Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy 2010


The beginning of a new year is a time when in a certain sense we can start afresh about things. It ought to be a time when we aim higher, reach further, dream bigger, and believe stronger. As Henry Ward Beecher said, "Every man should be born again on the first day of January and take no interest in the things that were and are past."

While most of my goals were met this last year, I found the week before Christmas it would not end as complete as hoped.

While speaking to the Lions Club at a breakfast meeting I began to have extreme pain and hardly concluded the address. Later it subsided until in the mid-day, while in a filming session at Parkland Hospital for Charter communications, my pain returned as I stood during the interview.

Afterwards, I headed upstairs to my doctor and suggested, “This pain is from more than a pulled muscle!”

After an hour the report from the MRI revealed I had a disk laying flat on my spinal cord and within minutes I was headed for BJC in St. Louis where an operation was scheduled.

At 4:30 I was moved into the waiting area and prepared for an 8 pm operation. At 9 pm my wife was approached by the head surgeon who announced “Your husband is paralyzed and I haven’t even made an incision. After he returned to the Operation Room, it was discovered the remaining surgical team had awaken me from my sedation and asked me to see if I could move my toes, feet, and legs. I did and then I was put back into darkness awakening in recovery at 4 am to discover my body was painless and the enlightenment that the device used to monitor my responses had malfunctioned.

Once again I learned that the same God who has sustained me, not just from my various operations since 2006, but for the previous 72 years.

As we face a New Year there is no guarantee that we will not face difficult experiences. I wish I had it within my power to wave a magic wand over each of you that would place about you a shield that would guard you from anything distressful, disheartening, disagreeable, disconcerting, and disconsolate.

This Year may have brought things that we never expected or anticipated. There may be things that will happen that will break our hearts. The very foundations of our life may be washed away by some storm of adversity. There may be great days ahead, but it is also possible that there are grievous days ahead. There may be much to make us glad, but it is also possible there may be things ahead that will make us sad. Difficulties are not out of the realm of possibility.

As we come to the end of 2009 and stand on the threshold of 2010, I think of the words of the hymn writer Francis Ridley Havergal:

Another year is dawning,
Dear Father let it be,
In working or in waiting,
Another year with thee.

Another year of progress,
Another year of praise,
Another year of proving
Thy presence all the days.

Another year is dawning,
Dear Father, let it be,
On earth, or else in heaven,
Another year for thee.

As another year is dawning, I want it to be one that richly counts for God. I want it to be a spiritually prosperous and productive year. I want it to be the kind of year that I will look back in the years to come and view it as one of the best years of my life as far as eternal things are concerned.

An unknown author has written:

When things go wrong as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all up hill,
When funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don't you quit.

Jonathan Edwards, the great American preacher from the 1700's, was known for making covenants with God. He referred to them as resolutions. He had 70 such resolutions that he made when he was age 20 and read them once a week. For example, resolution number three read, "Resolved, if ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again."

In a similar fashion David had made certain covenants or resolutions. In Psalm 39 he is recalling those resolutions. We read in Psalm 39:1, "I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me." David had made certain resolutions. One, he had resolved to take heed to his ways.

A poem suggests my strength:

Though the cover is worn,
And the pages are torn,
And though places bear traces of tears,
Yet more precious than gold
Is this Book worn and old,
That can shatter and scatter my fears.

I mentioned the resolutions of Jonathan Edwards. Let me give you a couple more of his 70 resolutions. Resolution number six was, "Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live." Resolution number seven: "Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life." Those would make good resolutions for all of us.

Someone has said, "Complacency is a blight that saps energy, dulls attitudes, and causes a drain on the brain. Complacency makes people fear the unknown, mistrust the untried, and abhor the new."

We need a burning heart to keep us from getting complacent, from becoming satisfied with things as they are, rejecting what could be, and accepting the good instead of the best. A burning heart will keep us reaching higher, aiming further, seeking more, and going forward. It will keep us growing.

You will notice the source of David's burning heart. He says in verse 3, "While I was musing the fire burned." It was while meditating that his heart began to burn. Meditation is a match that ignites a fire in the heart. Meditating on God's goodness and grace, His word and work, His power and plan will create a spiritual heartburn.

Gypsy Smith was once asked why God had used him in the way He had through the years and his answer was, "I never lost the wonder of it all."

Vance Havner said, "They were right in their chronology and in their theology, but they had no doxology." The fire had gone out in their heart.

A. B. Simpson said, "Our God has boundless resources. The only limit is in us. Our asking, our thinking, our praying are too small, our expectations are too limited."

