When I say “Uncle”

Many and long are the tales we could spin about an old uncle of mine (a great uncle, actually). His life did have certain elements that excited the imagination and made one cringe, like being from Bowlegs, Oklahoma, for one. Second, he was named for his mother’s former lover, not the current husband who fathered him—like I said….

His first wife was actually the one I was kin to. She was my blood great aunt. She was rough, bordering on mean, a chronic cheat (yes, I mean an adulteress), cursed worse than her husband, and was addicted to gambling and prescription drugs. Her dark, soulless eyes would bore right through you, and her wrinkled lips would curl up while she asked, “Sugar, do you want a piece of pie?” in that heavy smoker’s voice. (I can talk about my aunt that way, but you can’t.) She could make an awesome pecan pie though.

For many years, they worked together in Alaska hauling oil field equipment. He drove the truck, and she drove the pilot vehicle. Both were tough and would have rivaled the cast of any modern day reality show. After a half century of marriage (you can imagine the dish throwing sessions), they called it quits by filing for divorce. Broke, but able to retain the family homestead, old Uncle sank into self pity. My aunt admitted herself to a retirement home and lived out her days in the care of her daughter.

Old Uncle wasn’t beat yet. In the back of his mind, he recalled a sweet young thing who had been his eighth grade sweetheart. Not sure what his motives were, but he called her up. She was recently widowed and rather loaded. She was the antithesis of my old aunt. This sweet woman was a former social worker, Sunday School teacher, and of the inner circle of the lady’s clubs of genteel society. He told her all his woes. In bleeding heart fashion, she glided down from Oklahoma with the intent of rescuing him from his penniless fate, and taking him back to Oklahoma to live out his days in relative ease. Only, she didn’t count on crafty old Uncle. He wooed her, showed her the ranch and prevailed upon her heart to ditch suburban life and become a ranch wife (or rather benefactor who would save the ranch, with the grand title of “wife” besides).

After the divorce from my aunt and subsequent remarriage to his Oklahoma sweetheart, it never occurred to me not to retain him as Uncle. After all, I had known him my whole life, and it never dawned on me that we weren’t really kin. So, we happily partook in his remarriage plans. At the celebration, he demanded that his mules, Mabel and Sam, be saddled. He and his bride were going to ride across the pasture. Mabel was an ornery old mare, and Sam was a gentle gelding. At ages seventy-eight and eighty, the newlyweds mounted their steeds.

Mabel was outraged. She stampeded with the new bride astride her bony back, while Sam just stood in bewilderment and refused to go anywhere. Assuredly, he was wondering why he had been re-enlisted after six years of retirement. The new bride suffered a broken hip and a rather battered face. They spent their honeymoon in the hospital. Her grown children looked at us with accusatory faces, as if we could have stopped Uncle from his determined attempt to relive his glory days and to demonstrate his former rodeo skills.

Undeterred, the plucky new bride (after months of recovery) found a solution to the deflated pride of her groom who still wanted to be able to ride in style once again. Instead of riding mules, they would buy a draft horse and wagon. Together, they would ride over the 500 acre ranch, checking on the cattle, goats, geese, ducks, and llamas. Yes, they did.

It worked for a while, then the newness wore off, and they didn’t use the horse for months at a time. After about six months of being left alone in a pasture, the draft horse was roped and hooked up to the wagon. At first, he responded, but then, he seemed to have had enough of the nonsense. He shook his head and seemed to have a bright idea: if he refused to acknowledge the tug on the reigns, what exactly were they going to do about it? He picked up more and more speed. As the giant horse hurtled toward the open gate, all seemed lost. Uncle and bride were holding on for dear life when they were suddenly arrested by a friendly neighbor who had witnessed the debacle. Not long after that, the draft horse and the wagon went up for sale.

The influx of income from Oklahoma got the ranch rolling once again. Soon, Uncle was back in good form. And, in truth, they were very happy, and everyone could see it (he hadn’t just married her for her money). We welcomed them with open arms. They often visited our home and decided that they would start attending the small community church where we were members. Their time in our community rendered to many members their own tales of Uncle. He is rather notorious in these parts.

One day he called us and said that he needed to move his cattle from one pasture to another, but his hired hands were on family emergency leave, and would we come help him? Of course we would. When we arrived, my dad was also there. We hadn’t known he was coming. We were slightly confused because he was in a cast and on crutches. How was he going to help move cattle? “He can drive the truck,” Uncle said. He gave some rather blanket and generic instructions, then we all headed to the vehicles. I espied the tires on his cattle trailer and said, “These won’t hold up. How long since this thing has been moved?”

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” I was told. “It’ll hold up. That trailer has been around longer than you have.” That’s what I was worried about. It hadn’t been moved in years, and I suspected that the tires had sun rot.

On the way to the pasture where the cattle were, we blew out two tires on the trailer. Uncle said, “Don’t worry. There are six tires. We still have four. We’re good.”

“Where are these cattle?” I asked when I began to realize that we were leaving Uncle’s property and were headed across into a neighbor’s pasture.

“They are over here. I was helping my neighbor with his grazing. He had too much grass.” I swallowed hard. I just hoped that this neighbor was out of town. “And, these ARE your cattle?” I asked, afraid of the answer. I got the look that said, “I should slap you, but I won’t.”

