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On the Road Again in 2012

Articles are sorted with the most recently posted at the top.

Talk to the Animals
Posted December 20, 2012

by Jane Osborn

From my great-grandmother, my grandmother and my father, I inherited an inescapable love of horses. Feeding, cleaning hooves, and combing manes and tails are all a labor of love. It is not surprising then, that on a cold winter morning a few years back, when I hit the road once again to feed my horses (and a few others as well), I considered my world a wonderful place to be. The following story proves that I was right.

Cecil F. Alexander penned the immortal words, "All things bright and beautiful. All creatures great and small. All things wise and wonderful. The Lord God made them all."

James Herriott titled his books about his life as a veterinarian in the dales of England after this lovely poem. I, too, have seen it in action.

My husband, Jim, and I have two horses. We board them at a lovely ranch owned by our friends, Tommy and Linda Holbrook. Tommy and Linda have 7 horses, 9 adult sheep, 6 lambs, 2 steers, and 2 cats also in residence at the ranch. As our homes are 7 miles from the ranch, Tommy and Linda, Jim and I, or some combination thereof, drive back and forth twice a day, every day to take care of our beloved pets.

One cold morning, as Jim was out of town, I drove out early with only our Labrador Retriever, Jack, to accompany me. Entering the warm barn, we were greeted immediately by soft nickers, loud baaing, an occasional moo and two cats descending from the hay stack to say, "Good Morning" as they circled my feet. It was McDonald's farm and it was delightful.

The barn is 10 stalls long, or approximately 100 feet. On one side, all the horses were awaiting their morning feed. On the other side of the aisle, the sheep were peering through the bars of their enclosure, also awaiting breakfast. All except one. One lamb had climbed through the bars and was in the aisle. Jack immediately charged the length of the barn toward the baby. Knowing that Jack had never hurt any creature in his life, I waited to see what would happen.

When Jack was about 10 feet from the baby, he dropped his forelegs to the ground and began to dance around with his hind legs. This is his invitation to play. The baby watched him for a second, then dropped his little head and charged as if to butt Jack. Jack took off running back down the aisle with the lamb leaping and running behind. When they were halfway down the aisle, Smoky the cat erupted from underneath a chair and swatted at the thin air around the flying lamb and dog, and then scampered back underneath. When they reached the end of the barn, Jack and the lamb turned and ran and jumped back to where they had come from. Again, Smoky the cat swatted as they ran by his chair and returned to his little cave. I watched this game of utter joy take place 3 more times. At last, the lamb tired and gave in to the pleadings of his distraught mama. He went back through the bars of his enclosure and all was peaceful once more.

I couldn't help but think of Cecil F. Alexander's poem. On a peaceful ranch near Whitney, Texas, there is a small brown lamb, a big black dog, and a smoky gray cat that know exactly what that poem means. Perhaps the human race should talk to the animals.

"All things bright and beautiful. All creatures great and small. All things wise and wonderful. The Lord God made them all."

The Christmas Journey
Posted December 13, 2012

by Bill and Betsy Torman

We were on our way to Illinois for Christmas, leaving Texas' warm temperatures, to visit our families. The rains had caused flooding for the Mississippi and Missouri rivers in the fall, but surely the problem was fixed by now. We had decided to drive, since the car was loaded with presents. However, when we approached Illinois, late that evening, we were shocked by all the flooding. The bridges were passable, but many roads were still closed. We knew we'd better stop at a motel so that the rest of our trip could be done in the daylight.

Evidently, everyone else on the road had made that same decision. Every motel was full! It now was 1:00 AM and we prayed about what to do. We felt helpless, in a strange land, just as Mary and Joseph must have felt, long ago. We sensed a nudge from the Holy Spirit to call Bunny and Spence, Bill's former boss, who had retired to live in Carlinville, Illinois. What an awful hour to call! However, much like the innkeeper for our Savior, Spence gave us directions to their house, insisting that we stay with them. Tears of joy and thankfulness leaked from our eyes, as we recognized God's covering of us. We had only hoped to be directed to a hotel nearby. Instead, our friends welcomed us with the love of Jesus.

We found our way the next day, as we rejoiced in God's provision. Our help came from the Lord, who made Heaven and Earth. Our faith may have been as tiny as a mustard seed, in the middle of the night, but God moved the necessary mountains in our way…..for nothing is impossible with God!

Luke 2:6-7, Matt. 25:40, Ps. 121:1-2, 2 Tim. 1:7, Matt. 17:20

Going Out in Style
Posted December 6, 2012

by David Briggs

[Part 5 of a series]    Part 1    Part 2    Part 3    Part 4

The following entry comes from a journal that is the product of a three-week visit to Ghana in 1995, during which the group from UNT studied the economic and medical sociology of the country. The people and places we visited during our stay provided key insights into these topics and the culture of the West African country.

Saturday, June 10th

Today we attended the final funerary event in what traditionally involves about ten days of scheduled activities to properly mourn the loss of, and celebrate the life of, a deceased person. The departed was a highly respected professor at the University of Science and Technology. A wake and burial had taken place earlier. Saturday was the culmination of the process. Awnings were set up in a U-shaped area on an open field at the university, covering the rows of chairs. There were two drum bands and dancers located at one end, and in the middle of the U. At the other end of the U was assembled the extended family of the deceased.

Funerary attire consisted of brown, black or red long dresses for the women and a wrap-around gown for the men. The immediate family sat in the front row of chairs and received condolences from guests who lined up to pay their respects. In turn, the extended family later came by the other areas in a line to welcome the guests. Soft drinks, beer, and popcorn were being sold by concessioners around the periphery. The bands and dancers alternated their performances. We didn't stay long after being welcomed by the family, but the celebration continued for several hours. We left as a group and walked to a primary school area of the campus where we were served beer and soft drinks by a family member.

A funeral is a major social event in Ghana. For some funerals, an elaborate coffin is made to commemorate the life of the deceased. It may take the form of a boat for a fisherman or an automobile if the person was wealthy enough to be a car buff. We didn't get to see any of these "theme" coffins, but we did see beautiful handmade wooden coffins for sale along the roadsides both in Kumasi and Accra. The expense of funerals is borne by the guests and family members who make funeral donations as they file past the family while giving condolences. Life may be lived in poverty, but no expense is spared to have a lavish funeral.

Isaiah 25:8 "He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces…"

The next installment will describe the third world "appropriate technology" of Ghana.

There's Gold 'n Them Thar Hills!
Posted November 29, 2012

by David Briggs

[Part 4 of a series]    Part 1    Part 2    Part 3

The following entry comes from a journal that is the product of a three-week visit to Ghana in 1995, during which the group from UNT studied the economic and medical sociology of the country. The people and places we visited during our stay provided key insights into these topics and the culture of the West African country.

Tuesday, June 9th

After visiting the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, we traveled south to Obuosi and the Ashanti Gold Fields. Since I had worked for Jostens, the world's largest commercial user of gold, this was a special treat for me. We were greeted with hospitality and given a wonderful tour in much greater detail and in closer proximity to the processes than one could ever expect in the United States. The capability of gold extraction from low-grade ore is definitely state of the art and very profitable. They are using micro-bacteria to process the tailings (scrap) left from years of mining. The new technology and computerized monitoring system is very efficient. The mine will exceed one million ounces of 22K gold this year and rank among the five largest producing mines in the world.

Our tour guide and the environmental manager gave us an impressive report on the direction and status that the mine has attained in operating safety for the workers and the environment. The company philosophy is far ahead of what the law requires, and involves a significant financial commitment to restore the environment to a pristine condition. They may not be able to atone for all the sins of the past 100 years of mining, but the direction being taken today is impressive.

Wages paid to employees are only part of a comprehensive benefit/compensation package designed to motivate employees to increase productivity and maintain company loyalty. The living conditions in Obuosi are definitely higher than in the rest of the country. People are dressed better. There is less filth, better constructed buildings, and better sanitation facilities. Obuosi is like an oasis of prosperity in the Ghanaian countryside.

3 John 2 "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth."

♫♫♫♪ "My Friend, the Witch Doctor, He Told Me What To Do." ♫♫♫♪

or: Traditional Medicine in Ghana
Posted November 21, 2012

by David Briggs

[Part 3 of a series] Part 1   Part 2

The following entry comes from a journal that is the product of a three-week visit to Ghana in 1995, during which the group from UNT studied the economic and medical sociology of the country. The people and places we visited during our stay provided key insights into these topics and the culture of the West African country.

Wednesday, June 7, 1995

Today we went to an extremely large traditional herbalist's practice outside Accra. After hiking through a garbage dump along a polluted slough of stagnant water located in the middle of an urban slum, we entered the herb pounding and reception area. It was full of women who had been there since as early as 6:00 am. It was now 3:30 pm. To some of our group, for whom this was a first-time exposure to third-world squalor, the experience of this visit was shocking.

This was a day when the doctor was seeing patients for fertility treatments. He introduced himself as a "physician" to us. Several men were pounding various kinds of bark in huge mortar bowls. The crushings would be given to the pharmacist for dispensing to patients.