Let the words of the hymn writer Edwin Hatch be your prayer:

Breathe on me, Breath of God;
'Till I am wholly Thine:
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with Thy fire divine.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Offers the Trip of a Lifetime

More and more I am becoming troubled with the way we celebrate Christmas, because it -seems like a glorified excuse for indulgence rather than a HOLY-day.
“We participate in the holiday hustle and bustle of shopping, parties, etc. while raging against the system. Our priorities are all tangled up just like our tree lights when we get them out each year, no matter how hard we try to keep them neat and orderly. So we close our eyes and try to focus on the reason for the season, but when we open them the world keeps getting in our face” ~ Pastor John Beehler

C. S. Lewis hit the nail on the head when he said, "We really celebrate two holidays on December 25th. One we call ’Xmas’ & the other we call ’Christmas.’"

How true! Perhaps we should separate them and see the real difference, because most people today celebrate Xmas, few truly celebrate Christmas.

XMAS offers frivolous gifts – CHRISTMAS offers forgiveness

Luke 2:11 - Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.

A little boy wrote a letter to Santa Claus that said, "Dear Santa: There are three boys living at my house. Jeffrey is two, David is four and Norman is seven. Jeffrey is good some of the time, David is good some of the time, and Norman is good all of the time. --I am Norman."

You know the problem with that? None of us is a Norman. None of us bats .1000. None of us is always perfect or right. We all live with a sense of regret because none of us is perfect. That's why we need a Savior.

If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent an educator.
If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent a scientist.
If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent an economist.
If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer.
But our greatest need was forgiveness, so he sent us a Savior.

"Unto you is born a Savior." You can be forgiven. Now that's the most priceless gift you can get.

XMAS can get you stressed – CHRISTMAS can give you peace.

God has given us the Recipe for Life. He says: "You want Peace? Then here is the Recipe. Find forgiveness through Jesus Christ."

That is why there is so much depression and so much suicide and so much rejection especially around Christmas time!

Real peace of mind is having a relationship with Jesus Christ, God's Son, and becoming friends with God.
Real peace is knowing that no matter what I do, God will never stop loving me.
Real peace is knowing that no matter what happens, God will never leave me alone.
Real peace means that no matter what happens in the next year, I know that God is going to give me the strength to handle it.
Real peace is living by God's Word, the Bible, so I can avoid a lot of the needless hang-ups and hurts and habits that mess up my life.
Real peace is teaching my children God's word as a foundation for life, so as I see them make decisions, I can say, "Boy, I'm proud of that. I'm not even there, and they're making that decision on their own." That's real peace.

So how do you and I get this peace? Listen to what God tells us:

Philippians 4:6-7 – “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

Corrie Ten Boom said of worry, “It does not empty tomorrow of it’s sorrows, it empties today of it’s strength.”

XMAS is celebrated annually – CHRISTMAS is for eternity.

Two facts of life: We're all going to die someday and you're going to spend more of your life on that side of death than you will on this side.
I don't stand a chance in a million of getting into heaven on my own effort, and neither do you. I lost my chance at perfection a long time ago. So God had to come up with Plan B. He sent us a Savior. So we could get in on somebody else's ticket.

Fortunately, the good news is, that's what Christmas is all about too. That's why God sent Jesus Christ.

John 3:16 - “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

He says you can find it through trusting Christ. God says, "I'll take care of your past regrets, your present problems and your future fears."
Can you imagine being given a gift at Christmas and never unwrapping it? It would be silly. I mean, if you gave me a gift at Christmas and a year later you came over and I still hadn't unwrapped it, you'd think I was a little nutty. "Why haven't you unwrapped it?" "Oh, I love the wrapping paper. I'm sure I'm going to love it." "Well I'm going to get to it one of these days." And yet, many of you continue this Christmas after Christmas after Christmas after Christmas. You've celebrated every Christmas for as many years as you are old; you know the songs and the stories, and you know what it's all about, but you've never unwrapped the gift. Now what gives? What's the logic behind that?

God says, "I want to offer you forgiveness, peace of mind, and eternal life," and you haven't unwrapped it? Be serious. You're never going to be offered a greater deal than that.

May God truly bless you this holiday as you enjoy the gifts He has given you!

Sunday, December 6, 2009


The Reason for the Season

I cannot remember how long it has been since I have spent a whole week with my sister. I am sure it was before her marriage more that 47 years ago. In any case, my wife Delois and I spent last week in Branson with my sister Glenna and Jesse, her husband of these years. It was a joy to be able to discuss old times and enjoy just being together.

The desire started a few weeks ago when I told her we had an extra bedroom in Branson and wanted them to join us. They accepted and we began to make plans for the visit by picking out the shows we both wanted to see.

My wife and I had reserved this week because the Christmas lights and shows would reflect the season.

We had a conference call with a Branson travel agent and began to discuss the shows we wanted to see. After a period of time we had ordered tickets for five shows during the week and became excited about seeing each.

