The Lessons I Learned from Jeff

The last year we lived on the ranch in the Texas Panhandle I had the responsibility of taking care of 2500 head of cattle. About 1800 of those were close to 40 miles away north of Canadian, Texas on the expansive Urschel Ranch. I’d go up about three times a week and spend the day horseback checking the cattle; getting a decent count on them, making sure they had water, making sure none of them were out of the pastures they were supposed to be in. It’d make for a long day but it was enjoyable to me.

I was about three years into my walk with the Lord. Didn’t know much but I was learning a lot. I had given my testimony a couple of times and was already feeling the call for ministry…even though I had no idea what all that might mean. A friend and I had a cowboy church service (years before anyone ever heard that term!) at the Hemphill County Expo Center in Canadian and I preached the message. That was a first! I have no idea what I preached about but I do remember that one of my friends since childhood (a few years older than me) got saved that day. Let’s just call him, Jeff.

Jeff was a cowboy and had been in some of the very worst combat fights in Vietnam. In three different battles there were over a hundred US troops under fire….and all three times less than fifteen came out alive. Jeff was one of the ones each time. But, it had left an indelible mark on him. He struggled with deep depression, was separated from his wife, had trouble sleeping and agonized over the things he was ordered to do in Vietnam. Jeff was a scary looking guy, well actually if you weren’t friends with him….he just didn’t look scary….he really was scary. He’d done plenty of crazy things and the locals weren’t sure what he might do next! He hair was cut short on the top but long in the back…..way down past his collar. He had about 6 top front teeth totally gone! He wore denim shirts with the sleeves cut out of them and he had lots of tattoos; something not that common in those days. He spent a lot of his spare time at the gym pumping iron and was quite a specimen of a man.

Part of my regular routine the times when I’d go up to check cattle was to make it back to the Dairy Queen on my way home and catch Jeff after he got off work. I made it a point. I was doing my best to encourage him and give him good, sound advice. I’d pray with him every time before I headed home. One particular time we were in the DQ when a Greyhound bus made its stop there. The place was completely full of people. Jeff got there before I did and saved me a spot. His intimidating look had the attention of just about every person in there. Bear in mind that when he talked, Jeff talked really really loud; maybe louder than anyone you’ve ever known! I asked him that day, as I always did, “Jeff, how are you doing?” He replied in his loud voice, “Andy, I’m doing really good!”. I knew that I needed to press in a little more. “But, Jeff, …..how are you really doing?” And in a voice a lot louder than you need to be talking in Dairy Queen he said, “Yep, Andy, …….I’m doing so good I got rid of all my plastic explosives yesterday!!” You could’ve heard a pin drop! Every eye in the house was on us! It was funny, ….in a crazy kind of way; all those people started gathering up their food without saying a word and getting out the door as fast, but as inconspicuous as they could. It was like they didn’t totally believe him. I bet some of them are still telling that story today!

I learned a lot in my experiences with Jeff. I made it a mission of mine to help him. I wanted him to be OK; I wanted him to be well. Julie and I had planned a little vacation and were planning on being gone for about a week. I got real worried that if I wasn’t there to check on Jeff that he wouldn’t be alright. I even told Julie as much. I was actually afraid to go on vacation fearing he would implode. But, the Lord spoke clearly to my spirit at that point and said, “It’s Ok, Andy, …..you’re not the one that’s taking care of him anyway.” That put it in perspective for me. God always knows the right thing to say, and always at just the right time.

I wish this story had a happy ending….but it doesn’t. Several years later Jeff was living downstate in Texas and took his own life. I can’t help but believe that the Lord has lots and lots of grace for people like Jeff. 

I’ll never forget the things I learned…and I look forward to seeing him in Heaven.

Try these:

“It’s Not Your Job to Fix Them!”

Identity Theft

The Thing About Unconditional Love

Double Check Your “Invitation List”!!

