It’s The Hardest Part

The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part

The Waiting’ – Tom Petty

Learning to wait is one of the hardest things for both the natural, and the spiritual man.

We lost a great American treasure a few years ago, in my opinion, when Tom Petty unexpectedly passed away. One of the great rockers of all time, who grew up in Gainesville, FL, and was the victim of some pretty violent abuse at the hands of his dad. Music, as it turned out, was a welcome escape from that environment for him. His mom bought him a cheap Sears guitar when he was 14 and the rest, as they say, is history. His band, The Heartbreakers, accomplished what few other bands have ever achieved…and that is the fact that they stayed together, for the most part, for over 40 years! Some would argue that Petty lacked vocal perfection, but if you were fortunate enough to make one of his concerts (we did twice in the last 3 years of his life!) you would hear the bigger part of twenty thousand people, young and old, singing along with every song…..word for word, for two and a half hours! So, Tom Petty fan or not, you’d have to admit that he’ll go down in history as one of the all-time greats.

“….I hear in just about every song something that catches my attention, something that I can apply spiritually….”

Now, I don’t think every song out there has a spiritual message, unless, of course, you want it to. But most songs of any genre will have a line or two that, if you think about it…and try just a little, could definitely be applied in a spiritual way. I’m a ‘music guy’, not a musician by any stretch (I could only wish!), just someone who loves music. So, I hear in just about every song something that catches my attention, something that I can apply spiritually and maybe pass along to someone else who can catch the truth contained. Many of Tom Petty’s songs have those things I’m talking about; “You Don’t Have To Live Like a Refugee” *(click to listen) would definitely be one. Gonna write something up on that ‘un one of these days. And, how about, “I Won’t Back Down”? Now there’s a, nearly perfect, spiritual warfare song; one that you could actually sing on Sunday mornings if you’d loosen up just a little.

“….as we mature in the Lord, learning to wait is an invaluable trait….”

But one that recently caught my attention is a song called, “The Waiting”. Written around 40 years ago, and not designed to be a spiritual song, whatsoever, it does have a line or two that holds some pretty profound spiritual truths. “The waiting is the hardest part”! Boy, ain’t that the truth!? Learning to wait is one of the hardest things for both the natural, and the spiritual man. We live in a culture that has trained us to want everything immediately; I mean, ….right now! But, as we mature in the Lord, learning to wait is an invaluable trait…and one that’s not often found even among believers, sad to say.

I wish I could say I had it perfected. But, waiting on the Lord hasn’t come easy for me. I guess you could call me a ‘slow learner’ in that respect. But I’m a lot better than I used to be…and I think I’m getting better. It comes with an understanding that God has His ways and He’s precise in His timing. In another way, it’s one of His ways of teaching us to live by faith. At any rate, waiting on the Lord is a virtue that we should all try to attain.

“Waiting, as hard as it is, …..might just be the most productive thing you can do.”

So, whether it’s a promise from Him you’re waiting on, a prophetic word that has yet to materialize, or maybe even a prayer you’re wondering if He heard or not, ….waiting, as hard as it is, …..might just be the most productive thing you can do. Make no mistake about it, Tom Petty had it right; the waiting is the hardest part!

Photo by Keegan Houser

...oh, and by the way, the Bible holds some amazing promises for us as we learn to wait. Isaiah 40:31 *(go read it!)

He’s Alive Again!!!

What a day to celebrate!

Easter is the day that we recognize the resurrection of Jesus. Some 2022 years ago in Jerusalem, a great act of injustice took place when Jesus was nailed to the cross.

His death on the cross was not proof that He was the Son of God….in fact to his criticizers and detractors, it was proof that He wasn’t.

See also: Black Saturday

No grave could ever hold Him

But on the morning of the third day, a rumbling was felt from the center of the Earth. The jingling sound of keys (death, hell, and the grave) was heard; it was Jesus coming out of the tomb! He had conquered, forever, the power of the grave! His resurrection was the indisputable, undeniable truth that this Man was no ordinary man. He was/is, indeed, the Son of God!! My highest hope is that we can learn to live from the resurrection and what was completed for us on that day!

Photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels.com

Check this one out too: It Ain’t Just “Good News” …… It’s “Great News”!