After leaving the herbal clinic we went to another traditional medicine clinic, one which specialized in orthopedic treatments. The doctor was an older man in his early seventies. Several of his sons served as his apprentices. Most patients were children or young adults with broken bones (mostly football injuries). One little girl, about four years old, had multiple leg fractures from being struck by a falling coconut. Her mother explained that she had been sleeping under the tree where the coconut fell.

"O Lord, heal me, for my bones are troubled." Psalms 4:2

There were also two stroke victims, older men in their fifties. One was recovering well after nearly a year of treatments by this doctor. He was very happy and full of praise for the doctor. The other stroke victim had been treated for over a year at a level C clinic with little or no improvement. According to his wife, after two months with the herbalist, he was showing signs of recovery, including speech and some muscle responses in his limbs.

There was a small shed-type building that served as a ward with patients in beds. Outside more patients were being seen on an out-patient basis. All the patients praised the work of this doctor. Every person I talked to about broken bones said the recovery time was six weeks. The treatment consisted of setting the bone (usually a leg) and then wrapping the limb in an herbal compress. One of the doctor's sons showed us the leaves of the plant that was the primary treatment. Two different herbal compresses would be applied on an alternating basis for several days. I was struck by the happiness and confidence of these patients. You'd never see such joy on the faces of patients in a government or private western style clinic.

"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." Matthew 5:5

It was paradoxical to my western eyes to see such happiness and optimism in the midst of such unsanitary conditions and extreme poverty. The facility compound was barren of plants. The ground was packed dirt littered with debris and crowded with people, goats, and a few dogs. Several kilns were located in the yard with ashes strewn about. They were apparently used for drying herbs, burning plant matter to produce medicinal ashes, and for converting wood to charcoal as well as for cooking foods. As the sun set, we bid our farewells to the doctor, his wife, sons, and patients. This had been a day filled with new and strange sights, sounds, and smells. We were all experiencing a sensory overload.

On the Road for a Memorable Birthday
Posted November 15, 2012

by Bill Burris

Every fall Marcie and I plan on spending a week or two in Destin, Florida. This year was no different, except while there Marcie would be celebrating a significant birthday. In April I began a quest to make it a very memorable one for her by arranging for some special folks to fly in to Destin to surprise Marcie.

When in Destin, Marcie enjoys sitting on the balcony of the condo we rent and gazing at the water in the Gulf of Mexico to watch for dolphins. She got to see dolphins a couple of times this year and God provided wonderful sunsets.

The day before her birthday, I told Marcie that I had arranged a special attraction for her and that we'd have to leave the condo around 7 a.m. the next morning. She wasn't very happy with me, since I would be taking her away from the water with only three full days left of our trip. She didn't know, but we were heading to the airport to pick up her friend from Pittsburgh. The further we traveled, the more upset she became because she was missing the water. All sorts of negative ideas were running around in her head. But when she learned of her friend Donna's arrival, wonderful emotions overtook Marcie. Luckily for me, I was now off the hook for taking her away from the water.

The following day, our son was due to arrive at the airport around 3:30 PM. I had planned to have lunch at a favorite beach restaurant, Peg Leg Pete's on Pensacola Beach. The ride there plus a casual lunch would put us at the airport around the time our son would arrive. Well, Marcie wanted to leave earlier than I had planned. To prevent spoiling the second surprise, we took off at 10:00, had a wonderful lunch (the best grouper sandwich you'll find) and headed back to the condo. No chance to go and sit at the airport and spoil the surprise.

I had just enough time to get the girls back to the condo and head back out to pick up our son, under the pretext of running a ninety-minute errand. I asked Marcie if she wanted to come with me or stay and spend time with Donna and the water. She elected to stay. When I returned, I showed up on the balcony with our son in tow. Shock and surprise number 2 was accomplished.

Needless to say, I was a little worried about surprise number 3. But on the day of Marcie's birthday, we were all on the balcony when our daughter and son-in-law walked up. Marcie was totally stunned, once again, with shock, joy and tears.

We had a wonderful birthday dinner at our favorite restaurant on Destin harbor, Marine Cafe. While I had the help of the three parties that dropped in, I'm so aware that God made it all possible for safe travel and great weather. Marcie will tell you it was the best birthday she's ever had in her life. That made all the sweat of exposure of the plan over so many months worth every minute.

As most of you know, God has truly blessed me with one of His angels here on earth by putting Marcie into my life. When you add a wonderful daughter and son, I'm the one stunned and shocked by my good fortune.

My only problem now is when it comes to next year and we're in Destin around her birthday, I'm afraid I won't be able to come up with anything near as good for a birthday surprise. Guess we'll just have to sit back and enjoy more of God's wonderful creations.

Western Style Medicine in Ghana
Posted November 8, 2012

by David Briggs

[Part 2 of a series] Part 1

The following entry comes from a journal that is the product of a three-week visit to Ghana in 1995, during which the group from UNT studied the economic and medical sociology of the country. The people and places we visited during our stay provided key insights into these topics and the culture of the West African country.

Tuesday, June 6, 1995

We got a briefing this morning on the healthcare systems in Ghana. Healthcare service ranges from excellent to practically none and follows two strangely different paths, with proponents of each being extremely skeptical of the other.

Traditional practitioners (herbalists) use holistic approaches that are viewed as superstition and quackery by the western medical community. People who have confidence in traditional medicine do not understand nor trust more modern western-style medicine. There is a broad gap between these disciplines that needs to be narrowed (and bridged where possible) to provide broader degrees of choice in medical treatments employing the best from both worlds. Here we will look at examples of western-style medicine in Ghana.

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." Mathew 5:7

Augustine, a vice-minister of the Ghanaian Health Department, is one of those who are attempting to bring the two worlds of their healthcare together. He took us to see examples of each. Our first stop was at a modern private facility, the Nyaho Clinic. This facility is open 24/7 and has twenty-six beds with an occupancy rate of 60%. It has sophisticated equipment that appears to be state of the art. Thirty-two specialists work at this clinic on a rotating schedule. These specialists are nearly all foreign trained in the USA, Britain, or Latin America. Much of the clinic's work is done on an outpatient basis.

Although the rates were inexpensive by American standards, they were very high for most Ghanaians. Only the wealthiest and well connected are served here, including embassy personnel from various countries. Life expectancy is somewhere in the 50's because health education is so poor and many people do not know they have hypertension. Fake drugs, mostly from Nigeria, are a concern. Many operators are not only untrained, but illiterate and tend to dispense wrong medications.

We were told there have been only 800 cases of A.I.D.S. reported in Ghana. This number was not supported by any qualifying information and sounds unreasonably low – especially considering the extremely high incidence of HIV in neighboring Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast).

We left the clinic with some rather favorable impressions and continued on to Korle Bu Hospital, a teaching hospital affiliated with the University of Ghana. It rates a level C, the highest level of health care facilities in the country. It had a large section devoted to prenatal education and a very large maternity section. Posters advertising sanitation practices and condom use to prevent A.I.D.S. were displayed in the outpatient and admitting areas.

The hospital matron of nurses gave us a very limited tour of the hospital, which is one of eleven regional blood banks in Ghana. It is very large and busy, with few private rooms and mostly open wards. She didn't show us the wards, but we were able to see into a few open doors. Overcrowding is definitely a problem, with hospital beds in hallways and some patients on mattresses on the floor. Sanitation was also poor because of overcrowding and lower third-world standards. All laundry was done together and workers wore no rubber gloves.

After leaving the Korle Bu Hospital, I had a little better understanding of the frustrations that lack of funding, poverty and illiteracy create for the medical profession. Korle Bu is a large hospital. We will see A and B-level public health facilities later, to put the World Health Organization's entire A,B,C system of service levels into perspective.

"Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without pay, give without pay." Mathew 10:8

In installment #3, we'll contrast traditional medicine with western medicine by visiting several herbalists.

One Refugee's Journey to Freedom
Posted October 25, 2012

by Sara Edwards

For many refugees who come under the care of Feliberto Pereira through Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries, their journey to freedom in the United Sates is long and dangerous.

So it was with Arturo Machado, a young man among 19 refugees currently being supervised through SWGSM. Arturo, the only son of a Christian minister, was born in a small town in the tobacco farming area of Zaza del Meilio, Cuba. Because of his faith, Arturo experienced discrimination and rejection throughout his years in school. Always he prayed to someday go to a place where he could be free to worship as he pleased and pursue his dreams of life.

With the approval of his parents he refused to be trained for a trade to serve the state in Cuba. Instead, he privately learned to be a jeweler, working with gold, silver and jewels. Through the underground system outside the government, this skill allowed him to make money to support himself and save for his escape.

Meanwhile Arturo served as a music leader in his church, and in his 20's he put his escape plan into action.

First, he paid a friend from Ecuador to invite him for an extended visit in that country. Since very few jobs were available to Cubans in Ecuador, for eleven months Arturo did heavy construction jobs, like unloading large sacks of cement, in order to make money for the next step in his plan.

Then, together with eleven other Cubans, he paid a Columbian Indian guide to lead them on foot across Columbia to Panama. To avoid being caught by dangerous Columbian guerrillas friendly to Castro, they walked four days through the rain forest among monkeys and mosquitoes, swimming the rivers they had to cross. All twelve of Arturo's group survived the ordeal, but in another group taking the same route, a pregnant woman contracted malaria and died.

