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.

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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.

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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)

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Who Has The Key?

“The keys to the vaults of Heaven
May be buried somewhere in a prayer.
The keys to the vaults of Heaven
May be heavy or lighter than air.”
(1999) “Vaults Of Heaven”, From the musical, “Whistle Down The Wind” Composers: Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jim Steinman. Also recorded by: Tom Jones

It was June, 2021. I was in Buffalo, NY for my middle daughter’s wedding. Staying with me, for a couple of days in an Airbnb in the city, were four other loved ones. My oldest daughter, Tabitha, her daughter, Skylar, my youngest daughter, D’Anna, along with her fiancé, Nik.

It was in an older neighborhood, laced with quaint frame houses. We were treated to a nice understated two story home. The second floor housed regular leasing tenants, while the first floor was a nice Airbnb layout with a beautiful front sunroom deck in a cedar interior. Built like a rowhouse, it had three bedrooms, but just one bathroom in the hallway. (That was a bit of a squeeze for the five of us.) Nevertheless, it was a very charming place, and so suited to our needs for a wedding weekend. The only complaint I would have registered, if I were going to, would’ve been the fact that the owner gave us only one key. Yes, one key between the five of us. To make matters worse, we only had one rent-a-car at first. After the first few hours, Nik decided he would rent a car to ease the schedule. Smart kid.

As you can imagine, we all didn’t go to the same places, at the same time. Nik and D’Anna wanted to visit Niagara Falls just outside of Buffalo, while Tabitha and Skylar wanted to shop, and I, the old man, just wanted to relax in order to push away the jetlag. Also, I was going to sing at the reception and needed to find a time to rehearse with the band.

And if that wasn’t enough ingredients for a collective headache, the three girls were in the wedding party and needed to pick up their gowns, go to a bachelorette party, get dolled up for a rehearsal dinner, etc… There was a lot to cram into 2.5 days. In other words, we all had our schedules. Of course, this meant some of us were coming back to the house at different times for different reasons. Still, we only had one key. You can see the frustrating issue.

Wedding day had arrived. We were all so very busy with shower schedules, ironing of clothing, breakfast plans. Every inch of the large dinning table was made into a hair and make-up salon. Curling irons, as well as, blow-dryers were all over the place. It’s a wonder we didn’t blow a fuse.

The wedding was at noon, down on the banks of the Niagara, very close to the famous U.S./Canadian Peace Bridge. The drive there is about 15 minutes, or less. As you can expect, it was a very busy morning for us all. My daughter, and bride, Megan, had someone from the wedding party pick the girls up as they needed to be there early to assist in the bride’s prep. Nik took his rental not long after, leaving me with…the ONLY KEY. Yes, I was the last one out the door, as planned, and nervous as all get-out (as we say in Texas). Being the Father of the bride, I assumed the role would come with rattled nerves, and it certainly does.

About an hour before vow-time, I was carrying all that I needed for the event, including…the ONLY KEY. The front door was the type which had to be locked from the outside as you leave. So, after you shut the door, you locked it up tight with…the ONLY KEY. That’s what I did. Juggling a briefcase full of music, while carrying my jacket in the other arm, as well as, the rent-a-car keys in my right pants pocket, I quickly shoved…the ONLY KEY into my left pants pocket.

Over twelve hours later, after a wild music filled reception with dancing, food, toasts, and the greatest rock musicians in western NY, we five left in separately all with dreams of getting out of the wedding clothes and crashing hard at the Airbnb.

I arrived first with a full bladder while dragging my feet. Exhaustion doesn’t come close to the state I was in. It was very dark. I have Glaucoma. For me, darkness has a velvet blackness to it without a good light. Only a dim overhead porch lamp gave some glow on the door. That was just the beginning of trouble.

As I shuffled up to the steps, I reached into my left pants pocket and found nothing. The right pocket only had the rent-a-car keys. I checked my shirt pocket, my jacket pockets, my shoes, my briefcase, and did not find…the ONLY KEY! I literally sat down on the steps of the porch scratching my noggin in the dark. My brain had to work hard to do a rewind to the morning exit out of the house. Firstly, I reassured myself that I was indeed the last one out of the house that morning. I also reassured myself that no one asked me for the key after I arrived at the venue. Methodically, I went through the film in my head where I locked up, stuck the key in my left pants pocket while taking out the car keys from the right pocket and got in the car, which was parked across the street. Nothing made any sense. Why did I not have…the ONLY KEY?

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Nik showed up with Skylar. After telling them of my embarrassing situation, he suggested that we search the walkway, sidewalk, street, the curb, etc. Nik and Skylar began to scan the area after I mentioned how my vision can’t make out objects in darkened places. As we looked like fools on a scavenger hunt after midnight, I called the girls to warn them of the problem. They were on their way as someone was dropping them off. Tabitha asked Nik to go over the interior of my car with a fine tooth comb, with zero results. I don’t think the kids were too happy with me. We were all so tired.

As the girls arrived, I was on the phone with the owner, who lived some 30 miles away. Bless her heart, she was gracious, even at 12:40am on a Sunday morning. About an hour later, she rescued us with another key…the other key we should’ve had to start with, but I’ll move on.

After we were collapsing inside the house, Nik walked up to me holding…the ONLY KEY!

I blurted out in astonishment, “Where on earth did you find it?”

There was a mail slot next to the front door where mail was dropped into a mudroom where you take off your shoes before entering the front room. Just beneath the mail slot, as Nik was taking off his boots, he moved a pair of shoes already placed there and found…the ONLY KEY on the floor under the shoes.

Not only do I have Glaucoma, I also suffer from neuropathy, mainly targeting the shins and feet, but a bit in my fingers. I can only surmise, in my hastiness, my fingers didn’t feel the…ONLY KEY slip out of my grasp as I made the attempt to pocket the…ONLY KEY. Some very good Samaritan tenant, from the second floor, must have spotted it on the walkway, or the porch steps, and tossed it in the mail slot. I cannot tell you how relieved I was. It also saved us from a hefty fee for a lost key.

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Have you ever been there? You thought you had a key to such and such, or so in so, but when the keyhole was there, you lacked what it took to get on the other side of that door. I’m not thinking so much about a car door, a gate, or a storage unit, but rather moments of love, life, or longings. One might feel the lacking of the key of acceptance. Some of those airtight doors can be a frustration. If you’re like me, you can recall a few.

Maybe there have been times when a loved one passed away, and you sat in the memorial service watching the slide presentation of the once lively person enjoying their days from the past, and you wondered. It’s natural to wonder about, “what’s next”. The wisest question surrounds the time spelled out in the dashes on the obit with the dates of birth and death. How short is the dash between, let’s say, 1960 and 2023. “Joe Blow, 1971-2023”. The dash is most important. It’s there where we decide our eternity. There’s a reason why the dash is so short. Scripture states that life is just a vapor, a puff of smoke, a wispy cloud.

Why wonder? Why not “KNOW”? There is only one key, and you do not possess it. In fact, you never possessed it. Be a thinking person, not one who is blown around by the most popular thought of the day in a very darkened culture with severe spiritual Glaucoma.

