WAR ZONE

…we live in a war zone. There will be casualties

I have written in past days about my first experiences in Bosnia Herzegovina not very long after the cessation of open war. I use the term open war because the hatred and the racial and societal issues still divide the country and corruption stops any real forward progress in defeating the enemy.

It is difficult to describe a war zone. The buildings that once were homes, businesses, churches are just bombed out shells, with no life save the foraging insects and vermin that root among the remains looking for what else they can devour.

A hand painted sign reading welcome to Sarajevo covered in shrapnel caused pock-marks
Iconic Sarajevo sign 1995

Where people still reside, apartment buildings have shell holes that allow in the winter wind and the outside is pock-marked, the results of shrapnel tearing apart at the structure trying to weaken it.

There is a stark analogy between the physical war zone I witnessed in Sarajevo and remote areas of the countryside and the spiritual battles we face today. In Bosnia, no place was left untouched. Specific places had horrific stories of hate-driven carnage and we see the same in the battles Satan wages upon our world. I have felt the darkness of Satan’s demonic power more in Bosnia than anywhere else I have traveled but, it is only because there the mask of civilization was ripped away, and Satan’s plans were open for anyone to see. In the rest of our world, often, we keep the mask of civility and Satan’s attacks are, perhaps, not unseen, but unnoticed  by an uncaring society too wrapped in their own pain and secular drives to respond.

In the Bible we read, Satan is a roaring lion, prowling around seeing whom he may devour, just like the vermin crawling among the carnage of Bosnia’s war. Paul tells us our war is not against flesh and blood but “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph. 6:12)

A fierce looking lion crouched as if to pounce surrounded by a black background with the words Our Adversary the Devil

God has permitted Satan to have dominion over the world until the time He finishes it and brings Satan to destruction and all who believe in Christ are His forever in peace. God waits, not because He is cruel but because He is patient and loving. Peter explains it, writing that God is “not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”(2 Peter 3:9)

Until then, as one writer put it, “Satan’s attack means that we all are vulnerable to sickness, betrayal, financial meltdown, relational loss, emotional despair and other hardships… bad things happen to good people… we live in a war zone. There will be casualties.” (Rooted, Mariners Church 2011 p 85)

In our spiritual battles, there will be homes empty, just shells remaining where once there were families. There will be businesses and churches gone, only the few, scattered remains from a bombing by sin and failure. Where people still reside, there will be shell holes letting in the cold winter wind, chilling the soul and hardening the heart; the explosive remains of  damaged relationships, lost trust and horrific sin. The lives of those struggling to survive are pock-marked by the shrapnel of sin which has left its mark upon them.

There is hope.

The damage of war can be overcome and what was once uninhabitable shells of homes and broken down lives can come to life again like spring after a hard winter. The refreshing breeze of peace and love that comes only from Jesus Christ through His victory over death and sin.  When it coms to spiritual battles, as the ‘Rooted’ book spells out, “And (the Lord) wins. Every. Single. Time.” (p 85)

Someone once wrote how, in the darkest of places, a single candle burns brightest. I saw such a candle in Bosnia. It came in the form of a simple, unpretentious man who loved His Lord and loved every single person God sent his way in a very dark place. The flame of his candle lit many small candles which will burn for generations when the Spirit moves to set those candles within His lampstand.

A completely dark black frame with one bright flame from a candle visible in the darkness

John writes, “We know that we are children of God and that the world is under the control of the evil one.” That is disconcerting to say the least. But in context, we find hope. The verse just before this one reads, “We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God (that’s Jesus)keeps him (that’s you if you truly believe)and the evil one (that’s Satan) does not touch him. Jesus told us we would have trouble in this world, but the Good News is that Jesus has overcome the world! He said so! Jesus doesn’t lie. Satan’s attacks will be all around us, but as believers, saved by grace through faith, even if we die because of a sinful world’s sickness, we are safe, secure, in heaven forever with Him.   

We live in a war zone. Live under the banner of the victor. Take heed to what He teaches about daily survival and keep a long-view, looking toward the completion of all things under Christ.

THE LAST BREATH

They’ll keep the flag flying with a fresh and freeing breeze… not by death; but, by freedom from the highest mountains to the seas!

It’s been said our great flag flies not by the wind which rustles the leaves;

But, with the very last breath every fallen soldier breathes.

When on nights, so cold the air freezes in your chest, the flag flies high and brings a tightness to your breast,

Then come the memories of those past wars, the wounds, the faces and the scars.

