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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’

 

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Only the Lonely

Roy Orbison possessed one of the most distinctive singing voices that any of us have ever heard. Born in Vernon, Texas in 1936 he forever carved out his unique niche in both pop and country music. There’s not a single song of his that doesn’t captivate even the most finicky music critic. As I was listening on XM a short time ago he sang “Only the Lonely”. Anybody can sing any song….but nobody can sing that one like Roy, himself. Sometimes you can just listen to a song and enjoy it. But, this time when I heard it, …..it ‘moved’ me. It caused me to think of the times I’ve felt alone….and the many, many times I have talked to, and tried to help, others who were isolated in life for whatever reason. “Only the lonely know the way I feel tonight; only the lonely know this feeling ain’t right”.

Loneliness; being without company, cut off from others, a feeling of bleakness or desolation. Even the definition has a deep, dull impact! It’s clearly one of the most devastating of all human emotions. It can evoke the strongest feelings of rejection and discouragement or even worse. God even says Himself, “It is not good that man should be alone.” We’re created in such a way to have a dire need for companionship. I think it could even be construed that the Father, Himself, doesn’t want to be alone. Could that be one of the primary reasons that we were created in the first place?! I think maybe so.

The Father must’ve known that we’d all experience times of feeling all alone. He had some amazing foresight if you ask me. It must be why He thought it was so important to make sure that we never had to worry or wonder if He’d be there for us. When He said, “I’ll never leave you nor forsake you”….He meant it!

I hope you never feel alone but if, or when, you do think about HIs promise. He’s there…..whether you can feel Him or not! Run to Him, call out to Him…….He’ll help!

*(This one’s for you Jack M!)

Don’t stop here….check these out, *and “Share” ’em, too:

“If You Could See The Big Picture”

You Matter! You Really Do!

I Don’t Know How He Does It!

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Fail Forward

It doesn’t matter what you’re doing in life, missing the mark is always a possibility. In fact it’s inevitable that we’re going to fail at something. Whether it’s not making the 5th grade basketball team or coming up short for class president. Most of us experienced the heartbreak of not doing quite good enough early on in life. You know, if it’d just stop there it wouldn’t be too bad. We could surely overcome that class president thing and move on wih life. But, challengingly enough, it doesn’t stop there.

Every single thing we do in life the possibility of failure is staring us square in the face. It can be distracting and downright intimidating. Get yourself two or three of those heartbreaks in a row, which is not hard, and it makes for a really tough patch of life. It would be easy for anyone to get stuck in that same old pattern and let it set the course of their entire life. It’s happened all too many times.

But it doesn’t have to happen that way. Actually, failure has some profound potential if we just don’t allow it get the best of us. Failures provide some amazing learning opportunities and they can give us some incredible perspective if we’ll just let it.

Peter was one of those guys that failed. He didn’t just fail a little….he failed BIG! At the time Jesus needed him most he folded like a cheap lawn chair. Three times he denied that he even knew Jesus, once to a little 12 year old girl. You may have had some major blunders in your life but I’m bettin’ you haven’t had one that big. It would have been easy for that failure to define the rest of Peter’s life. But he had an encounter with Jesus after the resurrection and something miraculous happened; something so miraculous, in fact, that for the next 25 years he was the most important man of the planet as it related to the plan of God! That should be a source of great encouragement to people like us.

Failure is a strong word; and, just because you failed at something doesn’t mean you’re a failure! We shouldn’t allow our failures to define us. We should use them as a stepping stone to greatness. Learn your lesson, get back up and get going again, use your bad experience to help someone else. 

You’re gonna miss the mark; you’re gonna fall short, you’re gonna fail occasionally. But when you fail, …….fail forward! Failure is not final…..unless you let it be!

Oh, and don’t forget what really made the difference for Peter! That encounter with Jesus is the ‘clincher’!

It’ll work for you, too!

Here’s a couple more you might like:

Critics……..There’s One On Every Corner

“Nothing I Can Do About it Now”

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What If I’d Said, No?

I didn’t….so it’s just theoretical. I’m not going to….so don’t get all uptight about it. But occasionally it does go through my mind…..mostly at times when I’m down or discouraged. Yeah, people like me have those times too. Most won’t admit it…fearing it to be a sign of weakness. And, without a doubt, there are those in every group that could start the ‘feeding frenzy’ when a spiritual leader admits he’s actually human, and vulnerable. And, from what I’ve seen by observing other leaders…church people can be some of the most vicious and mean-spirited of them all. Crazy huh?!