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There is only One Who holds the key to your eternal door. “Knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s door” is a start. Look into it. Your dash is very short.

Spoiler alert: Jesus, the One Who holds the ONLY KEY, is also the only doorway. In fact, He has the master key to gain entrance to eternal life.

Know more about hearing the key lift the latch by diving headlong into fuel for the race.

“When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “’Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.'” – Revelation 1:17-18 (NAS)

Shake Me To Wake Me

‘…A-whole lot of shakin’ goin’ on.
Well we ain’t fakin’.
A-whole lot of shakin’ goin’ on.”
(1957) “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” Recorded by: Jerry Lee Lewis Composer: Dave “Curlee” Williams. Also credited: James Faye “Roy” Hall
.

I am no seismologist, just a casual observer of earthquakes. When, where, why, etc. A true student of this study must work diligently to keep up with all the tremors and quakes around the globe. Technology in seismology and geological surveying has come a long way in the last few decades. Even future epicenters can be calculated and located from pole to pole, as well as, projected severity. Unfortunately, we cannot prevent tectonic plates from shifting.

Tragedy struck Turkey and Syria recently with a 7.8 and 7.6 quake leaving widespread death, destruction, and devastated citizens from those nations. I dare not mention the body count here because of the rising numbers growing by each hour as rescue and recovery efforts continue. There is an estimate of dozens of thousands. As I write this line, the number has risen above 20,000 thus far. So heartbreaking. The hospitals, still standing, continue to see the massive number of injured being carried through their doors. Responders must work quickly with the freezing weather, not to mention the clock is the enemy. With each passing minute, the lives of trapped survivors throughout the region are fading away as I write this post. Needless to say, by the time you read this sentence, a throng of individuals, from infants to the elderly, have been added to the perished.

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This morning, I was watching the news update from Turkey at the site of a high-rise apartment building where rescue efforts are frantically toiling 24/7. In this case, where there was a multi-floor residency, there is only a heaping mound of concrete and steel. One volunteer was quickly interviewed. Through his tears, he described the scene. People, many of them children, are alive under tons of debris, texting and vocally crying out for recue. He went on to say, after catching his breath while sobbing, the responders are pleading for assistance due to not enough workers for the gargantuan job at hand.

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In the same news report, there came a moment when recue workers were able to reach a small boy, and unearthed a very young girl who were still alive under the debris. I was struck by the ignition of jubilation, the excitement, the sheer cheering from the hundreds who were witnessing the sight of the two babies being pulled from the mountain of rubble. The kids were being passed around as so many were hugging, kissing and holding the toddlers while screaming in celebration. Although now orphaned, the two children were brought out of the brink of a sad, slow death, into the light of life by selfless relief workers risking their own lives in the struggle. Honestly, the sound of roaring celebrations just exploded as if it were a hail Mary touchdown pass in a super bowl game. There were workers dancing, praying aloud, and falling on their knees as if all restraint had been vacuumed out of them.

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Quakes reaching 7.8 and 7.6 are considered enormous, and they are. Not many structures are able to stand intact. Only the richest nations, the most technological savvy countries, have the ability to construct earthquake ready structures designed by talented engineers. The truth is, so many third world nations sit on volatile fault lines as the clock ticks.

A few hours after the news broke from Turkey and Syria, my daughter, Megan, text me saying she and her husband were having breakfast when shaking, rattling and rolling interrupted their morning around 6:15. They are far from the epicenter in Turkey and Syria. They are in Buffalo, NY. The latest info I read gave it a 4.4, up from the first report of 3.8. It is being called the most severe earthquake in western NY in 40 years. Can we say the Buffalo quake is related to the Turkey and Syrian quakes? Only the seismologists will be able to tell us. One thing is for sure, for the layperson, earthquakes come usually without warning. They are sudden, impactful, and has the ability to kill, displace, or even leave lifelong psychological scars.

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At this time a multitude of international relief organizations are on site, or on their way with much needed aid. Samaritan’s Purse is one of the most reliable outreach ministries on the planet. I would highly recommend them if you are urged to donate to the efforts in Turkey and Syria.

I have never been in an earthquake…yet. The ground under my feet has never moved. The buildings around me have never swayed, crumbled to the ground, or cracked from the foundation. However, life has done that to me several times. How about you? You are minding your own business, soberly walking along your daily grind, when suddenly that phone call comes. There may even be a warning tremor letting you know you are on dangerous territory. At first you think pulling away from the epicenter of the trouble is wise, then with the shrugging of shoulders you forget about it and take that next step. Maybe your quake came in a conference room, with steaming coffee in hand and a bright outlook for the day, when suddenly, the floor comes out from beneath you as the pink slip comes. Many personal quakes come with a doctor’s diagnosis. You felt fine, not realizing there is an epicenter inside your body erupting, knocking you to a gurney, or even a funeral home. These epicenters can and will shake the sturdiest of people.

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Whether it’s a geological shifting of tectonic plates, or a personal unanticipated devastation , there is a Rock to grip that is higher than your strength, your emotions, your efforts, or your pet med of choice. After all, isn’t that what we need when a whole lot of shakin’ is goin’ on? Isn’t that what we want in life, to live on solid ground? Do we not want a sturdy, strong, steadfast stone to hold to in times of shifting sand?

Personal quakes often have served me well to wake me up with a good shake. Usually when the dust settles, a learning process has had its way.

Jesus told a parable (So we would get it.) surrounding a house built on sand and another built on stone. Just like the three little pigs, the house built on sand collapsed during unexpected unforgiving storms. The house built on stone survived well the battering winds. He is that Rock. Once dead, then raised to life by His own power. That is a Rock higher than I. Unlike the nearest epicenter, there is no fault in Him.

Locate your everlasting shelter in fuel for the race.

“From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For You have been a refuge for me, A tower of strength against the enemy. Let me dwell in Your tent forever; Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings.” – Psalm 61: 2-4 (NAS)

Lessons From Damar Hamlin

“There’s a love that’s divine,
And it’s yours and it’s mine,
Like the sun.
And at the end of the day,
We should give thanks and pray,
To the One, to the One.”
(1989) “Have I Told You Lately” Recorded and Written By: Van Morrison

On Monday night, January 2nd, several million eyes were on the screen watching Monday Night Football. It was the Buffalo Bills visiting the Cincinnati Bengals for a tough bout. Not far into the game, the Bill’s safety, 24 year old Damar Hamiln, wearing #3, made a picture perfect, clean tackle, stopping a Bengals advance for yardage. After the play, Damar stood to his feet, took a step back and collapsed. At first, most thought he just had the wind knocked out of him. As the medical team tended to him, it became apparent he no long was breathing. His heart had stopped. For nine minutes CPR was performed. As they feverishly worked his lifeless body, they were able to jump start his heart. He was taken to the hospital where he went into cardiac arrest once again. His mom was in the attendance and went with him to the hospital.