Each one is reflected in the colored stripes and bold stars.

Every generation past and yet to come, will certainly be asked

To share their best for freedom and faithfully complete the task.

They’ll keep the flag flying with a fresh and freeing breeze… not by death; but, by freedom from the highest mountains to the seas!

A Watering Trough or Mountain Spring?

Reflections on John Piper’s devotion,

Serve God with Your Thirst

Please take a few minutes to read John Pipers, Serve God with Your Thirst, before enjoying this reflection.

At a recent gathering of Christian men; a dear brother read to us John Piper’s Serve God with Your Thirst. I was hit square on by the passage  and want to share some of my own reflections from that first view  of this work. In his devotional titled, Solid Joys, Piper has penned this short piece and he makes the analogy between a watering trough and a mountain spring. Having been the keeper of horses, (I’m not certain anyone truly owns a horse, but they allow themselves to be kept, fed, cared for and, upon occasion, will acquiesce to a rider), I found the analogy striking. Piper writes, “God is a mountain spring, not a watering trough. A mountain spring is self-replenishing. It constantly overflows and supplies others. But a watering trough needs to be filled with a pump or bucket.”

Something Piper did not report was that a watering trough is a breeding ground for all types of yuck. Without a good power washing or scrubbing, before long there are more things living in the trough than are supplied by it. Mosquitos, fly larvae, and some bacteria without nice names will soon make the trough not just unusable, but unsafe. A mountain spring, however, is forever new, refreshed, clean, crisp and clear. Piper’s analogy, of course, is succinct. Our indwelling in Christ is not of our work, but His.

He goes on to write,” If you want to glorify the worth of a watering trough, you work hard to keep it full and useful. But if you want to glorify the worth of a spring, you do it by getting down on your hands and knees and drinking to your heart’s satisfaction, until you have the refreshment and strength to go back down in the valley and tell the people what you’ve found.”

Recently, my wife and I sat on the patio of a restaurant along the bank of a river. As we watched, the river run past. The cool breeze of the afternoon was a welcome relief from the hot summer sun over us, shaded just enough by the grape arbor and magnificent oak that grew along the water’s edge. I remarked how the water pushing past us just then, rushing toward the Ohio River then working its way south to the Gulf of Mexico, would not come past us again. It was gone. But, even before it was out of reach, new water arrived to replace it. And so, it is with God’s grace. A mountain spring whose waters are fresh every second invite you to drink deeply, even wade in and allow the water to cover you. That the grace of God could be felt like that cool, mountain spring, pouring over us, new every minute.

https://desiringgod.org/articles/serve-god-with-your-thirst
trough photos courtesy of West Fork Ranch – Western Country Realty and Current Events in Historical Perspective The Ohio State – Dry Days Downunder
Smokey Mountain Spring Photograph courtesy Don F. Bradford

 

A “Child-like” Faith

Dr. Ross L. Riggs

Few times in my adult life have I been truly afraid. In most every circumstance, I was afraid for someone that I loved. I’m not certain of any specific time when I was afraid of what would happen to me, particularly in a physical way. I might suggest, too, I’m not particularly courageous. It is not because I am a strong man who is never afraid of anything. It is more because, unlike many of my brothers in the emergency services and very much unlike those serving in the front lines of our military in combat zones; I have seldom been placed in a predicament that might cost me my life. Don’t get me wrong, in all my years in police work, I had threats, and guns or knives used against me and more than a few fights; some which, for a time, we weren’t sure who was winning. There was one time, in such a fight, that I awoke from unconsciousness, face down on a brick road and my first thought was, ‘If I don’t get up I am going to die’ Still, I don’t remember being scared, just aware of my circumstances. Once or twice, as a volunteer firefighter, on the end of a hose crawling through black smoke, unable to see, all I could do was feel my way and feel the intense heat around me… that was orifice puckering, without a doubt. Usually, though, it was after the incident, when there was time to contemplate what might have happened, then there was time to be afraid.

John Wayne is quoted as saying, “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.” Probably, if I had to stand in the open door of a C130 cargo plane, attached to a line to parachute out the door, I would probably be more afraid of that than anything else I can imagine (unless it involves a pit full of snakes in the dark…)  My son, Daniel, was in the U.S. Army Airborne and he loved the thrill of jumping. I would probably squeal like a little girl all the way out the door! daniel 325 1st brigade red falcons hhcAgain, John Wayne, in the movie, The Green Beret, spoke to a South Vietnamese colonel about parachuting. He said, “The first one is easy. It’s the second one that is hard to get them to make.”

