Rumination XXXVII – An Eighteen-Year-Old Sermon

While searching for something else, I stumbled upon a sermon I was privileged to share with my church family 18 years ago this month. I share it here because I still believe everything I said back then. God is good! The Rambling Texan

A Perfect Boy
A Sermon Delivered to the Pleasant Valley Church on June 13, 1999

On January 15, 1999, God blessed our family with our 3rd child, a baby boy, Robert Riley McClanahan. He came into this world at 8:02 AM that Friday, weighing 9 pounds. Riley was perfect in every way. He was absolutely beautiful. He wiggled and squirmed and cried like newborn babies are supposed to do.

For the next two weeks, Riley continued in his perfection. He was a settled baby, seldom crying except when he needed something. We set up a nursery and dug out all of the baby toys that we had stashed away in the attic. It had been two years since we had had an infant in the house, but we were getting used to it again.

On January 29th, Michelle and I planned an evening out and left Kylie and Kathleen with a sitter. Riley went with us so that Michelle could feed him when he got hungry. After we finished our meal, we took Riley to the van and as I placed his infant carrier in the vehicle, he began to scream. He screamed so much that I took him out of the carrier and gave him to his Mother. She changed his diaper and got him settled again.

We drove to St. Vincent Doctors Hospital to visit Eddie and Paula Shields who had just had their son Carter. Michelle went up first, while I sat in the van with Riley. While she was gone, Riley threw up and started to choke. I got up from the driver’s seat and took Riley from his carrier. Thinking that he was choking, I turned him on his belly over my knee and patted his back to make sure that anything in his airway would come out. He settled down on my knee and seemed OK.

When Michelle returned to the van, I told her that Riley had really scared me and that I thought he had been choking. She took him off my knee and when she did, he arched as far back as he could and his eyes rolled back in his head. She called out to him, but he was quite unresponsive. Being a nurse and a Mother, she knew something wasn’t right and told me to drive to Children’s Hospital.

The five-minute drive to ACH seemed like an eternity, but Riley settled down again on his Mother’s knee. We got to the emergency room entrance at Children’s and I stopped to let Michelle out with Riley. She took a good long look at him and asked me if we were trying to make a problem out of what had happened. We were unsure so she told me to drive on, park the van and then we would decide what to do.

We parked behind the hospital and got out a flashlight so that Michelle could see him better. After opening his pajamas and seeing his color, she immediately left the van and headed for the ER. I followed her there and while she saw the nurse, I took care of the administrative paperwork. By the time that I got back to the nurse’s cubicle, they had decided that Riley needed to go on into the ER.

In the ER, things were very slow and the doctor was able to see Riley immediately. They began to run through possible causes for Riley’s actions and while they did, a social worker took us back to a family room. Once we sat down, our heads began to spin. What happened? Did we do something to cause this? Should we have noticed the problem sooner?

In what seemed like split second, our lives had been changed. Our perfect baby was in trouble. We made a couple of phone calls – to my sister and to Tamara Bellcock – both of whom came immediately. By the time that we got back to the ER, the doctors had ruled out a number of possibilities, but had found blood in Riley’s spinal fluid. They were making plans for a CT scan to see if something had happened to his brain.

The CT scan showed massive amounts of blood in the ventricles in Riley’s brain. The blood itself and the pressure that it caused within his head were causing him to have seizures. His situation was now extremely serious.

The next thing we knew, we were talking to a neurosurgery resident who told us that Riley would die if they did not perform a procedure to install an extra-ventricular drain or EVD. The purpose of the EVD was to allow the pressure within his head to escape and the blood to drain out. We now had to decide whether or not to allow the surgeon to puncture a hole in the top of Riley’s head and work a tube down into his brain.

In three hours time, we went from having a perfect baby to having one that would die shortly if this procedure were not done. Our quiet evening out had turned into a parent’s worst nightmare. We were beginning to understand that our lives were going to be different forever.

The last time that I saw Riley before the procedure, they were moving him up to the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) on a gurney. He looked very disturbed and was bicycling – moving his arms and legs in a circular fashion reminiscent of the movement one makes while bicycling. They moved him into the unit and Michelle and I were escorted to the PICU nurse’s lounge to wait.

We sat down again and the questions came back. Will he live? Will he die? Will he ever be the same again? Why did this happen? Why can’t they just fix it? There were tears and there was nervous laughter. The soul searching had begun.

What we did not know was that God was already prompting His family to action. He had already moved those who knew what was going on to make some phone calls. Those phone calls resulted in other phone calls. Within a very short time, a large part of our church family became aware of the Riley’s situation. Prayers were already being offered on Riley’s behalf.

The procedure to install the EVD was a success, but the neurosurgeon cautioned us that Riley’s condition was still extremely serious and that he might not make it through the night. Through her connections, Tamara Bellcock – soon to become known as Sergeant Bellcock because of her exquisite logistical skills – had arranged for the surgery waiting room to be opened to make room for our family and friends. No sooner had we settled into the waiting room than members of our church family started coming out of the woodwork – literally. Every time that I looked up, someone else was coming to be with us. No one knew what to say, but everyone knew what to do – hug our necks, cry with us, tell jokes to make us laugh and pray with us.

By the time that things settled down, there were 30 or so people who gave up a night’s rest at home with their families to come to the hospital to be with us. These folks came for the sole purpose of sharing our trouble with us and they would have stayed the entire night had we not sent them home. Never in my lifetime had I experienced anything so terrible and so frightening as what was happening to Riley. Yet never in my life had I experienced anything so wonderful as the outpouring of love from God’s family.

By God’s grace, Riley made it through that first night. We woke up the next day hoping against all odds that the entire ordeal had been a dream. But when the mists of sleep had worn off, the facts remained – our son was in PICU at Children’s dealing with the effects of a massive hemorrhage in his brain. We knew little about his current condition and absolutely nothing about what the future would bring.

But an amazing thing had happened. Michelle and I, though stressed out beyond what words can express, had an inexplicable calmness within us. I took us longer than it should have to remember what the apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” We were experiencing the results of one of God’s promises. It was comforting to know that whatever happened, whether Riley came through this episode with no lasting effects or if God called Riley home to be with Him, everything would be OK.

Yet, one of the questions that kept coming back to our minds was “Why? Why did this have to happen?” I doubt that I will ever know the reason that God allowed this to happen to my son, but God blessed me by allowing me to see a portion of His purpose from the outset. God has used what happened to Riley to bring about revival – revival in my heart, revival in my family and revival in His church.

The most powerful effect of this whole event on me personally came as an answer to a prayer from my own heart. On the Friday that Riley went into the ER at Children’s, I had had lunch with Mike Ireland. During our time together, I told Mike that I was tired of church. Not tired of Christianity or tired of being a disciple of Jesus, but tired of church. I was tired of church politics and all of the silly things that we find to argue about. I was tired of going through the motions. There had to be something more to following Jesus than “church”.

When I saw Mike at the hospital later that night, I realized that God had provided an answer to my prayers and frustrations. He allowed a life-shattering event such as this to take place and used it to show me what His church is all about – showing His love to the world. They say that you should always be careful about what you pray for, because you just might get it. God answered my prayer, but in a way that I could never imagine and would never have chosen. But the blessings began there and continue today.

I could tell story after story, from my own experiences or shared with me by friends and family, about how God has used Riley’s situation to touch people. But time will not permit me to go on. So perhaps I’ll write a book, where I can devote as much time as needed to address them all.

For now, let me leave you with two more lessons that we learned.