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Thousands in the stands were in shock. You could hear a pin drop as the fans were waiting and watching what was being played out before them. As the cameras panned over the crowd, many were in prayer for the young player. On the field, players and coaches knelt and prayed together. Some players humbly got on all fours with their faces to the turf as they cried out to God for their NFL brother. Many held hands, embraced one another, and on both teams many tears were openly shed. Across the nation, as the broadcast continued, prayers began to go up from living rooms, sports bars, and at places of employment. Later, it was reported that globally people stopped to pray during the tragedy over the airwaves.

It was decided, and rightly so, that the game was to be cancelled. Slowly the stands were emptied in a very eerie silence as the fans poured out into the parking lots. Some in shock, some emotionally distraught, some in silent prayer.

As Damar Hamlin was in a coma, while the medical staff urgently fought for his life in the hospital, the NFL, the coaches, along with the Bills and Bengals, urged the public to continue to pray as his life hung in the balance. Indeed, the prayers continued on through the week, even on the fields across the country the following NFL weekend forged by various team members openly praying together for healing for #3, Damar Hamlin. Prayer requests came from players and coaches combined in the press conferences.

As the days rolled forward, so did the prayers across the nation. On the third day, Hamlin opened his eyes. Each day, the doctors gave encouraging news about his recovery. He is expected to make a full recovery…from DEATH! As I write this, on January 10th, Damar has done so well that he was released from the Cincinnati hospital and flown to Buffalo General Hospital in Buffalo, NY for ongoing treatment. He is overwhelmed by the love and support he has received from all over the world. He is especially grateful for the outpouring of prayer, as he shared how he is a person of faith. He honored his mom for raising him to believe in God, and His ways.

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So what have we learned from Damar Hamlin in the aftermath of such a wonderous event in his life, one which was played out before the world?

The lesson didn’t really come from Damar himself. After all, the healthy 24 year old man literally died on the field of play before a global audience. Under the circumstances, he not only shouldn’t be alive today, but he seemingly has not suffered brain damage, significant heart damage, nerve damage, etc. According to the medical professionals tending to him, he is projected to someday soon, run out of the hospital doors. It leaves the thinking person to ask a simple question, which many will ignore.

Millions and millions should be asking, “What just happened here?”

It’s not the first time something miraculous happened. I can think of one very sick man who also had loving friends who cared for him. They cared so much that they tore open a hole in the roof of a house and lowered him down on a stretcher because the house was so full of people. Why go to such trouble? Because the Master of The Universe was just beneath that roof. Jesus had been healing the sick, raising the dead, giving sight to the blind right and left. The ill man’s friends had faith in the One under the roof. So, they went into action out of love for their friend, KNOWING Jesus had the power to heal his infirmities. In scripture it states that not only did Jesus remove the illness, but told him to take up his bed and walk away. In full strength, he did just that.

An executive, a vice president, of the NFL, remarked at the week of prayer for Hamlin in an interview, affirming that there is “power in prayer.” In tears he acknowledged that there is a God who hears our pleas, our cries, our hearts.

There is power in prayer, but moreover, there is power in the One receiving the petitions. If we had prayed to the Buffalo Bill’s medical doctor, he would have lacked the power beyond his medical training. If we had prayed to the sun, the wind, the referees, there would have been a funeral for the Hamlin family. If we had prayed to Hamlin himself, stretched out on the turf without life, the petitions would have bounced off his helmet. Prayer, sincere prayer, is an act of faith toward the One prayed to, the One Who has the power.

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In the earliest manuscripts of scripture, from Genesis onward, God commands us to pray. He even goes so far as to promise He not only will hear faith-filled prayer, but that he also will respond to the prayers offered in humility. Sure, some responses to prayer is the word, “No”. Some responses to prayer comes as, “I will. In My timing.” Sometimes, answers in the affirmative have happened before the prayer is finished. I can testify to that in my own life.

In the scope of God’s purposes, we need to look deeper at what just happened. Ask why this event was so public. Ask why this episode was broadcast around the earth on that designated Monday night. Ask why Hamlin’s miraculous progress has been front page news almost every day since it occurred. Yes, there is a deeper purpose here. I am not one to say what that purpose is, but I do know God promised He would make Himself known throughout the world in the ending of days.

Look around. The mouth of the naysayer was shut. No one is suing the television network, or the NFL, or the Bengals or Bills because prayer was so abundant and public, on a very visual broadcast. The very same people who have sued coaches and school districts over public prayer at sports events were nowhere to be found. I find that very odd.

Another lesson learned over Damar Hamlin’s death-to-life story is the love shown. The general public displayed its humanity. His charity, for impoverished children in his hometown, had only raised $2500.00 at the time of Hamlin’s health event. The last time I checked, it has reach almost 10 million dollars in donations in a matter of a few days. The well wishes continue to stream in. His teammates, as well as other NFL players and coaches, continue to show their love and support while he is in his hospital bed. The general public, whether football fans or not, have poured out concern and love toward this 24 year old who most never heard of before that Monday night game. This personal event for Damar Hamlin has turned many hearts. In fact, it displays a true heart in our culture, a heart we often do not see.

Most of all, we have witnessed something, not only remarkable, but downright awakening for many. There is a multitude of souls who have acknowledged their faith openly during this episode, and many for the first time. In the core of this nation, many are rediscovering their faith in God.

In a down-sliding culture where we are pushing our children to drag queen shows, we must stand up in the field in which we play and acknowledge God. While we see children killing children, and adults as well, we must grip our faith, hold it up and beg for God’s ear. As the love of many cools to a coldness, the people of faith must struggle through what is easy to do and love anyway.

I predict that Damar Hamlin will forever be changed in his spirit. He will grow in life to understand true love and brotherhood even more than what he once understood. I am hoping the rest of us can do the same.

Incorporating prayer in life can be had when being filled with fuel for the race.

“Come close to God and He will come close to you.” James 4:8a (NAS)

What Child Is This?

“I know there’s a place you walked
Where love falls from the trees.
My heart is like a broken cup
I only feel right on my knees.
I spit out like a sewer hole
Yet still receive your kiss
How can I measure up to anyone now
After such a love as this?
…Tell me who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
Because I really want to know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)” (1978) “Who Are You?” Recorded By: The Who Composed By: Pete Townsend

If you are new to this blog, you probably don’t know about past posts describing the fact that I never really knew my bio-dad until he walked into my life when I turned eighteen. It’s a really long story for another post.

My story isn’t that unusual at all. Many have the same sad set of affairs in early life concerning mysterious parentage of some sort. For me, he was there for the first couple of years of my life prior to a divorce. From that point on, my mom did all she could to erase him from my young memory.

By the time I was fifteen or so, I begged to find out more about my bio-dad, his name, his looks, his family. She had made some type of inward commitment to withhold all details about him. Little did I know a deal was struck during the divorce proceedings in 1962 where he would not pay child support as long as he stayed away from me. That deal was brokered by my granddad. He told the judge he would take responsibility.

All I had to go on was a vague memory of a tall, dark-curly headed man. For the first eighteen years of my life, I would see a man who fit that description and wondered if that could be him, or not. I must say, I found out his first and last name, but back in the 70’s, there wasn’t the advantages of the internet, or social media to do a search.

Photo: 1978. Jim Alford (my bio-dad) and me.