Fear and courage are perhaps two sides of the same coin. In the Bible, there are several references to mighty men of valor. In the Chronicles and the books of First and Second Kings, we read of David’s army and men within those ranks that were such men. There were many who were very highly praised for their valor; but, only a select few attained to the highest rankings of the Mighty Men. At one point, outside the enemy’s camp, David spoke of desiring water from the well that was within the enemy’s headquarters. Unbeknownst to David, three of the ‘Mighty Men’ secreted their way into the enemy camp and obtained the water for their King. Upon their return, David learned of their honoring his request. He refused to drink the water, and said it was now of such value because of the risk the men took, all he could do was to offer it up to God as a sacrifice. The Mighty Men of Valor were more devoted to honoring their King than they were concerned about their own safety. They also, had a pretty strong belief in their ability to pull off the daring deed successfully. Did they experience fear? If they did not feel fear, could they truly have been courageous?

Can one exhibit courage unless it stands over the fear which seeks to overwhelm the man of valor? Courage from faith comes when one has gone through life-threatening scenarios because of one’s profession; even though, at the time, the adrenalin and training was enough to keep a person reacting.  Then, afterwards, to realize how fearful a thing it was through which they have come; to don the uniform again and go back at it, night after night; is what The Duke meant by, ‘saddling up anyway.’ A similar courage is found in the spouse of that person who, night after night, pats their loved one’s chest to make sure the one they love is wearing a vest; and then watches them walk out that door. Saddling up, also, is the soldier’s wife, a thousand miles away, as she says a prayer with her children for their daddy; kisses their foreheads and assures them, “Daddy is just fine, now go to sleep. He’ll be home as soon as he can.” She goes to her room then, and prays herself to sleep.

Perhaps some of the bravest people I have met are children. I have witnessed more courage by children in a hospital setting than anywhere else I have been. I volunteered with my dog, Gunner, at Akron Children’s Hospital. In the burn ward, on the cancer floor, awaiting surgery or overcoming an amputated limb, these are some of the most resilient and most tenacious; some of the strongest yet most fragile people I have ever met. The common ingredient among them… faith. Gunner at ACH.JPG

Many I met had a faith in God and in Jesus Christ. Many more weren’t sure about any theology, they just knew that Jesus loved them. Even though they did not understand why Jesus or God would allow them to be like they were, they just knew that Jesus loved them and was going to make sure they were Okay, even if that meant dying and going to heaven. That was the other thing they were sure of too, their place in heaven. That doesn’t mean there were not questions and doubts; fear and tears. At the end of the day, though, the children taught the adults around them great lessons in faith. Just knowing that Jesus would do what He said He would do; was enough for them! That is what Jesus was talking about when He said we must come to Him in childlike faith.

Childlike faith does not mean we blindly accept whatever comes our way with no depth of understanding. The Old Testament tells of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego; three Jewish young men, taken captive and living as officials to the king in the palace, with faith as strong as a child. Refusing to bow in homage to the king in worship of his likeness, they were sentenced to be thrown alive into a super-heated furnace. Knowing the furnace would be certain death, they boldly told the king how certain they were, even if their God did not save them from the fire, He was still God; and everything would be Okay. They understood death was imminent, still they knew following what they believed to be God’s will for them was more important than what they might endure physically.

I come up against a misapplication of this theology at times when I speak to missionaries and others in similar service about contingency planning. Too often, there is an almost frivolous God will take care of it attitude and I make the case in my thesis: In Times of Risk, Developing Contingency Plans for Missionary Sending Churches and Agencies, which is available through Summit University, Richard J. Murphy Library, Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania. The Bible is replete with great examples of God-ordained contingency planning. Nehemiah is probably one of the clearest examples. One man works while another holds a spear and each works nearest their home to protect it also.

One particularly obstinate opponent to contingency planning, a former head of an international missionary sending agency, completely disagreed with my statement on martyrs for the faith. Often, we eulogize men and women who died while serving in a ministry capacity as martyrs when, in fact, they may have also have lived, Lord-willing by simple choices and planning. Sometimes, they could have stayed alive by just learning when to remain quiet. God knows, and I don’t judge; but, I also do not step in front of an on-coming training saying that God will protect me and if I die it must be His will! The Bible does teach, I believe, that God knows, from before we are born, the day that we will die. Because He knows we will die that day, stepping in front of that train, doesn’t necessarily mean it was His will for us to have done it! As a police officer, I always wore a bullet-proof vest and when driving, my seatbelt. Does that mean I did not have enough faith in God to protect me? No! It means I used the tools provided to me and the common-sense God endowed with me to be cautious.