In Matthew 6, Jesus said, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” We quickly discovered that we had absolutely no control over anything that was going on. As a result, we had no choice but to turn everything over to God – He alone was in control. At first that was a scary thought – not being in control. Yet when we fell off the tightrope, we never hit the ground, because God was there to catch us in His hands. And it is there that He has kept us since that day.

Another lesson came from the many prayers that were offered. James 5 says: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” Many righteous people offered thousands of prayers on Riley’s behalf and we began immediately to see the effects. Again and again we prayed for Riley and again and again God answered. Some answers came immediately, some took days or weeks and some answers were “Wait a while”. But God answered prayers again and again.

I’ll never forget the indentations that our knees made in the carpet in the chapel at Children’s hospital. It was there that our prayer warriors met time and again to go before the Father. And we felt His presence and His power when we prayed. I pray that none of us will forget those experiences.

In closing, I’m reminded of what John wrote in chapter 13 of his gospel: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” I have learned that the Lord has many disciples in this place, because they have show His love to me.

Closing Thoughts

One of the many ways that God has blessed me throughout this situation is with a tangible reminder of His love and power. Every time that I look at Riley, I’m reminded that he is here because of God’s care. This doesn’t make Riley any different from anyone else in this room – we’re all here because of God’s love for us. But Riley has served as a powerful reminder for me that God is alive and He is in control. God has taught me that if I’ll trust Him, he will lead me through anything. I pray that none of us will soon forget the lessons that he has taught us through Riley’s situation.

It’s important to me that everyone know that this evening has not been about Riley. Instead, it’s about what God has done for people in our church family, like Linda Jones, Amanda Wright and others.

I’d also like to say “Thank You” to all of you who have been with us through the past several months. You have lifted us up and taken care of our every need. You have laughed with us, cried with us and prayed with us. You have cleaned our house, brought us meals, watched our children and run our errands. You have prayed for Riley and our family. Your children have stopped me to let me know that they pray for Riley every night. The debt of gratitude that my family owes all of you is more than we could ever repay. And we know that all of you have done these things not for us, but to bring honor and glory to God.

In just a minute, Keck is going to lead us in another song and then John Carroll will offer one last prayer. But before that happens, I’d like to ask all of those who have been through this with us and those who have been touched or moved by what God has done for our church family to join us down front here. I’d like for us to join hands and sing the song that Mike has picked out for us and then go to God in prayer as John leads us.

Robert McClanahan

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Rumination XXXVI – Why Humans Communicate and What Happens When They Don’t 

(Note to the Reader: The Rambling Texan apologizes in advance that this post lacks his usual snarkiness, and that it has a title that borders on academia. Both were necessary to convey the importance of the subject matter. Until next time. RT) 

Throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to sit through a good number of supervisory training sessions. Most were quite average and have long since faded from memory. However, one of them still stands out after many, many years. 

Back in the ‘80s, a fellow by the name of Jack Yeager came in from our national organization and taught a session on interpersonal communication. As it turned out, he was a graduate of my college alma mater and we studied under some of the same professors. Maybe that helped this particular session stick with me. But most likely it was because Jack was a natural communicator and approached the topic in a way that was completely unexpected. 

A Unique Perspective on Communication  

Jack started with this fundamental thesis:  

Humans communicate with each other to reduce uncertainty.

The workshop attendees immediately pushed back at that suggestion, but Jack challenged us to toss out various forms of interpersonal communication. We came up with interactions such as: an argument between spouses, a parent disciplining a child, an interaction between a shopper and a sales clerk, a supervisor doing a performance appraisal with a subordinate, or two friends catching up after a long separation. 

Jack fielded each one with precision and helped us see that all of them had their roots in reducing uncertainty. Now, there’s no way that I could do justice to his explanations, so I won’t even try. But I will try to share some of what I learned from listening to them.  

After he persuaded us to give his thesis a hearing, he went on to expound upon it and its converse.  

The Converse: The Absence of Communication  

So, if you are willing to accept that we humans communicate to reduce uncertainty, then here are some things that logically flow from the absence of communication: 

  • In the absence of communication, uncertainty increases. 
  • When uncertainty increases, people become uneasy and mistrusting.  
  • Uncertainty from the absence of communication creates an information vacuum, and just as nature abhors an actual vacuum, humans abhor an information vacuum. 
  • To fill such a vacuum, people will begin to manufacture information, giving rise to the grapevine and the rumor mill. 
  • When humans manufacture information, it invariably involves worst-case scenarios, leading to conspiracy theories, false judgments and trust issues.  
  • Before long, the initial uncertainty can grow into a full-blown crisis.

An Example

Jack shared a personal story that helped us grasp what he was talking about and highlighted our human propensity to fill the unknown with the worst possible scenarios. 

At that time, he had a young son. Each night they would read stories at bedtime and all was right with the world. That is, all was good until Jack turned off the light.  

Once the light was off, his son became scared that there was a monster under his bed. Jack would turn the light back on and show him that there was no monster under the bed. Yet when the light was off again, the son again became scared at what was under the bed. Jack told us that his son didn’t THINK that a monster might be under his bed, he KNEW that a monster was down there because he couldn’t see to convince himself otherwise. 

Sound familiar? Ever have a child with similar fears? Ever seen employees in your workplace respond similarly? 

How to Prevent Such Problems  

So, how do you prevent problems like this? Communicate

How do you stifle the grapevine and the rumor mill? Communicate

How do you stop conspiracy theories and suspected hidden agendas? Communicate

How do you begin to restore lost trust? Communicate

Now, what I’ve shared from a workshop I attended thirty years ago might not be enough to completely persuade you to accept Jack Yeager’s thesis. But I will tell you that I’ve observed and experienced enough positive and negative human interaction since that workshop to know that it’s a pretty accurate assessment, especially in the negative sense.  

Nothing suppresses the rumor mill like regular, candid, transparent communication. 

Nothing is more effective at maintaining trust than open and honest communication. 

Nothing takes the heat off a contentious issue like the leadership of an organization stepping up and talking about the “elephant in the room”.  

On the flip side, nothing increases uncertainty and feeds a crisis better than continuing to keep silent during a difficult period.  

Last Words 

So, with apologies to a Jack Yeager, I’ll summarize everything he taught us thirty years ago: 

To avoid crises of trust or credibility or morale, communicate early and often and openly.

I hope this helps you as much in your personal relationships (at home, at school, at work, at church, and everywhere else) as it’s helped me over the past thirty years. 

And lastly, thanks to Jack Yeager for sharing this so many years ago! 

Best to All,

The Rambling Texan 

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Rumination XXXV – The Other Side of Stuttering 

In the last post, the RT surprised the heck out of some folks by saying that he’s really an introvert on the inside, driven largely in part by his life as a stutterer. Difficulties in verbal communication make it difficult for someone to become involved in the casual conversations that are part of everyday life. And such was the case for the RT.

So how did the RT become an extrovert, or perhaps more accurately, an ambivert?

Well, there are several factors and the RT will give you the skinny on each one below.

An Overall Maturing

A good part of the transition from introvert to ambivert comes from the inevitable maturing that comes with age (at least for most of us). Maturity allows us to accept our “warts” and other limitations, and go on with life. Rather than being down in the dumps about what we can’t do, we gradually learn to focus on that which we can do.

And believe it or not, the less we stutterers focus on our stuttering, the less of an issue it becomes. Not that it goes away completely, but it gets easier to deal with over time (at least it did for the RT).

Encouragement At Gunpoint

Another factor that helped the RT overcome a large part of his fear of stuttering was the “encouragement” that he received from others. This was often the result of being “voluntold” to participate in some public event.