My sister and husband live on the Louisiana-Arkansas state line so it took them about twice as long as it did us, but the meeting was exciting on their arrival. Both of our families were very tired so the first night was spent visiting and relaxing.

The next day started with our first show. The musicians were good, but the show was not to our expectation.

The next day we took in two performances. The afternoon show, a well known Christian comedian, was flat and didn’t reach his ability as seen on Television.

That night we attended the Christmas presentation, my wife and I had planned to see before deciding to go to Branson. My sister and brother-in-law did not know this famous pianist to my knowledge, but we all went away totally elated by the performance by Dino Kartsonas.

Dino's Christmas Extravaganza was an amazing, joy-filled celebration of Christmas. America’s Piano Showman brings the sights and sounds of Christmas to life and proves to be one of the biggest production shows in Branson. The centerpiece of this show is Dino’s spectacular piano artistry, but is backed up by the lovely voice of his wife Cheryl Kartsonakis and the lively children’s dance troupe - making this show one you’ll never forget! Dino is one of the premiere performers of our time. "America's Piano Showman" – is a title given to him by more than 80 million who have heard him play.

Not only was he outstanding, but he spared no expense in making the show gowns and props extremely beautiful. He also introduced a new young violinist from Portland, Oregon who played a number of times alone or with Dino.

The end of the show they did something none of the other shows we saw before or after that night. They concluded with all the performers bowing toward the scene of Joseph, Mary and the Christ child. Dino ended his show by saying “remember Jesus Christ is why we did this show!”

The DVD I purchased of the presentation has been watched a number of times now and each time reminds me of the purpose of Christmas.

Dino was raised in a Greek family in New York City to a father and mother who owned a bakery. They shared with him their secret recipe for what he now calls his 24Karet cake.

We visited Dino’s 24Karet Cake company near the landing and had coffee and cake. The performer and wife were both there and joined us for conversation and photos.

No matter how famous or rich one becomes, he owes it all to the Savior of the world,

Jesus Christ--the Reason for the Season.

“And now, Lord, What wait I for? My hope is in thee.” Psalm 39:7

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Exiled on Patmos

When I was exiled on Patmos

As a lad growing up near the Ozark foothills in Arkansas, I remember my Sunday school teacher teaching about an island called Patmos where one of the Disciples of Christ was exiled. Never did I dream I would ever see the place where John, the beloved disciple was exiled.

As a boy I could only image and thought it would be a small island with nothing but rocks and barren land. Was I ever surprised as we sailed into the bay and saw one of the most beautiful islands in the northernmost part of the Dodecanese complex in the Aegean Sea?

My first view of the island was a harmonious succession of rocky hills, peaceful valleys and green meadows that run down to a scene of beautiful lacy beaches, bays, natural harbors and capes. The amazing blue water surrounding it is dotted by many small isles. The most striking feature of the landscape was its tranquility, which, combined with the remarkable historical sites, the famous Aegean sunlight and the pleasant Mediterranean climate overcome me. What a sight!

After leaving the ship we began an uphill road to the Monastery of St. John the Theologian, set like a crown on top of the settlement of Chora, which is the island's landmark. Its construction started in 1088, when the Byzantine emperor Alexios Comnenus the First granted the whole island to St. Christodoulos to organize a settlement for monastic purposes. He named the monastery and its fortress after the Evangelist John, who had written the book of Revelation on Patmos almost a thousand years before. About halfway on the hill between Skala and Chora lies the Apocalypse Cave, where St. John the Evangelist wrote the book when in exile by emperor Domitianus.

After arriving at the monastery, I noted it was constructed on five levels and is surrounded by impressive 15 meter walls and overlooks the whole island. The whole complex has, beside the monks' cells around the main church called catholicon, ten more chapels and an exquisite museum with century-old religious objects, paintings and manuscripts. My souvenir was a reprint of John’s original book of Revelation.

The islands architecture is unique, with century-old white mansions and houses in the traditional Aegean style, clustered in this picturesquely chaotic manner, narrow streets filled with the air of times past, and a number of traditional restaurants and stylish shops.

I must admit that having a knowledge of the book gave me a much better understanding of the surrounding that John had as he recorded what God allowed him to see as he in a vision was permitted to view of Heaven and reveal to us what the end times would be at the conclusion of our time in this world.

“After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will show thee things which must be hereafter”. Revelation 4:1

Monday, November 2, 2009

Missouri Springs

Nearly as pretty as the River of Life

Living in southeast Missouri has many scenic benefits, with one being the beautiful Arcadia Valley and a bit farther southwest where some of the largest and most unusual deep springs exist. These are but some of the more than 2,900 springs that are located in Missouri.

On a recent drive we found ourselves near Eminence and found that one of the largest concentrations of springs in the world was located between there and West Plains. These springs give birth to some of the clear rippling streams forming the great Ozark National Scenic Riverways that preserves 134 miles of the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers. Over 300 caves have been identified within the boundaries of Ozark National Scenic Riverways.