Faith, the faith of a child, knows God will do what He says He will do. Such faith is what moves mountains. I can only echo the statement of the father of the little boy to Jesus.  When Jesus asked him if he believed, Mark 9:24 recounts the father’s desperate cry: “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’”

Man praying
Photo courtesy of How Crying Saved My Life by Marliza Gunter, HubPages

ALONE and IN DANGER!

They were facing dangers for which they were not prepared and they had no real protection.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8 NKJV)

This time it was not a roaring lion; it was like it has been many nights this past summer, a coyote, sometimes a single hunter, most times in a pack. We knew he had been back and this time, bold enough to be up to the house right by our garage doors. The evidence of his attack was everywhere. White chicken feathers were strewn across our driveway, it looked like it had been snowing down or that there had been an Olympic-worthy feather pillow fight in our driveway.

Our chickens free-range, that is they roam anywhere across our property, usually staying within the acre upon which is their coop. Most of the time they are in their brood, following closely to one another. At night, if they are not in the coop, which is a frequent occurrence in the summertime, they spread out in small groups. Some go high, up to about fifteen feet on our ‘ham radio’ antenna tower or the roof of their coop. Many, however, stay near the horse’s run-in. They enjoy the heat lamp there when it’s cold and the fan when it’s warm; but always the protection provided by 800-pound horses. There are those few, though, that wander off by themselves, away from the protection of the brood. Those few are getting fewer. Being face to face with a predator like a coyote is not a pleasant experience, I’m sure.

Did you hear about the man who explained to his hunting buddies how, when pounced upon by a huge Grizzly bear, deep in the woods, he saved his life with just one shot from his small Jennings .25 caliber semi-auto pistol? Here is his story…

grizzly cartoon

There I was, right in the path of the biggest Grizzly Bear any man has seen in the whole of the Northeast! It stood like a mountain in front of me! It’s paws, as big as my head were outstretched high above his head as he was ready to swoop that gigantic paw with razor-sharp claws right across me. It would be my end if I did not act and fast! My only defense was my tiny Jennings .25 caliber pistol. It only took one shot! The shot was, I must admit, timed perfectly and my aim was exact! One single round into my wife’s bad knee and there was no way she could out run me! Yes, sir; that little Jennings saved my life!

Probably not a story for a pre-marriage counseling environment but, for those of us married for any length of time… The biggest problem our friend had in the woods (or maybe his second biggest problem) was that he and his wife were away from the safety of the group. They were facing dangers for which they were not prepared and they had no real protection. That is the same predicament that some of my hens have found themselves in and a fairly usual circumstance for sheep who graze in open land surrounded by predators.

Jesus used the analogy of a good shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine sheep who are safe in the fold and goes to search for the one that is lost. The shepherd knows that, alone, the individual sheep has no protection and will be killed. He may also realize that if a mountain lion or other predator finds food in this one location, he will be back, and the rest of the flock is endangered as well; including the shepherd!

The analogy of the sheep being lost and alone speaks to us in our living in community with one another. Paul admonishes us to not neglect our sharing together regularly as the body of Christ, the church. Sharing community together benefits us as we share our life experiences with one another. Our brothers and sisters in Christ are in one of three groups.

  • They have already been where we are and can help us avoid the dangers.
  • They are currently walking the same path we are, and we can walk together to help and encourage each other.
  • They will someday soon be walking where we are, and we can help them manage the path ahead of them that we have just been on.

It is not only the lost sheep that is in danger. The sheep who is lost can also be endangering the rest of the flock and the shepherd. Just as the coyote has found a free meal at my hens’ expense has now returned for additional meals and the lion who enjoys dining on the stray sheep may return to attack the flock, danger comes to the body of believers when one of its own is away from his walk with Christ. Scripture admonishes us not to give the devil a foothold. Sin, like an infection, in one part of the body can spread and infect other parts. A virus spreading through a flock of sheep endangers all of the sheep and the shepherd for he is not invulnerable to disease. I am speaking, of course, to the human shepherd Christ has placed in leadership of a local body of believers and not the Good Shepherd.

The risks of walking alone can also be found when individually we are separated from God’s Word. Even if we are going through the motions of body life, when we are outside a regular habit of daily Bible reading and prayer then we are essentially saying to God, I’ve got this… just hang loose and I’ll call you if I need you.