They walked from Panama to Costa Rica in one week.

In Costa Rica, Arturo approached the driver of an 18-wheeler driving the Pan American Highway to Guatemala and paid him for a ride across Nicaragua and Honduras. Both were in danger because of this agreement and had many anxious moments as Arturo hid on the floor of the trunk while passing through check points along the way.

The driver left Arturo at the border of Guatemala and Mexico, where Arturo tried to swim the river. He was caught on the Mexican side and sent to jail. The Cuban consul came to the jail to begin arrangements for the deportation of Arturo and other Cuban refugees who had been caught and jailed.

After 35 days in jail, Arturo received a visit from a representative of a Human Rights Commission. (Arturo was not sure whether they were from the United Nations or some other organization.) Subsequently, Arturo was released and given 48 hours to leave Mexico. He phoned a friend in Miami who wired money to him for bus fare from Chiapas to Matamoros.

At the bus station in Matamoros Arturo was met by agents from I C E who were amazingly kind and helpful to him. After processing Arturo, the agents phoned Feliberto Pereira and asked him to meet Arturo on the U S side of the border in Brownsville and accept responsibility for him.

With thanks to God and with cooperation between I C E and Pereira, that is what happened.

For the past two months Arturo has been living in Southwest Good Samaritan dormitory housing, working and being guided through the process of getting his papers for legal immigration status in the United States. And then he will be free to pursue his dream – The American Dream – of freedom and opportunity. He hopes in time to work at jewelry making and to serve God with gratitude.

Arturo is one of 19 refugees currently under the supervision of Feliberto Pereira, including a family of a father, mother and teen-age son who are living in the home of Pereira and his wife Mica. Their story is of yet another journey of desperation, danger and determination.

Ghana: What I Did On My Summer Vacation
Posted October 18, 2012

by David Briggs

The following journal is the product of a three week visit to Ghana in 1995, during which the group from UNT studied the economic and medical sociology of the country. The people and places we visited during our stay provided key insights into these topics and the culture of the West African country.

Monday, June 5, 1995

On the plane from London, we passed over the snow-covered Alps (or Pyrenees) and then, without my notice, we'd crossed the Mediterranean and were over the sand dunes of Algeria and the mighty Sahara….I was seeing Africa for the first time. I thought about Dottie and this wonderful opportunity she had encouraged me to take. I was eager to see the city of Accra, the University at Legon, and the living conditions in the small towns. I wanted to compare the environment to the third-world conditions of Mexico and the Russian Federation.

Philippians 4:6, "Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God."

Upon our arrival at Accra, I nearly committed a major faux pas by taking my camera out at the top of the deplaning stairway. I noticed the attention it was drawing from a security officer on the tarmac and quickly put the camera away. I had forgotten about the airport photography taboo.

Getting through customs was easy, but we all were overwhelmed by the airport porters as they scrambled and argued with each other over the rights to our bags. They were so aggressive that I became concerned about the welfare of the group. The cultural difference in the concept of personal space had been clearly demonstrated!

I was surprised by the modern, air-conditioned, clean airport facility. It was much nicer than Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta, West End Bahamas, St. Petersburg, Krasniarsk, or Moscow. It raised my hopes that this "Ghana, Star of West Africa" was in better economic shape and generally at a higher level of development than I'd anticipated. But the trip from the airport to the university quickly shattered that illusion. The tropical landscape of suburban Accra was much like that of any Mexican city. Aside from the inhabitants' darker skin and women carrying their possessions on their heads, this could easily have been Puerto Vallarta.

The university is located on a hill overlooking the city and the suburbs. The buildings are attractive, but some in a very run-down condition. The grounds could be sensational if they were maintained. But that is not a priority, given the school's limited resources. I noticed an abundance of the same species of a black and white crow here that we had had in our Moscow courtyard. Only that was Moscow in winter, and this is Ghana in the summer – only a few hundred miles from the equator – a very adaptable bird!

Today I noticed the stacks and bundles of firewood that were being transported manually and on carts. Wood is a precious commodity. There has been a government program promoting the planting of trees. I saw examples of this on the campus and on a billboard in the city.

We toured the squalid, crowded living area near the center of Accra. Open trench sewage canals thread throughout the city. Shanties are built right on the edges of these trenches. Roadways and pathways follow the trenches. The conditions in the city looked like infamous shanty towns in Rio and other South American cities that I've seen in photos.

As we moved out from the center of the city, the quality of the houses improved and the conditions were less crowded, but still in extreme poverty. The GNP is in the neighborhood of $400 per person per year. There is a minimum wage of $1.00 per day, but many people earn less than that. Like in Mexico, people are selling goods and produce along the street throughout the city and suburbs. Even in the richest suburbs where the upper middle class people reside, there are vendors along the streets. The third world urban patterns of South America seem to be inverted here. The poorest shanty towns are in the center of Accra rather than on the periphery.

We headed out of Accra along the coast to the east. We stopped for drinks at a beach hotel/resort, Labadi Pleasure Beach. It was absolutely beautiful. The rooms went for $150. A landscaped path led to the beach where the locals were partying and dancing to a rock band. There were beverage stands, barbeque pits of roasting skewered cabrito, and food venders strolling along the beach. It seemed strange to me that the people enjoying the surf were all clustered together in one area of this long, beautiful sand beach, because Americans would have spread out to fill all the available space. This was another example of the Ghanaian concept of personal space. I then realized that this cultural trait contributed to the city dwellers' capacity to exist in the extremely crowded conditions of the shanty towns.

Further up the beach, there was another band playing Ghanaian dance music and everyone was having fun. The Ghanaians are truly a robust happy people, even in these times of economic crisis.

2 Corinthians 6:10, "as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing: as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything."

When we got back to the university, we discovered that the water was off. The Ghanaian students said this happens all the time – but not on a schedule you can plan on. So my first shower was a bucket shower. Actually, my first two showers have been bucket showers. The third shower was with running water, but by candle light because the power was out for two days.

James 1:2, "Count it all joy my brethren, when you meet various trials."

The next two installments will deal with the contrasting "traditional" and "western" health-care systems in Ghana.

Roads and Paths
Posted October 11, 2012

David Briggs shares with us peaceful reflections of God's beauty and genius.

There may be some steep hills to climb,

some times when the road seems treacherous
and you aren't sure which turn to take...

times when you feel like you are on the brink of falling,

and there may be many curves in the road.

As you make your way through the ups and downs of life,

may you know God's presence with you through each tunnel,

every steep climb,

every curve,

in the beautiful mountaintop experiences with Him,

and through the slippery storms of life.

May He walk with you down through the valleys and up the mountains,

take your hand and guide you through to the light,

put a fence around you to keep you safe,

help you to find joy and excitement in the roller coaster ride,

and fill you with amazement at the beauty He provides along the way.

Take time to smell the flowers,

to admire His handiwork

along Life's railway.

And may His love flood over you, fill you,
and overflow in praise to Him for all He's done!

Texans vs The Bald Mountains
Posted September 27, 2012

by Kay Lea Scott

Babe and Poodles were in Montana riding with the Bluffers. This day the gang would ride over the Bald Mountains on the way to Gillette, Wyoming. It dawned chilly but clear at the Red Lodge starting point. Eight riders and two passengers stowed their gear and shortly after sunrise, it was kick-stands up.

Poodles loved that morning ride. The air was crisp and clear and the green rolling countryside views expansive against the big silvery blue sky. She scanned ahead looking for the Bald Mountains. Red Dragon promised memorable views on a pleasant ride over their top. The Bluffers dressed in layers that morning, knowing that mountains meant higher altitudes and cooler temperatures.

Around the time Poodles saw the glimmer of mountains in the distance, she noticed the gathering clouds. The sky was definitely darker in the distance - the direction Red Dragon was leading them. Riding through the valley to the foot of the mountains, the ascent road was clearly visible. It was a sharply-angled straight slash up the mountain side. The top of the mountain was hidden in the darkening clouds. When they reached the bottom of that slash, the first drop hit her face.

Psalm 121
The LORD Our Protector I raise my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, The Maker of heaven and earth.
[Psalm 121:1-2]

The farther up the mountain side the Bluffers traveled, the faster the drops came and the darker the sky appeared. Half way up the mountain, a scenic overlook provided a spot for the Bluffers to don their rain gear. Now the drops got thicker. Was this sleet coming down? The Bluffers discussed the advisability of continuing. It was getting colder and the sunshiny safety of the valley they had just left was scenic and inviting.

Various Bluffers expressed the consensus opinion, "It can't be that bad. We've ridden in worse conditions." "It's sure to be better ahead when we break through this cloud cover." "It's not that far over these mountains." "Let's go for it." Kick-stands up and a quarter mile farther, the snow began in earnest. Another quarter mile and the Bluffers heard Red Dragon's voice, "Snow plow coming down." The Bluffers continued up and watched the snow plow go by, heading the opposite direction. "Did you see the snow caked on that plow?"