The Ozarks is an area typified by what is called "Karst Topography." This means that the geologic structures underneath the earth are made of soluble limestone and dolomite. Water has been at work underground wearing away passages--water-filled ones we call springs and formerly water-filled ones we call caves.

Already much of our day was taken, but we were determined to see Alley Spring which pours 76 million gallons of water a day into the Jacks Fork River. Not only was the spring attractive, but the mill and campgrounds could offer a day of pleasure. However, our hope was to see as many springs as possible so we headed to Blue Spring, which is Missouri’s sixth largest spring with an average flow of 90 million gallons per day. Indians called it “The spring of the Summer Sky” because of its clear blue color. I could see why.

Also, located in the Eminence area is Round Spring that is one of the most beautiful in the Ozarks. Its aquamarine blue water flows from a cave with unusual rock formations. With the day closing in on us we started home, but on our way learned of Falling Spring near the Eleven Point River. You can cross the footbridge that connects the spring branch to the mill pond and step inside the mill to view the remains of the old machinery.

While we didn’t visit Mammoth Spring on this outing, we did 48 years ago when my wife and I were dating since she was raised near Eleven Point and Current Rivers just outside of Pocahontas, Arkansas. These rivers both have their origins in Missouri and likewise Mammoth Spring is fed by Missouri waters and is only about 500 feet from the Missouri line in Arkansas. This spring is recognized as the largest spring in Arkansas and the 10th largest in the world with 9.78 million gallons of water an hour flowing into a 9.5 acre lake.

Each time of think of these springs I think of one that exceeds them all.

Deut. 8:7
For the Lord thy God brings thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills

The State of Beautiful Parks: UTAH

After a couple of days at Zion National Park, where a drive through the park can be absolutely breathtaking with the rock walls towering 2,000 to 3,000 feet above a car, we made our way to the unusual Bryce Canyon National Park.

From our first view I knew it was one of the most scenically diverse places I had ever seen. Bryce is famous for its unique red rock spires that are often called “Hoodoos.” They are different, often grotesque, and with an imagination eerie. Surprising to me was the horseshoe-shaped amphitheaters here on the eastern edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau in southern Utah.

I made two trips to the canyon just to see the ancient trees and scenic views from the rim. There were Ponderosa pines and high elevation meadows with fir-spruce forests around the rim of the plateau that abound with wildlife. This part of Utah also boasts some of the world's best air quality, offering panoramic views of three states and approaching 200 miles of visibility.

Bryce Canyon is a small national park in southwestern Utah but rich in beauty and history. It was named after the Mormon Pioneer Ebenezer Bryce and the Canyon became a national park in 1924. In fact it was on March 13, 1919 that the Utah Joint Memorial passed legislation urging the Congress of the United States set aside for the use and enjoyment of the people a suitable area embracing "Bryce's Canyon" as a national monument under the name: "Temple of the Gods National Monument."

After eating in the National Park lodge we headed to the log cabin and made ready for bed. My wife opened a bag of some candy fudge eating a piece or two leaving it open on the table.

The prayer of thanks for the day was barely said when we both were in slumber land.
Our restful sleep was interrupted by the rattling of paper in our room. I rolled out of bed, turned on the light, but didn’t see anything.

Being in the middle of nowhere it was so quiet and at that time of night only a few lights were on as I viewed the grounds through the windows. So I turned off the lights again and was back in bed, but this time with a flashlight we had.

In less than an hour I heard the rattle of paper again and this time I slowly clicked on the button of the flashlight and saw a squirrel with a good size piece of my wife’s fudge which he dropped as he headed in desperation to and up the fireplace.

The next day we headed on up to Salt Lake City, but there are many spectacular Utah destinations around Zion and Bryce. Namely; Capitol Reef National Park, Lake Powell, Kodachrome Basin State Park, Anasazi Indian Village State Park, Petrified Forest State Park. A little farther are the Arches and Canyonland National Parks.

The face of Utah's population is changing. Within a generation, the state's 60-and-older crowd will be larger than the school-age population, part of a nationwide demographic shift, according to a University of Utah study.

This shows that retirees are finding the scenic of the western states inviting.
My wife and I have always enjoyed Utah, but if you travel on Sunday you will find very few places open if they are locally owned. It would probably do all of our states good to go back to the days when the Lord’s Day was a day of rest and worship.

“Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil.”-- Isaiah 56:2

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Civil War Caused Many to Go Wrong

To preface my article I need to say I am not taking either side, because the war is over and my ancestors fought on both sides beyond my control.

Today, I would like to address that during the rebellion between the states many good men were forced to change in an effort to protect their own. In the case of some they became enemies of right and what was good.