Not feeding ourselves regularly on the meat found in scripture and then spending time talking to our Heavenly Father, listening for what He has to say to us is walking all alone through the dark forest of today’s world and we are at great risk! Whether a roaring lion or a grizzly bear, the risks of being alone when the spiritual battles comes is a dangerous one. We must not go into the spiritual battles of everyday life unarmed. The Bible is the only offensive weapon given to us as we put on the full armor of God described in Ephesians 6. We must not just carry the sword of truth, but know very well how to use it.

We can talk all the bravado we want about being a lone-wolf, an island to ourselves or any other rendition of why we avoid living our life in community we choose; but, it does not change one simple fact. God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.”

A Word from the Fair on Patriots’ Day

May God bless America, may America bless God

What is more mid-West America than a county fair? The horse events, cattle and pig judging, craftsmen and artists presenting their work for sale and, of course, the sausage sandwiches and scores of other fair fares all combine to make the county fair the place to be! When I was in elementary school (a few years ago) we would receive a free ticket to be used on ‘Fair Day’ when schools were closed to allow students to attend the fair. In rural areas, like Wayne County Ohio, many of the kids had animals in the fair to show.

If you have followed SCI this week on FB you know that we are spending the week at the Wayne County Fair with a booth all our own which means I have been staying at the fair quite a bit, aided greatly by my wife and family. This morning, I took a walk across the fairgrounds around 5 a.m. Other than the occasional sounds of sheep, horses, cows and even a squealing pig, most of the human animals who had spent the night were still asleep. Long before dawn, though, those who own cows were up and walking their animals to the milking stations.

What caught my attention in the pre-dawn coolness of the night was the Memorial Pavilion. There, in a nicely kept section of lawn was a set of flags around a large stone declaring the community’s support for all those who serve or have served in the U.S. military and the seals of each of the branches of the Armed Forces. Dawn was just beginning to break as I stood there lost in thought about what occurred on this Patriot’s Day in 2001. I stepped around the side of the memorial stone and lowered the American flag to half-mast as is required by Executive Order these past sixteen-years. As I secured the rope to the pole, I stepped back, rendered a hand salute and said a brief prayer, “May God bless America and may America bless God.”fair booth.jpg

On this Patriot’s Day, at our SCI booth, right in the middle of the doorway will be a flag with the Twin Towers on it and a simple statement, “We will not forget.” My hope for America this Patriot’s Day is that we truly do not forget. We must rehearse to our children and grandchildren who were not here to watch as the story unfolded, nor to hear the stories that came from the moments of horrific fear and incredible bravery, such as “Let’s Roll!” to try to help them feel the depth of the agony and the anger that was ours that day. They must realize, too, the number of young men and women who have given so much of themselves to battle the evil that seeks to destroy our nation. So many families have been torn apart since that fateful day in 2001, but their determination and resilience remains strong.

In the weeks after 9-11, American flags were everywhere. To find a house in a neighborhood that was not flying an American flag was a rarity. Pride in American exceptionalism was high. Much too soon that began to wane and then came eight years of a president who did not believe in American exceptionalism and in many ways, he did not believe in the strength of the American people.

On this Patriot’s Day may we recommit to flying our nation’s colors, reminding ourselves that we are a nation of strength, diversity, of laws that protect and that we are served by some of the best and brightest in self-sacrificing ways through our military and our first-responders. We have a duty to render to them that which they are due. May God bless America and may America bless God…

Not long after I posted this article, I was sitting under the grandstand here at the fair, in the booth where SCI is represented. While I talked with my daughter who has been working with me today, a woman who appeared to be middle-age and not physically well came in and was obviously feeling emotional as she reached out and took both mine and my daughter’s hand, thanking us for displaying the ‘We Shall Never Forget’ 9-11 September 11, 2001 flag. Then she told us how she had been on one of the first in ambulances to the Towers on that day. Her partner perished in the Second Tower, after having helped several out of the First Tower. She related how much it meant to her to see people who cared enough to remember those who served on that day. It was an honor for me to shake her hand and thank her for her service, that I was sad for the loss of her partner and that I hoped the years ahead find her well.