A stone would never do

Here’s a song Phil Driscoll: “He’s Alive Again!!!” that has been my favorite one about the resurrection for about 35 years.

Spoiler Alert….It may make you cry! Listen to it all…..it’s a great one!!  Enjoy!

Running On Empty

Click play for audio devotional (2:21)

As songwriters go, I’d consider Jackson Browne one of the best in the business. In fact, way back in the 70’s, Glenn Frey and Don Henley (the Eagles) moved in above Browne in a $60 a month apartment in L.A.

They admitted they learned, and perfected their craft of writing songs by listening to some  of those ‘mind boggling melodies’, as Rolling Stone magazine described Jackson Browne’s songs. They agreed that he was just a notch above anyone else who was writing in those days….and there were a bunch of ’em. One of those songs, “Running on Empty”, was the title track of his ‘Live’ album in 1977 and is, to this day, the most played of all his songs on Classic Rock stations. On an interesting note the song was written while Browne was struggling to make it and, in his own words, “I was always driving around with no gas in the car”.

“….I took the time off to just get away from it all.”

A few years ago I had just returned to the office after five weeks off. Haven’t done anything like that in the 33 years since we started Trinity Fellowship. I didn’t take the time off to fast and pray. That would definitely be time well spent but I took the time off to just get away from it all. No studying, no preaching or teaching, no late night emergency phone calls, no funerals……no nothing! Pretty much everybody’s job has its own level of stress. Ministry’s no different; and people ain’t lined up to tell you good news!

It’s easy to get in crisis mode, and if you’re not careful…..never get out.

It took at least a week to get out from under the load of ministry that I’ve been used to. And, maybe another week to get in full, no stress mode. But, with the support I have from the people around me (they’re the best in the business!) I finally started to actually relax. I think I was like a lot of folks who are out there today, running on empty……and maybe not even knowing it! It’s easy to get in crisis mode and if you’re not careful…..never get out. It’s unhealthy, and a bunch of ministry people don’t make it!

“When we’re running on empty we won’t even come close to doing our best work.”

The Father, Himself, rested on the seventh day…and He designated and set aside a day for us to rest, too. Most of us don’t do it; don’t know how, never even tried it. We’re too busy doing all the things we know we should be doing. But, the Sabbath was made for man! We should learn how to do it! When we’re running on empty we won’t even come close to doing our best work.

Maybe we could learn to work ‘smarter’, not harder.

Hardly anybody can get as much serious time off as I had, I understand that. But, we could learn to take a day a week to get out from under the load. Maybe we could learn to work ‘smarter’, not harder. It’ll take some time, no question.  But if we’ll make it a priority…..we won’t have to be running on empty!

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Click here to listen/watch my favorite Jackson Browne tune (you’ll like it!)

March Madness

I love college basketball! In fact, college sports are a lot more fun for me to watch than the pros. It’s about the only sport that I don’t really care who’s playing, I can get into the game. I think it’s the fact that there’s not six points difference in a team that doesn’t make the NCAA tournament and the one that wins it all. I love to watch the coaches as much as I like watching the players. Great sport, great watching!

Gearing up for March Madness, here’s a little analogy you probably haven’t thought of. The Lord showed me years ago, the Sunday church service is much like the timeout in basketball. In most games both teams usually uses all their timeouts. The timeouts are critical and are used very strategically, especially in a close game. I’d say the same about the Sunday church service. There are no points scored during the timeout….but what’s done there is always critical to the overall outcome of the game. If you think about it, it’s much the same with the church service. And, while many would argue that the Sunday service is the ‘big show’, wise people realize that the real game is outside the walls of the church.

And, while many would argue that the Sunday service is the ‘big show’, wise people realize that the real game is outside the walls of the church.

Take for instance a few years ago: I’m watching Roy Williams, the great North Carolina coach, during the timeout of the NCAA National Championship. He’s very animated, he’s passionate about getting his point across, he’s ‘coaching’ his boys about what they should do, and how they should do it, when the whistle starts the game again. He’s making sure everyone knows their job, knows their place. The entire season is on the line!  Mark Few, Gonzaga’s phenomenal coach, is doing the same. It’s coaching intensity at it’s very best. Nothing like it in any other sport, in my opinion. You’ll notice that they use every single second of every single timeout. It’s what the Bible calls “redeeming the time”.