He will not allow your foot to slip; your Protector will not slumber. Indeed, the Protector of Israel does not slumber or sleep. [Psalm 121:3-4]

The snow came fast and furious as the Bluffers crested the top of the mountain. Babe reached forward to push the collecting white stuff off the windshield. Poodles did the same with her helmet visor. Red Dragon slowed their progress when the visibility suddenly reduced to zero. They were riding through a "white out" with 8 inches of snow on the unplowed road. Giggles commanded his passenger, Perky, "Don't move. Don't even wiggle!" The riders were white knuckled, knowing how vulnerable their machines were in these conditions.

The LORD protects you; The LORD is a shelter right by your side. The sun will not strike you by day, or the moon by night. [Psalm 121:5-6]

God watched over the Bluffers that day. About ten miles later, they descended the Bald Mountains. The road down took them through the same conditions they had experienced on the ride up, in reverse order. Poodles said a prayer of thanks when the precipitation stopped and there was a glimmer of sunlight ahead.

The LORD will protect you from all harm; He will protect your life. The LORD will protect your coming and going both now and forever. [Psalm 121:7-8]

Red Dragon knew his buddies needed a break from their machines as soon as possible. And there in a bright, sunny spot was a watering hole. The Bluffers quickly parked their bikes and stripped off their rain gear. Inside, warm drinks were ordered and the conversation was animated with individual accounts of the perilous journey they'd just experienced. Had we just braved conditions even a snow plow wouldn't tackle? Some of the Bluffers had gotten a good look at the snow plow driver's face. The riders were sure he had parked the plow and hurried to tell his buddies about the gang of crazy Texans he'd passed who were riding through a Bald Mountain blizzard!

The Migration of the Hummingbirds
Posted September 20, 2012

by Ann McAlpin

The hummingbirds are circling the feeder in a frenzy. Only two yesterday, and today there are five or six. It is time for the migration. Being on the migratory route, my feeder is a refueling station! Some will be here only a day and others will stay several days.

I watch as they bombard one another at the feeder. "Lord," I ask, "why don't they just calmly take turns?" It seems to me that none are really being able to feed because of all the "fighting." Cooperation would be so much simpler. Then I consider the long trip they have to make across the Gulf of Mexico to reach their winter destination. They need strength and stamina. Is this feeding frenzy with all the fighting helping develop their strength? If they were able to lazily feed would their muscles be weaker? Would they tire out and fall into the Gulf waters? Perhaps God has a purpose for giving them this territorial behavior that results in fighting, but more importantly in growing strong to endure the trip ahead.

Is this why difficulties come into my life? Are they to prepare for the "trip" ahead? Maybe I need to approach the small problems with a different attitude. I don't want to lazily ignore them and then be too weak to meet the "big" situations.

In retrospect I see how God has strengthened me for each journey in my life. Some days the journey may seem long and the head wind may be strong, but with a faith centered in Christ I will soar!

"Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar aloft as with eagle's wings." Is. 40:31

My Bucket List Accomplishment
Posted September 20, 2012

[Part 3 of a narrative in 3 parts] Part 1 Part 2

by Steve Allie

Cycling across Iowa is quite a challenging bucket list item. Iowa is fairly hilly, much like the terrain around here, but it was 471 miles of corn and soybean fields. Iowa was in a drought and they expected crop production to be down 25-50%, but you couldn't tell it as everything was very green, due (the locals said) to their black soil. They were also in a record-setting heat wave and the first 3 days, it reached over 100 degrees each afternoon. We would start by 6:00 am and Dan and I would be finished before noon. Dick, on the otherhand, would straggle in by 2:00 or 3:00.

Days' mileages ranged from a short 54 to a longish 82 miles. Roads were basically FM roads or two-lane blacktops, like around here. Luckily, it reached only the mid 80's the last 3 days. Towns ranged in size from little places like Whitney to Waco size (Cedar Rapids). We passed through Cherokee, Lake View, Webster City, Marshalltown, Cedar Rapids, Anamosa, and finished in Clinton. Anamosa is famous for being the hometown studio of Grant Wood, the artist of American Gothic.

We have seen a lot of history, been to a lot of places across the country on our rides, and have enjoyed the hospitality of many people. But we've also experienced God's hand in the strengthening of our family ties. My brothers and I rode past the cemetery in Story City where two of our aunts and grandparents are buried. We have some great pictures and stories to share with our kids and grandkids. (My 4-year old grand-daughter still gets a kick out of me sitting in a huge Paul Bunyon boot in Minnesota!)

The ride across Iowa was on my brother's bucket list to do this year because of our having been born in Iowa, our dad's childhood hometown being on the route, and because of our interest in doing a long ride together every summer we can. Now that we are empty nesters and as we grow older, we find the time together to fellowship to be an important time to share our thankfulness for the Lord's blessings of good health and happy families. Spending long hours in a car, we have reminisced about our childhood memories, our parents' lives, our marriages and family experiences, and we've reflected on our children's lives and what their futures will be. We hope the energy and excitement God has given us in our so-called golden years serves as a positive example to our children and their children to always explore life to its fullest.

So we keep planning the next great ride, which helps keep us young.

A Gift of Favor
Posted September 13, 2012

by Becky McKee

Last week I was called back to Dallas to try to visit my mother again, since it seemed by indication that she was dying. So I hit the road again with some anxiety, aware that when I last saw her, she was not even sure of my name.

I had several members of WBC praying for me at this difficult time. When I arrived, my mother perked up. Her blood pressure came up and we began to visit. I was amazed that she knew me. During one of her sleep times, I called the hospice nurse to tell her what was going on. She said, "You have been given a gift. Treasure every moment with your mom."

So I did. For three days we talked, laughed, sang songs, hugged and loved and prayed. The nurse said, "This is called a 'rally.' Not everyone gets it, but you have." She has been a hospice RN for 15 years and has seen a lot. I am so grateful to everyone who has lifted me up in prayer. THANK YOU.

My Bucket List Accomplishment
Posted September 13, 2012

[Part 2 of a narrative in 3 parts] Part 1

by Steve Allie

My brothers and I arrived in Sioux Center, Iowa, with feelings of anticipation and excitement as we toured the fairgrounds for The Des Moines Register Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (referred to across the world as RAGBRAI). The fairgrounds were abuzz with food, fun and activities on the afternoon before the big day of the ride, which was scheduled to run from July 22-28.

The ride organizers have been holding this event now for 40 years and have it down pretty good. Most of the riders camp by lakes, in parks, or on school grounds each night and have their gear all transported for them. Riders come from all over the world to participate. Bike repair shops follow the route as do medical/first aid services. Since we were staying in hotels, Dan's wife Charlotte drove our support SUV, as she does for all of our summer long rides.

The highways are blocked off for cyclists each day, so organizers have certain routes for support vehicles to follow. Charlotte would motor ahead to the next town and find our hotel. She would meet us in the overnight town, we would load our bikes on the back of the SUV, and head to our hotel for a dip in the hot tub and pool, a nice shower, soft bed and good food, knowing how miserable it would have been sleeping on the ground in a tent in 90 degree nights.

Since it is a ride and not a race, riders get up and leave when they are ready each morning. They take their time and ride at their own pace. All ages, sizes, shapes, and experience rode in this event. As a result, cyclists would be stretched out the entire length of the day's route.

People from each town we passed through turned out to greet and cheer us, and all the local charities, clubs and civic organizations set up booths selling water, sport drinks, pies, burritos, pizza, burgers, bratwursts, and the ubiquitous Iowa pork chop or roasted corn on-the-cob, among many other culinary delights. The church ladies all had baked their best pies and I can attest that every slice I tried was delicious. Since we were burning from 3500-4500 calories a day, eating a piece of pie wasn't going to put on any pounds. One organizer who led the pre-ride safety meeting said most people gain weight rather than lose weight for the week. I was happy to break even.

It was wonderful to see all the community support across the state for the annual bike ride across Iowa. Everyone seemed happy to have us; they were warm, friendly and helpful, and all seemed to be having a good time.

[Check out Part #3 of "My Bucket List Accomplishment" by Steve Allie in next week's W.B.C. website edition.]

My Bucket List Accomplishment
Posted September 6, 2012

[A narrative in 3 parts]

by Steve Allie

Some of you may have seen me riding my bike around White Bluff or read the article in the Lakelander about the ride across Iowa I did with my brothers this past summer. My older brother, Dick (68) and I were born in Des Moines and our parents grew up in Story City and McGregor, so he thought it would be a good bucket list accomplishment to ride in the Des Moines Register Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (referred to across the world as RAGBRAI) from July 22-28. Being 65, I figured I would never be able to shoot my age in golf (at least for 18 holes), but I could ride my age in miles in a day!

The route stretched 471 miles from Sioux Center on the far north western side of Iowa to Clinton on the Mississippi River, on the far south eastern side. The ride would be going through our home town, Story City, in this, its 40th year, so Dick thought it would be a good year to try it. I was very thankful the Lord had given me and my brothers the health, strength, and fitness to undertake such a challenge at this point in our lives. Myself and my younger brother, Dan (61) agreed to take the challenge, but only if Dick would do the logistical planning of getting us hotel rooms, as we had no desire to camp out after riding 53-82 miles a day in the July heat. Dick's assignment was no easy task, given the towns en route were small and there would be thousands of riders.