“Of course, they are my cattle, but they are in the neighbor’s pasture.” The story finally came out. Uncle had been “helping” his neighbor graze down the pasture while the neighbor had been gone for nearly a year, blissfully unaware; and, now that the neighbor was returning (he had courteously informed Uncle of his return), it was time to move the cattle.

What ensued was a momentous occasion permanently imprinted in my brain. Uncle dropped off dad by an open gate and told him not to allow the cattle to go through that gate. I hesitated and said, “I thought dad was driving the truck?”

“Naw. I’ll drive. He is better used here.” Dad hobbles to the gate and stands guard. I began to wonder about the second gate that stood open, about fifty yards from the first gate.

“What about that gate?” I asked.

“The cattle know not to go through that gate. They never go through that gate. It’ll be alright. I’ll park the trailer here. You go on up the hill and drive the cattle down here. They’ll load right up.” I had my doubts. How long since he had worked these cattle? Did they even remember what a human being looked like?

I begin my trek on foot up the hill some half mile away. The cattle see me coming and don’t like it. I make it around and behind the cattle and begin my drive, slowly raising my arms and bellowing at the cattle, but not too wildly, so they don’t spook, but just so they are motivated to get up and move down the hill. I think all is going well and continue my walk. I crest the hill and look down toward the trailer. Uncle is waving his arms wildly and screaming at dad, “The other gate! The other gate! Don’t let them go through that other gate!” Dad responds by grabbing his crutches and hobbling as fast as he can over cacti and rocks to close the gap between him and the other gate. Too late. In their haste, the cattle didn’t remember that they weren’t supposed to go through that gate. Four hours later, they were finally loaded onto the trailer and deposited back on Uncle’s property.

By this time, I was so thirsty, I thought I could drink anything. After seeing his water jug, that he so generously offered me, my thirst was quenched without even taking a drop. The tobacco juice all over the spout quenched my thirst better than a cold Gatorade.

The trip back home was agonizingly slow, like 10 mph, because we only had four tires and two rims by now. But, the good news was that dad was no worse for the wear, although, one of his crutches did fall prey to the stampeding hooves of an angry heifer.

It was about ninety-eight degrees outside by that time and we were exhausted and not in very good humor. The lunch hour had long ago come and gone; nonetheless, Uncle invites us in for a very late lunch. Laying out on the bar are hotdogs, mayonnaise and various other lunch items. I look at them in dismay. They were the same items I had seen laying out on the bar early that morning, and I began to suspect that they had been there yesterday, too. Uncle grabs one (without washing his hands) and asks if I am hungry. “Not very,” I manage. I realized that today I was going to fast.

It wasn’t long after this, that one day while at church, Uncle grabs me by the neck and pulls me down so he can whisper in my ear (very loudly, which everyone heard), “I think someone is trying to poison me.” My eyebrows shot up. I pulled away and looked at him questioningly. “I keep getting sick. I think someone is doing something to my food.” I decided it was time to go to Uncle’s house and clean out his refrigerator. After that, there were no more episodes of someone trying to kill him.

One day, his wife called and said that their dog, Jody, a very large Pyrenees sheepherding dog, had puppies in the garage. I smiled and said, “That’s great.” She said yes, it was wonderful, and could I help her find homes for them all. I said I would be happy to. The next weekend, I drove out their way to see the puppies and to do some odds and ends for them around the place. I saw the puppies and was slightly perplexed. I had presumed that the father would also have been a Pyrenees, or something of similar breed/stature. The puppies were quite small and spotted. I asked, “What kind of dog was Jody bred to?”

“Oh, she wasn’t supposed to do that,” I was told. “It was the neighbor’s bird dog/rat terrier cross.” Oh boy, I thought. How was I going to advertise homes for that? I thought of a good line: “Wanted–good homes for sheepherding bird dogs that chase rats.”

Jody was their outside dog. They had five little inside dogs (poodles and Pomeranians). Jody stayed on the place (unless visiting the neighbor), but the little dogs went everywhere that Uncle went—including church and, of course, our house. These little dogs were my nemeses. I hated them. One day while at church, Uncle left the truck running so the dogs could have air conditioning. During the Invitation, we suddenly heard a yowling and gurgling of intense proportions. Some of us rushed outside to see what murder was taking place. One of the little dogs had mashed the window button and rolled himself up and was choking. Unfortunately, he survived. Uncle was so relieved that his favorite poodle hadn’t killed itself, that he swaggered back into the church and sat down in what he thought was his seat…right on top of my brand new cowboy hat. Squished it flatter than flat. The preacher, bless his longsuffering soul, finally finished that Invitation.

It was pretty typical to have an unannounced visit by Uncle about once a week. The little dogs always accompanied these occasions. They would rush out of the truck and toward the house. If we happened to be enjoying the weather and had the doors open, they would not wait for us to open the screen doors. They would simply create little doggy doors. Once inside, they would initiate new turf, including table legs, the corners of the bar, etc. We would chase after them with a spray bottle of Lysol and a rag. We fixed the screen doors many times. One day, we had simply had enough, and we asked Uncle not to allow his little dogs out of the truck when they came to visit. This suggestion hurt his feelings so badly, that he didn’t come see us for months.