The Sunday service should be just like that. It should be, above everything, very strategic. In my case I want to do the best job I can do to tell my ‘players’ what I’m hearing from the Lord. I don’t want to just throw a ‘sermon’ out there; not my style anyway. I want to be strategic and relevant for what my ‘players’ are facing in the game (real life!).

No games are won or lost during the timeout ….but what’s done there directly, and strategically affects the outcome of the game! 

And, lastly…..the timeout gives the players a chance to get their breath, rest a little and get everything back into proper perspective, and come into one accord. No games are won or lost during the timeout….but what’s done there directly, and strategically affects the outcome of the game! 

There’s a lot at stake when we get back in the real world on Monday! We should be strategic when we gather up on Sunday!

**So, if you call me through the weekend and I don’t answer….be patient with me; I’m doin’ research!

A Lifetime of Faithfulness

I bumped into a Friend in the post office a while back. He’s a retired pastor in his late 80’s.  He just sold his home and he and his wife are entering an assisted living facility in a neighboring town. He retired from the ministry a short time ago. Spent his whole life ministering in a small country church. A whole lifetime of faithfulness. I have a lot of respect for guys like that.

It made me think; I doubt he ever made much more money than to barely get by. Not rare to have to find some kind of supplemental income. Probably never got asked to speak at a big conference anywhere. Never gonna have his picture or an article in Charisma magazine. Not even gonna name a street after him in his little town. He’s not one to complain about that kinda stuff. It obviously wasn’t what was important to him. He just kept on being faithful.

Photo by Rene Asmussen from Pexels

He knew everyone! I bet he knew three or four generations of people there where he ministered all those years. Went through all the ups and downs with ’em. Everything from burying their grandpa to seeing a new baby boy welcomed into the world and entire families devastated by some of the tragedies life brings. Held their hands when they didn’t have any hope for what they were facing. Always clinging to, and pointing them to God. And, in a little church like that in a tiny community, the Pastor has to do everything. Preach every Sunday for decade upon decade. Marry ’em, bury ’em, and everything in between. All the while getting the usual criticism that goes along with the job. Think about how much wisdom he gained in a generation or more. Think about how much he would have to offer…….anyone.

In my conversation with my Friend, he lost his train of thought a time or two and apologized for it. He even said, “Well, that’s the problem I have now.”. I ‘felt’ his pain at that very moment and it grieved me. Even makes me tear up while I’m writing.

Photo by Sergey Katyshkin from Pexels

It’s been a whole lifetime of faithfulness, to the Lord and to the people He entrusted him with. It makes me wonder if anyone really noticed; if anyone did much more than say, “Thank ‘ya”. But, I have an opinion about men like my Friend. You don’t have to agree with me but I bet ‘ya when we get up ‘there’, you know, in Heaven that guys like my Friend are gonna be getting some heavy-duty hardware when they start passin’ out the rewards. I think we might be surprised at how honored ‘then’ they might be as compared to those who won world acclaim here on earth. We should honor them now, ….but we probably won’t…

Some people just don’t appreciate a lifetime of faithfulness like that.

But I do!

….and I think the Father does too!

Well done, Friend!

The ‘Bar Mitzvah’ for Ranch Kids

The Bar Mitzvah is a Jewish ceremony for boys reaching the age of 13 and is kinda regarded as a coming of age from boyhood to manhood. Well, the Jews do it a little different than we did it out on the ranch. OK, …..quite a bit different, as a matter of fact!

All our water on the ranch was made by windmills, not just for the cattle and horses. They even provided the water for our houses. If the wind didn’t blow for a few days (usually not a problem in the Texas Panhandle!) we would have no water, which did happen a couple of times in the 30 years we lived there. As a kid growing up on the ranch one of the things you learned early on was how to fix a windmill. Sometimes it was just to replace worn ‘leathers’. Other times the bottom cylinder might have a hole in it which required pulling all the pipe out of the well and replacing it. Not fun! But we could do it, and did many a time.