My brothers and I had done many extended, self-supported rides around the country during past summers,* but this would be a ride of anywhere from 14,000 to 20,000 riders, much like the Wichita Falls Hotter 'N Hell Ride, except running for 7 days instead of just one. To prepare for such a long week, I rode over 2000 miles from April 1 to July 18th, mostly short 15-25 mile rides, but increased the distance to 50-65 miles as the Iowa ride grew closer. The ideal road surface for biking is 933 from Blum to Whitney. I also participated in many local-area organized Saturday rides like Hamilton, Italy, Cleburne, Waco and the new Clifton ride last spring. Finally, with hotel reservations in hand, we set out on July 20, stopping in Council Bluffs on the way.

*Some rides we had done in the past include the Katy Trail across Missouri (follows the MO River); the Coeur d'Alene trail across Idaho; several trails across Minnesota, including the Mesabi, Paul Bunyon, Central Lakes, and Lake Wobegone; and the Great Allegheny and C&O Canal trails from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC.

[Check out Part #2 of "My Bucket List Accomplishment" by Steve Allie in next week's W.B.C. website edition.]

Flying Cats
Posted August 23, 2012

by Kay Lea Scott

Road hazards are a danger for motorcycle enthusiasts.   Hazards are found in many forms and sizes.  Pot holes, chunks of asphalt, rocks, loose gravel, tree branches, pieces of tire, and debris escaped from loads is only a partial list of hazards that Babe and Poodles regularly encounter on roadways.  Some are so prevalent they have earned a name of their own; for example, bikers refer to pieces of tire as “road gators.”  Balancing a bike on two wheels is tough enough without running into a hazard.  Bikers use cb communications and hand signals to warn other riders when there’s a hazard in the path.

The Bluffers were running well, headed for home after an exhilarating weekend ride on the curvy mountain roads of Arkansas.   The gang were cruising down a winding scenic highway when suddenly, there it was, road kill in the middle of their lane.  Mr. Peppermint, the lead, radioed the first warning.  Babe and Poodles watched successive riders maneuver around the deceased animal and give the hand signal for hazard in the path.

As Babe and Poodles approached the hazard at more than 60 mph, they identified it as a large calico cat that had been there for some time.  It was flat.  In a split second, Babe (realizing he was directing three wheels over the hazard) decided to straddle the flat cat between the front tire and the right rear tire of the trike, hoping for little or no contact with it.

Unfortunately, Babe’s calculation was flawed.  The flat cat was larger than he anticipated and the space between the trike’s tires narrower than he thought.  The trike’s right rear wheel caught the flat cat head on and launched it into the air directly at the bike following the trike.

This “flying cat” episode could have been an unremarkable, short-lived incident, had the airborne cat not narrowly missed Sparky, who was riding drag that day.  Sparky was The Bluffers’ best story teller.  For two years after the flying cat incident, the story got better and better.  The cat got larger, the speed faster, the flying altitude higher and the near-miss closer each time it was retold.  The Bluffers were in agreement: the spot behind Babe and Poodles could be a risky ride.

Over time the original flying cat story faded, replaced with newer escapades--until this spring when the gang encountered another flat cat in the middle of the road.  This time the cat was distinctly colored, black with a white stripe.  The lane was narrower and the maneuvering space limited as Babe swerved to miss the road kill.  This time the left rear tire launched the “flying cat” directly at Mr. Peppermint, who that day was riding drag.   Although Mr. Peppermint reassured Babe he had no difficulty dodging this airborne cat, Babe is sure he was just being kind in accepting the apology. 

Perhaps it’s time for Babe and Poodles to order a vanity plate for the trike, DUCK.

Therefore God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another.  Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so also you must forgive.  Above all, put on love - the perfect bond of unity.   Colossians 2:12-14

How Great Thou Art!
Posted July 26, 2012

by Ann McAlpin

"O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the works Thy hands have made …"

My heart is filled with "awesome wonder" at the beauty and power of God's creation. I gaze at the magnitude of the glacier – ice that is thousands of years old and has cut through mountains of granite. Strength, might, force – this is the God of creation! "Thy power throughout the universe displayed."

Yet this same God made me and loves me enough to send His Son to die for my sins. I am humbled by the magnificence of God's creation, but I am bowed in "humble adoration" at the magnificence of His great love.

"Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee; How great Thou art! How great Thou art!"

A Deer Named Marvin
Posted July 19, 2012

by Kay Lea Scott

Occasionally motorcycles are involved in fender benders. Sometimes a fender bender is operator error. Sometimes it's caused by a natural phenomenon. Accidents happen.

The trike has participated in three fender benders. The first occurred in Stephenville on a Saturday when the gang was enjoying an exhilarating morning ride with Hard 8 as the lunch destination. The riders were thinking of a tasty barbeque as they pulled into the "bike corral" at the restaurant. Babe and Poodles followed Chief through the gate into the corral, a section of the parking lot specifically fenced off for motorcycle parking. The rider in front of Chief stopped to walk his bike back into a parking spot causing Chief to quickly stop just inside the gate. Babe couldn't stop the trike quickly enough and was mortified as he felt the damage the trike's front tire was doing to the Chief's rear fender.

Using money received from Babe's insurance company and trading in the damaged bike; the Chief purchased a new bike. And so it was the following year when Babe and Poodles were following Chief on a ride through Arkansas heading to the Smokey Mountains. The gang took a side trip to see a cemetery with special meaning for Red Dragon's family. Near the end of the pack, as the gang began exiting the cemetery, Babe and Poodles watched Red Dragon, Mr. Peppermint, 10 Mile and others accelerate one by one into a left turn that took them onto the highway in front of the cemetery.

Just as Chief got to the highway entrance point, an ancient pickup truck topped the hill a couple of hundred yards to the right. Chief chose to stop and wait for the truck. Babe, who had anticipated that Chief would accelerate quickly onto the highway to beat the truck, had accelerated. Even though he applied the brakes and steered sharply left, the trike's right rear fender made contact with Chief's rear fender guard. Damage caused by the glancing blow was almost imperceptible on Chief's bike. The trike came out worse for the wear this time.

Partly to salve the pain of a second fender bender with the same rider, and partly to put a band aid on the hurt of knowing their beautiful trike had been damaged, Babe and Poodles decided to add decorative striping to the trike's fenders during the repair process. Now the trike was even more unique than it had been before the two fender benders!

A few months later Babe and Poodles headed to the gang's meeting place at the White Bluff gate for an early morning ride. At Golf Drive a deer, startled by the trike, darted out of the trees to the right and raced onto the road. The trike's front fender and the deer entered the same spot on the road at the exact same instant. A split second passed as Babe handled the trike to keep it upright on the pavement. Poodles, realizing the deer's body had curved around the windshield, thought, "There's heat coming from this animal's body. I wonder if I can push him away." But before she could do anything, the frightened deer extricated itself from the trike and continued its trip across the street.

Babe pulled the trike to the side of the road and they got off the trike to take a good look at the damage. The recently striped front fender was a goner. Thanks to the Lord that was the worse of the damage. Babe and Poodles were fine. Had the impact happened a split second later, all three participants, Babe, Poodles and the deer, could have paid dearly for it. Babe and Poodles continued on their way to meet the gang.

Poodles, who can never let a chance to lighten the moment pass, and remembering that "Marvin" is the Chief's first name, leaned forward. Putting her arms around Babe, she said into her microphone, "Do you suppose that deer is named Marvin?"

In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalms 4:8

Traveling Through God's Magnificent Creations
Posted July 5, 2012

by Bill Burris

Marcie and I have been blessed to be able to travel together. Each time we do, there is always something we see or that occurs that is a constant reminder of our Creator and His works.

When you sit at your favorite restaurant on St. John Island and watch the sunset over St. Thomas, you see a wonderful part of His works.

If you've ever been to the Grand Canyon you see the majesty of His works. I found one photo opportunity that showed me not only do humans marvel at the view but God's little creatures do as well, even a rock squirrel.

In New England in the fall you can see some of the most spectacular views of color that only He could create.

During one trip to Napa Valley in California, the place we stayed brought us in contact with a truly wonderful couple who have become great friends. It was God's way of introducing us to a person that uses her God-given talents as a ventriloquist to spread His word to children, nursing home residents and others. The big plus for us is that they live in Destin, Florida, and we get to see them each time we go there.

While in Destin, I can put Marcie on a balcony where she can overlook the Gulf of Mexico and recharge her batteries communing with God.

When reading the Bible, you see references to the deer in the fields. Well, here at White Bluff you can see lots of them. Love them or hate them, they are still God's creatures. I have one doe that has accepted me and will eat out of the bucket I'm holding and will let me scratch behind her ears and rub her neck. Being able to do something like that makes you feel a little closer to God when you can relate these things to the Bible.

On that subject, meeting Marcie and marrying her was a major step in my coming closer with God. She was very instrumental in putting me on the right path. It's awesome when you can come in contact with someone who can made that come true for me, and who has also led me to accepting Christ as my Lord and Savior.

Before my retirement, I had relocated to many locales over my career. At one location in Maryland in 1972, a friend I met while in the service said to me that he had some friends from his home town in South Dakota living in Maryland that he thought we'd like to know. He cautioned me, saying that friends of friends don't always work out. Well, from the first meeting they became lifelong friends. That location was designed by Him, just as our chance visit to White Bluff put us in a community with many Christian loving friends. We didn't know it at the time of our move here, but they were exactly who we needed in our lives. When you stop to think about your past, the decisions you've made, you soon realize that it was truly God's plan you were following.