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That Crazy Little Thing Called Love

Today’s the day that we are reminded to observe the strongest of all the emotions, love. There’ll be literally millions of dollars spent today on roses (actually lots of other varieties of flowers, too, since the roses often sell out!), candy, cards and all kinds of other things to show our love to our people. I think it’s a good thing even though, just about like every other holiday now, it’s grown to be so commercial that it’s almost gotten out of hand. Retailers gotta love Valentine’s Day. Men are apt to lose all contact with reality when it comes to this day. We’re not the best shoppers in the world, if you know what I mean! But, it doesn’t take a ‘rocket surgeon’ to make a call and buy some roses. Problem is most of us will wait ’til the day Of……and they’re all out of the dang roses! *Don’t ask me how I know this stuff! Then it’s normal to go into total crisis mode. Instead of buying roses we’ll go and try to find some flowers of some kind only to find that they’re picked over too. So, next step is to ‘double-up’ on the big read box full of chocolates. We get the biggest one we can find, you know to make up for not gettin’ any roses. Then it’s over to the card isle to get a nice romantic card. That card isle, Heads Up!!, ……there ain’t nothing like it I’ve ever seen before. It’s the scariest sight you’ll see for awhile! There’s fifty men reachin’ and grabbin’ for a card….any card. I mean, it’s like a bunch of buzzards on roadkill. They all have a distressed, uneasy look on their face. I find it interesting that there’s not one single woman in the card area, not one! I’m guessing they might’ve done a little early shopping; just a guess. So, if you’re lucky you might find a card; gotta be real lucky to find an envelope that goes with it….but who knows, you might! (pink card with a red envelope; she’ll never notice!) It’s not unusual for a guy to try to find something else to buy for his girl…you know, ’cause he didn’t get the roses. So, all in all, it usually works out pretty good for the wife or the girlfriend. And us guys…we usually manage to bail ourselves out, somehow.

But it’s all done in the name of *“That Crazy Little Thing Called Love”!

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY! ……..and good luck shoppin’ guys!

PS-If that reminded you of a story, feel free to let us in on it. It’ll make us all feel better!

*If you click on the highlighted link you can watch Dwight Yoakum sing the song. Nobody really does that song like Freddy Mercury but that video was a little too racy for my likin’!

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“Are We There Yet?”

If you’re a parent you’ve heard that question more than a few times. In fact it could happen on just about any trip. Doesn’t matter if it’s a short trip or a long one you’re apt to hear it. We had five kids so you can imagine how many times we heard, “Are we there yet?”, in their younger years. Little kids don’t really have much concept of time and distance. If they’re in the car and you drive a few miles they immediately start wondering why we’re not already there.

Our Christian walk of faith is kinda like that too. We go a ways, encounter a mess of trials tribulations, overcome one thing after another, win a few, lose a few, slowly but gradually get better…..and you’d think we oughta be there. Our life is an incredible ‘road trip’ if you can think about it that way. We may not express it to the Lord exactly like our kids do on a trip, but you gotta admit….we’re thinkin’ it! “Are we there yet?” I bet the Lord gets a kick out of our impatience at times. But in the long haul we’re like our kids; as we mature we begin to realize it’s not a quick trip. It takes a while to get ‘there’

Spiritual maturity is not an elusive thing at all. It’s attainable alright,……it just takes awhile. We’re on our way there now. But we might as well just settle in and realize it’s a lifelong endeavor. It takes a long, long time for people like us to get conformed into the image of Jesus. When I look at my own life I can tell I’m more like Him than I was….but in all reality I’ve got a long way to go.

It’s an incredible trip we’re on; not a short one by any means, more like a marathon. and when we wonder, “Are we there yet?”, we might need to remind ourselves; no, we’re not there yet……but we’re closer than we were!