Reliving the 60’s

Anyone could spank or ear pull anyone else’s child, whip them and send them home to report to their own Mom what had happened and who tagged you! Of course, my Mom would get right on the phone and boy, would she thank that Mom

The early 60’s are replete with scores of memories that  today, most would think so stone-age! (no pun intended… that was a little later in the 60’s) – We got a second phone in the house… that was a big deal, we now had one in the living room and one on the wall in the kitchen. Rotary dial, of course. That doesn’t refer to how you get ahold of a businessman’s service organization in your town. Not only were they rotary dial, we were on a party line! That may sound exciting to someone from the 21st century because it sounds like a great time with friends! But that wasn’t our party line. All of our neighbors shared the same phone line. We had different numbers; but, you had to pick up the phone and make sure the neighbor wasn’t talking on it before you could make a call. Of course, anyone in the neighborhood could listen in as well.

Another big deal… we got a color television for the first time! It wasn’t anything like the color sets today that are so vibrant and real, its like you could walk into them. This was more like someone put the black and white picture on the TV and then used water color, with a LOT of shades of pink to kind of fill in where the color should be. You had a color adjust knob so you could try to get the color to match a real life color but it wasn’t very effective. Although, with the rabbit ear antenna for UHF, you could only get two channels and they were as fuzzy as the rabbit might have been. On ‘regular’ TV we had three channels, 3, 5 and 8 all out of Cleveland.

We did have a remote control, though for our TV. My dad would be sitting in his chair and he would say, ‘Son, get up there and turn to channel 8 for me.” Voila! Remote control! You couldn’t sneak out to the living room and watch TV at night for two reasons. One, the tuner knobs made such a loud click it would wake the neighbor’s dog. Second, all of the stations went off the air at about 1:00 a.m. so you would only be watching a ‘Test Pattern’ that was on the screen overnight. Also, for those of you who are following the Brown’s ‘prayer meeting fiascos’ it would interest you to know that when the TV stations signed off at 1:00 a.m. they played the National Anthem while a flag was shown.

Living through the sixties, the first time around was, to use an old phrase, ‘a hoot’. I could probably spend a dozen or more pages regaling you with stories like sitting on a red metal ‘step stool’ on the back porch in the summer while Dad took an electric hair trimmer that I think was last used to trim the tail of Man o’ War. It was like the commercial for the nose hair trimmer “It doesn’t trim your hair, it rips it out by the roots!” This was our summer ‘buzz’ cut. He took it down in May and we didn’t have hair growing until Christmas break! I only experienced one other haircut like that, it was one bright morning about 5 a.m. at a military induction center! I think the military had Dad on time to complete the cut but he won hands-down for depth of hair removed! My Dad had big strong, workman’s hands. He may have been able to bend steel. I do know he was able to replace a fleeing child back into a metal step stool chair in record time with one hand and never miss a stroke with the razor!

With four boys and Dad at work five or six days a week all day, Mom was eager in the summertime for us to ‘go play outside’. There could have been a tornado bearing down on our neighborhood with gale force winds but when she suggested we go play outside, we did. The rule was you came back for supper when Dad whistled (everyone in the neighborhood could hear Dad’s whistle and dogs came from two cities over looking for food!) and when playing out after supper, we came in when the street lights came on. My oldest brother is eleven years older than me, I think his rule was he had to come home when the lamplighter came down the street!

I was fortunate, (in retrospect… I didn’t think so at the time) to have eight different mothers. No, my father was not a polygamist, we lived in Ohio not Utah. Polygamy, I never understood. Who, in their right mind would want multiple mothers-in-law? Anyway, my eight mothers were all moms in the neighborhood. They had a coven between them. Anyone could spank or ear pull anyone else’s child, whip them and send them home to report to their own Mom what had happened and who tagged you! Of course, my Mom would get right on the phone and boy, would she thank that Mom! Then turn she would turn to whichever one of us boys had gotten it and say, ‘just wait until your father gets home!” WOW, that was a way to ruin an afternoon! Usually we’d try to catch Dad as he drove in the driveway so we could give him our side of the story first! If, by the time we were done with our story he was already unbuckling his belt, we knew we would be standing up for supper!

But our neighborhood was great, so was our small town. Many of us were together all the way through high school and not long ago we had a 40th anniversary reunion for our graduation. Golly, those others sure have gotten old looking!

When I truly think back about those years, there were three things that stood out as most important was family, friends and faith; not necessarily in that order. Now, here I am about the live through the sixties a second time!

This time, it isn’t a decade among other decades like the 60’s of the 20th Century that I referred to here but it is my own decade of being in my 60’s. I have no idea what the next ten years hold, or even if I’ll be here at the other end of them. That’s just life. But I have a pretty good feeling at this point that these years will be centered on faith, family and friends and it will likely be in that order.