Little items concerning his flaws, came out over the years, just enough to try to keep my curiosity down to a low rumble. The low rumble could never be ignored due to the evidence that my bio-dad left behind. I vowed to find him after I turned 18.

No doubt, the itch of such unanswered questions concerning where you come from is very difficult to scratch.

The world over, from one end of the globe to the other, the same can be said about the inquiry of knowing God. Religions are based on it. Curriculum is developed in places of higher learning to discover and dissect the “God code”. Agnostics have chosen such a position mainly due to giving up on the attempt to find the Universal Designer. The Creator has left plenty of traces, along with hard cold evidence behind, of Who He is, and what He is about. Atheists just choose to ignore the search. Still, the search goes on for billions.

“Who are You? I really wanna know.”

Then comes Christmas, a holiday which refuses to be ignored. It’s a holiday that screams out the answer of finding God. There are factions in cultures to do what they can to divert the attention away from why there is a Christmas, but it remains, taking weeks at the end of each year to shine out the answer like a star atop the nearest Christmas tree.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

Christmas was a sharp turn in God’s historic timeline. For thousands of years, He left His evidences for the world to take note of. He even showed Himself in various manifestations and a standard to live by. Yet, when the “fulness in time” had arrived, He showed up…in flesh and bone. It would only be for a span of 33 years, but it was a life which shook the planet, and still does to this very day. The Christmas event was truly remarkable (Luke 2), but baby Jesus didn’t stay a baby.

One of His students, in John chapter 14, confronted Jesus about showing God The Father to them.

John 14: 7-9 (Berean Standard Bible)

7If you had known Me, you would know My Father as well. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.” 8 Philip said to Him,“Lord,show us the Father, and that will be enoughfor us.”9Jesus replied, “Philip, I have been with you all this time, and still you do not know Me? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?…

Wow! How strong is that? MERRY CHRISTMAS!

So, whenever wondering about WHO God is, or what He is about, or what He is like, look no further than Christmas as a beginning.

When Frosty melts away, and Rudolph’s nose fades away for another year, Christmas lives on day after day in fuel for the race.

“You have said that I am a King. For this I was born and for this I have come into the world: to testify of the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” – John 18:37 (Aramaic Bible Translation)

Tracking Christmas

“Sometimes I feel so low-down and disgusted.
Can’t help but wonder what’s happening to my companions.
Are they lost or are they found, have they counted the cost it’ll take to bring down?
All their earthly principles they’re gonna have to abandon ?
There’s slow, slow train coming up around the bend.”
(1979) “Slow Train” Recorded and Composed By: Bob Dylan

Since 1965, Northpark Center, (Northpark Mall) in Dallas, Texas, has been the zenith of the shopping experience. It’s located near the very posh, highbrow part of Dallas called, University Park, and Highland Park. Frankly, much of the the clientele frequenting the polished floors of Northpark Center tend to be decked out in Armani and Versace. Yet, there are many shoppers there dressed in casual jeans or khakis. After all, it’s a shopping haven for the students at nearby SMU. I know Northpark well as I once worked there for Florsheim and Wolfe Brother’s Clothing Department Store not long after high school. I met, and waited on, many celebrities while working in sales in that day, like Rita Moreno, Jimmy Dean, Tony Dorsett, Linda Gray, D.D. Lewis, local TV news anchors, and B.J. Thomas to name a few. You never know just who stroll the walkways of Northpark Center. As a side note, Rita Moreno was my favorite celebrity I had the honor of waiting on. She walked in alone, dressed in Capri pants with a pullover shirt, topped with a lite sweater tied around her shoulders, and enclosed flats on her feet. We spent about 20 minutes together as I placed the latest fashion in shoes on her dancing feet. She was very unassuming, humble, and very kind. Those were fun times for me.

On your way to Nordstrom’s, Neiman Marcus, or Abercrombie & Fitch, you might like to stop at the many artsy fountains and pools, art exhibits, or at this time of year, the singing Santa.

Photo: Northparkcenter.com

Northpark is not on my beaten path, so I don’t visit there very often. However, I did take my daughters there a few times when they were young just for the experience. During the holidays, it’s great to take the kids to see all that glitters inside the mall, complete with strolling carolers, giant Christmas trees, Gingerbread Christmas Town, or The Trains at Northpark. A terrific place for the best of Christmasing pleasure.

Photo: Northparkcenter.com

Season after season, sprawling out on the 2nd floor, just outside Neiman Marcus, the enchanted seasonal feature, The Trains at Northpark is a must see. A better title might be, Tracks Through Christmas Town is on display there, featuring miniature toy trains.

Photo: Northparkcenter.com

This display is so popular, one must purchase reserved tickets to get in for the wow factor adding to the holiday experience. (Proceeds go to The Ronald McDonald House.) It is the most elaborate miniature toy train exhibit in Texas.

It features over 600 trains rolling the tracks on a journey across the American landscape. Honestly, you walk in realizing how easily it is to be stunned by the size and detail of such a sight. Expect the tracks to run through mountains, city tunnels, bridges, around lakes and cutting through forests. There’s nothing like the aroma of fresh electric train oil wafting through the air, mixed with a touch of cinnamon and spices among the garlands and pinecones. Along the 1300 feet of miniature tracks, (yes, 1300 feet), are the the sights of small town Americana in full Christmas bloom with its miniature streets, buildings, cars, horse-drawn carriages, and people. Some of the figurines are dragging their freshly cut Christmas trees home through the snow. Others are wrapped up in their winter coats and hats as they carry shopping bags in front of display windows of the miniature shops. Someone is seen walking their dog on a leash in a snowy park. One of my favorites is a scene where families are gathered in a town square, decorating the community Christmas tree with lights and tinsel. If you look closely, you can spot patrons sitting at tables just inside the snowflake dusted windows of a small café with hot cider in their cups. It simply is marvelous to go in and get lost in a picturesque middle America. Just a perfect vision of joy and life in anticipation of the most celebrated holiday in the western world. Well, almost perfect.

Photo: Northparkcenter.com The Trains at Northpark, where eveyone becomes a child.

It’s funny how such an exhibit of this nature attracts the eyes, ears, and nose. After a few minutes you realize you have focused so much on the intricate art details of this miniature Christmas world that you forget the demographics around you doing the very same thing. Suddenly, the wealthy elegant Highland Park woman next to you isn’t noticing she is in the company of someone in a Texas Ranger’s jersey, sweatpants with tennis shoes from Walmart. (That was me.) Suddenly, I haven’t noticed the man in front of me who looks like a high profile upscale attorney, clothed in a Bill Blass suit and tie. Commonality does its magic, doesn’t it? However, one man stuck out at me the last time I was there so many years ago.

Gazing at the miniature exhibit of small town America, with electric trains running alongside the depots, was someone who didn’t fit the average Northpark visitor. This individual stuck out as someone who didn’t belong in such an exclusive location. He was a bit disheveled, maybe in his 60’s, in need of a shave, wearing a worn thin denim shirt and ragged jeans with the knees blown-out. His face was weathered like a man who was acquainted with the outdoors, and a rather faded cloth baseball cap, in need of washing, pushed back away from his wrinkled forehead. To be blunt, he looked as if he might have been a homeless man who wondered in from the street. He seemed fixated on a certain scene in the Christmas train display. Awkwardly, with a grin on his face, leaning over a bit, with his hands on his knees to brace himself, he was seemingly in awe. As other visitors at the exhibit continued to walk around him, he stayed put with a sense of fascination radiating from his body language.