Here’s a few you might like too:

 

Dysfunction Junction

“You Are Here”

Livin’ It Up

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“It’ll Ride” Part 3

I know you’ve been waiting for the next one. LOL I think I may be getting down to the last ones now. I’m trying to minimize the “It’ll Ride” incidents the best I can. It’s kind of a chronic problem. If my guess is right there’s a few others out there who have a story or two of their own. 

Years ago when we were living on the ranch my Mom had sent one of her favorite  rocking chairs to the upholsterer in Pampa, Texas. It was on the Wednesday right before Thanksgiving and she sent me there to pick up the chair. We loaded the chair and pushed it right up against the cab of the pickup. It was a pretty sturdy, heavy chair. I took a good look at it and decided, “It’ll ride”. No big deal, 60 miles, I’ll keep an eye on it and it’ll ride fine. Well, on the way home, one of those Texas Panhandle storms started blowing in! It was well after dark, the wind was blowing at least 5o mph….and the dirt was thick in the air. We were half way home when it happened! That chair, you know….the favorite rockin’ chair, started moving. It went end over end so fast it was unbelievable. It was supposed to fly right out the back end of the pickup.…but, miraculously, it hung up on the tailgate. I looked it over and there wasn’t a scratch on it! Still to this day I don’t know what kept it from going airborne and exploding on the pavement. 

OK, last one; A couple of months ago I loaded 2 of my propane tanks for my grill to get filled up. Put ’em in the back of the pickup. (*I don’t have a tailgate on my pickup.) Only had a half a mile to go. Made the short trip, got out to grab the tanks……I bet you’re already ahead of me in the story. Yep! They’re gone! I turned around ASAP, retraced my route….but no tanks! I did grind my teeth a little on that one!! Cuss words may or may not have been used to express my frustration.

After all these “It’ll Ride” stories I’m beginning to think that maybe I ought to start securing some of those things with a little rope or something. But, you know, that’d take five minutes or so….and rope ain’t cheap! I am starting to doubt myself a little when I look a situation over and declare, “It’ll Ride”!

I really am hoping this is the end of the “It’ll Ride” series!!

How about telling us your own “It’ll Ride” stories? It might make me feel better!

More “It’ll Ride”:

“It’ll  Ride”

“It’ll Ride” – Part 2

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I Did It Just For Him!

*Today marks a year since my Dad left for heaven. I wrote this blog on his birthday back in August. He would’ve been 87. It seems fitting to publish it today.

The 15th of August; For as many years as I was old enough to remember we did something to celebrate my Dad’s birthday. This year was a little different in that, this time, he wasn’t here to enjoy it with us. We did, however get together anyway. Monty drove up from Ft.Worth. We had supper at Rib Crib with just about everyone there, minus Cole and his little family, (Calli Softball practice) and Cade.

As we sat at the restaurant the TV’s were tuned to the Olympics. We watched several events including the preliminaries for the women’s 400 meter hurdles. Then it was time for the women’s 100 meter finals. Allison Felix, the USA’s marquis sprinter and most decorated American woman track and field athlete, was the odds-on favorite to win the gold medal. She had a great start, ran her race, and it appeared that she was clearly going to win the gold. But just at the very end of the race the sprinter from the Bahamas did something that was totally unexpected. Rather than just running ‘through’ the finish line she dove forward at just the precise moment….stealing the gold medal from Allison Felix.

You’re probably wondering what in the world this has to do with my Dad. Well, the 100 meter finals and the miraculous finish took me back about 47 years. I was a junior in high school. One of the things I was pretty decent at was running the hurdles. I broke the school records in the high hurdles and low hurdles that had stood since 1929.

It was at the district track meet. I hadn’t been beaten in the highs or low hurdles up to that point in the entire track season. There were several really good competitors but if I’d just run my race I could beat them. I wasn’t the fastest by any means but no one could beat me out of the blocks and I could navigate the hurdles better than most of them. But on this day there was a new guy. First time I’d seen him. We were in the same preliminary heat in the high hurdles…and he beat me. I ran a good race…and he still beat me. We had the two fastest times in the prelims so in the finals we’re lined up in the two middle lanes.