The RT’s father, known to many as Double R, voluntold him to read scripture in church when the RT was 13 years old. This was quite possibly the most terrifying moment in the RT’s journey toward ambiversion. Reading from the King James Bible (often difficult for fluent people) in front of several hundred people was definitely akin to getting thrown into the deep end of the pool. And, remember from the previous post that reading a written passage of anything is difficult for a stutterer because you can’t substitute words.

Then, at about age 14, Double R voluntold the RT to lead singing at one Sunday night at church. Remember that stutterers can sing flawlessly, but that didn’t make it easier to announce “turn to number forty four” (these last two words are sheer terror for the RT). But after leading singing for 40 years or so, at least there is no longer any embarrassment.

Other such “encouragement” from folks along the way was equally fun and “helpful”. Therapists who had the RT make asinine phone calls just to make him use the phone didn’t help. They just made the RT mad. Yes, I’m talking to you, Janet whatever your name was, my speech therapist in college. I liked you, except for this torture.

But as the old adage says: “continual dripping wears away a stone.” Not sure exactly how that relates here, but it seemed appropriate. Seriously, the thinking of those therapists was that if you keep doing it, it will become easier. And that is true to a great extent. Except phones. The RT hates phones.

Becoming An Expert

As mentioned in the last post, stutterers are driven to excel in some area other than verbal communication. For some it is writing – a wonderful escape from the challenges of stuttering (hence the RT’s penchant for blogging). For others it is their profession. Or maybe one of the arts: music, painting, dance or some other medium.

Regardless of what the outlet is, a stutterer will drive himself/herself to excel and become an expert in some field.

When that happened for the RT, he realized that the expertise that he had developed gave him something important to communicate. He took baby steps at first, talking for a few minutes in a meeting of colleagues. Then volunteering to present on a particular topic at a workshop of peers. Ultimately, this grew into regularly presenting at national conferences of hundreds of people.

It all sprang from a sincere desire to share with others the things that he had learned. And much to his surprise, people came to his presentations, lectures, speeches, or whatever, in spite of the fact that he regularly stuttered and stammered through them. And they came back multiple times … willingly. It gradually dawned on the RT that folks were willing to listen to him, regardless of the circumstances.

The RT now teaches a large adult bible class each week and doesn’t think at all about stuttering, though it happens every week. And the class members keep coming back. Maybe it’s the donuts.

What God Made

The single biggest factor in the RT’s journey to ambiversion or a level of comfort with stuttering was this realization: God don’t make no junk

(Don’t start analyzing the double negatives in that statement or you’ll miss the point.)

The RT was forty-something when it dawned on him (or was, perhaps, revealed to him) that God made everything in the universe exactly the way He wanted it to be, either by directly creating it a certain way, or by allowing the natural order to work to its end (an indirect work of God, since he set the natural order in order).

That means that the RT’s stuttering isn’t an accident or a curse. It was either God’s direct will or the result of the natural order. Either way, it was God’s work and God’s work is never a mistake. Instead, it is always the working of His plan for His purposes.

So, following that line of reasoning, the fact that the RT is a stutterer is no accident. Instead it is the result of God’s providence. Now that will really make one stop and think.

About that same time, the RT was reading the story of God’s calling Moses (for the fiftieth or so time). That’s when the RT noticed something he hadn’t before.

The story begins in Exodus 3, where God appears to Moses in the burning bush, and tells him that he is to go to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to let Israel go. Moses was not excited by that once in a lifetime opportunity and began to give God the reasons that he wasn’t qualified: he didn’t know God’s name (God told him: “I AM”), the Israelites wouldn’t believe that God really sent him (God gave him signs to perform: his staff became a serpent, then back to a staff, his hand became leprous, then back to normal), and finally, that he didn’t speak well.

He didn’t speak well? This intrigued the RT.

This is what Moses said: “Then Moses said to the LORD, ‘Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.’” (Exodus 4:10)

Now, Moses is always on the list of famous stutterers that speech therapists share with their clients to make them feel better (bet you didn’t know that there was such a list, or that Moses was on it). James Earl Jones is also on that list (bet you didn’t know that either; can you imagine Darth Vader as a stutterer?). The RT never made the list, at least that he knows of.

So the RT knew that Moses was considered (at least by some) to be a stutterer, but had never given it much thought. After all, Moses was a famous prophet and man of God, and obviously had superpowers of some kind. He would therefore be immune to the feelings of inadequacy that stutterers feel.

But here was Moses trying to wriggle out of God’s calling, at least partially on the account of his inability to speak clearly. That was a new twist for the RT. Sounds like something the RT would do when presented with a situation where he would have to speak in an uncomfortable setting.

But it was God’s response to Moses that really set the RT back: “The LORD said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say.’” (Exodus 4:11)

Let me give you the Rambling Texan’s Paraphrase of this section of Exodus:

Moses: “Lord, I’m a stutter and my mouth doesn’t always work.

God: “Moses, don’t you think I know that?

God reminded Moses that He made man’s mouth, and more specific to this situation, Moses’ mouth. He was fully aware of Moses’ flaws and weaknesses when He called him to do the job. But call him He did.

So, if God made Moses mouth, and knew that it didn’t always work well, yet still called him to be a leader among His people, then is it possible that God knew the same about the RT’s mouth and still called him to fill certain roles in His plan?

The RT thinks that the answer is “Yes”.

In 2 Corinthians 14:7, the Apostle Paul speaks of his “thorn in the flesh”, then goes on in verse 8 to say: “Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’”

We’re not certain what Paul’s “thorn” was, but we do know from the passage above that Paul asked three times for it to be taken away. Yet, God’s answer was “No”? Why? Short answer: a weak Paul working with the power of God was much more effective in His plan than a strong Paul trying to do things on his own.

The same is true of Moses. God wanted to work through an imperfect vessel so that it would be obvious that it was His power working, rather than Moses’.

The Bottom Line

So here’s the bottom line: if the RT appears to have any ability, insight or expertise, it ain’t because the RT is something special. it’s the result of God’s power working through him. And the stuttering is there to remind us both of that fact.

So here’s the bottom line of all of this stuttering, introvert/extrovert/ambivert discussion: it’s a wonderful thing to be an instrument in the hands of Almighty God. It may have taken fifty-something years for the RT to get there, but he got there.

Best, The Rambling Texan

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Rumination XXXIV – My Life as a Stutterer

A recent Facebook post about introverts caused the RT to wax reflective about events in his own life that have led him to become somewhat introverted.

Now, that idea may come as a surprise to those who know the RT personally, given that he is often loud, ebullient and obnoxious. The Pigskin Preacher opined that he might possibly be an “ambivert”, a term coined by author Susan Cain to describe those who operate in both the introvert and extrovert realms.

So what might have led the RT to become an introvert (or ambivert) in the first place? Well, let me clue you in on something:

I am a stutterer.

Many of you already knew that, but it’s somewhat liberating to actually write those words. And thanks to many of you for pretending not to notice over the years. Because I’ve been pretending that if I tried hard enough, you wouldn’t be able to tell.

But, in spite of all my attempts to hide it or run away from it, I’ve stuttered all my life. In fact, I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t. I probably stuttered when crying as a baby.

My mother was a stutterer, as well. She always wondered if stuttering was something she accidentally taught me. Or if there was some hereditary, anatomical defect that caused it. I’m pretty sure that neither is the case. I think it just happened.

These days, I manage my stuttering rather well, but this was not always the case. As a child there were times when I almost couldn’t speak.