On their fourth anniversary of wedded bliss, he called us. They were coming back from Oklahoma where they had been to celebrate, and they wanted to stop in. We said, “Of course.” We had supper waiting and prepared for a visit. When they arrived, they were pulling a small trailer loaded with containers of food—most of which had lost their lids, somewhere between here and Oklahoma. Most notably was a large pot of beans and some kind of green jello, pudding. They eagerly unloaded their goods and brought their offerings into the house, proclaiming that they had brought supper. Seeing as the temperatures were hovering in the high nineties, and the food had been unrefrigerated and uncovered for who knows how long, we were very sincere in asking of the Lord’s blessing over the food as they ladled large portions onto our plates. We graciously declined the more risky dishes, such as the cole slaw, potato salad, deviled eggs and anything containing chicken.

After supper, Uncle excused himself and went out onto the porch. I had a slight red flag raise in my mind, because Uncle didn’t smoke, but I thought that perhaps he just needed to stretch his legs after his long drive and might be enjoying the evening view. After a few minutes, we heard a heart wrenching, “Awwwkkk!” and then an ominous thud. I had a sinking feeling. Outside, we found Uncle on the ground entangled in a yellow rose bush that had been growing beside the porch. His pants were unzipped, and a body part, bleeding profusely, was protruding from his britches. He had been peeing off the porch onto the yellow rose bush when he lost his balance. He was moaning and thrashing about. We grabbed towels and got the bleeding stopped (he was on blood thinners, so it was no easy task). We got him upright and bandaged up. The death of the rose bush ensued, because he had crushed it. But, this event did inspire me to put up rails on the porch, even though the porch was barely six inches off the ground.

As I mentioned, Uncle was on blood thinners. He had already suffered a few heart attacks. We were cognizant of the fact that at any moment, he could “go”, as we like to say. I had been concerned about his eternal reward for some time. He just seemed to live a bit on the edge, in my opinion. One day, while he was visiting our home, I asked him if he “knew our Lord” and/or was “ready” for when that time would come. He was duly offended and shouted, “Of course, I know the Lord. How do you think it would feel if someone questioned YOUR Christianity!?” I shook my head and said, “Well, I think I’d be honored that they cared enough about me to question it.” He blustered, “Well, I’m not honored, you little #$%^@#.” He dusted off his hat and left in a huff. It was some time before we saw him again after that.

When he came back around and forgave us for our audacity, we began to suspect that he was getting unsafe behind the wheel. His brand new, pristine, double cab F-250 looked like it had been in a demolition derby. We asked him what had happened. He said, “Every time I go to Walmart or the grocery store, somebody hits me. I come out and see more dents.” The fact that at church, nobody parked within thirty yards of him (or even his parking spot, if he wasn’t there yet), was somewhat of an indication of what was going on.

His driving would have to be addressed soon. One day he pulled up to the gate at the ranch. His wife got out to open the gate. The truck rolled forward and hit her, knocking her down. Thankfully, it didn’t run over her. He was so upset about it, that he refused to let her open the gate after that. He insisted on doing it himself. One day, he thought he put the truck in park and got out to open the gate himself. The truck rolled forward and did, actually, run right over him. He was once again rescued by the same neighbor who had stopped the runaway wagon ride. But, to add to his wounded pride at running over himself, Uncle suffered a torn off left ear and tire marks across his chest and shoulder. He survived but was hospitalized in a trauma unit about one hundred miles from where he lived.

Everything was about 100 miles from where he lived on his ranch in rural central Texas. On these occasions of medical emergencies, it was not just a hop and a skip to the nearest hospital. It took planning to accommodate such episodes, so we often offered to take his wife to see him at regular intervals. During this time, we realized that her mental capacities had progressed to the point that she needed supervision, so we did not leave her at the hospital when we took her to visit her husband, but stayed for several days with her in hotel rooms, until she was ready to go home again. It came to the point, however, that we needed to notify her children of her condition. They had careers and children and grandchildren of their own and needed some time to arrange their schedules before they could come and take care of her, so, at one point, our constant care of her extended to a two-week interval. During this time, she would have various mental breakdowns (I think because of the stress of her husband’s condition), and she would become impatient with us for not letting her walk-about at will or for not letting her take her car and go shopping by herself. One day, she called her daughter and said that we had kidnapped her and stolen her car and wouldn’t give it back. We were honored, to say the least, to have been implicated in such an outlaw plot. After that, the daughter arrived and kindly took over her mother’s care until Uncle recovered.

Months after that, Uncle resumed his residence at the ranch. But, those heart attacks did continue. After another heart episode that occurred at church, after we picked him up off the floor (he was a rather large individual), he said, “There is no need to call the ambulance this time. Just take me home.” Prior to this, he had been transported twice from the church to the hospital for heart related issues. We said, “No, we’d better get you to the emergency room.” We transported him by private vehicle. He was well acquainted with the medical personnel by this point and couldn’t resist poking at the nurses and female paramedics.

After a few days, he was declared fit enough to leave the hospital. We, along with several family members, were at the hospital to see him and hopefully drive him home. Against the doctor’s advice, Uncle was intent on driving himself home (the doctor had just finished privately instructing us not to let either Uncle or his wife drive home). Uncle suspected that we were plotting against him driving himself and bellowed that he had driven a truck for fifty years, and he was still good behind the wheel. The doctor just shook his head. Uncle was rolled out in his wheelchair, and several folk gathered around to pat him and speak with him. Someone in the family asked how he was. He answered, “I’m fit as a fiddle! Ha! A little old heart attack isn’t going to do me in! You’ll see. I’m going to live a lot longer than this!” He hiccupped and swallowed, then hiccupped again. Then, his face turned a different shade, and we all realized that we were looking at a dead man. He had died right there, in his chair, telling us how long he was going to live.