Dad didn’t always get to be at the track meets but he was there that day. I wanted to do my very best for him. I got off to my usual great start but so did the other guy. In fact, for 110 yards there was never a foot or two lead for either of us. It was literally neck-and-neck. We cleared the last hurdle and he had me beat by a foot or two. Ten feet from the finish line, he still had me beat. But I wanted to win this race in the worst possible way……for my Dad. I felt like I’d be letting him down if I didn’t win. But, for all practical purposes this guy’s got me beat. But at the last possible second I did exactly what the gal from the Bahamas did. I dove….with everything that was in me. My right shoulder hit the asphalt track and it took most of the hide off for about 8 inches……but I won the race!

I was glad I’d won the race….but the excitement wasn’t really for me. I was glad to win  because I was determined to do it for him. I don’t think I ever told Dad that I did that just for him. I wanted him to be proud of me. And for me to ‘not’ put out, and give it everything I had would make me feel like I was lettin’ him down. We learned from our folks that whatever you were doing, you give it everything you got! That’s what they did.

But you know,…..all the hundreds of things he ever did for us, he never once had to say, “I did that for you”.

We just knew!

Try these:

VIP’s #10 – Cliff & Charlene Taylor

VIP #8 – Monty Taylor

Labor Day Out on the ‘Ol ‘Lazy J’

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“Good Will Toward Men”

The heavenly angel, on a mission from the most High God, appeared with the heavenly host (multitudes of other angels) to announce to the world that a Savior had been born. Oddly enough this angelic sighting didn’t take place before a crowd of people….but to the shepherds who were watching over their flocks by night.  *(read “Good Tidings of Great Joy”) The angel didn’t say much….but what he did say was ultra important!

But, just what does the angel mean when he says,“Good will toward men”? I’ve been thinking about it all week. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone talk about that part. After pondering it for awhile…here’s where I landed. It’s an extremely important part of what the angel had to say. I’d even call it a great revelation. A Savior is born! And He came to the earth to “do us good”! It’s as clear a picture of Who God is that you’ll probably ever see. It reveals His heart toward all mankind. I don’t think it takes some kind of sophisticated commentary to figure this one out; it’s pretty simple. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believed in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

That phrase, “good will toward men”, reveals God’s absolute determination to be good to, and bless, all mankind…and in an almost unbelievable way! In ‘it’ He would do the only thing possible to redeem every single person that would ever live. He’s that good!

All other religions focus on how a person can get to God….but Christianity is vastly different. Yep, Christianity is about our God ‘coming to us’! He loved us so much that He came in the likeness of man, laid down His own life to, once and for all, forgive us of our sins! And the icing on the cake would be that, now,…..plain old people like you and I can have a personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe! I I don’t know if you’ve figured that out by now but …that’s one heck of a deal!

“Good will toward men”……..

It’s God……willing (wanting, desperately desiring)…..to do you good!

More “good news”:

Maybe He Saved More Than Your Life!

If God Has Your Heart, He Can Get Your Feet Where They Belong!

What If It’s Not to ‘Break’ You,….but to ‘Make’ You?

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“The Reason for the Season”

You’ve heard that phrase a thousand times. I hope we keep on hearing it. It’s just a reminder for us, ……and for our culture…and our generation to not forget ‘why’ we celebrate Christmas. I expect, for the people reading this blog, that you don’t really need to be reminded but it’s easy to see over the course of quite a few years that the message of Jesus gets ‘lost’ in the busyness of the season.