The Curse of the Stutterer

You can’t possibly know what it’s like without experiencing it, but here are a few things that might help you understand:

  • Imagine not knowing if your next word or syllable or consonant/vowel sound will come out at all, or if you’ll get stuck on that syllable, bouncing on it over and over, unable to move forward.
  • Imagine the humiliation you feel that this occurs at all, but when that humiliation is amplified by laughter and jeers from classmates and others in the classroom, on the playground, or elsewhere.
  • Imagine trying to express a thought, or tell a joke, or answer a question, or ask a favor, or order a hamburger, never knowing how long it would take to get the words out. Or if they would come out at all.
  • Imagine feeling constant anxiety about what you are trying to say, always thinking three or four words ahead to see if a troublesome word or consonant/vowel sound is coming up (for the RT the worst one is the “f” sound), then scrambling to find another way to express the thought or reword the sentence and avoid that obstacle. And doing that in real-time for every word in every conversation, all the while trying to maintain some appearance of intelligence.
  • Imagine the fear that comes when the teacher tells the class that we’ll be reading the next chapter aloud, with each student reading a paragraph. Then the frantic counting ahead to see which chapter you’ll be reading, and scanning it for troublesome letters, sounds and words. Followed by the panic of finding the “worst of the worst” combination somewhere in that paragraph. And, by the way, the second-by-second exchange of troublesome words for easier words described above can’t be used when the words are set in black and white on the page. The anxiety builds as you wait for the teacher to call your name to read. You have no idea what any of the preceding paragraphs were about because you have been solely focused on the embarrassment that’s about to come when the laughs and snickers start.
  • Imagine the dread you feel when you know that you have to give an oral report in class tomorrow, and that it doesn’t matter how well it’s written or how informative it is, you’ll stumble and bumble and stutter your way through it, providing some of your classmates with an excellent opportunity to make fun of you.
  • Imagine the frustration of wanting to participate in a conversation or discussion, but being hesitant to for fear of being laughed at. Or simply afraid that you’ll be a burden to others by forcing them to listen to you.
  • Imagine the anxiety of meeting new people, having to stutter through your own name, all the time worrying about how big of an idiot you must appear to be to them. And when you finally make your way through, you realize that you can’t remember their name because you were so focused on just getting your own name out without appearing to be a blubbering idiot.
  • Imagine the fear of having to make a phone call to someone you don’t know and can’t see, then trying to express a thought to them, all the while worrying about what kind of gestures and pantomiming ridicule might be occurring on their end.
  • Imagine going to the bank to conduct some business, which involves you stating your social security number, which includes a “4” (remember that the “f” sound is the worst of the worst for the RT), and spending what feels like five minutes going “ffffffffffffff”, before finally placing your forehead on the branch manager’s desk in shame. I should have asked for a piece of paper and written it down, but try maintaining that presence of mind when you are making a fool out of yourself in public.

As I mentioned above, while you may sympathize with those feelings, there’s no way to truly understand them until you’ve lived them.

Some Universal Truths About Stutterers

To help you further understand our nature, here are a few things you’ll probably find to be true of most stutterers:

  1. We are universally shy. You would be, too, if you never knew what was going to happen when you opened your mouth. We’ll duck into a bathroom or head the other direction down a hallway to avoid a conversation. When we do get cornered into a conversation, don’t expect a whole lot of involvement from us. It’s just not in our DNA.
  2. We are very self-conscious. As you’ve probably realized by reading this far, we are faced every day with the awkwardness of people around us as we (try to) speak. We are always watching to see how you will react to our inability to communicate effectively. Your body language is every bit as powerful (and painful) as your laughter or chuckle. As a result, we are hyper-sensitive about how we come across and will go to great lengths in an attempt to hide our stuttering.
  3. We have very large vocabularies. You’ll develop a big one out of necessity when you have to figure out a half-dozen ways to express every possible thought, trying to find one you can actually get out.
  4. We’re driven to prove ourselves. We go to great lengths to prove ourselves in one or more areas to show that we’re not total idiots. For some, it’s academics, for others, music, or sports, or art. We feel compelled to excel in some area to make up for our inadequacies in verbal communication. This is one reason I love to write. It’s an opportunity to show you that I actually can communicate effectively.
  5. We can sing flawlessly. Don’t ask us to explain why we can sing words we can’t speak; it’s just that way. It’s probably the rhythm, the cadence, and the poetry all mixed together that somehow resonates inside and relaxes us. For those of you old enough to remember country singer Mel Tillis, take note that he may have become famous by turning it into a schtick, but his stuttering was real.
  6. We despise telephones. It’s bad enough stuttering in front of someone, but stuttering at someone you can’t see is terrifying. (One of my speech therapists from years ago told me the story of an elderly Vietnamese man who came to the US in the exodus from Vietnam in the mid-to-late ‘70s. He had stuttered all of his life. Having lived in rural Vietnam, he had never seen a telephone. But when he came to America and learned what one was, he immediately refused to use it.)

Sum all of this up and what do you have? People who tend to be introverts, afraid of most social interactions.

The RT as a Stutterer

I can’t speak for every stutterer, but here are a few things I want you to know specifically about me.

  1. If I seem distant, or quiet, or even aloof, it’s not because I don’t like you. It’s more likely that I’m having a particularly difficult time with my speech (like many things, it ebbs and flows) and am hesitant to say much – at least until I’m more comfortable being around you.
  2. Please don’t be offended if I don’t remember your name the next time I see you. I was far too anxious about getting mine out with some semblance of fluency when we met to focus on capturing yours.
  3. Don’t be surprised if you leave a voicemail for me and receive a text or an e-mail in return. It’s not intended to be rude or dismissive. It’s my way of expressing my thoughts to you in a clear and fluent manner. Remember that on the phone, I’m not only stuttering to you, but to all of those who are nearby. Writing my thoughts allows me to focus on what I’m trying to communicate, not worrying about how it will or won’t come out.
  4. It’s much easier for me to take a call from you (though I will try to avoid it, if at all possible), than for me to make one to you. When you call me, it’s obvious that you want to speak to me. When I call you, I may be interrupting something, or you may not be all that crazy about speaking to me. Again, this is one reason why you will likely receive a text or an e-mail from me, rather than a phone call.

Final Thoughts (at least for Part I)

The experiences detailed above may lead you to think that the RT’s life has been a living hell and that he is forever scarred emotionally. Both may be true in some small degree. There have been days that were truly awful. And there is a fair amount of internal baggage that the RT carries around from years of dealing with this issue.

However, there is hope and there is blessing in what may appear as solely a disabling characteristic. More on that next time.

Best, The Rambling Texan

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The Rambling Texan’s Coastal Maine Travel Guide

(This post departs from the RT’s normal series of Ruminations for something extremely practical.)

(Please note that this post has been updated to correct an egregious error in the chemical notation below, pointed out by the RT’s daughter.)

Introduction

Let’s say that one day you wake up and say to yourself: “I’d like to go to Maine.”

Whoa, now! You can’t just wake up one day and go to Maine. You have to make plans and travel arrangements and find a place to stay and book tours and find places to eat and buy trinkets. You may ask: “How can I ever plan a delightful Maine getaway if I’ve never been there?” That right there says that you can do this. You’re already asking the right questions. And with the RT’s handy Coastal Maine Travel Guide, you’re already halfway there.

So hang tight and let the RT lead the way.

So Where is Maine?

Maine is located way up yonder in the Northeast, where Yankees come from. It’s officially known as the “Pine Tree State”, though from experience, I can tell you that it could equally be described as the “Let Me Cut In Front Of You State” and “Let Me Show You ALL Of My Tattoos State”.

It’s situated between where those French Canadians live (that’d be Canada for all you folks down South) and Massachusetts, otherwise known as “The Kennedy State”. Now, if the US was a running coyote, Maine would be its head. For what it’s worth, Texas would be the hindquarters and Florida would be the front legs. Now, coyotes don’t have much of one, but in this analogy, California would be its big ol’ rear end. Bet you’ll never look at a US map the same way ever again.