Patriot: A Memorial Day Reflection

As we sit drinking our morning coffee this Memorial day, we are thankful for the freedoms we enjoy and reflect on the fact that people gave and still give their lives for those freedoms. We consider to be Patriots the people who fought and who still fight for the freedoms we enjoy.

Although we are too young to have first-hand experience with World War II, we know what it was about and the cost involved. One of the most devastating battles was during the invasion of Normandy, which is in the north of France. Our troops entered from the sea using amphibious watercraft. The area was a Nazi stronghold, and we were attempting to break that stronghold. Wave after wave of our soldiers hit the beaches under unimaginable gunfire from the Germans. The Germans were defeated, and France was liberated, but at a horrific cost. This single event in history is what we commemorate on D-Day in June. One of our grandfathers was part of this invasion where he was injured badly, suffering multiple gunshot wounds. One of our cousin’s grandfathers is buried in Margraten, Holland even though he was killed in action in Germany. He was temporarily interred in Germany, but we did not leave any of our soldiers buried there.

We have several family members who fought in World War II. They never really spoke of their time in service—only on a very rare occasion. Among those who served was a great uncle. I knew of his service as a marine and that he had been shot up pretty badly in the war. I heard him speak of it only once. He was probably around 80 years old at the time. We were sitting in the courtyard of a mall while waiting on his wife who was buying some shoes. He kept rubbing his hand as if it hurt. I asked him if his hand was bothering him. He said he guessed it was the weather. It was hurting a little more than usual. He said, “That one, and the one in my back, too. A little reminder from the Japanese.” I asked him, “Did you get shot in the hand?” He merely replied, “Yes,” holding up his hand. The spotlight from above us in the courtyard seemed to reveal the scars prominently. I had seen them before, but I didn’t know what they were from until that moment. After a while, he said, “It was bad over there.” After a few moments longer, in a shaky voice, he said, “We had to stop that scourge.” He emphasized the word “had”, letting me know that it was a necessity for mankind to defeat the Axis regimes and the ideology and terror that they propagated. Those were the only words that I had ever heard him speak of the war. He was a kindly man, and after the war, became a preacher and worked in the metal trades.

I would describe him and the multitude like him as a Patriot. Not only are/were these soldiers patriots for the United States, they were patriots for humanity. The problem now is how the media and other sources are trying to manipulate the public perception of the word “Patriot”. While we view patriotism as a good quality, worthy of being honored, it is often cast in a negative and derogatory light by those who mock the sacrifices made by so many, while enjoying the freedoms that those sacrifices purchased.

This weekend, a friend shared an article on our timeline. This article featured a deranged Caucasian male in his thirties or forties. He was dressed in T-shirt and shorts. Under the shorts were long leggings. He baseball cap was on backward. An American flag was wrapped around his shoulders like a cape, and he was shouting and giving a “Heil Hitler” salute. The article stated, “America, this is what a terrorist looks like.” This article was released Memorial Day weekend.

The writers of the article wanted the readers to get the idea that this was Patriotism, and that patriotism is tantamount to terrorism. After all, this deranged individual was dressed in a flag while giving the Heil Hitler salute. The writers chose to feature this man because he had recently stabbed and killed two people in a scuffle on a train in which he was harassing two women who were “thought to possibly be” Muslim. He had killed two men who had intervened on the women’s behalf. The writers of the article used a collage of old pictures of this deranged individual to manipulate the readers’ thoughts. Ironically, the writers of the article did not feature the two men who gave their lives to protect the two women from this man; they chose instead to feature the individual who committed the crime. In our minds, he is no Patriot. He is exactly the kind of person that my uncle and grandfather and actual patriots would have fought. From this article, we know nothing of the two men he stabbed. But, they are more patriots (patriots for humanity) than he is. There is nothing patriotic about this individual. I can adorn myself in a bear-skin rug, but that doesn’t make me a bear.

While we have grown to expect this type of biased story lines from media outlets, this type of thinking has infected other arenas of our culture, creating confusion and a slanted view of patriotism. None of these affected arenas are more troubling to us than the religious arena. We have heard multiple members of the clergy over the last several years speak against patriotism, military defense, and even self-defense, driving into parishioners’ brains that it is sinful to do so—creating guilt complexes if they even dare think about it. These comments are not from whacky online preachers but sadly are coming from pastors and pulpits right here in the heart of Texas. As we are writing this, we can’t help but see the irony involved between preachers speaking against patriotism and my great uncle who fought for freedom and who became a preacher. Even after almost sixty years of reflection since his wartime experiences, he still understood the need for what he had done. He never said, “We shouldn’t have been there.”

Today, the tragic misconception of patriotism incubated on college campuses and theological seminaries has hatched and is spreading throughout our country. Our great uncle and grandfather weren’t fighting for oil, land, money or some misguided ideal when they were shot. They were fighting for humanity. And, without men like them, we would not live in the world we live in today. We wouldn’t have the freedoms that we do, in our media, on our college campuses, and in our churches, even if those freedoms are used to mock and to debase the sacrifices of those who fought and died to achieve them.