As he caught my attention, I began to visually search for the item that seemed to intrigue him so much. As I got closer to him, I could see where he was focusing his eyes. It was a well-dressed family of four, complete with a little boy and girl, their mom, and a dad with a Christmas wreath hanging from the crook of his elbow. They were standing beside the tracks, just on the backside of the depot, watching for the incoming train. The little boy had a paper bag full of roasted chestnuts. The little girl had a doll in her arms and a cup of hot chocolate in her hand. Mom had four tickets in her gloved hand. Frozen in time, waiting for a train which very well might have transported them to another small town where their grandparents resided. Just like the rest of the town around them, everything looked happy, joyful, lit up, and…well, perfect.

I had my daughters with me, and wasn’t feeling really secure about meeting the man, not knowing his condition. I have always been very protective over my girls, maybe too much at times. Thoughts of drunken speech coming from him, or profanity, or who knows what echoed in my head. He didn’t look like he was in the right place, and I can only imagine where he went after he left Northpark. Life experience has taught me to be aware of your surroundings, even when you believe you are in a safe place. Nonetheless, I avoided communication. We, as did everyone else, walked around the man. My girls never noticed him. Part of me felt like a snooty snob, just the kind I often laughed at while observing Northpark’s finest clientele parading along in their latest outfits from Lord & Taylor. There was some shame I felt, especially after we left the mall that day. Whether right, or wrong, I did what I thought best for my children at the moment. Still, I wanted to speak with the mysterious man.

The odd man had a story, an untold story I would never know. The tale of his life may not have been encouraging to hear, or for him to speak. From what I could see from his outward appearance, poverty was familiar. Yet, whatever struck him, as he was fixed on the miniature scenes from the display, he saw something of value, something of note, somehow, someway.

When I think back to that moment of learning, I wondered if it was the difference he was attached to while accessing the scenes of small-town Christmas. Difference, as in what was projected in the exhibit, and the reality of his existence on the streets of the real world. What he seemed to enjoy, leaning over the miniature Christmas scenes with toy trains clicking down their tracks, was a true picture of…perfection. The world the art exhibitors created lacked carjackers, homeless people, shoplifters, the lonely, the rioting in the streets, property damage, violet outbursts, and road rage. Lacking were the sour joy-suckers carrying signs spewing profanity concerning Christmas revelers, and how racist Christmas is…somehow. The citizens represented in the miniature towns were employed, well-dressed, and very happy. Festivities were in the air, and seemingly common in each little town. Absent was the one or two nativity scene protesters in the town square.

Could it be, just maybe, that in his visit there, he experienced something joyful from his past? Maybe, before a devastating layoff, he had been a happy railroad conductor punching holes in the tickets of his passengers. Possibly there was a recognizable scene involving his childhood days before an angry world had its way with him? Could it be so, that just for a few minutes, he was able to escape the harshness of his life as he entered a make-believe world where all was well, all was festive, all was promising?

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

If I had been alone, I would like to think I would’ve spoken with him, maybe even invite him to Northpark’s Churchill’s Pub for gourmet coffee. In my heart, I would imagine he would tell me his story, and somehow I would find a way within his telling where I could mention how the world was broken on that first Christmas Day. Suppose my response to his reveal spotlighted the fact that Bethlehem was not pristine, joyful, and festive, without trouble and care. Reality details how it was a dusty, madhouse of a tiny village of shepherds, homelessness, and scores of the family of the line of King David who had been forced to be there to be counted for a trying census. There was political decent, detachment and debate. No doubt, there were those spewing curses about Rome, Herod, taxes, and tax collectors. There were trampling filthy sheep all over the place. It was a stinky little village to visit. Violence and robbery were common in the surrounding areas. It was not what you see on the average Christmas card.

In my imagination, I can see where he might have been a bit surprised to hear the truth about the first day Jesus had to endure. Because what the man saw in the Northpark exhibit was scenery of a Bedford Falls existence all the way down the tracks. Perfection came to our imperfect world where the ripple effect continues to this very day, even when life can take you down the wrong track.

But what’s the harm, as he soaked-in the image of miniature figurines without cares, loving their perfect surroundings in their tiny unflawed towns by the tracks? Maybe, just for a few minutes, he felt safe and warm, somehow joining the lives and loves of those joyful plastic citizens.

It is my hope that I would have told him that the baby in Bethlehem’s manger would be trained as a carpenter, one who had the talent to build things, maybe even playthings like, miniature buildings, horses, and people. Christ’s true nature is to perform demolition on the stoney heart, rebuilding a heart that is pliable, a heart that He can call completely His. No need to fantasize over a fake Christmas town where you will never fit in.

A slow train is coming to a depot near you, indeed. It’s showcased in fuel for the race.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.” – Jesus – Matthew 5:14-15 (NIV)

Over The River And Through The Woods

“But I would walk 500 miles,
And I would walk 500 more,
Just to be the man walks a thousand miles,
To fall down at your door”
(1988) “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” Recorded By: The Proclaimers Composers: Craig and Charlie Reid

Ella: No! We are staying here for Thanksgiving!

Orville: But, Mama! I miss her!

Ella: Not another word about it, young man! They’ll have their Thanksgiving, and we’ll have ours, right here! Now, go wash up before I blister your bottom!.

That’s how I project the row between my Great-Uncle Orville, and his mom, Ella, my Great Grandmother Swindell. I knew them both as older people, and I figured if I were to write a script based on the bout they had, that would be about the size of it. One thing is for sure…it was loud.

Because no one is living who was there, and the next generation can no longer recall, I have to piece together what took place. Hang in here with me. I will tell you the facts as I know them.

It would’ve been Thanksgiving week of 1938. My grandmother, Opal and her little brother, Orville, were best friends. Although he was about five years her junior, they were tight all through their growing up years, and beyond.

Photo: 1930 Opal and Orville

The Swindell’s had been living in and around the Wolfe City, and Greenville, Texas area. Opal and Orville were the only children born to Ella and Claude. Claude was a true Jack-Of-All-Trades, but the family spent much of their days as sharecroppers. Because of the nature of a sharecropper life, there were times the family lived on the road, out of the back of a truck, unless the crops just happen to be situated near their actual house. At some point, an opportunity arose in the Ft Worth area and off they went to live where the work was.

Back in the Wolfe City, Texas area, the move didn’t sit well with my granddad, Martin Atherton, who was Opal’s one and only boyfriend in school. The distance was too far for the young lovers, and there was only one telephone located in a general store, and THAT was what we once referred to as long distance. ($$$) The young couple made the decision to get married as a solution to the heartbreaking problem. So, they hitched-up, July of 1938.

Photos: (Top) 1938. My grandmother in her wedding dress. (Bottom) My grandparents in a photo booth, around 1937.