One of the routine jobs in keeping windmills operating is to keep them oiled good. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, ….it ain’t! Here’s how it goes. OK, looking up it doesn’t look too high up there but up top where you have to put the oil in, and lookin’ down, it’s scary high! So, what you have to do is get a big ‘ol can of oil (about 2-3 gallons) with a long spout on it, climb up the hand and foot rails of the windmill. Remember now, you’re also carrying roughly 20 lbs of oil in one hand and climbing with the other. So, I’m makin’ my way up the windmill, my Dad coaching me every step. Now I”m gettin’ closer to the top where there’s a little foot and a half platform to stand on. Getting up on that tiny thing is a real trick…..with only one usable hand. Now, you’re up on top of the tiny platform. The fan or blades of the windmill are 6-8 feet in diameter. The windmill is turned off so the blades are not turning. But in the Texas Panhandle, there’s hardly a day where there ain’t at least a nice little breeze. This day was a day such as that. And when it’s breezy like that the fan and blades, while they’re not spinning, still move around some causing you to picture yourself getting knocked off there and hittin’ the ground to certain death. All this is going through my mind while my Dad’s still coaching me along from the ground. Now, lookin’ down it appears to be about 90 feet (actually only about 25 ft) to the ground! It’s not…..but it dang sure looks it! As if that wasn’t enough, ….here’s the tricky part. The part of the windmill that has the gear mechanism in it is enclosed and covered by a big (foot and a half) hood, kinda cone shaped. You gotta stand on your tippy toes, reach as high as you possibly can and remove the nut off the top of that hood! Now, I’ve got oil in one hand, a nut and the hood in another….all the while trying to hold on for dear life. The entire 13-14 years of my life was running like a movie through my mind. Is it gonna just kill me on impact or will I be mangled and a vegetable the rest of my life? I’m way too young to die. My Dad still calmly coaching me along, ……almost like he doesn’t even realize I’m about to fall to my death. Now, I gotta hoist the big oil can up over my head and start to pour it in the gear casing. Oh, did I mention your hands are super greasy from handling the oil can complicating the whole process?! I’m trying to do all that and listen to the instructions my Dad’s giving me and I couldn’t help but to desperately ask, “What if I fall?” And, you know he gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten. He just calmly, confidently and simply said, ………..”You won’t”.

He was right! I didn’t!

You can’t imagine how relieved I was to get back on solid ground!

So, that’s how we do the ‘ol Bar Mitzvah on the ranch! It’s the rite of passage from being a kid into full-fledged manhood!

There’s a lot of things I miss about the ranch life,     ………that ain’t one of ’em!

PS-I’ll bet money if you climbed up that same windmill today you could find my claw marks dented in that galvanized iron!

…….makes me miss my Dad……

Addendum: Every person who has climbed up a windmill tower and stood on that little platform has experienced the sensation of looking up and seeing the clouds slowly drifting overhead. It gives one the feeling that the windmill is tipping over. It’s pretty frightening the first time you experience it. So much so that I heard a story of one man who was up there, saw the clouds, thought the windmill was tipping over……..and jumped! I’m not sure if that’s true………but it could be!

 

Here’s another one you might like:

Labor Day Out on the ‘Ol ‘Lazy J’

A Lifetime of Faithfulness

I bumped into a Friend in the post office last week. He’s a retired pastor in his late 80’s.  He just sold his home and he and his wife are entering an assisted living facility in a neighboring town. He retired from the ministry a short time ago. Spent his whole life ministering in a small country church. A whole lifetime of faithfulness. I have a lot of respect for guys like that.

It made me think; I doubt he ever made much more money than to barely get by. Not rare to have to find some kind of supplemental income. Probably never got asked to speak at a big conference anywhere. Never gonna have his picture or an article in Charisma magazine. Not even gonna name a street after him in his little town. He’s not one to complain about that kinda stuff. It obviously wasn’t what was important to him. But, he kept on being faithful anyhow.

I bet he knew three or four generations of people there where he ministered all those years. Went through all the ups and downs with ’em. Everything from burying their grandpa to seeing a new baby boy welcomed into the world and entire families devastated by some of the tragedies life brings. Held their hands when they didn’t have any hope for what they were facing. Always clinging to, and pointing them to God. And, in a little church like that in a tiny community, the Pastor has to do everything. Preach every Sunday for decade upon decade. Marry ’em, bury ’em, and everything in between. All the while getting the usual criticism that goes along with the job. Think about how much wisdom he gained in a generation or more. Think about how much he would have to offer…….anyone.