Confessions of a City Girl Who Moved to the Country: I Guess a Raccoon Did It

Early one morning, I looked out my kitchen window to see a sea of white blossoms down in the swampy section of the pasture where the stock tank overflow funnels into the creek. I put on my tallest work boots and picked my way through the willows, swamp grass, dead stumps, and briars toward the white blossoms. What were they? I didn’t recall them being there last year.  The huge patch was thorny and growing wildly in all directions. I was intrigued by the lovely and mysterious swamp bush that seemingly appeared over-night. Fixated on the delicate white flowers, I called my mother-in-law who knows all things plants and gardening. She came over and looked. “Well, it’s blackberries,” she revealed, with an unspoken ‘duh’ in her tone. My delight was quickly snuffed out by her matter-of-fact statement of the obvious: “But, you can’t get to them. They’re down in that swamp.” Well, how did they get there? I wondered out loud. She looked at me with a quizzical expression. My ignorance of such things sometimes exasperated her. “Well, I guess the seeds washed in from somewhere upstream, or that’s where a coon decided to squat,” she blurted. “And,” she informed me in that knowing tone, “A patch this big didn’t just ‘spring up overnight’. This has been here probably for a couple of years. You probably couldn’t see it for all the willows and the briars.”

Well! Where was the justice in that? A huge, healthy, patch of delicious blackberries practically in my backyard, and I can’t get to them. Undeterred, I pursued my conquest of the blackberry patch. With renewed vigor, I took a variety of chopping and trimming tools and cut a path through the swamp. It was the principle of the matter. Satisfied with my path that lead through much of the swamp, I would have to continue in ankle and knee deep water. I had a pair of waders, and I would put them to good use…I thought…

A very large water moccasin slithered literally right between my feet. I looked up and spied a second one headed in the opposite direction away from me. Ok. That’s it. I concede. No blackberries for me this year. Waders or not, the snakes can have the swamp. But every time I look out the kitchen window at that patch, I catch myself squinting at the thought of that vexing raccoon who didn’t have the courtesy to poop this side of the swamp.

A Godly Moral Compass that Regulates both Private and Public Affairs

We have noticed a trend that seems to have escalated in the last few years. This trend troubles both Sarah and me. We believe that a capitalist based economy is the best economic form for a society. Capitalism not only rewards hard work, ingenuity, creativity, etc., but it encourages it.  I stand to reap the economic rewards for my efforts and creativity; therefore, I have a reason to excel and achieve in the marketplace, much like an athlete has a reason to excel or achieve in his or her chosen sport. If I run the fastest in a race, I am rewarded with a 1st place ribbon or trophy. Actually, that held more true when I was a kid in the days before “participation trophies”; but that is another subject for another time. But I’ll just say that, if in the Olympics, everyone only received participation medals, the games wouldn’t be the same.

While we believe that capitalism is the best economic form, it needs to be kept closely in check by another force. That force is not government, because government is not capable of the task.  Only one entity is capable—it is He who imparts us with the ability to govern ourselves and our actions. I am speaking of God and the Godly moral compass He imparts to his followers.   Without a Godly moral compass or governor, capitalism over time becomes controlled by greed, which results in dishonesty, selfishness, and a list of other vices. These vices, in turn, create all kinds of misery for society at large. Does any of this sound familiar? Has anyone reading this experienced any unscrupulous marketing or business practices of late? This is the trend that we were speaking of earlier. It has always been around, but it is escalating in mainstream, and even small town America. Why? Because we have removed God from most of our society; hence we have removed the Godly moral compass that should keep our business practices in check. Without this governor, our business practices become ruled by profits and bottom lines. If we remove regard for God’s laws and compassion for humanity from the equation, price gouging doesn’t exist, neither would deceptive marketing. It would be about a business extracting as much money as possible for the least amount and least quality of a product or service as possible. Sound familiar? Because we have deemed ourselves too good for God, we now live in a world of escalating deceptive advertising, deceptive packaging, and deceptive pricing of products that are often shrinking in quality and size, all in an attempt to maximize profits. We have lost our Godly moral compass of what is right. While you might expect this type of behavior from the world at large, sadly many people who attend church and claim to follow Christ have developed the attitude that church is  church, and business is business, and they need to be as profitable as possible: it is just good business. God has become compartmentalized; He no longer has complete rule of our lives. We have become out of control. We have in essence removed ourselves from the principle stated in the Scripture passage, 1 Cor. 10:31, which states, “whatever we do, do unto the glory of God.”

Why can’t government step in to remedy this situation? Simple: because without a Godly moral compass, Government is just as corrupt as the businesses they are supposed to keep in check. In our society, “government” is a group of elected or appointed individuals, most often from within our own communities. There is no such thing as a mysterious entity called “government” absent the people. Government, is, in its very essence, people who are in positions to govern. Some societies choose a monarchy and are ruled by royal families. Some societies are prone to dictatorships and are governed at the point of a sword or gun. But, even in those situations, it is still people who are in a position to govern. In our society, those who govern are most often chosen through an election process and are consequently put in charge “at the consent of the people” to manage public affairs. However, they can, and often do, go awry with the power with which they are entrusted. We must return that internal governor of God awareness in order for both private and government affairs to be fair, just, honest, and effective. Otherwise, the strongest one wins, the one with the most money, power, influence, or intimidation techniques runs over the “governed”, and it most certainly does not represent the ideal of “with the consent of the governed.”