But, poor Orville was feeling lost in a new town without his big sister. Yet, Greenville, Texas, where the newlyweds resided, was about 80 miles away as the crow flies.

Fast forward to November of ’38, when 12 year old Orville petitioned his folks to travel to Greenville to have Thanksgiving with Opal and her husband. After all, he missed his sis terribly, and never had a holiday without her. Here I must say that I don’t know just what the issue was. It very well could’ve been the Swindell’s wallet was still thin from the recent move, or Orville’s dad couldn’t take off from whatever job he landed at the time. Either way, the answer was, “No”.

Before I move on to the meat of this event, let me warn you that Orville was a real pistol. They called him, “Whistle” due to the thick fabric of his overalls making a chaffing sound between his legs because he was always running from here to there. He was a bit on the hyperactive side, although that’s not what they called it back then. He was also a tough kid. He loved sneaking upon unsuspecting cows and horses in order to jump on their backs for a ride. It didn’t always go so well. He enjoyed leaping off the roofs of houses and barns which often didn’t go so well. One day, while hunting, he tackled a very unhappy dog out in the woods, brought him home to keep him as a pet, fighting him all the way. When he arrived to show his parents, Orville was scratched and bitten all over, still holding the growling, restless ornery dog in an armlock. “Look Mama! He’s my new pal!” Ella was beside herself, and furious. Standing there in her kitchen was her bloody son holding a very disgruntled…coyote! That too, didn’t go so well.

Later in the night, after the disappointing news concerning Thanksgiving in Ft Worth, he couldn’t sleep much as his mind was going in circles on how he could relieve his rebellious itch. After a while, he figured out a plan.

Early the next morning, still steaming from the argument with his mom, he slowly, covertly got out of bed, quietly leaving the house, then grabbed his bicycle and headed east for Greenville in the predawn hours.

Keep in mind, this was before the interstates and tollways. Which part of Ft Worth is unknown, but it was much smaller in the 1930’s than the metropolis it is today. I am unclear the route he took, but I assume it was the same route he was familiar with from the move earlier in the year. I imagine this would be small state highways, farm-to-market roads, etc. Much of the county roads back in those days were not paved. Today, directions from Greenville to Ft Worth takes you on interstates and the George Bush Tollway, about a 90 mile jaunt. Google tells me an athletic cyclist could figure an 8 hour ride. However, Orville’s bike would not have had the luxury of multiple gears. The 12 year old boy would have travelled through some small towns, on dirt roads, and one lane state highways. Looking at the old routes, cutting across what is now the northern suburbs of Dallas, I believe his trip would have been around 80+ miles, taking approximately 9-10 hours, given the journey and the old bicycle.

Imagine the shock on Opal’s face when her worn out little brother comes coasting up to her front door. From what I was told as a kid, he was hungry, exhausted, and cold.

According to my Uncle Orville’s story, he made the trip without stopping. However, knowing what a card he was, that could be a stretch of his actual experience. In fact, I have wondered if some poor trucker saw him and offered him a lift, saving him a few miles. But, only God really knows. I do know my granddad and grandmother drove him back to Ft Worth themselves.

My mind also wonders about the thrashing he might have received when he finally made it back to Ft Worth. I am sure Ella and Claude were fit to be tied.

Later, Orville’s bent pulled him into the cowboy world. He lived his life breaking horses for a living, and keeping up a ranch of his own. The rodeo circuit was also part of his life for many years. He broke dozens of bones in the process. It didn’t always go so well. I don’t believe I ever saw him not wearing cowboy boots. His perpetual youth always amazed me, even in his elderly years. He was funny, witty, always smiling and laughing. . One Thanksgiving at my grandparents house back in the early 70’s, while watching the Dallas cowboys play a nail-biter of a game, just as they squeaked out a win, he jumped off the couch, dove head-first over the coffee table, ending in a standing position after somersaulting across the living room floor yelling a cheer all the way. He was in his upper 40’s at the time. Yep, that was my Uncle Orville.

If someone were to ask me what I loved most about the man, it would be how much he adored his big sister, Opal, my grandmother. Everyone did.

Photo: (2006) Orville “Whistle” Swindell and his sis, Opal Atherton.

Uncle “Whistle” Orville Swindell went on another lengthy journey just about five years ago for his heavenly home. With all certainty, I know my grandmother was waiting for him at the gates. I can only imagine the reunion.

With the Christmas season coming up, I couldn’t help but think of someone else who left his secure home to travel a great distance to be with the ones He loved. A king, leaving a throne where He was praised, worshipped, and adored continually. He left it all for a tough, rugged, humble existence here on our turf. Jesus so loved us that much to make the trip so that we might make the choice to be with him where He is today.

Most believe the final journey isn’t all that far. Check out the map in fuel for the race.

“In My Father’s house are many dwelling places. If it were not so, I would have told you, because I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and I will take you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also.” – John 14:3-4 (Amplified Bible)

Choosing…A Powerful Act

“Let freedom ring.
May the love of freedom always ring.
It has brought us this far.
It proclaims who we are.
And together we sing, let freedom ring
.” – “Let Freedom Ring” Recorded By: Barry Manilow

We, the American public, stand on rather solid, large shoulders. On America’s Election Day, we remember.

“We do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate” – Thomas Jefferson

“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” – Plato

“Someone struggled for your right to vote. Use it.” – Susan B. Anthony

“The ballot is stronger than the bullet.” – Abraham Lincoln

“The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.” – JFK

“The future of this republic is in the hands of the American voter.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Our political leaders will know our priorities only if we tell them, again and again, and if those priorities begin to show up in the polls.” – Peggy Noonan

 “We stand at Armageddon, and we battle for the Lord.” – Theodore Roosevelt

“(It is) indispensably necessary to save our country from ruin.… I give my assent to the Constitution in full confidence .” – John Handcock

“There are elections in which everyone knows that ‘the people have spoken’ but they don’t always know exactly what the people have said. This November’s election was different. Not only did the people speak, they spoke clearly.” – Kay Baily Hutchison

I write this on the Saturday prior to America’s midterm Election Day, 2022. Obviously, not knowing the election results at this time, I am confident that the citizens of this nation will rise up and speak their will at the polls. No doubt, there will be some run-offs, and ballot counting controversies, as well as, some states (those who allow such struggles and drama) unable to tally all the returns in a 24 hour block of time. In the end, we can pray all projections will be fair, without fraud, and timely.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

No matter the party affiliation, or whims of political debate, most Americans want what they feel is the best for the country during the days at the ballot box. If I were to mention a hue of caution, it would be my hope in relying on this great nation to vote from the heart, and not the talking heads. With the swirl of lies spewed out from various political players (starting at the very top), the media, and the candidates themselves, one can certainly drown in misinformation, or tunnel vision. Misinformation was the original trap in Eden, and tunnel vision is very much what snaps the trap over the neck of the mouse.