Since I wrote about some of the Missouri battles last week, I wanted to add that some of the most infamous men fought at Wilson’s Creek. Namely Quantrell, called by most but his real name was Quantrill whose beginning was a normal one. Research showed me
William Clarke Quantrill was born July 3, 1837 in Dover, Ohio. The oldest of 8 children. William’s father was a tin smith and was involved in several scandals that included theft and fraud. His father often beat him but his mother doted on him. After William’s father died, he tried to supplement the income of his family by becoming a schoolteacher. He taught in Dover, Illinois and Indiana. He was never satisfied with the amount of money he made teaching. He returned home to Dover where his mother made arrangements for two neighboring men to buy a claim for him in Kansas and hold it until he reached the age of 21. He was to work off his debt by working on their farms. After a year, William became restless and wanted to sell his claim. A dispute arose over the claim and had to be settled in court. He was paid only ½ of what the court awarded him.

During Quantrill’s early years in Kansas, he had northern views and often talked against slavery. His viewpoint began to change once he was hired as a teamster in Fort Leavenworth where he enlisted under the name of Charley Hart. It was there that he met up and befriended some southern sympathizers.

When the Civil War broke out in April, 1861, William Clarke Quantrill joined the Confederate side with enthusiasm. He fought with Confederate forces at the battle of Wilson's Creek in Oakhills, Missouri, in August 1861.

By late in the year, Quantrill became unhappy with the Confederates’ reluctance to aggressively prosecute the Union troops. When the defeated Southern forces left the state, he stayed behind and formed his own band of guerrillas. Starting with a small force of no more than a dozen men, the pro-slavery guerrilla band began to make independent attacks upon Union camps, patrols and settlements.

Without any ties to the South or to slavery, he chose the Confederacy apparently because in Missouri this allowed him to attack all symbols of authority. He attracted to his gang some of the most psychopathic killers in American history.

His band of marauders quickly grew to more than one hundred in 1862, with both regular pro-slavery citizens and Confederate soldiers, until he became the most powerful leader of the many bands of Border Ruffians that pillaged the area. Several famous would-be outlaws joined his ruffian group including Frank and Jesse James and the Younger Brothers.

The James brothers were son of Reverend Robert and Zerelda James. Rev. James had been one of the co-founders of William Jewell Baptist College, which still is very active today and has the book collection of noted English preacher Charles Spurgeon, who at his time in history had nearly every book that had been printed in English. (Having visited the church of the famous Baptist preacher in London, I have plans to visit there soon.)

Rev. James heeded a called for California to preach to gold miners, but contracted cholera there and died. This left the mother with two small boys when a role model was needed. When Jesse was eight she married another man who had a number of children.

Record reveals Jesse as a youth went to church, sang in the choir, wanted to become a Baptist preacher like his father. Later, Zerelda married a third time to a country doctor whose farm connected with hers. Zerelda recorded a conversation with Jesse shortly after her last husband was tortured, etc, "After the Home Guards had gone, Jesse said to me, 'Ma, look how those soldiers have beaten me.' "I took off his shirt and his back was striped from the rawhides the soldiers had used on him because he could and would not tell where Frank was. But Jesse did not whimper. He saw me crying, and said:’ Never mind, Ma, I'm going to join Quantrell.' Jesse joined Quantrell in the spring of 1863 to avenge the treatment of his stepfather and himself. My son, Frank had already joined the guerrillas.”

Zerelda, Jesse, Frank and their step siblings are buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery at Kearney, Missouri.

Henry Younger, who reportedly was pro-Union, and wealty farmer with 3500 acres in cultivation, was killed by a detachment of Union militiamen whose Captain Walley was said to have been soundly beaten by Cole for a remark he had made to Cole's sister. Walley was a married man at the time and the Younger daughter refused his advances. The killing of his father is believed to have been what drove Cole Younger to become a pro-Confederate soldier.

While in Stillwater prison, Cole Younger was interviewed by a writer doing a book on the Younger brothers recorded Cole’s answer when he was asked what he did in prison: “I occupy much of my time in theological studies for which I have a natural inclination. It was the earliest desire of my parents to prepare me for the ministry, but the horrors of war, the murder of my father, and the outrages perpetrated upon my poor old mother, my sisters and brothers, destroyed our hopes so effectually that none of us could be prepared for any duty in life except revenge. The tear which stole into Cole's eye told how much he suffered in the remembrance of those sorrow-laden days when war, drove happiness eternally from the Younger household. Out of deference to that honorable feeling, I could not question him further upon such an extremely unpleasant subject.”

The three Younger brothers are also buried at Lee’s Summit Historical Cemetery, Lee’s Summit, Missouri.

Justifying their actions for perceived wrongs done to them by Kansas Jayhawkers and the Federal Authorities, the band robbed Union mail, ambushed federal patrols, and attacked boats on the Missouri River throughout the year.

