say it is an historic TV station is to put it lightly. The application for the television station was filed in October of 1944, during WWII. It first signed on the air in September of 1949.

WFAA Ch8, set the bar high when it came to production and talent. If the other three major TV stations in town were to be honest, WFAA Ch8 was/is hard to match. They just always seemed to be a step above the competition. Growing up, we rarely watched any other local TV station.

Photo: WFAA.com

In 1961, radio guy, Bob Gooding was just climbing off the air at WFAA radio. As he tipped his hat goodbye to his coworkers, he made his way down the stairs to the parking lot where his car was waiting for the end of his radio shift. Outside, on the way to the car, Bob saw a line of men stretching around the corner of the building. When he inquired as to what was taking place, he discovered WFAA-TV was in the process of screening open auditions for a news anchor. Right away, he took the script of news copy they were handing out and got in line. Bob auditioned and was hired the same day. I must say, that just hardly ever happens in any competitive talent industry.

Bob Gooding was a natural. He was a no-nonsense newsman, polished, and distinguished. His delivery was a midwestern sound, no Texas accent, with a smooth baritone voice, along with a handsome business-like face. He was super articulate, as well as, authoritative. He was the type that could have accepted a job in New York with one of the big three networks. Walter Cronkite had nothing on Bob Gooding. Bob Gooding could have easily worked alongside people like ABC’s Frank Reynolds, or Peter Jennings.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

As a kid, when Bob Gooding was delivering the 6 o’clock, or 10 o’clock news, it was drawing to me. He was trusted with the facts, the way news anchors used to be in those days. Back in the 1970’s, the WFAA newscast was called, “The Scene Tonight”. With Bob Gooding at the news desk, those words had an element of realism without filter or slant. Indeed, that was the flavor of news in that time.

I never met Mr. Gooding, but I have worked with a few people who did. Everyone who knew him says the same thing about his integrity. In my radio days, my main jobs had to do with hosting music shifts, and voicing/producing commercials. From time to time, I also did fill-in work to help cover when others were sick, or on vacation. Anytime I worked as a news anchor, although I never considered myself a news guy, I would always think of Bob Gooding’s integrity when the mic was on, or in front of the camera. He set a high standard.

Photo: Bob Gooding WFAA CH8

As top-shelf as he was on the air, as trusted as he was to deliver the facts without commentary or bias, as gifted as he was with integrity of true journalism, it was his nightly sign-off which is the most memorable. After each news hour, or half hour, as he was given the floor director’s countdown to end of broadcast, he had a unique sign off for the viewer. With his final ten seconds, he would look sincerely into the camera, smile with authenticity, and say:

“And that’s the Scene Tonight here at WFAA Ch8. From all of us here, goodnight, and better tomorrows.” – Bob Gooding

Of course, today, if a news anchor signed-off with that phrase, it would sound a bit corny. Yet, back in the 1960’s and 1970’s, with a man like Bob Gooding delivering those words with a warm genuine smile, the viewer was left with a sense of, ‘a better day is coming’. One couldn’t help but be left with the idea that even though bad news is hard to digest, there’s always a hope for betterment, a future with a brighter viewpoint, a statement a viewer could lean into as they set the alarm clock, or tuck their children to bed. Looking back, I can see where Mr. Gooding did what he could to leave the TV audience with an uplift in the face of a darkened world each night.

Isn’t that what we all long for as we lay our heads on the pillow? Don’t we all want to look forward to new beginnings, new attitudes, new sunrises? Too often we head off to bed right after turning off the tube, or the internet, which landed a few downers around our hopes and dreams. Isn’t it true, that we turn off our bedside lamp with echoes of searing sarcasm, bad news without a sense of rising from despair, delivered by some news anchor, talk show host, or some talking head opinion broadcast? Far from, “Goodnight, and better tomorrows.”

I am guilty of not allowing God’s voice in my last thoughts just before drifting off. Way too often, I allow the dogma of scary times in our world to dominate in my last waking minutes. How can I expect to rise the following morning with a bounce in my house shoes? When our shirt gets dirty from the elements outside, we take it off and wash it, right? Why not do the same with our thought-life. In the last 5 years, or so, my wife and I read scripture just before nodding off. Sometimes we read a devotional, or a bio of an uplifting life. It’s what makes for better days, better dreams, better outlooks.

I think Bob Gooding’s message to us each night was not to rest on the foulness of what comes over the airwaves, but rather, resist being pushed down by the heavy weight of the vile, the awareness of bad news, or the evil that permeates the world in which we live. In other words, to digest what we have been made aware of, whether good or bad, with the truth that tomorrow holds a hope. For those of faith, it’s about seeing the happenings around us with eyes wide opened concerning Who holds the future.

Bob Gooding was on the air at WFAA CH8 from, 1961-1979. He passed away from a lengthy battle with cancer in 2009.

Thank you, Mr. Gooding.