We have seen the polls showing the list of concerns the nation faces in this election cycle. Topping the list tends to be, economics, crime, public school curriculum, immigration (border control). It’s shocking to me to find some other residual topics ranking top of mind for some before personal financial, or physical survival. A great example would be to choose homelessness, or whether or not one can afford sufficient food and fuel for themselves, or their families, over late term abortion rights from Washington vs the voting decision of each individual state. To me, this reeks of not having a clear view of national neglect, allowing America to sink into a weak, needy nation.

The founding fathers were very clear on this point. In order for a people to have rights, the people must have a majority electoral system where the people choose for themselves collectively. Election Day is for the will of the people, not the few, or the selected, the elite, or the loudest. The puppet masters, holding their strings, who sit in their ivory towers can only watch and weep. WE THE PEOPLE rule here!

Election is not a new thing. In a mysterious fashion, God Himself elects His own. Volumes have been written about this unexplainable phenomenon in which only The Great I AM fully understands, but for now, we can only acknowledge that it is true, alongside freewill. The billions who have come to faith in Jesus can only be humbled by the thought that they were chosen before the foundation of the world. Again, it’s a complex truth coming directly from God’s infinite mind and heart. We know this because it was placed in scripture so we would get a taste of His love for fallen humanity. Still, “Whosoever will may come” is written in red.

Choosing is a very powerful act, indeed.

It is a bold statement of truth to say if one does not vote, that one has surrendered. And that’s not America.

Come and find your name on God’s ballot in fuel for the race.

“You did not chose Me, but I chose you and appointed you, that you should go and you should bear fruit, and your fruit should remain, so that whatever you might ask the Father in My name, He may give you. “ – Jesus – John 15:16 (Berean Literal Bible)

Missing

“…I’m lost without your love.
Life without you isn’t worth the trouble of.
And I’m as helpless as a ship without a wheel.
A touch without a feel.
I can’t believe it’s real.
But someday soon I’ll wake,
And find my heart won’t have to break.”
(1976) “Lost Without Your Love” Recorded By: Bread Composer: David Gates

“LOST”…Webster’s Dictionary breaks the definition down in all its various forms. One of which is, “Not made use of.” Another usage, “No longer possessed.” Yet another description, “Taken away, or beyond reach, or unattainable.”

Have you ever felt that way? Let’s present it in another camera angle. Have you ever known a loss?

It was excruciating. The year was 1982, when Tickey, the beloved dog I grew up with, escaped my mom’s apartment while she was at work. He was almost 15 years old at the time. I was married, living across town from where my mom lived. Unfortunately, a neglectful maintenance man entered the apartment unannounced, and Tickey saw his opportunity to dash out the door for a great adventure. He had no idea the dangers he would face while outside of my mom’s protection and shelter.

Photo: Tickey at a year old, may of 1968. Part dachshund/corgi.

Hours and hours passed before my mom came home from work to discover our little pal was gone. I was working during the day as well, chained to the office. I felt so hopeless and helpless to search for him. He was gone for several days. I spent the early mornings and evenings combing the streets and alleys calling out his name in hopes he would hear me and come running. Lots of fear, and loads of falling tears. Of course, I admit to watching for a little lifeless body along our busy streets.

My mom and I both had contacted the local pound with Tickey’s description on a daily basis. Their answer was always the same. “Sorry, you can always call us tomorrow to see if we’ve caught him.” An old friend, who lived in another section of the apartments, told us she had seen a little dog resembling Tickey, dodging cars as he crossed one of the busy streets nearby. Even that episode was a couple of days prior.

A friend of mine at work told me I should spend my lunch hour driving to the city pound and look at the dogs behind bars. After I had mentioned how we call each day, she told me to ignore it and go look for myself. Feeling depressed and a bit defeated, I didn’t go to the pound until after work that day. I drove up to a parking space in the parking lot of the pound and noticed their fenced-in communal dog-run was just about 15 feet from the parking space. The pound was closed already, and the sun was rapidly going down in the west. But there, among 7-10 dogs looking in my direction, was a little brown dog with his pointy ears standing straight up like a rabbit. I could hardly believe my eyes. Getting out of the car, I ran toward the fence thinking it would be too good to be true, only to find Tickey standing on his hind legs, stretching out his little front legs as high as he could get them, as if wanting me to reach through the chain-link fence and pick him up. He licked my fingers through the steel mesh and cried with a sad whine. My words of comfort didn’t seem to sooth his little heart, but I told him I would be back first thing in the morning right after the pound opened its doors. Walking away in a sense of victory, he barked at me over and over again. If I had a set of major wire cutters, I might have done the deed. It broke my heart. Crying gobs of tears, I left to find the nearest phone booth.

The next morning I was overjoyed, yet furious. As it turned out, the pound had him in doggy jail for several days, and would have put him down within a couple of days later. Someone either lied to us on the phone all those days, or they honestly didn’t care enough to do some dog inventory. When I had to bail him out, I realized the longer they had him, the more money they deposited. I was outraged. But, wow. The reunion was fabulous. We hugged, licked and drooled, hugged, licked and and drooled some more. (He licked and drooled, not me.) What a joy to have my old pal back in my arms of safety and love. I will never forget it.

Photo: Tickey, safe back home. I had a hard time letting go of him.

I was reminded of that chapter in my life when a friend of mine posted the picture below on her Facebook page.

Photo: Facebook. Her dog was stolen. After quitting her job, and following several leads, she recovered him. This was the moment they reunited.

Look at her face. She is overcome in a swell of joy and inexpressible relief. The dog also seems beside himself to be back in his mom’s arms again after being away in the unknown. Amazing, isn’t it? She loved him so much that she quit her job to free up the clock and personal energy to search for him. Risking her own provisions, future, and income to find her dearly beloved pal, it paid off. Unsure if she was able to get her job back or not, I know she was rewarded by her diligent work in searching for her stolen buddy. Another happy ending.

This isn’t the first time a story like this has been told. Someone who greatly understood this kindred love described a shepherd who loved so expressly, that he left his job to seek out a single lost sheep. He left a flock of 99 sheep, went out into the unknown, the dark unfamiliar areas, in hopes of finding his lost one. No doubt he called out to the little lamb many times, maybe through the night, through storms, and through rugged terrain. When he did find him, he rejoiced bigtime, held him, and carried him back to the flock where he belonged, where the food, water, and safety resided.

Jesus understood the life of a good, responsible shepherd of his day. He gave this parable in order for us to identify with God’s longing to protect, serve, and nurture, not just a flock of 100, but a single one who strayed from the care of the shepherd.

About 30 years ago, during my radio days, a kind, loyal listener sketched this precious scene, from an original piece of art, depicting the moment the good shepherd found his lost little lamb. If you compare this sketch with the photo of the lady who found her dog, you can see they are very similar in response of the heart.

Photo: Artist, Carmen Appleby

I know what it is to be lost. Full transparency here. I have felt the anxiety, the emptiness of not having a clue of where I was during a horrible blinding lake effect Western New York blizzard while driving through an Indian reservation deep in the night. A night without street lights or signs, encased in frozen fog, along with zero visibility by horizontal blowing sheets of snow, is a desperate place to find yourself. With that said, it is much like times in my life when I was morally lost, spiritually lost, and emotionally lost. When the compass is invisible, it is a very lonely place. The only remedy is guidance by someone who seeks the lost who can direct the way back to where one needs to be.