On August 11, 1862, Colonel J.T. Hughes’s Confederate force, including William Quantrill, attacked Independence, Missouri at dawn. They drove through the town to the Union Army camp, capturing, killing and scattering the soldiers. During the melee, Colonel Hughes was killed, but the Confederates took Independence which led to a Confederate dominance in the Kansas City area for a short time. Quantrill's role in the capture of Independence led to his being commissioned a captain in the Confederate Army. The Confederate Army suffered their biggest defeat in Missouri during this battle and Quantrill and his men disbanded and fled for safety. Later, they promoted him to the rank of colonel in November, 1862.

In May, of 1863, Quantrill and his band moved closer to the Missouri-Kansas border. Brigadier General Thomas Ewing, Jr. (Who had sought to protect Fort Davidson, near Pilot Knob, Mo.) now commanded the district border, was not happy with Quantrill’s presence. Soon, he issued a General Order, which stated that any person - man, woman or child, who was directly involved with aiding a band of guerrillas would be jailed.

Months later, early in 1865, with a group of thirty-three men, Quantrill entered Kentucky. In May, a Unionist irregular force surprised his group near Taylorsville, Kentucky, and in the ensuing battle Quantrill was shot through the spine. He died at the military prison at Louisville, Kentucky, on June 6, 1865 at age 27. Part of his body is buried at the Missouri Confederate Soldier’s Memorial in Higginsville, Missouri, but another portion of his remains is buried in the Quantrill plot at the Fourth Street Cemetery, Dover, Ohio.

War is tragic and sometimes makes good men make bad decisions sometimes becoming more evil then the enemy.

The same can be said of life. Good men can live and die knowing they are doing wrong and not realizing we have a God who will forgive our sins and give us a new life and a better ending.

”Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Wizard of Branson

My wife and I just returned from one of Branson’s most entertaining shows; New’s Country at the Little Opry Theater in the IMAX Theater Complex. Branson’s Guitar Wizard, Leroy New, is a self-taught, naturally talented musician, singer, and song writer.

My interest in guitar playing goes back to my youth when a classmate enjoyed and became very good with an electric guitar. He even played on the Louisiana Hayride. My interest in this type music has followed me throughout my life. I liked Billy Byrd, Chet Atkins, Merle Travis, and even Montoya of Spanish guitar fame.

Having traveled to many places during my lifetime and being a member of a travel club that has nearly a hundred resorts everywhere, I still like Branson because of the many shows.

This last time however I chose to not go to a glitzy show, but saw an ad at the IMAX complex that said, ‘Guitar Wizard.’

Well, that got my attention but knew it would not have the fanfare some of the larger stars have in the bigger theaters. The 210-seat Little Opry Theatre sort of turned me off at first, but in moments this guitar player did not disappoint me. Backdrops, luster, changed right before my eyes during this two-hour show that is filled with classic country, bluegrass, and gospel music.

Leroy New played the guitar in so many genres that it is impossible for me to name them all. What amazed me was how he went for one style to another without any difficulty. It did not take me long to see how he had been called the greatest guitarist in Branson.

Aside from the great music, the show is filled with his description of experiences growing up in Kentucky. He presents story after story in a light-hearted way that each member of the audience can identify with. He continues his stories right up to his current days performing in Branson and having grandchildren of his own. And as you reminisce, it will have you yearning to return to see it him play again.

This man is fantastic! He looks right into his audience and delivers some fine country music both picking and singing. Likewise, he is unashamed to acknowledge his belief in God and mentioned he was also a minister.

He plays flat top guitar, electric guitar, and 4-string banjo, with such a smoothness one could not listen without being mesmerized by his ability.

After the show I talked briefly with him and his wife of 42 years and he gave my one of his CD’s which I have nearly worn out.

The next time you are in Branson tell New I sent you.

”Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; celebrate his lovely name with music.” -- Psalm 135:3

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Missouri Battles During Civil War

My wife wanted to attend a two day conference for women in Springfield before continuing on to see our son in Tulsa . While she kept occupied with the women’s meeting, I called an old-time friend Rev. Dale Skiles and asked if he was like to escort me to Wilson’s Creek Civil War battlefield about 15 miles southwest of where we were staying. What a thrill it was for me to not only visit with him, but to get a great tour master at the same time.

The following is what I learned.The Battle of Wilson's Creek, fought ten miles southwest of Springfield , Missouri on August 10, 1861 . Named for the stream that crosses the area where the battle took place, was a bitter struggle between Union and Southern forces for control of Missouri in the first year of the Civil War.

According to a pamphlet at the visitor’s center, the Battle of Wilson's Creek was the beginning of the Civil War in Missouri .