Travel Arrangements

It’s important that you book your trip to Maine on American Airlines through Philadelphia. That way, American Eagle (operated by Wisconsin Air) can get you to your destination three hours late due to a mechanical issue with your aircraft. This will be an issue so trivial that it impacts only the auxiliary power unit (APU), which simply provides power and cooling for the aircraft after it leaves the gate. A properly functioning APU would keep your aircraft from reaching 9000 degrees on the inside, but since yours won’t work, you’ll be able to cleanse your pores and sweat off a few pounds while you wait.

And, if you’re lucky, American may have a “mechanical” on your return trip, as well, causing you a delay of six and a half hours getting home. And your bags could have as much of an adventure as you do, possibly even taking a completely different route to your home airport.

Fine Dining

Upon arrival in Portland, Maine (otherwise known as “Portland East” in Merle Haggard’s smash country hit “Roll On Big Mama” from the mid ‘70s) in the late hours of the evening, you’ll discover that the only restaurant open is Denny’s and your traveling companion will balk at the thought of eating there. This will leave you with very limited options for exquisite dining.

You may choose the splendid option of stopping at McDonald’s in Freeport, Maine, home of the LL Bean flagship store and a host of other trendy “shopping outlets”, even one that makes ladies’ purses out of old worn out sailboat sails.

At said McDonald’s, you’ll discover that it sells lobster (or more accurately “lobstah”) rolls. Yep, there’s a picture of one right there on the menu in the drive-through, compete with a red lobster claw on top. Now, I have no idea if the claw is included, or if there is an extra charge for it. All I know is that a piece of the exoskeleton of a saltwater crustacean is what the RT looks for in a good sandwich. Bon appetit!

Astronomy and Other Stuff

After another hour or so, you’ll arrive at your condo in East Boothbay. You will be quite amazed to see something we don’t see much of in the summer in the South … stars. Yes, those flaming balls of gas that fill our universe. (Actually, they’re not flaming, as in burning – it’s a thermonuclear reaction, where four hydrogen atoms fuse to form two helium atoms, releasing a tremendous amount of energy in the process, but we’ll save further discussion of nuclear fusion for a future post.) The Southern atmosphere is too thick with humidity and mosquitos during the summer to see anything other than the sun by day and the moon by night.

The RT actually saw the Milky Way immediately after stepping out of the car, something he hadn’t seen since his college days.

Summer Temperatures

If you were lucky enough to find a place to stay near the water, you might wander down to the pier for a few minutes. Then you’ll want to find a chair near the edge, by the water and …

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh …

(Sorry. Zoned out there for a minute.)

You might suddenly realize that the temperature is in the mid-70s with a 20-knot breeze – AND IT’S AUGUST! Which is only slightly different than the 100-degree actual/115 “feels like” temperature you left at home.

But one day, it might reach 80 away from the water and the locals will tell you that it’s “hot” or a “skachah”. Pshaw! I’m happy when the overnight lows at home get that “high”. I wish that the RT could pack up a big ol’ load of 70-degree air and haul it down South for the Summer. Ol’ Man Winter might bring us some come late October.

Boothbay Harbor

One day, you may find yourself wandering around Boothbay Harbor, where you might run into someone from, say, Pine Bluff, Arkansas … who knows your sister … and is traveling with a couple that happens to include someone you graduated high school with, but then again, maybe not. But either way, you better mind your manners, because you never know who’s watchin’.

While in Boothbay Harbor, you might enter a candy store, only to be followed in by a ravenous pack of sixth-grade boys with money to spend. If so, please remain calm and look for the nearest exit. White lights on the floor will lead you to red lights, indicating that you have reached an exit. Once there, ask the nearest stranger to help you throw the boys out, one at a time. Problem solved.

Speed Limits

Maine is much like the rest of the world in that they have speed limits on their roads and highways. These are clearly posted on signs on the side of the road (though some are obscured by lovely fir and balsam branches). However, there is an easier way to determine the speed limit without having to look up from your text messaging. Simply take the speed that you are driving and subtract 15mph from it to determine the actual speed limit at your current location.

In short, however fast you are going, SLOW DOWN! There’s no need to rush … you’re in Maine, and you can get a lobstah roll anywhere without having to hurry.

Lobster Rolls

And speaking of lobstah rolls, no Maine travel guide would be complete without some mention of them. We’ve already touched on this local delicacy as presented on the Mickey D’s drive-through menu.

To visualize the real thing, one need only imagine a lowly hot dog bun with a huge lump of cold, mayo-slathered crustacean parts slapped unceremoniously inside. It’s really just tuna salad made from very expensive lobstah, but don’t tell any Mainards that. And to the RT, tuna salad is something only served to people that you don’t want to stay at your house very long.

If you ask the RT, it should be made of warm, buttery lobstah on a toasted sourdough bun. But they didn’t ask me; they simply took my $20 and slung the aforementioned glob of sea creature goo at me.

However, the potato chips and Australian-made root beer the RT had with it made the meal tolerable.

Speaking Mainglish

If you plan on spending any time in Maine, you’ll need to work on a few vocabulary words. This list will get you started.

Bettah – (adj.) Superior in some way.

Hahbah – (n.) A body of watuh surrounded on three sides by land, often used for the protection of watahborne vehicles.

Heyah – (n.) A location near where the speaker is standing.

Lobstah –(n.) A crustacean found in the cold watahs off the Maine coast. Often mixed with mayonnaise to make high-priced seafood salad.

Kah – (n.) A form of motorized transport for highway use.

Kahnt – (v.) Is unable to.

Pahk – (n.) An area dedicated to frolicking and playing. (v.) To place the kah in a specific location set aside for vehicular storage.

Skachah – (n.) An extraordinarily hot day, above, say, 80 degrees.

Summah – (n.) The season that falls between Spring and Autumn.

Theyah – (n.) A location some distance away from the speaker.

Watuh – (n.) A bi-elemental compound, liquid at room temperature, known as dihydrogen monoxide (chemical symbol: H2O). Covers some 2/3 of the Earth’s surface. (v.) To distribute dihydrogen monoxide over a specified area for the purpose of providing a substance necessary for the successful propagation of foliage. (A future post will deal with the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide exposure)

Wintah  – (n.) The season that falls between Autumn and Spring .

Yah Kahnt Get Theyah From Heyah

You may have heard that it can be difficult to get from one place to another in Maine. Well, you heard right. The coast of Maine looks like it was ripped apart into fingers a few million years ago. (Actually it probably was ripped apart by the geological processes that drive plate tectonics, but we’ll save that discussion for a future post.)

The entire coastline consists of slender peninsulas that run generally north-south, each of which is 25-30 miles long. So, for instance, the cottage where the RT stayed in Maine was five miles “as the seagull flies” from the nearby lighthouse at Pemaquid Point. However, it was a drive of fifty-plus miles and an hour and a half to get there – at an average of about 25 miles per hour. OK, so it was really slightly faster than that, but not much.

So, you really can’t get there from here. You have to go someplace else first and then start from there.

Sailing

If you go to Maine, you will want to enjoy some time out on the water, doing what most Mainians seem to like best: getting wet with freezing ocean water while sailing.

Your Captain, John, will tell you that there is hardly any wind at present and that you may have to motor around the harbor, pretending to sail. That’s just before throws your schooner into a 30-knot breeze, causing her to heel over hard to port, dumping the passengers on the port side into the railing, which is approximately three feet underwater by now. This causes ice cold seawater and assorted crustaceans to flow into your tennies and galvanizes your will to stay alive in spite of the tempest of the sea (the RT’s high-school English teacher would be proud of that last part).