Retailers have capitalized on the opportunity to up their sales. It works! The big discount stores like Wal-Mart, Target, K-Mart start putting Christmas decorations out in October, just to get everyone in the mood! “Black Friday”, that Friday immediately after Thanksgiving has become one of the biggest shopping days of the year, ….if not THE biggest. “Cyber Monday” right after that is their thrust to encourage Americans to shop online. Again, it works!! And, the last few years, I’ve received hundreds of emails advertising all kinds of special deals on everything from electronics to vehicles. One of the newer email methods is doing a ‘takeoff’ on the “Twelve Days of Christmas” song. There’s half a dozen or more companies sending me a different ‘special’ deal offer for twelve days in a row. I didn’t respond to any of ’em….but I bet a bunch of people did.

I don’t have a problem with observing the season as an opportunity to ‘give’Giving goes right along with what it’s all about. But it’s gotten so commercialized over the years that most of America doesn’t even notice Jesus in the middle of it. Add to that the push by the secularists, and the politically correct crowd (Lord, help us!!) to not even say Merry Christmas anymore…..It eventually gets on my nerves!

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t have a problem with Santa Claus, Rudolph or Jingle Bells. Those things can add joy to the season……but, just being honest,…..it ain’t about them!

It’s about a Savior Who was born, Who came to the world to take away our sins and to enable us to have a personal,  one-on-one, relationship with the Creator of the Universe, Who chooses to be our Father!

It was the greatest show of love the world will ever know!

So, enjoy your family; enjoy a day or two off if you get ’em; enjoy the opportunity to receive and to give….but don’t forget about Jesus!

He’s the Reason for the Season!!

Room at the Inn?

There’s Just Something About ‘That Name’!!

 

“It’ll Ride” – Part 2

It seems to be a chronic ailment of mine. You would think that by now I would’ve learned my lesson. But when I look a situation over…and it looks good to me, why waste a bunch of time to try to make it better. In this case I’m talking about loading something in my pickup and not taking precious time to secure said things with a chain, rope, bungie cord or some other means to keep things from slipping out, falling out….or in some rare cases,….flying out of the back of my pickup. If you haven’t read “It’ll Ride”, (click on the highlighted link) you should do it now. You’ll get the picture!

Ten or twelve years ago when our boys were still involved in junior rodeo, the rodeo finals were held culminating with a huge awards banquet at the end of the season for all the winners. The all-around winners (best in overall multiple events) in each age group received a really nice trophy saddle. Those saddles cost upwards of fifteen hundred dollars and it’s the award that everyone really wants to win. That particular year Clay, our youngest son, won the all-around. Of course we were all excited about that and proud of him. He had worked hard and it was a major accomplishment.

After the awards ceremony I loaded up the horses, half a dozen trophy buckles that had been won in several events….and the saddle that Clay had just been awarded. It was eleven o’clock pm. I had only a twenty mile trip home. The saddle was placed back in the cardboard box that it had been shipped in. The bed of my pickup was full of all kinds of rodeo equipment so I looked the situation over and decided to put the box with the saddle in it on the top of my toolbox. It would be right up against the cab of the pickup so the wind wouldn’t be a factor. I took one good look at it, assessed the situation…..and said to myself, “It’ll ride”!

Driving down the Interstate alone and periodically looking over my shoulder at the ‘precious cargo’ on top of my toolbox, and everything’s fine. The big box with the saddle in it is riding like a charm. (just like I knew it would) I made sure to look back every half minute or so….just to make sure. I looked back and it was there…….but thirty seconds later when I looked back, …….you guessed it, it was gone!!

Oh, sweet Jesus!!! (as I reflect back on that night I’m pretty sure that might not be exactly what I said!! Let’s just leave it at that!)

I hit the brakes like nobody’s bidness! I pulled off onto the shoulder and was out of that pickup in a flash. There’s a dozen eighteen-wheelers (not counting the cars and pickups) going east and west and running at least seventy-five mph. I’m running back down the shoulder of I-40 as hard as I can…..and praying harder than I’ve ever prayed before. (and come to think of it, praying harder than I ever have since, too!!) I just know that one of those trucks has already hit the box with the saddle in it….and I’m imagining in my mind all the ugly things that might happen to a saddle when it gets hit by a semi!! And, on top of that, I’m agonizing about how I’m gonna break the news to the Fam! Can ya’ get the picture??!