I found it interesting when President Lincoln called for troops to put down the rebellion, Missouri was asked to supply four regiments. Governor Jackson refused the request. Captain Nathaniel Lyon learning of the governor's intentions, had most of the weapons moved secretly to Illinois .

In June, after a futile meeting with Governor Jackson to resolve their differences, Lyon (now a brigadier general) led an army up the Missouri River and captured the state capital at Jefferson City later arriving in Springfield . Despite inferior numbers, Lyon decided to attack the enemy encampment at Wilson ’s Creek. Leaving about 1,000 men behind to guard his supplies the Federal commander led 5,400 soldiers out of Springfield on the night of August 9. Lyon 's plan called for 1,200 men under Colonel Franz Sigel to swing wide to the south, flanking the Southern right, while the main body of troops struck from the north. Success hinged on the element of surprise.

Ironically, the Southern leaders also planned a surprise attack on the Federals, but rain on the night of the 9th caused McCulloch to cancel the operation. On the morning of the 10th, Lyon 's attack caught the Southerners off guard, driving them back. Forging rapidly ahead, the Federals occupied the crest of a ridge subsequently called "Bloody Hill." Nearby, the Pulaski Arkansas Battery opened fire, checking the advance.

For more than five hours the battle raged on Bloody Hill. Fighting was often at close quarters, and the tide turned with each charge and countercharge. At about 9:30 a.m. , General Lyon, who had been wounded twice already, was killed while positioning his troops.

For the next three and a half years Missouri witnessed so many battles and skirmishes that it ranks as the third most fought-over state in the nation.

The Confederates made only two large-scale attempts to break the Federal hold on Missouri , both of them directed by Missourian Sterling Price. He and his troops remained in the state until early 1862, when a Federal army drove them into Arkansas . The subsequent Union victory at the Battle of Pea Ridge in March kept large numbers of Confederate military forces out of Missouri for more than two years.

After Pea Ridge, Price accepted a command in the Confederate Army. He led unsuccessful campaigns at Iuka & Corinth , Mississippi and at Helena , Arkansas .

From another source, I learned that on September 1864 Price returned to Missouri with an army of some 12,000 men. By the time his campaign ended, he had marched nearly 1,500 miles, fought 43 battles or skirmishes, and destroyed an estimated $10 million worth of property.

Only 14 miles from Farmington where I live, on Sept 27, 1864 , the Confederates pushed back the Federal Troops at Ironton and Arcadia , Missouri , when Union Brigadier General Thomas Ewing decided to hold Fort Davidson at Pilot Knob, General Price decided to take the fort instead of bypassing it. This was apart of his bid to take St. Louis to win support for a Southern Missouri Government in the 1864 Elections.

However, his campaign ended in disaster. At Westport , near Kansas City , on October 23, Price was soundly defeated by General Curtis in the largest battle fought west of the Mississippi and forced to retreat south.

The state's strategic position on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and its abundant manpower and natural resources made it imperative that she remain loyal to the Union . Most Missourians desired neutrality, but many, including the governor, Claiborne Fox Jackson, held strong Southern sympathies and planned to cooperate with the Confederacy in its bid for independence.
Price went to Mexico after the war, but returned to Missouri in 1866. He died there the next year.

My mother had 4 great grand uncles who fought for the Union and one of these when he moved to Arkansas then fought for the CSA. All were wounded in battle. In my genealogy I found a father and a son who fought on different sides. I had kindred on all my ancestor sides that fought in the rebellion against the states. War is terrible no matter where or with whom.

Maybe one day we can sing the ole song, “Ain’t gonna war no-more.”

”Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.” --James 4:2 (KJV)

James 4:1-3 translated by Daniel Mace brings added light as he states: “You breathe slaughter and revenge for what you cannot obtain. You quarrel and go to war, but without success, because you don't petition for it: and if you did, you would not obtain it, because you wickedly request to have your passions gratified."

Sunday, October 4, 2009


The Worst War on American Soil

Our first stop in Gettysburg was to visit the new Museum and Visitors center that contains a number of theaters, a large bookstore, and the museum of many of the war’s artifacts. Above is also a huge painting, one of only four in the United States that depicts the battle at Gettysburg.

I had a special interest in visiting the battlefield since I had gone to high school in Arkansas with Billy and JEB Stuart who were descendants of the famous confederate General James Ewell Brown (JEB) Stuart, who was known as the most famous cavalryman of the Civil War.

Being a student of JEB Stuart, please allow me to give a little history of the General and his life.

At the age of fourteen years James Stuart was placed at school in Wytheville , Virginia ; and in August, 1848, he entered Emory and Henry College (where I have conducted seminars in years past). During a revival of religion among the students he professed conversion, and joined the Methodist Church . Throughout his life he maintained a consistent Christian character. In April, 1850, James Stuart left Emory and Henry College , having obtained an appointment as cadet in the United States Military Academy at West Point where he gradated 13th in his class.