The "Spirit Hole"
Posted June 13, 2012

by Lanette Browder

On our recent Danube River cruise, we visited numerous cathedrals and basilicas. One of the most beautiful was St. Steven's Cathedral in Passau, Germany. It included five organs, one of which is the largest cathedral organ in the world. Daily concerts are given in that church in the summer months but, unfortunately, the concerts didn't begin until two days after we left.

The size and beauty of each church was awesome and overwhelming. However, we were told that church attendance in Europe is down and few people attend worship in these magnificent places. I kept thinking how wonderful it would be to attend a service in one of them. We did happen into one cathedral in Prague where a choir of university students from Scandinavia was performing. Their acapella voices resounded throughout and it was a magical moment for us.

All the churches we visited were very ornate, and most of them, we toured with a guide. It was impossible to keep up with the all the information, including dates they were built, when they were restored if damaged in the wars, and which famous people attended there.

In St. Steven's Cathedral, our guide was a cheery German woman with lots of information, and she pointed out one of the most interesting things I have ever heard. As we craned our necks to look up and up to each beautiful level, she pointed out a hole in the ornately painted ceiling at its highest point and asked if we knew why it was there. No one could answer her question and she told us it was a "Holy Spirit" hole. It was there to provide entrance for the Holy Spirit to come in.

As we made our way to numerous other cathedrals during the remainder of our trip, I made it a point to look for the hole in the very highest dome of each and indeed, some of them had that special "hole." Even though it was a unique thing, I also knew that the Holy Spirit doesn't need a "hole" to enter our churches, our homes or our hearts. The Holy Spirit is our special gift. God made sure that when his Son ascended into Heaven, the Holy Spirit would be here for us. So the next time you are in one of those huge cathedrals, take a look up and up to see that hole, but know that the Holy Spirit is already there and doesn't need it at all.

The Glory and the Majesty
Posted May 31, 2012

by Madeleine Lively

In travel, nothing brings us closer to God than exploring the jewels of His nature. On a recent trip through the Smokey and Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina and northeastern Georgia, Glen and I visited the gorge and waterfalls at Tallulah Falls, the Anna Ruby and Toccoa waterfalls, and various state and national parks of the area.

Trekking through a mountain forest can be a religious experience. Starting our ascent amongst the shadows cast by the foliage umbrella of the forest, we marvel as the sun peeks through the leaved fingers of majestic trees and washes over us. It gives us the sense that the Holy Spirit has descended upon us. We then gaze upward through the slivers of sunlight and find that the Holy Spirit is giving us a special peek into Heaven.

Our path takes us along a creek babbling over rocks and fallen trees as it serenades us with a rhythmic and peaceful hymn of praise. And finally, we find ourselves at the foot of a waterfall of greater height and force than we can even imagine. We stand motionless in stunned wonderment. A crashing of cymbals punctuates the symphony of sounds and the shower of spume emanating from the majestic descent of more water and power than one can fathom.

Yes, the glory and majesty of God's presence on earth is no further than your nearest mountain forest.

Border Crossings
Posted May 10, 2012

by Kay Lea Scott

During the 1960's, Marvin and Harriett would travel in their car "up north" from Minnesota to a rented fishing cabin on a Canadian lake. During that decade, crossing borders were stressful experiences. Border agents searched for illegal substances travelers might smuggle into or out of both countries.

On one such trip into Canada, while Marvin and Harriett waited to cross at the border, they saw agents tearing a car apart. Hub caps were off and trunk contents spread on the pavement. Even the carpet and the spare tire were on the ground. Amazed, they watched as agents manhandled the back seat out of the car. They watched the search process in stunned surprise, hoping nothing would prompt such a search of their vehicle.

After answering the usual questions about reasons for entering Canada and length of stay, they were waved through. The crossing was the topic of conversation for the rest of the trip. Both agreed that the guards were searching for drugs. They'd seemed more meticulous than ever before.

Their Canadian fishing permits were purchased the next morning at the nearest village. Strict limits on the number and type of fish that could be taken were impressed on them. The lodge owner reassured Marvin that after the fish were cleaned they would be placed in packages, clearly labeled with type and quantity of contents, and then frozen. Packed in dry ice, their catch would keep well in the cooler they'd brought with them when they were ready to return to Minnesota.

At the end of the week the lodge owner placed the filled cooler in their car trunk. To be sure none of their catch had been left in the lodge's freezer, Marvin carefully repacked the cooler, counting the packages and totaling the numbers. There was one package too many! They had one fish over the limit of walleyed pike that they could legally take from Canada after a five-day fishing holiday.

Heading for home, Marvin told Harriett about the one-too-many fish. They decided one was not that much out of the millions of fish taken from Canada each year. Canadian walleye were such good eating. But, the more he thought about it, Marvin just couldn't take the chance his car might be searched. And so, about a mile from the crossing, Marvin pulled to the side of the road, took out the one guilty package, wrapped it in a towel and placed it on top of the clothes in the suitcase lying on the back seat.

When their turn came to cross the border, Marvin wasn't asked to open the trunk. However, the agent did take the suitcase from the backseat and place it on a small table. He opened it and removed the towel-wrapped package. Marvin and Harriett panicked, thinking of high fines and confiscated belongings! To their amazement, the guard didn't look at another item. After studying the fish he rewrapped it, returned it to the suitcase, and placed the case on the back seat. Closing the car door, the agent stepped back and waved Marvin and Harriett on.

For months after, tales about Marvin and Harriett's trip always came to the question, "What was that agent thinking when he unwrapped a package of frozen walleye he'd found inside a suitcase?"

Sometimes I wonder what God thinks when He comes across guilty packages in my head or heart. I'm reassured, knowing that because of Jesus' sacrifice, He will wave me on toward home, just like that border agent waved on Marvin and Harriett.

On the Road to Happy Hill
Posted April 26, 2012

by Jim Browder

Happy Hill Farm Academy is just down the road from White Bluff. The scenic route takes you up Highway 56 through Brazos Point and Eulogy (don't blink or you'll miss 'em) and onto Highway 144 at Glen Rose. There you'll drive alongside the picturesque Paluxy River before heading north on 144 to Happy Hill. It's only an hour's drive--if you don't stop to smell the wildflowers.

The immaculate farm will attract your attention immediately. Along the drive up the hill to the administration building you pass bronze statues of children at play, attractive buildings, school buildings and athletic facilities, longhorns, llamas, bison and even a couple of camels, in addition to all the traditional farm animals.

But the heart of this place is the children--ranging from kindergarten age through high school. A majority of the students over the past 40 years have been from poor or dysfunctional families--kids who at some point had no bright future. Today, more than 90 percent of Happy Hill Farm Academy graduates move on to universities or colleges.

This interdenominational private Christian school is one of White Bluff Chapel's local missions. While day students from nearby Granbury and foreign residential students now can attend the academy, the core goal is to provide housing, clothing and a great education to children who likely would fall through the cracks in today's society.

Ed and Gloria Shipman created this place through God's guidance. The work they have done is amazing--just like the campus they have created.

Personally, Lanette and I can sum up their work by recalling what one young Happy Hill choir member told us after a performance at White Bluff Chapel a few years ago:

"I was living on the streets, going down the wrong way. If it wasn't for Happy Hill, I'd be dead today."

Thelma and Louise
Posted April 12, 2012

by Kay Lea Scott

It was a gorgeous June day in Montana. Red Dragon took the lead. Mr. Peppermint rode drag. The plan for the day had been to ride Bear Tooth Pass. Red Dragon assured the Bluffers it was magnificent. He described it as the best ride with the most spectacular views he'd ever experienced.

Checking road conditions that morning, Red Dragon learned snow still kept Bear Tooth impassable. It had not been open for some time and there was no chance a snow melt or road crew could get it ready for the Bluffers before their road trip ended. Disappointed, they decided to ride other lower-altitude scenic, curvy, two-lane highways in the area.

Babe and Poodles were near the end of the pack. Babe maneuvered the trike down the highway around the corners perfectly. Poodles reveled in the beauty of the landscape, the feel of the open air and having her main squeeze so near. She snapped pictures as they rounded curve after curve. The mountain vistas with their deep ravines made great photos.

Suddenly, as they rounded one curve near the top of the mountain, Poodles, with her view over Babe's shoulder, saw they were headed across the on-coming traffic lane toward the far shoulder. As Babe slowed the trike rounding the corner, his foot had slipped off the brake causing him to over-compensate, hitting the brake too hard, which put the trike into a slide. As they headed for the guardrails and abyss beyond, the events that followed seemed to occur in slow motion.

"This must be what Thelma and Louise felt at the end of their movie," thought Poodles. She said a quick prayer, "Lord, if today Babe and I are meant to meet you together, let's do it. Now is a perfectly beautiful time to start our eternity." Poodles uttered not one sound aloud into the microphone that would have reached Babe's ears. She didn't warn, scold, or scream, she just hugged him tighter and prepared for their flight off the precipice.