In my conversation with my Friend, he lost his train of thought a time or two and apologized for it. He even said, “Well, that’s the problem I have now.”. I ‘felt’ his pain at that very moment and it grieved me. Even makes me tear up while I’m writing.

It’s been a whole lifetime of faithfulness, to the Lord and to the people He entrusted him with. It makes me wonder if anyone really noticed; if anyone did much more than say, “Thank ‘ya”. But, I have an opinion about men like my Friend. You don’t have to agree with me but I bet ‘ya when we get up ‘there’, you know, in Heaven that guys like my Friend are gonna be getting some heavy duty hardware when they start passin’ out the rewards. I think we might be surprised at how honored ‘then’ they might be as compared to those who won world acclaim here on earth. We should honor them now, ….but we probably won’t….

Some people just don’t appreciate a lifetime of faithfulness like that.

But I do!

….and I think the Father does too!

Well done!

 

It’s The Hardest Part

We lost a great American treasure a year and a half ago, in my opinion, when Tom Petty unexpectedly passed away. One of the great rockers of all-time, who grew up in Gainesville, FL, and was the victim of some pretty violent abuse at the hands of his dad. Music, as it turned out, was a welcome escape from that environment for him. His mom bought him a cheap Sears guitar when he was 14 and the rest, as they say, is history. His band, The Heartbreakers, accomplished what few other bands have ever achieved…and that is the fact that they stayed together, for the most part, for over 40 years! Some would argue that Petty lacked vocal perfection, but if you were fortunate enough to make one of his concerts (we did twice in the last 3 years!) you would hear the bigger part of twenty thousand people, young and old, singing along with every song…..word for word, for two and a half hours! So, Tom Petty fan or not, you’d have to admit that he’ll go down in history as one of the all time greats.

Now, I don’t think every song out there has a spiritual message, unless of course, you want it to. But most songs of any genre will have a line or two that, if you think about it…and try just a little, could definitely be applied in a spiritual way. I’m a ‘music guy’, not a musician by any stretch (I could only wish!), just someone who loves music. So, I hear in just about every song something that catches my attention, something that I can apply spiritually and maybe pass it along to someone else who can catch the truth contained. Many of Tom Petty’s songs have those things I’m talking about; “You Don’t Have To Live Like a Refugee” would definitely be one. Gonna write something up on that ‘un one of these days. And, how about, “I Won’t Back Down”? Now there’s a, nearly perfect, spiritual warfare song; one that you could actually sing on Sunday mornings if you’d loosen up just a little.

But one that recently caught my attention is a song called, “The Waiting”. Written over 37 years ago, and not designed to be a spiritual song, whatsoever, it does have a line or two that holds some pretty profound spiritual truths. “The waiting is the hardest part”! Boy, ain’t that the truth!? Learning to wait is one of the hardest things for both the natural, and the spiritual man. We live in a culture that has trained us to want everything immediately; I mean, ….right now! But, as we mature in the Lord, learning to wait is an invaluable trait…and one that’s not often found even among believers, sad to say.

I wish I could say I had it perfected. But, waiting on the Lord hasn’t come easy for me. I guess you could call me a ‘slow learner’ in that respect. But I’m a lot better than I used to be…and I think I’m getting better. It comes with an understanding that God has His ways and He’s precise in His timing. In another way, it’s one of His ways of teaching us to live by faith. At any rate, waiting on the Lord is a virtue that we should all try to attain.

So, whether it’s a promise from Him you’re waiting on, or a prophetic word that has yet to materialize, or maybe even a prayer you’re wondering if He heard or not, ….waiting, as hard as it is, …..might just be the most productive thing you can do. Make no mistake about it, Tom Petty had it right; the waiting is the hardest part!

The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part …………The Waiting’ – Tom Petty

...oh, and by the way, the Bible holds some amazing promises for us as we learn to wait. Isaiah 40:31 *(go read it!)

The Empire ‘Always’ Strikes Back!