So, remember … nothing says “I’ve been to Maine” better than socks and sneakers soaked with freezing salt water. Unless it’s a lobster salad sandwich … I mean “lobstah roll”.

Acadia National Park

We probably should have mentioned this a bit sooner in this guide, since every photo you’ve ever seen of Maine (except those including live moose) was taken in Acadia National Park. (A Møøse once bit my sister…)

You’ll want to time your arrival at Acadia so that 20,000 of your closest friends and parkmates arrive at the same time you do. This is what makes the Park so enjoyable. You get to watch the stunning scenery go by while dodging parked cars, bicyclists, horses and wandering pedestrians, all the while looking at the park map trying to figure out when the next stunning sight will flash by your car window. (No realli! She was Karving her initials øn the møøse with the sharpened end of an interspace tøøthbrush given her by Svenge – her brother-in-law – an Oslo dentist and star of many Norwegian møvies: “The Høt Hands of an Oslo Dentist”, “Fillings of Passion”, “The Huge Mølars of Horst Nordfink”…)

Now don’t get me wrong. The RT enjoys being near the Maine coast with 30,000 people – just not all at the same time. I’m thinking maybe three a day over a decade or so. (Mynd you, møøse bites Kan be pretty nasti…)

But if competing with 40,000 people for that one fantastic photo spot is your thing, then Acadia is for you. (The RT offers his most sincere apologies to the boys from Monty Python.)

On the way out, you’ll want to drive – or more accurately, crawl – through Bar Harbor, Maine, otherwise known as the City of 50,000 Cars. And after you finally escape Mount Desert Island, where Acadia is located, you will want to stop for ice cream at JJ’s Ice Cream Academy in Trenton (I did not make that up). The RT recommends the Caribou Caramel Crunch (or something like that) – REALLY. JJ’s place doesn’t look like much, but the ice cream is out of this world. Sixty thousand people can’t be wrong!

Pemaquid Point Light

In the RT’s humble opinion, your best sightseeing spot in all of Downeast Maine is the Pemaquid Point Light. The lighthouse sits in a state park at the end of one of those finger-like peninsulas. The scenery is stunning and the lighthouse tour is fascinating.

It’s still an operating lighthouse, maintained by the dedicated folks of the US Coast Guard. You’ll find a fourth-order Fresnel lens in use there (but we’ll save any further discussion of Fresnel lenses for a future post). Fascinating stuff.

You’ll want some comfortable walking (actually climbing) shoes, because the very best views are down a bit from the parking lot. However, the walk is well worth the effort. Just take some time to soak in the view and the fabulous weather.

Bring your camera and a picnic lunch. You’ll not find a better place to take photos and enjoy your lunch. REALLY.

Lobster

Now, we’ve already talked about “lobstah rolls”, but we’ve neglected to talk about the crustacean itself. Looking much like a crawdad that’s been exposed too often to nuclear radiation, Mainesters go crazy over these things. They trap ‘em, they sell ‘em, they steam ‘em, they eat ‘em and they make lobster salad out of ‘em. Seems like everybody’s got a big pile of lobster traps in their yard or on their boat.

And each and every lobsterman has his own color and shape of buoy tied onto his traps, so he can spot ‘em in the water. Don’t ever be messin’ with a lobster trap that ain’t got your color buoy on it. It’d be like rustlin’ another man’s cattle down in the Republic of Texas. If it ain’t got your brand on it, leave it alone. There are eyes watchin’.

Blueberries

Now, I know what you’re thinkin’: “Don’t the biggest and best blueberries in the world come from the Big Piney Woods of East Texas?” Well, of course. Everything is bigger and better in Texas.

However, Maine makes the best tiny little blueberries. They’re not any bigger than a purple-hull pea, while East Texas blueberries are about the size of a dime. And talk about tasty! Mrs. RT picked up a pint at a roadside stand and we snacked on them all day.

So, while in Maine, buy anything that has blueberries in it: pancakes, muffins, ice cream, lobster salad … anything. You’ll be glad you did … except for the lobster salad part.

Guns

There are few things Texans like more than their guns. We like ‘em and we like ‘em a lot. We have a lot of them and we’re proud of it. And we don’t know of many folks who love ‘em as much as we do.

But then there’s Maine. It seems that those Maineicans love guns almost as Texans do. They carry them, both concealed and open. Shoot, you don’t even need a permit to carry in Maine, though they’ll issue them for folks who want to carry in states that have reciprocity with Maine, carry-wise.

So don’t be thinkin’ that Maine is one of them liberal, gun-hatin’ Northeast states. They march to their own beat. Turns out that beat ain’t too far from Texas – at least as far as guns go.

Politics

Don’t know. Don’t care. Didn’t ask. The RT has checked out of politics for at least the next four years.

Final Thoughts

So, there you have it. A complete guide to all things related to the Downeast Maine Coast.

Yah kahnt find a bettah place for a summah visit. Hope to see yah theyah sometime.

Best, The Rambling Texan
Summer 2016

 

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Rumination XXXIII – Heaven Help Us

As the RT noted in his last post, everything that’s happening in the American political arena is all his fault. I’ve been guilty of putting my trust in people and establishments other than the Lord, so He’s going to let me see what that really looks like in action.

Now, if the population of the US is approximately 350 million, it’s safe to assume that at least 50 million of those meet the age and citizenship requirements to be President of the United States. Out of those 50+ million, we’ve got possibly the two worst candidates of the whole bunch. One is a conniving, pathological liar and the other an arrogant, egotistical megalomaniac. If that’s not the Lord exercising His sense of humor, I don’t know what is.

Sense of humor or not, it’s a stark reminder of what happens when we put our trust anywhere but in Him. My prayer is that Heaven will indeed help us come November.

I am working to focus my mind on this single thought: Regardless of who wins the Presidency in November, Jesus Christ will still be King and Jehovah God will still be the Ruler and Sustainer of the Universe. That’s where I’m working to put my trust, come what may.

I share the Apostle Paul’s hope as expressed in his Letter to the Romans:

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

Now, we must remember that “good” according to God’s purpose won’t always line up with our feeble human view of “good”. But we can rest easy that He has this. Nothing escapes His notice. He always takes care of His own. He will see His followers through.

And I’d much rather live under God’s righteous, loving and holy governance than that of either of the two yahoos that will be on the ballot in November. Yet, Paul goes on in Romans to point out that every authority is established by God: 

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. Romans 13:1-2 

So like the candidates (and the ultimate winner) or not, my duty is to submit. Admittedly, that’s hard for the RT to do, but it’s what we all are called to do.

I encourage you to do what Mrs. RT does when the RT gets out of whack with God’s direction: she calls him on it. Please keep me honest.

The Rambling Texan, August 3, 2016 

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Rumination XXXII – OK, It’s My Fault

You know, the RT is really wound up over this election cycle, just as I have been over the last few. It seems that our elected officials have all lost their minds. Government spending and our national debt are spiraling out of control. America’s reputation in the world is probably lower today than at any point in my life. Terrorism threatens our way of life and the safety of our citizens, yet our government seems unwilling to stop it. Our society seems to be breaking down day by day.

I’m very sad about the current state of my beloved America. It literally breaks my heart.  

And I have no hope that things will improve in the near future. We have two candidates for the highest office in the land, neither of which has any real credibility with the average citizen. Both have closets that are full of skeletons and pasts riddled with questionable actions. One is a megalomaniac and the other has “a complicated relationship with the truth” (as a mainstream politico recently phrased it). Yet, one of these will no doubt emerge as the next President and only the Lord Himself knows what the future will bring.