I ran at least a quarter of a mile before I saw something in the center median of the 4-lane interstate. I only had the headlights of the trucks going east and west to see. I crossed over to the median and there was the box! I had this thought, “Do I really want to see this?!” It can’t be good! When I got to the box…the saddle was still in it! Between you and me…..I had a little worship service right there! It didn’t last long but it was definitely very vocal…..and heartfelt, if ya’ know what I mean!! lol

I carried the saddle back to the pickup, looked at it under the light…and it didn’t have a scratch on it!

I put it right up there next to me in the front seat, shut the door, locked it good, pulled that saddle over as close to me as I could…..and said,……

“It’ll Ride”!!

*Same rule applies with “It’ll Ride” Part 1; I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t mention this to Julie. She really don’t like to talk about it!

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“Sticks n’ Stones”

“Sticks n’ stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” I can remember my Mom & Dad teaching me that little thing when I was just a kid. Kids can be cruel with their words. Sometimes it overlaps into adulthood, too. This is just a little rhyme that teaches us to not let those words spoken against us land in our heart…and take root. It was first recorded in 1862. I don’t know who, initially, came up with it but my guess is that it was someone who was forced to deal with some kind of negative barrage of words or criticism from someone else.

It’s good advice, no doubt about it, and if we can learn to appropriate it into our life we’ll be a lot better off for it. But the truth is that words can…..and do hurt. In fact they can cause tremendous damage to young and old alike. Words have extreme potential on both the negative and positive side. The Bible even talks about the importance of words more than a few times.

If we, as victims of those negative words, don’t find a good, positive way to navigate through them and not let them have their effect on us we can easily end up falling prey to their power. I know a lot of people who have allowed those critical and mean-spirited words spoken over them define their entire lives.

So, I think the little rhyme has merit and value for each of us if we’ll just ascribe to it. If we can make the determination within each of us that we won’t let those words hurt us, we’ll be OK. It’s a fact of life; we’re going to have plenty of cruel words hurled our way….but in all reality, they can only hurt us if we let ’em.

It should also be a good reminder to each of us to watch our own words…and not to carelessly throw them out there where they can do damage to someone else!

A Place Where People Get Well

We started Trinity Fellowship back in 1989. Julie and I knew we’d heard the Lord about the work in Sayre. There was a little small group of about 8-10 people coming from the whole spectrum of backgrounds. Baptist, Church of Christ, Pentecostal, Charismatic….and a few who didn’t know what they were….but just knew they wanted to go on with the Lord.

From the very start, it has been a place ‘where people get well’! “Well from what”, you might ask? Some of them get well physically; we’ve always believed in the miracle-working power of God. There’s story after story of how the Lord defied all the doctor’s reports and someone was gloriously healed. It still isn’t rare  for me to ask someone, “How’d you find us?” and their reply, “I’ve got cancer and I heard God heals people here!” Some of them get well emotionally; Trinity has been a place where hurting people come. The word is out! Because of the “good news” there’s hope for the hopeless. Some get well from the ill effects of dead, lifeless, and mean-spirited religion. There are droves of those people out there that have been plowed under by religion and religious people. Many will never darken the door of a church again. But a lot of those people give us a try….and you know what? They get well, too! Some get well from the clutches of addiction, others from heartbreak, grief, and lots of other things. It hardly ever happens overnight…..but it nearly always happens!

We would never take the credit for it; They’re not getting well because we’re good at this stuff.  People get well when they’re loved. We don’t have that perfected….but we’re working on it. But, anytime anyone connects relationally with the Lord….they stand a really good chance to get well. It’s His love that makes the difference. Love never fails, you know!

It feels good to be known as a ‘place where people get well’!

The People That Nobody Else Wants

What If I’d Said, No?

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