Inches from the guardrail, Babe turned the trike back across the traffic lane and into their spot in the Bluffers' ride formation. As they settled back into the flow of the ride, hearts pumping and adrenalin flowing, Poodles squeezed Babe and asked, "What did you do that for?" Ever since the Thelma and Louise experience, she's wondered if that question was meant for Babe or the Lord. Did she mean "Babe, what caused you to turn so precariously close to the edge?" Or was she asking, "Lord, why didn't you take us to you?"

I guess she'll never know for sure. But we do know, thanks to the saving grace of God's son, Jesus, we're ready to take that last ride, anytime.

The Price of Gas
Posted March 29, 2012

by Kay Lea Scott, recounting a humorous episode about her traveling parents

In the 70's and 80's Harriett and Marvin owned a 26-foot class B recreational vehicle. Each year they traveled from their farm in southern Minnesota on two long trips. In summer they motored "up north" to catch the big ones (walleye and northern pike) in Canada. In winter they escaped the harsh weather by heading "down south" to "the Valley" of Texas.

Marvin believed that gas was cheaper south of the Minnesota border. After all, he reasoned, Texas has most of the oil that's refined into gasoline. In the summer he expected to pay more for gas the further away he traveled from Texas. Wasn't gas so spendy in Canada that it had to be purchased by the liter? And so it followed that gas should be at its cheapest after he crossed the border into Texas.

As January rolled around each year, Harriett heard again how Marvin planned to save money on gas during their trip to the valley. Why, perhaps with the money saved on gas, they could make two trips "up north" the following summer.

One year, when the day finally arrived to head south, Marvin had the RV ready to roll. The week before, he took it out of storage, cleared the water lines and had the oil changed, tune up and tire rotation done. Before he brought it home for Harriett to pack, he would have the tank filled at a local service station with what he was sure would be the most expensive gas he'd purchase for the next two months.

The year this story took place, they took the onramp to Interstate 35 near Faribault, MN and relaxed as Marvin pointed the RV south. They were ready to enjoy the ride. Marvin began the hunt for cheaper gas, knowing he would see a big difference before he had to stop for that first fill up. Harriett, however, worried that he'd take that hunt to the "fumes" level as he had the year before. Luckily the pumps at the closest filling station had been downhill from the interstate and they were able to coast to the needed fuel.

As the miles ticked by, Marvin did not see the marked difference in gas prices he expected. Finally, as the tank was nearing empty, advertised prices did seem to be down a few pennies. Pushing it as far as he could, with the indicator below empty, he pulled into a service station and filled the tank to the top.

Back on the interstate and about 2 miles further south, a giant neon sign blazed a price 2 cents lower than that which Marvin had just paid. In her wisdom, Harriett turned to him and said, "Marvin, don't you think we should pull over and dump out that expensive gas you just bought so that we can get some of this cheap stuff?"

When Scotty and I travel to Houston, we apply Marvin's logic. With all those huge refineries around Houston, shouldn't gas be cheaper as we head that direction? Marvin and Harriett's story reminds us that the only thing we can truly believe in and can always count on is God's loving mercy. We won't be looking for any cheaper gift as we travel through life. We know there's nothing better, and it's free.

Posted March 22, 2012

by Mildred Jackson, on her memories of a trip to the Holy Land

When I was a small child, one of my Sunday School teacher told the class about her visit to the Holy Land. Earlier in her life she had been there a couple of times with her father, who was a professor at a university in Michigan. She showed us items she had brought back with her, such as shepherd robes, a staff, etc., making the bible stories come alive.

From those inspirations it became my dream to visit the Holy Land…not knowing it would ever come to pass, since at that time the majority of the people who traveled abroad were dignitaries, the elite and entertainers from Hollywood.

Bob and I did get to realize that dream in 1988. We went with a small group of 28 on a Christian-sponsored tour which included mostly Texans, but also residents of Wisconsin, Missouri, and other surrounding states. We all became new friends.

To see the actual area where Jesus lived, taught, performed His miracles, died and arose, and to walk there myself was breathtaking. Every place we visited was memorable!

One of the mornings we boarded a boat at Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee and went north to Capernaum. After touring that area, we proceeded to the Mount of Beatitudes, where we individually selected a place on the hillside to sit and have our private time for meditation. To know that somewhere on that mountain Jesus had taught and performed His miracles for those in need made this one of the experiences of the trip that stood out to me.

Bob and I made a side trip to Egypt after our travels around the Holy Land concluded. Upon returning to the States, arriving in Houston and driving back to Jasper, we were exhilarated but very tired. About 2 a.m., I abruptly awakened with a song in my heart. I immediately rushed to the living room and sang the song into a tape recorder that I had taken with me on the trip, as I was afraid I would not remember it later that morning.

That was the song I have entitled, "Reflections."

Audio version of Mildred performing her song

Lyrics to Mildred's song

Babe and Poodles Hit the Road
Posted March 7, 2012

by Kay Lea Scott

Christian fellowship is found in as many different modes as Christians have shapes and sizes. The road can be one of those fellowship modes. White Bluff's motorcycle "gang," known as the Bluffers, has proven to be a beloved fellowship for us. Babe and Poodles (our biker handles) plan to share a few of those biker road trip stories with you over the next few months.

Motorcycle riding is an exhilarating way to experience God's world with a 360 view. Along with God's beauty, bikers get a good taste of man's creations. We're happy to report the beauty of the world around a rider outshines the smell of asphalt and petroleum products and any cranky drivers operating four-wheeled vehicles.

Our first bike was a two wheeled Harley Davidson Sportster. (Note: Two wheeled are referred to as "bikes," three wheels are "trikes;" neither is pedaled.) Poodles reports that their first bike did not have the most comfortable ride. Fellow Bluffers had instructed her to prepare for a road trip by sitting on the curb for 30 minutes every day for 30 days. Unfortunately even the addition of a gel seat did not improve the Sportster's passenger ride. However the feeling of leaning into corners with arms around Babe made her forget about that sore bottom. Bikers are "one" with their machine.

Bikers cannot resist bikes. Saturday morning trips often include a stop at the Harley shop to check out the latest models. Long trips include stops at Harley shops along the way. Perhaps the biker who dies with the most Harley shirts from exotic destinations wins?

The addition of a trike to our motorcycle stable was meant to be. On one of our travel adventures we happened to park the motorhome a block away from a trike shop. As we can't resist bikes, we had to check out the shop. Watching the experts turn a bike into a trike was fascinating. We learned terms like Lehman and Hannigan, companies that make trike conversion kits.

We discovered our trike in a shop to be reconfigured and sold. It had been originally owned by a handicapped gentleman who needed a hand gear shift. Now, the trike's original foot gear shift would be put back. Poodles and Babe visited the trike a few more times, and when it was ready, took it for that first trial spin around the block. During that ride Poodles leaned into Babe and said, "How would you like a trike as a wedding present?" They made a pact that the trike would be a together thing, never leaving the garage without the two of them. 25,000 miles later, the rest is history and full of stories to share.

Psalms 55:14 reads, "What good fellowship we enjoyed as we walked together to the house of God." We want to say, "What good fellowship we enjoy as we ride through God's world".

On the Appian Way to Rome
Posted February 23, 2012

by Jim Browder

As a Christian, what is your first thought of the Roman Colosseum? Christians being thrown to the lions? Gladiators chopping off the heads of Christians? Executions?

All these were among my first thoughts as I entered the ruins of the Colosseum in Rome a few years ago. Yet, the first thing our guide took us to was a huge steel Christian cross standing where Roman emperors once sat. I learned this cross replaced a wooden cross that had been placed there centuries ago. And I discovered other crosses in the outside walls of the gigantic structure.

The Colosseum opened in 80 AD. During the inaugural games, 5,000 to 10,000 wild animals were killed. And the "contests" continued well into the sixth century. The "contests" included executions on a cross, gladiator bouts, and wild beasts devouring victims to the delight of massive crowds.

However, very few--if any--Christian martyrs met their death there. Myth runs rampant in Colosseum "history." For instance, one historical website contains this statement: "The Emperor Nero introduced twilight executions where hapless Christians were nailed to the cross and burned alive as torches to light the arena of the Colosseum." I don't think so. Nero died 12 years before the Colosseum opened.

Also, the gladiators generally were slaves, condemned criminals or prisoners of war--not Christians. However, the Colosseum eventually became synonymous with Christian martyrs who supposedly died there. Actually, Christian martyrs were killed elsewhere.

A small church was built in the amphitheatre late in the sixth century. In 1244, Pope Innocenzo and the Catholic Church took possession of the Colosseum. According to some accounts, Pope Benedict XIV in 1744 declared the Colosseum as a sacred site where early Christians had been martyred. Today, the Pope leads a torchlight parade to the Stations of the Cross each Good Friday.

Whatever happened there, the large cross in the Colosseum was a surprise to me.

As a result of these ramblings, remember two things:
(1) Don't believe half the stuff you find on the Internet.
(2) When in Rome, do as the Romans: Eat lots of pizza.

Holy Ground Moments
Posted February 2, 2012

by Ann McAlpin, written while in Port Townsend, WA, August 29, 2011

Mountains and ocean – the beauty and power of God displayed! This is what I have seen in the northwest this summer. When I stand by the water and look at the mountains, I feel that I am on God's holy ground. But there have been many "holy ground" moments in my 71+ years of life.