So, what’s tomorrow? Another day. Another opportunity. Another benchmark. Another chance. Another answer. Another hope. Another blessing unseen today.

Reaching out for tomorrow’s promise can be discovered in fuel for the race.

“‘I the Lord God have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will strengthen thee…'” Isaiah 42:6a (Brenton Septuagint Translation)

Woke To Great Awakenings

“Won’t you look down upon me Jesus? You’ve got to help me make a stand…” (1970) “Fire And Rain” Written and Recorded By: James Taylor

Christian history is simply fascinating, to put it mildly. In fact, from Jesus, all the way down through the ions, the historical timeline of the Christian faith is like no other. You don’t have to look behind us too far to find extraordinary happenings of Jesus movements that can raise your hair.

Just since the birth of the American Colonies, the amazing milestones of the church, and its outreach, are well documented, but often tinkered with in a Google search or Wikipedia. For the authentic history, it’s best to rise above the “wokeness” of those with large erasers. Instead, do the research by hitting the old history books before the slanted rewrites began to manipulate factual, documented occurrences concerning Christianity in America.

Photo by David Gallie on Pexels.com

Trust me, there is way too much of church history to layout on this post. But I would be remise if I didn’t mention, “The Great Awakening”, and the “Second Great Awakening”. The facts of the faithful in the U.S., Canada, and Europe are astonishing. There are a few names that stick out to me who were used greatly to ignite a faith movement during their times.

George Whitefield (Often spelled, “Whitfield”) He lit a spiritual fire for decades all across Great Britain, and the American Colonies from the 1740’s-1770’s. Benjamin Franklin wrote of Whitfield’s magnetism by use of his voice delivery and the pulpit.

Charles G. Finney. From the 1820’s to the 1870’s, he was the match God used to start a flame known as the “Second Great Awakening”. His works and documents are outstanding. He set out to revive a spiritually sluggish nation, earning the title of “Father of Modern Revivalism”. Not unlike Whitfield, Finney travelled mainly by horseback, drawing crowds ready to stay a few days. Many of the throng would travel far and wide to be under his sermons.

Dwight L. Moody was a shoe salesman in Chicago. He was inspired by the evangelical giants before him like, Charles Finney and George Whitefield. He began small by starting a kid’s ministry and a street ministry that would later be called, “Sunday School”. His sermons of note, some printed and published, are still quoted by many pastors today…if they dare. From the 1850’s to the 1890’s, this salesman turned fiery preacher, aided in evangelizing both America and Great Britain. He also founded the highly successful Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, which continues to send out quality trained graduates into the world today.

Billy Sunday was a famous baseball player, turned evangelist. From the 1880’s to 1935, Billy Sunday became widely known as a camp-meeting revivalist, who would spend weeks at a time, preaching in communities all across America. The mother of an old friend of mine came to faith under the preaching of this incredible man.

And of course, Billy Graham who took the torch into our generation until his recent death, reaching more ears across the world than anyone in Christian history.

There are more I could list here, but the trail these evangelists blazed are like wagon train wheel tracks cut into stone. You can follow their tracks, their ripples to this day. If you should look up the Great Awakening movements, you will discover how after a community was lit ablaze by the daily preaching of some of these fire-starters, saloons would close down. Prostitution vanished. Gambling halls were boarded up. Gangsters were converted, or run out of town. Countless people came to realize their need for God’s forgiveness through the saving gift of Jesus. Homeless were fed and housed. Love expanded. Enemies became friends. Churches were built. Schools, orphanages and hospitals were funded and built. Imagine the change in a city like that. Imagine your community altered like that.

Just like in the book of Judges, where the spiritual life among Israel resembled a roller coaster. Up/down, up/down. The anti-God sentiment would rise to the point where everyone’s deeds were always right in their own evaluations. What was once known as “evil” became acceptable, even commonplace. What was once known as righteous was either suppressed, abandoned, or ignored all-together. God’s reply to the spiritually weak nation was to bring calamity, hardships, weather changes, droughts, war, violence, etc. The Israeli’s response was to repent, turn from their ways and acknowledge God, followed by the lifting of the curse with blessings and safety taking its place. Then, the nation would backslide into their wild ways again. This cycle continued for decades. It seemed like they would never learn the consequences of turning their national back to their God.

I am not a prophet. I do not claim to know the future, with the exception of what the scripture tells us. But, I can read the barometer of the nation in which I live. We are spiritually ill, at best. We watch the news and our jaws hit the floor on the outlandish signs of our days. If not for God’s amazing grace toward this culture, we would be finished already. At this point in our history, Sodom and Gomorrah are not too far from here.

Our nation, our world, has endured so much in recent years. So much in the way of manifestations of pure evil are abundant. I know, we don’t like to call it for what it is, but that’s because we belong in the book of Judges. The list is way too long to write here, but nevertheless, the list of our sins grow daily. Our nation is decaying as we play our violin from the balcony.