It was in 1986 that I heard the call of the Lord on my life. I remember the day well. I was training a horse in the big round pen at the ranch near Allison, Texas. I got off, tied him up and drove the 7 miles to town to talk to my Pastor, Ronnie Chadwick. *(click to read the account) As I remember, it was pretty clear from the Lord. And also, just as clear, was my response to Him that day. It was an easy, “Yes”! I had absolutely no idea what it all meant but I was ‘all-in’, whatever that was.

It was the same when we said “Yes” to the work in Sayre. I’d been asked a dozen times or more to take the little group (6-8) and be their leader. I hadn’t heard a single thing from the Lord that I should do it. But in one critical week the Lord spoke clearly to both Julie and me. We said, “Yes”, and the rest is history, so to speak.

I’m not sure what I’d be doing….or where I’d even be had I said “No”, on those two occasions. For me it’s kind of scary to think about. I doubt I’d be in Sayre, Oklahoma. I’d probably be doing something involving horses and cattle, or ranching. It’s what I knew best…and what I loved doing. On some of the really hard days that life, as hard as it can be too, looks pretty dang good.

But I think about the things that I’d be missing had I said, “No”. I’d have missed at least some of the amazing things the Lord has miraculously done in, through and around us in the last 30+ years. It’s almost embarrassing to admit the times down through the years that ‘quitting’ seemed the thing to do. But I’m not a quitter, never have been…it’s a family trait. I’ve noticed people down through the years who quit, knowing they shouldn’t have,…and it appears that they don’t like themselves much after that. Of course the call of the Lord is one very valid reason for not quitting. But the thing that’s kept me going all these years is my incredible family (best on the planet!)….and this amazing bunch of people at Trinity Fellowship that actually believe in what we’re doing…..and have bet their lives on making a difference!

So, yep…I’m human, and a pretty flawed one at that! But I’m on a pretty decent 30 year run of saying “Yes” to the Lord. My policy has always been to be ‘real’. I’m not of the, ‘fake it ’til you make it’, variety. I’m glad I said, “Yes”. And I still don’t know what it all means! But, I’m all-in for whatever He says!

If you like this one….You’ll like this one, too:

Thank You, Mother Teresa

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Just Some Friendly Advice: Always Approach a Possum With Extreme Caution!!

About a year after we had moved from the ranch in Texas we were living in a nice place just 10 miles south of Cheyenne, Oklahoma. We had a big ‘ol Chow dog named “Buddy”. He wasn’t much count for anything except for barking non-stop if he heard or saw anything during the night. It had become pretty common for the possums to come up during the night and try to steal some of his dog food. He killed a couple of them and I imagine a couple dozen or more got some of his food and made their escape. That happened at least once a week. The big house we lived in had a nice, wrap-around porch all across the front and around one side. On the front porch we had a long church pew; it was about a 12 footer. His favorite thing was to get one of those possums hemmed up and bark at them until the fight happened or they, by chance, got away.

It was the middle of the summer and the yearly rodeo was going on in Cheyenne so we thought we ought to take in a night of it. We got home about 11 pm and got the kids put down and were just about to ‘hit the sack’ when ‘ol Buddy went to barking. It doesn’t take much of that to start wearing on my patience, you understand. I’m barefooted and in my underwear, (tighty-whiteys in those days…..I have since upgraded!). I grabbed a broom on the way out the door and it was just as I thought. He had him a possum down the porch at the end of the long church pew. Now, nobody likes possums; I guess they’re harmless but they’re just nasty if you ask me. My plan was to spook him off the porch with the broom and then let nature take it’s course.

I’m ticked off and yelling at ‘ol Buddy, who’s still barking furiously, as I neared the end of the church pew. Well…..when I got to the end of the pew and reared back to smack the varmint with my broom…..I finally got a good look at the possum. But, it wasn’t a possum!

Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a BADGER at point-blank range with all his teeth showing (it looked like a few dozen of ’em), slobberin’, hissin’….and ready to attack……with nothing but your underwear on or not! It was a first for me!! My whole life flashed in front of me! Instantaneously I had a vision of me being ripped to shreds by this maniac of an animal! He was On. The. Hook.!! I mean….have you ever heard a ‘good’ story about a badger?? Right! That’s ’cause there ain’t no good stories about ’em!! Every outrageous, horrifying thing I’d ever heard before about badgers somehow, at that moment, seemed really legit!

I bet you could still see my toe prints in the concrete on that porch where I skidded to a stop! In my mind I said, “If you’ll just give me one tenth of a second….I’ll be out of your life forever!” Well, fate happened to be on my side that night….thank the Lord! I have no idea what happened to the badger; don’t even care! I was just glad to get out of there with my life!

That was the last time I ever rambled down the porch with a broom! (I’m a quick learner!) And, just between you and me, I can’t remember if I ever wore those underwear again or not!

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