So, what happened to America? Where is the hope? What does the future hold for us? Will any semblance of the once-great America even exist in a decade or two? The RT admits that it doesn’t look promising.

Well, I’m here to say that the situation we’re in is all my fault.

Why, you may ask, is this the RT’s fault? Has he lost his mind? Is he bonkers? A few bricks shy of a load? He may well have lost his mind, but even if he has, his reasoning is really quite easy to follow.

The prophet Isaiah said it this way:

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help
And rely on horses,
And trust in chariots because they are many
And in horsemen because they are very strong,
But they do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the LORD. Isaiah 31:1

Isaiah was passing along the Lord’s judgment on the people of Israel for seeking help from the nation of Egypt in a time of national distress (brought on by their own actions, by the way), rather than trusting in Him. And the outcome for Israel was not good. All those horses and chariots did nothing to stop the Assyrians and Babylonians from destroying their nation.

And why were those things of no use? Well, what God wants from His people is total reliance on Him, rather than trying to handle things on their own. So, He simply let Israel proceed with her stubborn, yet feeble, attempts to save herself. The much larger and more powerful nations swept in and easily destroyed her.

This, dear reader, is why the RT is to blame for the current situation.

As an aside, you need to understand something very important. I don’t believe for an instant that America is God’s chosen nation. Nor do I believe that Israel holds similar status today. No nation holds a special status before the Lord. His relationship is with people who choose to follow Him.

So, I don’t think that God is punishing America because it is not toeing the line as His chosen nation. I don’t believe that God is doling out special punishment on us because our nation has fallen from His grace. However, He has always worked His will among the nations and what is happening to us is obviously at His discretion.

I do believe that there are always consequences for imprudent and sinful actions (Gasp! The RT just used a highly judgmental phrase that might offend some. Who is the RT to call something sinful? After all, everyone is entitled to his or her or its “worldview”, right? Shame on the RT for being so offensive!). We as individuals and as a nation are dealing with the consequences of our collective sinful actions. Those consequences are the natural result of our actions running counter to God’s holiness.

Just look around. Our nation is in the worst shape it’s been at any point in my life. There is no absolute truth. There is no respect for anyone. There are no morals. There is no right and wrong. There is little respect for human life, expressed by an appalling number of abortions and an equally upsetting number of other murders. Greed and corruption are rampant. Immorality is the norm. Things that were once considered abominations are now applauded and celebrated. And we are paying a huge price for the choices made over the past few decades.

But back to why this is all the RT’s fault …

I am guilty of trusting in chariots and horses, so to speak. I’ve been hoping and trying to make America proud and strong and powerful again. I’ve been looking to it to solve the world’s problems. I’ve been focused on worldly solutions to worldly problems. And I’ve been doing that instead of putting my trust fully in God and trusting that His way is always best.

You see, it’s taken the RT a long time to grasp the fact that this world isn’t real. It feels real. The pain seems real. Heartache seems real. America seems real. But it’s all only temporary – a mere shadow of reality. What we see here will all ultimately pass away. America will pass away. This world, as well as the entire universe, will pass away. Only then will we see and experience true reality … be that in Heaven or in Hell.

Though everything here will eventually vanish, God – The Holy One of Israel, El Shaddai, Jehovah Sabaoth, The Great I AM – will always remain. That should give us all the hope we need to get through whatever happens on this earth today, tomorrow, after the election in November or at any point in the future (a future that we were never promised, by the way).

The Apostle John said it this way:

You are from God, little children, and have overcome them;
because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. 1 John 4:4

If you and the RT really believe those words, then we have nothing to fear or worry about. It in God’s hands. 

So, the RT is going to try with all his might to follow these words from the wisest man to ever live:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

I hope that you’ll join the RT in turning over everything going on in today’s world to the One who made it all and letting Him worry about it.

July 22, 2016

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Rumination XXXI – Something Like Scales

(The following was originally written in 2003 and posted on my son Riley’s website.)

Every once in a while, I hear someone say something like “Does God still work in the world today?” or perhaps more decidedly, “God doesn’t work in the world today. All of that ended when Jesus’ apostles died.” Any time that I hear questions or statements such as these, I’m saddened to think that this person has decided what God will and won’t do. They’ve put Him in a box and placed limits on what He can do. They behave as if God set the world in motion and then abandoned it at some point in the past. I can’t speak for your God, but my God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He was active in the world in the past and He’s still active today.

For whatever reason, we condition ourselves to believe that everything in this world just happens. Whether good or bad, we are quick to assign whatever happens to circumstance or coincidence. We live our lives with blinders on, unable to (or perhaps refusing to) see the things that God is doing around us. We strain everything through a somewhat cynical set of filters and in so doing explain away many good things that God does for us. We filter out the things that God would have us to see so that He can teach us what He wants us to know.

A while back, I was pondering things that have happened in Riley’s life and asking myself if our family was really looking for God to take an active role in our lives. Or are we quick to rationalize away things that happen and assign them to coincidence. Then I remembered a story from Acts chapter 9, where a Jewish leader and scholar named Saul had an encounter with Jesus and came away with a new perspective.

If you recall the story, Saul was a zealous persecutor of Jesus’ followers. He was so immersed in the Jewish religion that he couldn’t (or refused to) see what was happening around him. God had sent His Son to redeem the earth, but all Saul could see was that this man Jesus had been preaching heresies and he was, no doubt, relived that the Jewish leadership had put an end to it all by having Jesus executed. Yet even with that execution, Jesus’ followers were working even harder to tell others the so-called “good news”. Saul felt it necessary to expend all his energy trying to suppress this new movement that was threatening the status quo. His zeal led him to make a trip to Damascus in search of followers of this man, Jesus, so that he could throw them into prison for their heresies.

That’s when he had a personal encounter with Jesus. Jesus appeared to him on the Damascus road and asked him “Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” The story says that Saul was blinded by this encountered and was told to go into the city and wait for someone to come to him. The Lord then appeared to a disciple named Ananias and told him to go to Saul. Ananias tried hard to get out of the assignment, reminding the Lord what this man Saul had been doing to the church. Jesus told Ananias that He had chosen Saul for a special purpose and that he needed to go.

Ok, with all that as background, here is the part that sprung out at me. When Ananias came to Saul, he placed his hands on the man and told him that he had been sent by the Lord to heal him. At that point (in Acts 9:18) the text says “something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes and he could see again”. The story of Saul’s life starts over at that point and he begins to apply the same zeal that he had before, but using to further the work that Jesus had begun, rather than trying to destroy it.

Once the scales fell from his eyes, Saul could see what God was doing around him and immediately became a believer and disciple of Jesus. The book of Acts tells us that Saul (who later went by his Roman name, Paul) went on to preach the gospel to the entire Gentile world.

Call them blinders, call them filters or call them scales. Physically put them on our eyes or just allow our preconceived notions to take over. Any way you slice it, they are real and they block our ability to see what God is doing around us. He wants us to feel His presence and see His actions in our everyday lives. But if we pass everything we experience through a set of filters or allow the scales to block things from view, then we won’t know that He is even there.

Not to say that all that He would have us see is easy and enjoyable. But He would have us see that He is constantly there and that He has a plan for our lives. He wants us to trust Him and dwell in Him. He wants to use us to accomplish His will.

I thank God for using what has happened to Riley to remove the scales from my eyes and letting me see a tiny glimpse of what He has in store for our family. Things that used to appear to me as circumstantial or coincidental now are plainly part of God’s plan for my family and me. And the more in tune with Him that I become, the more that I see Him in what is happening around me.