We call evil things something good and upright. We celebrate wickedness and glamorize it all. We cheer those who attack our children with sexual sins, that is if we don’t slaughter them in the womb first. Forgive me, but we parade and applaud the physical mutilation of our children in the name of choosing gender. We mourn for those who are saddened because certain pronouns are not used to describe an individual due to their gender alterations, gender wishful thinking, and normalizing the ideology. We invite our children to drag queen shows, as well as other drag queen events as tools for indoctrination. Pedophilia, bestiality, and goddess worship are becoming tolerable for many in our country, even in our courts. We have normalized self-worship as we gaze at ourselves on little screens and self-publish our images to the world on social media.

Photo by Vinicius Wiesehofer on Pexels.com

What are we doing? Where are we going?

We are accepting cultural sewage on our dinner plates everyday because the Woke minority demands we do it, like shepherds prodding sheep. At the same time, we run from the righteousness the Almighty defined for us long ago.

According to Roman and Greek history, not to mention many other geo-political lands, we are way past due for a collapse of our house of cards. God’s nature is HOLY. He has, and will not perpetually endure a rebellious nation which was founded by Him, and held up His banner for well over 200 years.

Yet…there is a modern remnant.

We saw “The Chosen”, a highly successful TV drama series surrounding Jesus and His followers, continue to spike in viewership worldwide. Promos began to run on the movie, “Jesus Revolution” (out now in theaters) depicting the Jesus People movement of the late 60’s and early 70’s, when a conservative pastor, Chuck Smith, (Played by Kelsey Grammer) dared to minister to the hippies of his day. He was trashed by many in the church at that time as sin-on-wheels, and discredited as a nothing burger. Chuck Smith was unjustly ridiculed by his own spiritual sisters and brothers, including some of the churches I grew up in. It was a God-breathed ground zero movement which still rings through our culture today. Coincidence? Take a step back and get the wide-angle lens out.

Suddenly, this nation pulled together a bit in praying for Damar Hamlin, the seriously injured NFL player who died during a tackle on national television. The very public prayers began on the field of play, spreading all across the stadium, and the country. Not long after, rattling of WWIII got louder, mysterious, unexplained UFO’s were shot down, China’s spy balloon allowed to cross our country, signs of the U.S. in sharp decline in so many areas, new COVID resurgence, record breaking drug overdose deaths, etc, Meanwhile, the Grammy Awards highlights Satanic scenes live on stage, vis Sam Smith, to rousing standing ovations and screams of adoration from the audience, all sponsored by Pfizer, your friendly COVID vaccine conglomerate. Again, ask…a coincidence?

Now we see another heavy public movement of faith. It seems spiritual blooms are bursting open.

Asbury University in Kentucky. An average, regularly scheduled service at the campus chapel, ignites into a 24/7 organic praise, prayer, and worship center where individuals came to grips concerning their need for God’s grace, their need for repentance, their need for prayer. The doors had to stay open due to the masses coming to the extraordinary spiritual awakening at ground zero. Before you could keep up, days and nights, nights and days went by. As the word grew, others began to flock to the chapel from outside the campus, the town, the state, and even the nation. Globally, people took flights from other countries to gather at the Asbury University Chapel. So organic, not organized or pre-sold, no event planner involved, the phenomenon lacked famous, well-known preachers or evangelistic experts. No multi-platinum recording artists were invited to boost crowds. Ticketmaster wasn’t needed, or called on. At last count, before the chapel marathon service was ended, over 50,000 people had attended. Just shocking!

Although the chapel location was closed after several non-stop days, the revival continues off-campus. Now many other revival events are popping up all over the nation at various college campuses.

Thousands and thousands from Generation Z are giving their hearts to God, praying, getting on their knees in humility, making decisions for this life and the next. What is more newsworthy, none of this movement is contained inside one denomination. This fresh spiritual breeze blows across denominational lines. That is an occurrence outside of human hands, manmade design. No need to ask who is playing at any of these gatherings. Currently, there is no rock star drawing crowds, no Billy Sunday, no TBN, only The Bright Morning Star, Jesus. The Event Planner is indeed, the Holy Spirit!

Truthfully, this nation is more than ripe for a Great Awakening.

If you are reading this as an unchurched person, one who isn’t into Jesus, or the Bible in general, try not to analyze this moment in history too much. In your position, the word, “Revival” may be foreign to you, or you may know it only as a description concerning a resurgence of retro music, entertainment, fashion, or structural design. Spiritual revival didn’t start at Asbury Chapel, it starts in the single, individual heart. I hope and pray the revival ignites this writer’s heart.

God said it in scripture, so we would know the formula. He promised if we move closer to Him, He would move closer to us. Our land needs to be healed.

Find out the difference between Woke and Awake, in fuel for the race.

“Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “Return to Me with all your heart, And with fasting, weeping, and mourning; And tear your heart and not merely your garments.” Now return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in mercy And relenting of catastrophe. ” Joel 2:12-13 (NAS)