Today, our world is very, very lost. It doesn’t take long for a generation to lose its way, running after self inflicted ideologies, diving deeper into depravity, and false promises. Utopia is always promised, but it never delivers. Self-serving stab wounds will eventually cause death, along with scars which will never be erased. Gone are the thoughts of returning to a righteous way, a lit path, a road of stability and safety, not to mention true love. Instead, today we call evil good, and good evil. We see bitterness and call it sweet, and sweet whatever is bitter. Our society, our culture is so far removed from where we were just a few years ago.

Still, no matter how far off the narrow road of righteousness, there is a shepherd who seeks to save, one who searches for the lost among the ledges of the thicket. This is one who leaves his comfort zone, his familiar surroundings, his job, to locate the small one who has no clue they are lost, or even stolen, and what most would believe is, beyond unattainability.

The long, loving arms of a rescuer is found only in fuel for the race.

“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” – Jesus – Found in Matthew 18:12-14 (ESV)

Have You Ever?

“Yesterday, and days before,
Sun is cold and rain is hard.
I know, been that way for all my time.
‘Til forever, on it goes,
Through the circle, fast and slow,
I know, it can’t stop, I wonder.

I wanna know, have you ever seen the rain?
I wanna know, have you ever seen the rain?
Coming down on a sunny day.”
(1971) “Have You Ever Seen The Rain?” Recorded By: Creedence Clearwater Revival. Composer: John Fogerty

Too many today may mistake the title for a series of evangelistic tent meetings with sweaty preachers yelling sinners into heaven. For old folks like me, the name, Creedence Clearwater Revival are four California lads who wound up in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

John Fogerty, along with his brother, Tom, were two talented guys who formed a band in 1959. The name of their band changed a couple of times until in 1967 when they arrived at the title, Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Photo: Pitchfork – Creedence Clearwater Revival

CCR made great artistic strides in the rock arena of their day, even being one of the first bands booked for Woodstock in 1969. They, and their peers, saw the birth of what was once called, “Progressive Country”, or “Young Country”, or “Southern Rock”, as most understand the term. It had a gritty, southern style, usually with a southern drawl delivery in the vocals, yet holding to the east and west rock roots. The Eagles were very much in that lane. Their decades of success tells the story of their hard work along with endurance on the road and in the studio. Although the zenith of CCR’s success came in 1969-1970, classic rock stations tend to see CCR as a staple to the format. To date, they have sold well over 30 million records. Even though the group disbanded in 1972, in 1976, they released a greatest hits album, which is still in Billboard’s Top 200 charts, and has been awarded 10x platinum album sales. Very few old bands, who broke up long ago, can brag about numbers echoing in the rafters like that in radio and records.

One of my favorites from CCR is entitled, “Have You Ever Seen The Rain?” You may remember it well. Stirring lyrics, even a bit blue in nature. The writer, John Fogerty, brings out some honest feelings, feelings that burp-up questions which most of us either speak of verbally, or at least groan silently within ourselves. After the song is over, you are left scratching your noggin with more questions. If a lyric could have a scratch-n-sniff element to it, this is it.

“I wanna know, have you ever seen the rain coming down on a sunny day?”

The line rings a great, giant bell inside one’s own mind. Sure, especially in the southern states of America, atmospheric conditions tend to collide at times where sunrays rain down as the precipitation falls simultaneously. Often growing up someone would see such a thing and say, “The devil is beating his wife”. However, the line written pierces through with a deeper meaning than weather conditions.

Photo by Pok Rie on Pexels.com

Allow me to delve just a tad.

During the late 60’s and early 70’s, CCR rolled out some huge hits. They had been playing together, trying to become rich and famous for 10-12 years, and finally it happened. They were at their peak. Sold out concert halls, smashing record sales expectations, and making outlandish bank deposits to the point of having to hire financial management teams to do the bookkeeping. Life for the four rockers was good. They had all they ever wanted, and then some. There were mansions, and cars to buy. It was nothing to purchase diamond jewelry as a quick treat while on the road. Songwriting, publishing sales, and performances couldn’t get much better. With such victorious earnings, along with all the benefits that goes with it, a band could party all day until they had to climb up on stage to work. Happiness had arrived..at last. Or, did it?

However, what most didn’t know was the bickering between bandmates, then among management admins, and longings for solo work. After awhile, the fighting among the members was too much for Tom Fogerty. The same year of the release of “Have You Ever Seen The Rain?”, Tom made his exit out of CCR. The corrosion of fighting over artistic differences, business issues, and disagreements concerning songwriting opportunities, ebbed to their brink. The current undertow took the band down river, ending in a shocking end in 1972. After much discussion, CCR disbanded.

At some point, a manager, or agent must have shouted out, “Why ruin a good thing?” After all, they had received everything they ever wanted, to be a successful band, wading in fame and wealth.

Photo: The New Yorker – Creedence Clearwater Revival

In a sobering moment, John wrote the lyric to one of their greatest hits.

For years many believed the meaning had something to do with the failure of the “Peace and Love Generation” of the 1960’s, and social justice marches, etc. If you sit in a field full of daisies while puffing on a bong, surely peace and universal love will come. Right? Apparently not. The rain still falls even while the sun shines down. However, John Fogerty made an admission in recent years in his solo concerts about the lyrics, and the misconception of its meaning.

The band grew tired of the fame and wealth NOT bringing the element of satisfaction along with the happiness promised. It seems The Rolling Stones were accurate. You can’t get no satisfaction, no matter how hard you try. CCR found it out at the very peak of their music career. While swirling in the atmosphere of partying day and night, while taking in more money than they could spend, the happiness never showed up. After the smoke had cleared, and the groupies had left the hotel rooms, and the limos were parked, the guys in the group were left empty day after day, night after night. The conversation behind closed doors consisted of the bewilderment of the vacuum of joy as it was sucked out of their personal lives. Frustration entered in as the artistic brains began to want more than what had been received. Surely “more” would bring that ever eluding element of happiness. One wanted to write more songs, more writing credits on the album covers. Another wanted more of the cut from the shared pie. One wanted more time off. It’s what can rip marriages apart. I…I…I, me…me…me.

So, Fogerty wrote this lyric about the irony, along with the sadness, of a highly successful band dragging around the globe without happiness, joy, and a sense of satisfaction.

“I wanna know, have you ever seen the rain…coming down on a sunny day?”

Ancient scripture teaches that whoever prides himself/herself as better, or dominate, he/she will be forgotten in the long run. In fact, the scrolls tell us that true success is giving one’s self away, not adding onto self. Jesus said that if you want to be great, be a servant. If you want to be first, be last. Building a house on shifting sand is a recipe for structural failure. The rains will come, even when the sunrays shine down. Pride’s fall is a great fall.

In my own admission, I have been at several pinnacles in life where I never thought the rains would fall on my sunny parade, and yet they did. In the end, standing on a rock, an immovable rock, is the most solid place to be when the rains fall and floods your space.

Have you ever seen it yourself? There’s great examples in fuel for the race.

“From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” – Psalms 61:2 (NAS)