Who Decides Right and Wrong?

I have stated many times that man or humanity cannot deem what is right or wrong; it can merely determine legalities according to the laws created by the morality of that society. Like it or not, only God determines right or wrong, and we as humans are subject to his decisions. Recently our nation has recognized the legality of same sex marriage, while it is now legal according to our laws and accepted by many as legitimate, these actions do not , I repeat do not, make it right. Why? As I stated before, God determines right and wrong.  We, as individuals, and as a collective (society), are not sovereign over God, but rather, are subject to Him. He does not have to accept our laws; we have to accept His.  God doesn’t have to accept something as right just because it is now legal in our country.

The strength, health and legitimacy of a society are really judged on how its laws align with God’s laws. If its legal system is based on God’s principles, all of that society’s judges and courts should be the same in determining right or wrong based on God’s stance not their political viewpoint. There is one standard. If the standard was followed, there would be not liberal or conservative judges with personal and political viewpoints coming in to play.

We tend to think of religion (following God’s way) or anti religion (against God’s way) along political lines—if someone is “liberal” he or she tends to be anti religion (not religious themselves and not friendly toward individuals and institutions who are); if someone is “conservative” he or she may be more religion friendly, if not also religious themselves. This is not always the case. Just because someone is “conservative” does not make them godly. In fact, there are such things as conservative atheists who are not hostile to religion but who do not espouse it themselves. There are “conservative” humanists and secularists who believe more in man’s power than God’s power. And, just because one is liberal, does not make one against God. Churches are full of Christians who tend to lean toward a liberal political viewpoint. One cannot be grouped merely by their political affiliation or their religious affiliation.

People on both sides and all along the political scale (from far left to far right) have ideas on what this country should look like in the future and where we should go from here. They have ideas of what laws we need to pass, what laws we need to abolish, and so on. When one side of the political scale gets their way and a law is passed, the other side weeps and mourns, proclaiming doom and gloom; when the other side gets their way in the political system, the first side proclaims that the apocalypse is just around the corner.

The truth is, the only hope we have as a nation is to bring ourselves back in alignment with God. Try as we may, we will never bring God into alignment with us. We must be One Nation, Under God or we will become fragmented along the cracks that have already begun to develop in our society. As much as I urge my fellow countrymen to do so, sadly, I do not see us uniting under God. We will continue to try to unite under laws passed by man and man’s strength, which, in time, will result in a fractured nation that may or may not stay intact. In truth, our country now resembles a broken windshield—pieces of shattered glass barely held together and technically still in place, but obviously very broken. Again, our only hope of our nation’s repair is in God. This is achieved by giving Him His rightful place—Sovereignty over us.

The Scriptures are full of episodes in different nation’s existences that can be summed up best in this verse: Psalm 33:12, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom He hath chosen for His own inheritance.” Throughout history, many nations have risen and fallen as the Lord has seen fit. He can call into existence a nation out of nowhere, and He can cause the mightiest nation to fall. It seems like the stronger a nation gets, the more independent of God it thinks it is. It becomes its own god and offers up a plethora of false deities to its masses to please different regions and groups.

I mentioned Psalm 33:12 in particularly to a man who attends church regularly and who identifies politically as both a Christian and a liberal Democrat. He said that he does not accept that verse because it implies that if the Lord God is not the God of our nation, we will not receive His blessings, and that’s not fair. This person’s beliefs toward God were that He is fair, and like a social program that doles out benefits equally to all, God should do the same. He (God) should not have preferences or dole out His blessings selectively to people who accept Him and follow His ways.

I was speechless. How can one argue with that (ill)logic?

Right now, our nation has many gods. But there is only One Sovereign God, and we seem to want any other god except Him. Ultimately, we want to be our own god.

In Article 3 of the “Declaration of the Rights of Man” approved in 1789 by the French National Assembly, a statement reads, “The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. No body or individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation.” This socialist, humanist, atheist world view governed the actions of the notable and infamous French Revolution. Clearly, they had become their own god. And, history tells us where that leads.


Am I Missing Something?

We have several friends who are opposed to securing our country’s borders. That is ok; they are entitled to their opinions.

What puzzles us about this stance is that the majority of them live in urban settings with their yards surrounded by privacy fences. Why do they have fences around their backyards? While discussing this with some friends, one woman suggested that perhaps the fences in city neighborhoods were to mark property lines, and without the fences, perhaps the property owners wouldn’t know where their property lines are. Okay, we’ll give her that one. She may have a point. But why a fence? Why not just mark the property line with a rope that people can easily pass under or step over?

And, why do most of these fences have gates that have latches and locks? Someone else suggested that maybe these fences are to keep in the pets or to keep a small child from wandering off onto the road. Okay. We’ll give him that one.

But, if the fence and the gate and the lock are to secure anything other than a pet, or if the fence, gate, and lock are for anything other than a child’s safety, what or whom are you, as the property owner, securing the backyard from?

Could it be to keep out uninvited persons who might just walk into your backyard? And, if so, could these uninvited persons pose a possible threat to property on the premises or persons living in the home? Could people who wander uninvited into your yard and home also be a possible threat to others living in the area?

Maybe the fence around your home is to keep unwanted/uninvited people out of your pool. What if the uninvited guests didn’t have a pool of their own? Shouldn’t they be able to use your pool? With or without your consent? When they want to? And bring as many of their family members and friends as they want to? Why or why not?