One of the largest grossing films of all time, now surpassing the $538 million dollar mark! The story, the second in the Star Wars Trilogy, set 3 years after Star Wars pits again the villainous Galactic Empire leader, Darth Vader against young Luke Skywalker and the Rebel Alliance. The film was the largest grossing film of 1980 and has since continued to rake in the millions and is now regarded as one of the greatest films of all time. When the movie came out it moved the bar up considerably where special effects were concerned. George Lucas became a household name and the ‘Trilogy’ established itself in American culture forever.

There is a mystical power known as “the Force”. It’s described as, “an energy field created by all living things that bind the galaxy together”. (sound familiar??!) Those whom “the Force is strong with” have quick reflexes; through training and meditation, they are able to perform supernatural feats. The Force is displayed by two opposing entities who are at violent conflict with one another. The Jedi, the ‘good guys’, who act on the light side of the Force, and the Sith, Vader’s evil empire, who use the dark side through fear, intimidation, and aggression.

It’s an epic story on the eternal battle between good and evil both here on the Earth and in the celestial realm. As a believer, it’s a battle that you’ve been swept into whether you like it or not. Just the movie’s title, The Empire Strikes Back, has a somewhat sobering and prophetic ring to it. It’s a great analogy of the spiritual warfare we face as believers and kingdom citizens. The spiritual comparisons in this movie are many. Darth Vader is a fair comparison to Satan although even at his very worst is no match for our adversary, the devil. At the end of the first movie, Skywalker and his rag-tag bunch of warriors win a hard fought battle against the forces of darkness. But there’s enough of the remnant of the Evil Empire left to start the slow process of building back, and ultimately assembling a formidable and potentially vicious deadly troop focused on the attack and destruction of the Jedi’s.

So yeah, just like in the movie the Empire always strikes back! You might as well get ready for it. They know your weakness. They know just how to attack. They’re determined to destroy you. But, take courage! You’re well equipped for this epic battle. It’s one you’re going to win! So, suit up!! Take up your lightsaber! You know, the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God! Put on your helmet of salvation, and take up that shield of faith with which you can quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one!

This battle is a BIG one!

Good luck, …..and may the Force be with you!

 

Don’t Let The Old Man In

That Clint Eastwood can make a movie! He’s had a string of good ones. You can see a list of them here. Starting out as young Rowdy Yates, a cowhand and cattle drover, in Rawhide (I never missed that one as a kid!), to his most recent role in The Mule’, as Earl Stone, a 90-year-old drug courier for the Sinaloa Drug Cartel, the movies he’s starred in or directed are nearing the 3 billion range in dollars generated! That’s mind-boggling! Whether it was the High Plains Drifter or ‘Dirty Harry’ Callahan, Eastwood has always managed to give a stellar, and genuine performance. And if you’ve kept up it appears he’s done nothing but get better at his craft. At 88, he might very well be at the top of his game.

I like a movie that arouses my emotions; one that can make me laugh, make me think, has plenty of suspense or mystery, maybe a surprise or two….and one that’ll even cause me to try to hold back the tears. His last one, The Mule, has all that. Without going into detail and risk ruining the whole story for ya, I’d just say, “You need to go see it.”. The critics gave it mixed reviews but if you like any of the things I like, ….you’ll be pleased.

There was a song closing out the last scene in the movie. It was a great song. I was pretty sure it was Toby Keith singing so when I got out of the theater I Googled it and, sure enough, it was Keith. The song title, “Don’t Let the Old Man In”.  As it turns out, sometime in the last couple of years at a celebrity golf tournament Toby Keith and Clint ended up being paired with one another. And probably just like you and I would be, Keith was enamored with Clint Eastwood. As they talked Clint told Toby that he was about to start work on this new movie. Keith asked Clint, “How do you still work so hard and stay so sharp at 88?” Eastwood quietly replied, “I just wake up every morning and don’t let the old man in.”

Keith realized right then, that would make good material for a great song so he went to work on it. After hearing about the song and then actually hearing it, Eastwood told Keith that he might find a place for it sometime. And, as it turned out he’d use it much sooner rather than later. It is so well placed in the movie that it puts just the right finishing touch on an already great film.

Whatever you do, click on the link above and listen to the song. You’ll be glad you did. But, heads up!! I’ll warn you ahead of time, it’ll get in your head!

And, as for me, I think I’ve decided to be like Clint; I’m gonna start wakin’ up tomorrow……and I ain’t gonna let the old man in!