Thank You, Lord, for removing the scales. Give me the strength and courage to follow You as the Apostle Paul did.

Riley’s Dad
January 8, 2003

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Rumination XXX – Time Marches On

The RT does a fair amount of traveling, mostly by air, but if it’s under a six-hour drive (my air-to-car travel threshold), I’ll generally drive. I thoroughly enjoy the solitude of time alone behind the wheel. I can zone out to my favorite tunes and reflect on whatever is on my mind.

There are certain times of year driving is most enjoyable for me. While driving during the summer can be miserable (splattered bugs and all), I truly enjoy it during the Fall. The changing of the leaves, the color in the evening sky and the crystal clear nights really lift my spirits.

Not that long ago was one of those beautiful Fall days and I spent six hours on the road enjoying it. My drive carried me from Central Arkansas up to St. Louis, up US Highway 67, the original route from Dallas to St. Louis. 

  

Most of the highway has been replaced with near-Interstate quality roadway, but in some sections it still follows the “old” Highway 67 I knew as a kid, when we traveled it between Texarkana and Dallas. 
Interstate 30 was in various stages of construction at that time, so you drove on it for a while, then got back on the old highway, then back on I-30, etc. In fact, my sisters and I played in the East Texas red clay at the Interstate exchange that was being built through the woods behind our neighborhood back then. 

As we would drive US 67 in those days, my Mother would point out various historical or nostalgic sights along the way. And old bridge here, and old motor court there. 

My Mother was quite the student of history, both of the textbook kind and the “I remember” kind. While the former is important in one’s overall education, the latter is just as important as far as legacy is concerned.

My Mom always made sure to point out important things along life’s road. One of the things I remember is her pointing out where the “old” highway was. That highway predated US 67 and was the highway she traveled as a girl. 

On this particular day, I spotted that old highway off in the brush to the side of the section of the “old” Highway 67 I happened to be traveling (you can see it in the foreground of the photo, on the right). That “old”, “old” highway is probably 75+ years old by now. I never would have noticed it had my Mom not pointed it out when I was a kid. 
There are no words to express how thankful I am to have been privileged to have a Mother who taught me to value what came before me. There’s a lot to see if you just look. 

Maybe it’s not as poetic as stopping to smell the roses, but in its own way, stopping to take in the “old”, “old” highway is just as sweet. 

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Rumination XXIX – 100 Things Said By No One … EVER

The RT goes to a LOT of meetings … LONG meetings … DRY meetings. And given that in today’s world he would likely be diagnosed as ADD, his mind tends to wander off onto other things during those meetings … MEANINGLESS things … POINTLESS things … but sometimes, MILDLY HUMOROUS things.

Hopefully, the following list of 100 Things Said By No One … EVER will make it into the latter group. Enjoy!

Personal Affairs

  1. I don’t like back rubs.
  2. I love going to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
  3. I wish telemarketers would call more often.
  4. I’m glad I stepped on that hornet’s nest.
  5. I got too much sleep last night.
  6. I didn’t get enough bugs on my windshield this summer.
  7. My pants fit entirely too well.
  8. My shower was too long.
  9. My car is too new.
  10. My bed is too comfortable.
  11. I hope to go to prison someday.
  12. I wish my car would break down on this dark stretch of road, by the cemetery, in Bloods territory, on this Halloween night, by the Bates Motel, right by the guy with the chainsaw.
  13. I wish more hair would grow in my ears.
  14. I wish I hadn’t gone to the Moon (obviously limited to a chosen few, but none ever said it).

Family/Relationships

  1. God loves me too much.
  2. I have too many close friends.
  3. I wish I could have traded places with Jesus.
  4. I have too much love in my life.
  5. My spouse loves me too much.
  6. I hope my son grows up to be in a gang.
  7. I hope my daughter grows up to be like Lindsey Lohan, or if not that, at least like Miley Cyrus.

Health

  1. My percent body fat is too low.
  2. There’s nothing better than a good root canal.
  3. My love handles aren’t big enough.
  4. I wish I had more acne.
  5. It’s too easy to lose weight.
  6. My heart surgery was too easy.

Home and Farm

  1. My water is too pure.
  2. I wish I lived in Pine Bluff (Arkansas).
  3. My Internet connection is too fast.
  4. I wish there were more poisonous snakes in my yard.
  5. My air conditioner works too well.
  6. I don’t get to mow the grass often enough.
  7. My telephone bill is too easy to read.
  8. We don’t have enough tornadoes around here.
  9. I wish I had more chiggers in my yard.
  10. It’s not hot enough in my attic.
  11. I wish I had rodents under my house.
  12. My neighbor’s dog doesn’t bark enough.
  13. I wish I lived closer to that hog farm/landfill/crematory/sewage plant.
  14. My house is too clean.
  15. I love picking up dog poop out of my yard.
  16. My crops would benefit from a good hail storm.
  17. My AMC Gremlin/Pacer/Matador was the best car ever made.
  18. I wish a serial killer lived next door to me.

Food

  1. There’s too much hot fudge on my sundae.
  2. There’s too much bacon in my life.
  3. There’s too much ice cream in my bowl.

Financial Affairs

  1. I had too much money when I retired.
  2. My car didn’t cost enough.
  3. There’s too much money left at the end of the month.
  4. My cable/satellite TV bill should be higher.
  5. I don’t pay enough taxes.
  6. My electric bill is too low.
  7. My car’s MPG is too high.
  8. Gasoline is too cheap (at least never said by a Republican).

For The Office

  1. I don’t have enough paper on my desk.
  2. I wish that PowerPoint presentation had been longer.
  3. I don’t get enough e-mail.
  4. My computer is too fast.
  5. My last raise was too much.
  6. I wish I could spend more time at the office.
  7. I wish my boss would treat me unfairly.
  8. I have too much vacation time.
  9. That meeting was too short.

For the Outdoors

  1. I’m too good a swimmer.
  2. I think I’ll trek across the Sahara with no water.
  3. I love mosquitoes.
  4. I get too much fresh air.
  5. There aren’t enough sharks in this swimming area.

For Students

  1. I did too well on that test.
  2. My scholarship was too large.
  3. My ACT/SAT score was too high.
  4. I was ranked too high in my graduating class.

For Athletes/Sports Fans

  1. I wish we hadn’t won the State Championship.
  2. I was too far under par in that round.
  3. We scored too many points in that game.
  4. My golf ball landed too close to the hole.

For Pilots

  1. I had too much altitude when my engine quit.
  2. It’s fun to fly through a thunderstorm.
  3. I had too much fuel left when I landed.
  4. I wish ice would start forming on my wings.

For the Military

  1. I had too much firepower going into that battle.
  2. I’ll take an MRE over a steak any day.
  3. I had too much ammo left after that firefight.

For Travelers

  1. My travel day was too smooth.
  2. My parking place was too close to the terminal.
  3. This airline seat is too comfortable.
  4. We had too many lifeboats on our cruise.
  5. Our airline pilot had too much training.

World Affairs

  1. I wish I lived in North Korea.
  2. France has a powerful and intimidating military.
  3. I wish Iran had a nuclear arsenal.
  4. That Vladimir Putin is quite the gentleman.
  5. Kim Jung Il/Un is the most reasonable man around.

Entertainment/Fashion

  1. Gary Busey is a GREAT actor.
  2. Boy George was too normal for my tastes.
  3. What I liked most about “The Six Million Dollar Man” (1970s TV “drama”) was that it was so realistic … and well-acted.
  4. Beethoven would have loved rap “music”.
  5. The polyester leisure suit was the pinnacle of fashion.
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