On this thought, why even put a fence around a public pool? Who cares whether the swimmers come in legally (paid their fee) or illegally (non-paying customers)—they just want to swim. Why shouldn’t they? After all, while they’re there, they may jump start the pool’s economy—they might buy something at the concession stand or put some quarters into the coke machine. They might even stay and clean the pool after hours, providing labor that no one else wants to do. But wait, if they don’t have to pay for the privilege of swimming in the pool, why should they pay for a soda or a snack? Why should they stay and clean up the pool they used illegally?

While not all of the friends we speak of have backyard fences and pools, they do have one thing in common—doors on their houses. Why do houses in this country typically have doors? The obvious answer is to make our homes weather proof—to keep out the wind and the rain, the hot and the cold. And, we are glad for doors on houses. But, why are there locks on the doors to these houses? We have had some pretty severe storms, but none required locking the doors to keep out the weather. Closing the door was adequate to keep out the weather. Why the lock? The obvious answer is that the lock is supposed to provide some form of protection to keep those inside the house safe. Safe from what? Not the weather.

If you lock your doors at night, for safety, to keep out unwanted, uninvited people who might intend you harm, wouldn’t that same principle hold true for our country? Could people who just walk into our country uninvited be a threat to us?

Maybe the people who came into your home uninvited didn’t intend you harm. They just wanted to watch your big screen. After all, they don’t have one. And maybe they just wanted to cook a steak on your grill. They just wanted something better than their own menu and equipment. They didn’t want to wait and take the necessary steps to purchase their own grill and steaks, so they decided to use your stuff. I don’t understand why that should upset you. After all, you didn’t get to where you are on your own, and, if you look closely at the package you are eating from and the utensils you are cooking with, I’ll bet you didn’t grow it/raise it or build it. It was built/made somewhere else. Maybe in the same place where these folks are coming from who just want to come in and use what you have.  Oh, but wait, you paid for and bought the items in your home. So, whether you built, grew, or raised these items yourself is immaterial. You paid for them. That makes them yours.

Maybe these people who wandered into your home uninvited just needed a can of green beans. And, it was easier to get one from your pantry than to go to the store. That should be okay with you, right?

We talked about locking the doors at night for personal safety. What about when you leave your home to go out, say for work, or to church, or anywhere? Do you lock the doors then? What person are you protecting then, if no one is home? Ah, it’s not about safety, now, is it? It’s about property. Unless you have that pesky property that has that nasty tendency to sprout legs and try to escape on its own unless you lock it in, you are protecting it from someone else entering your domain and taking your stuff. Our question is, if securing your home is prudent and considered okay to do, why is securing our country not?

Regardless of your political affiliation, we all understand the necessity of security. In some cities, tickets are even issued to homeowners who leave up garage doors and who leave unlocked houses or vehicles, thereby, “tempting” criminals and thieves who create a bigger work load for police departments and create bad statistics for the town’s crime rate, thus discouraging tourism. It’s bad for business all the way around. So, tell me again why securing our borders is a bad thing? We’re not locking them down—no one in or out. We are simply securing them against illegal activity. Isn’t that what you are trying to do for your home?

Confessions of a City Girl who Moved to the Country: Why Rural Folk Stash Things, Wear Camo Pants and Wear the Same Clothes Three Days in a Row

Funny misconceptions often occur when urbanites elect to spend time on vacation in the country (perhaps visiting family) and when folks from cities move to country homes but are not familiar with country ways. Moving to a rural setting doesn’t suddenly make you of a rural mindset. Living as a child in the country but most or all of your adult life in the city, then moving back to the country as you approach retirement age does not make you of a rural mindset. Most of the country ways you may have absorbed as a child have probably been replaced with the city ways that made you successful in your chosen career in the city or made you able to survive in an urban setting. They will backfire on you in the country.

Patience, Doing it Yourself, or Going Without Vs. Expedience and Getting it Now:

A married couple from the Jacksonville, Florida area one year visited us for Thanksgiving. They were urbanites. He really liked his beer. One evening after supper, he ordered his wife to “run to the corner and get him a six pack.” She shook her head. He said, “What?” She looked at us helplessly. We had to explain to him that the nearest place to get a beer was thirty miles one way (this was before Dublin carried it…now the nearest beer is 12 miles away, one way). To an urbanite, 30 miles, or even 12 miles is an eternity. To us, it’s “just down the road” and “won’t take a minute”.

But, that’s one reason country folk stash thangs. There is no convenience store on the corner. I’m my own store. I go to my storage closet and get stuff. I’m not going to drive 30 miles, or even 12 for any amount of items on the spur of the moment, unless it’s an emergency.

This same fellow wanted to eat out on Thanksgiving Day. He insisted on it. OOOKKaayyy. Where? We found one restaurant open Thanksgiving Day in Stephenville in 2007. Funny. It just wasn’t at all what he expected.