  • As young child I stood at the altar of a small church in Milford and proclaimed Christ as my Savior and God accepted me as His child –HOLY GROUND!
  • As a fearful 18 year old freshman walking alone across the campus of UT in Austin, suddenly a ray of sun seemed to warm me with Christ's love saying, "You are not alone." I was reassured and ready to meet the challenges ahead – HOLY GROUND!
  • As a young bride standing at the altar of that small church in Milford, I was flooded with the presence of Christ's love –HOLY GROUND!
  • Looking into the eyes of John and knowing his deep love for me as he left for the completion of his army enlistment – HOLY GROUND!
  • Holding my new born sons and feeling their warmth and seeing the hope that the future held for them – HOLY GROUND!
  • Holding a new born grandson – HOLY GROUND!

There have been numerous "holy ground" moments in times of vacation.

  • Mountains in Colorado
  • Canadian Rockies
  • Grand Canyon
  • Pacific Ocean
  • Atlantic Ocean in Maine
  • Alps in Europe
  • Inspiration Point in Yellowstone

Experiencing the power of God's creation daily in the wildlife around me in White Bluff brings "holy ground" moments almost daily. But there have been "holy ground" moments during heartbreak. Surely one of the holiest moments was saying good-bye to John as he left this world to enter heaven.

Thank you, Lord, for these special times. May I continue to experience "holy ground" moments as long as I live.

On the Road to Football Games
Posted January 19, 2012

by Fran McGraw

Ever since my older brother taught me to say "first and ten" instead of "first in ten" I have loved football. After his games he answered my questions and taught me about the rules of the game. I watched him, my husband, our son, and in recent years, we have put many miles on our van traveling to Cleburne and McKinney to watch five grandsons play. We have also watched as these grandsons participated in church activities, confirmed their faith, and found comfort in their church.

I once heard a preacher say the game of football is a lot like life; you win some, you lose some and some get rained out, but the harder you work at whatever you want to accomplish, the better things seem to go for you. Indeed, such is life.

The first time I saw the Denver Broncos quarterback, Tim Tebow, kneel and offer a prayer, I thought, I like that. I knew in my heart he was not thanking God for allowing him to throw a touchdown pass, but giving thanks for the blessing to be where he was and to do what he was doing.

So, what's the big deal with Tim Tebow? He works hard and is talented, but that can be said of many football players, past and present. Well, Tim Tebow lives his faith; he lives his faith by sharing with those less fortunate the blessings and good fortune coming from his talent and toil. Those stories are everywhere.

When I was young I saw one of the neighbor boys soon after he was "saved," take his Bible to the street corner, wave it and shout, "Repent or burn in hell!" I had recently been baptized so I asked my mother if that was what I was supposed to do. She answered, "No. You are supposed to be an example, not a spectacle."

Tim Tebow may be somewhat of a spectacle, but he's also an example. I'm sure my mother would think so, and it warms my heart that some of my grandsons think so too. We'll be on the road again for more football games next fall.

Our Journey to Christianity
Posted January 19, 2012

by Don Robinson

As I was sitting here watching the videos of and about the chapel (on the website), I felt compelled to let everyone know just how much you all mean to me and my family. I have wanted to do this for a while now but I didn't know where to start.

The chapel has been a big impact on our lives, with the chapel being the only church that my baby girl Skyelar has ever wanted to go to. It all started when she was about three or four years old. Skyelar and I always looked forward to Sundays so we could go worship our Lord Jesus. We have enjoyed seeing the people we love and consider family. Skyelar grew up being in Sunday School every Sunday we could possibly go. It has definitely been the single greatest impact in her life.

I remember a time as Skyelar was getting older when I thought she might want to go to another church that had more kids her age in the children's activities. Boy, was that a mistake. When I mentioned my train of thought to Mrs. Duncan, Mrs. McAlpin, Mrs. Williams and others, I was told right quick that if that was what Skyelar wanted, they would understand. But if that was just something that I thought of, then I would be flogged by about twenty grandmothers! When I talked to Skyelar about it, she set me straight too. So, needless to say, that subject has not been brought up since.

As far as what the chapel means to me, it is impossible to put into words. Outside of the birth of my baby girl, the chapel has changed my life more than anything. Before Skyelar was born, I was lost. Then when she came into this world, I knew that it was truly a blessing from the Lord.

So I did some soul searching and realized that I needed to get my life in order. Putting the Lord Jesus Christ first was on the top of my list. Skyelar and I started coming to the chapel on a regular basis. The good Lord took me by the hand and started leading me through day by day. Skyelar and I grew in faith right there in the chapel, Sunday after Sunday.

Soon Skyelar was ready for baptism. That was one of the greatest days of my life. I realized that the Lord was in our hearts and souls forever. So I want to express our feelings for the Lord Jesus Christ and for White Bluff Chapel. Thank you for everything the Lord has done through the members of the chapel. We are overwhelmed and not worthy of all the great things that have happened because of our faith and White Bluff Chapel.

Miracle Off the Main Road
Posted January 12, 2012

by Jim Browder

Sometimes you must jump off the main road if you want to find something interesting--like a miracle. Travel the super highways out of Santa Fe, New Mexico, toward Taos and you'll completely miss the Spanish village of Chimayo which is a little larger than Whitney, Texas, and almost 200 years older. Chimayo is on Highway 76, known as the High Road to Taos. That's where you'll discover a small adobe church called El Santuario de Chimayo.

As the story goes, about 200 years ago a man saw light coming out of the soil on a hillside near the Santa Cruz River. Upon investigating, he found a cross, which was taken to a small church. But the cross kept mysteriously returning to where it was originally discovered. So, on that site was built El Santuario de Chimayo. The sand there is believed to have healing powers. Believers have been coming to the Chimayo shrine for two centuries to pray and be healed by the sand.

Lanette and I visited the picturesque chapel one afternoon while on the road to Santa Fe. We found a charming, unrestored red adobe building with its original decorations inside. However, the main attraction turned out to be a small room built off the side of the chapel. Inside is a small hole filled with sand. People come by the thousands to touch the dirt - praying for the miracle of healing. They scoop out the sand to rub on their forehead. Some purchase sand to take with them.

Being somewhat of a skeptic, I figured when that dirt ran out, they just walked out into the desert and filled a bucket with plain old sand to refill the hole.

I was partially right. Each night they do refill the small pit, but first they bless the dirt.

People hobble to Chimayo on crutches. Some clutch photos of relatives with cancer and other diseases. All are praying for mercy and miracles. Along the wall just outside the pit area are crutches left by persons who have been healed. There are pictures of children who have been cured by the dirt.

Do you believe in miracles? Each Easter season an estimated 100,000 visitors come to the shrine. The sand pit has to be refilled each hour. Visitors can buy small containers of the sand for $3 to take to sick relatives. And today, you can even order the blessed sand from the shrine's website.

We didn't really believe in the healing power of the sand, but Lanette did rub some on her aching leg. Two hip replacements later, she is "healed." We fully credit modern medicine and the skilled hands of a surgeon for her ability to walk again without pain. But who gave that surgeon the power to heal? People believe in many different things, but everyone believes in something.

Say Amen
Posted January 5, 2012

by Kay Lea Scott

Sometimes "on the road again" can be about the people at the end of that road. My almost three-year-old granddaughter, Emma, lives at the end of one of the roads I travel. Recently we arrived at the end of that road just as her family began attending a church. Emma has never been to church and so her experiences there are new and exciting.

As she came up to us in the church commons after service that Sunday morning, I asked, "Where have you been?" She proudly reported, "At Jesus School". (She's been asking to go to school for a couple of months.)

"What did you do there?" her Daddy queried. After giving the question due consideration, she replied, "Played." Further questioning uncovered that she'd also "Colored." "Did you have a snack?" her Mommy asked. That got an immediate reply, "Uh huh, cookies."

Then I asked a question that stumped her, "Did you pray at Jesus School?" Her brow furrowed as she gave me a puzzled look. Thinking she didn't understand the word "pray," I changed my question. "Did you say 'Amen'?" I asked. At that I got a great big grin, a nod of the head and a confident "Uh huh!"

A few days later, our little family was chatting as we walked down the street. Emma held her Mommy's finger as she's been taught to do. Suddenly she stopped, took my finger and looking up at me requested, "Say Amen?" And so we created a little prayer circle right then and there, thanking God for the love of our family and the beautiful day to enjoy it. Emma said, "Amen."

In the days that followed we had many opportunities to "say Amen." We never missed a meal-time or bed-time prayer. But the best prayers were those times on the street, in the hallway, at the playground, when we felt Emma's little hand grasp one of our fingers and heard her say, "Say Amen." Closing her eyes and bowing her head, she would utter, "tank que God, Amen."

As we embarked "on the road again," heading for home, I got to thinking about what Emma's "say Amen" moments meant to me. Lately I had forgotten that God wants to hear from us anytime and anywhere. I'd lost sight of my daily conversations with Him, and with that loss, I had also lost a part of the peace and joy I usually feel. And so I say, "Tank que, God, for Emma and for what she reminded me about my relationship with You."

Read more "On the Road Again" articles.
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