The night before they left, the weather dipped down really cold. A neighbor who didn’t know who our company was pulled up to our house in his pickup truck. We went outside to greet him, even though the temperatures were in the teens. The man got out of his truck and was covered in blood. In the city, people might panic at such a sight. Not in the country. This time of year, that means one thing: he got a deer. And, he wouldn’t be pulling up into our driveway if it wasn’t a good one. Grinning, we invited our guests to come outside with us. We knew what was going to happen next, but we couldn’t resist. Our neighbor, being neighborly, stuck out his huge paw, covered in blood, of course, and gripped our guest’s hand. “Good to meet ya!” he bellowed. “Hey, John, check out this buck. Its got ten points!” We walked around to the bed and looked. Sure enough, it was a big one. With ten points. What a beauty. The weather was super cold, and it was late. John asked if the neighbor was going to work up the deer that night (it was already field dressed). “Naw, I’m just going to hang him. It’s cold enough.”

“That’s what I’d do,” John said. “It’ll keep.” The guest turned his back and tried to hide the gag that came to his mouth. “I gotta go back inside,” he said. “It’s too cold out here.” We nodded and said, “Yeah, it’s pretty cold. We’ll be in in a minute.” (Explanation: why would you hang something that is already dead? To an urbanite, this is strange talk. It means that the carcass will be hung from a tree or a rack to be processed, but not processed yet. Because the weather was so cold, the processing could wait until the next day. The great outdoors would provide the necessary refrigeration. Field dressed means that the guts—organs, such as heart, liver, lungs, intestines, bladder, etc. have been removed from the deer because they can ruin the meat if left in once the deer is dead—the head, hide, and rest of the deer are left intact for later processing.)


Another funny misconception between urban and rural is attire. To rural folk, prudence and thriftiness is high on the priority list, resulting in rather strange fashion phenomena. One doesn’t change clothes every day or more than once a day like urbanites do, unless a special event is going on, such as a church service, a funeral, or a wedding. And, one doesn’t buy an $80 pair of pants or a $60 shirt just because it’s fashionable. That’s considered stupid. What one does do, is to have several standby pair of pants and shirts that are durable, and, if they were picked up at a thrift store, so much the better. Wearing the same pair of pants for 3-5 days is good. Wearing a shirt for 2-3 days is also good. Socks and underwear get changed every day (most of the time).

Camo pants in rural areas are like blue jeans: they go with everything. Camo is accepted with various patterns or solids. Camo can go with plaid, stripes, even flowers. The fact that Camo pants are mostly green with blacks and browns thrown in doesn’t matter. In fact, the color doesn’t matter at all; that’s not why rural folk wear Camo. Have you ever worn a pair of Camo pants? They are marvelous for several reasons. Because the military designed them, they are built for movement: there is not that tightness that comes with blue jeans that grab you in the crotch when you bend or twist. Camo pants move with you. They are designed to do that. Rural people do a lot of moving—loading stuff, picking up stuff, etc. It’s part of the rural lifestyle. No sitting at desks crunching numbers or writing reports or clicking from one computer screen to the next or attending one meeting after another in climate controlled conditions. Rural folk are mostly outdoors, sweating as they are driving tractors, using hand implements, like shovels, hoes, rakes, etc. moving livestock, carrying pails and buckets, that kind of thing. And, when one chooses attire for the day, a pair of pants that moves with you is always the best choice. Camo pants also have lots of pockets. No need to wear extra gear or carry a sack. Stuff whatever you need down in those pockets and go. Camo pants are cheap and readily available. Remember, rural folk are prudent and thrifty. Camo pants can be had for under $10/pair and are everywhere at thrift stores, garage sales, flea markets, etc. Some of these types of “cargo” pants can be had in colors other than camo, such as denim, khaki, or black, but they are usually a lot more expensive…so, there you go…back to the cheap, readily available ones…that’s right…Camo.

Now, urban folks see someone in Camo, and immediately there derelict minds jump to something that frightens them: a militia. This guy must be in a militia. He is wearing Camo. After all, that’s what Newsweek has said about folks who wear Camo. And, just like the neighbor who jumped out of the truck covered in blood, frightening the urbanite who jumped to wild conclusions, they are very likely to once again be totally out of touch with their surroundings. You’re in the country. Camo means the guy likes his pants not to grab in places they shouldn’t. And, it’s not a Southern thing. Rural folks in every part of the country, north to south, and east to west, can be seen in Camo. It just makes sense. They are the best pants for the job.

We experienced something rather funny about eight years ago. A family of Houstonites recently moved to our neck of the woods. A neighbor who lived up the way lost one of his Holstein bulls. If you know cattle, you know that a Holstein bull is one of the meanest there are. Unpredictable and not nice. This bull showed up in our pasture. Uh, oh, you got it…while we were digging prickly pear out of the pasture by hand…and, you guessed it…we were wearing Camo.

We wanted to get the bull back to the neighbors who lived only a mile up the road. In the country, there is no need to get out the truck and trailer in a big show of things or get the horses saddled when you have only one wayward Bovine who only needs to go a mile or less up the road. You drive him on foot. This bull was young, and we didn’t want to hurt him, but neither did we want to be hurt by him. We thought a pellet gun would do the trick. Using the pellet gun and lots of shouting, we drove him out the gate and into the bar ditch along the highway. We walked him the short distance (about a mile) to the neighbor’s pasture and put him in. The neighbor saw us approaching and understood exactly what we were doing. The Houstonites did not. They thought we were trying to kill the bull. After all, we were in Camo waving a gun. (Urbanites typically cannot tell a pellet or B.B. gun from one that shoots bullets—to them, a gun is a gun.) And Camo, means…well, you know what that means.