Ten years later, in 1859, he was confirmed in the Protestant Episcopal Church by Bishop Hawkes, in St. Louis . His mother was an Episcopalian, and had early instilled into him a love for her own church

A Virginia-born West Pointer (1854), Stuart was already a veteran of Indian fighting on the plains and of Bleeding Kansas when, as a first lieutenant in the 1st Cavalry, he carried orders for Robert E. Lee to proceed to Harpers Ferry to crush John Brown's raid.

His later appointments included: captain of Cavalry, CSA ( May 24, 186 1); colonel, 1st Virginia Cavalry (July 16, 1861); brigadier general, CSA (September 24, 1861); and major general, CSA July 25, 1862 ). His commands in the Army of Northern Virginia included: Cavalry Brigade (October 22, 1861 - July 28, 1862); Cavalry Division July 28, 1862 - September 9, 1863 ); temporarily Jackson's 2nd Corps (May 3-6, 1863); and Cavalry Corps (September 9, 1863 - May 11, 1864).

During Grant's drive on Richmond in the spring of 1864, Stuart halted Sheridan 's cavalry at Yellow Tavern on the outskirts of Richmond on May 11. In the fight he was mortally wounded. About noon , Thursday, President Davis visited his bedside, and spent some fifteen minutes in the dying chamber of his favorite chieftain. The President, taking his hand, said, "General, how do you feel?" He replied, "Easy, but willing to die, if God and my country think I have fulfilled my destiny and done my duty."

The General, with a mind perfectly clear, made dispositions to his staff of his personal effects. To Mrs. Robert E. Lee he directed that his golden spurs be given as a dying memento of his love and esteem of her husband. To his staff officers he gave his horses. To one of his staff, who was a heavy built man, he said, "You had better take the larger horse; he will carry you better." Other mementoes he disposed of in a similar manner. To his young son he left his glorious sword.

His worldly matters closed, the eternal interest of his soul engaged his mind. Turning to the Rev. Mr. Peterkin, of the Episcopal Church, and of which he was an exemplary member, he asked him to sing the hymn commencing --

"Rock of ages cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in thee,"

Joining in with all the voice his strength would permit. He then joined in prayer with the ministers. To the Doctor he again said, "I am going fast now; I am resigned; God's will done." Thus died General J.E.B. Stuart. General Stuart was thirty five years of age. He died in the rebel capital and is buried in Hollywood Cemetery there. Like his intimate friend, Stonewall Jackson, General Stuart soon became a legendary figure, ranking as one of the great cavalry commanders of America .

Among the pall bearers were Brigadier General John H. Winder, General George W. Randolph, General Joseph R. Anderson, Brigadier General Lawton and Commodore Forrest.

Among the congregation appeared President Davis, General Bragg, General Ransom, and other civic and military officials in Richmond .

Having studied much of the life of J.E.B. Stuart, I was deeply interested in viewing the entire battlefield so we boarded a double Decker bus and went to the front seat on the top level to be able to get good photographs. The guide was great and audio history was also played in various places that better covered the incidents and events of the area.

The 23 mile tour lasted better than two hours and was indeed enlightenment to me even though I had been a student of Civil War battles.

The losses at Gettysburg were the greatest of any battle in the Civil War. The Union lost 23,049 men, while the Confederacy lost 28,063. The Confederate population was unable to withstand such heavy casualties, and Lee's army was never able to launch another offensive invasion in Union territory. The defeat at Gettysburg , coupled with the surrender of Vicksburg on July 4th, ended Confederate hopes of European intervention in the war. Between 46,000 and 51,000 Americans were casualties in the three-day battle.

That November, President Lincoln used the dedication ceremony for the Gettysburg National Cemetery to honor the fallen and redefine the purpose of the war in his historic Gettysburg Address.

After, returning to the tour center, our friends and us, met at the old Gettysburg café for a remarkable meal.

”He hath delivered my soul in peace from the battle that was against me: for there were many with me.” --Psalm 55:18

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Hershey: The Sweetest Place in the World

The Sweetest Place to visit with your Sweetie

No trip is as much fun as when you have fiends to travel with you. Recently, my wife and I flew from St. Louis to Columbus, Ohio where we were met by our son, Randy, who drove us to meet his wife, Melissa, and our two grandchildren, Zach and Emily. After a good meal together, he drove us to the home of our friends Jim and Jean Lowe who were going to drive us to Hershey, Pennsylvania the next day for nearly a week in the area.

Hershey is the town Milton Hershey built with the largest chocolate factory in the world. We were amazed at the many products manufactured by this single company.

Raised in rural central Pennsylvania by Swiss Mennonite parents, was hampered by the lack of a formal education was nearly bankrupt by the time he was 30. Milton S. Hershey went on to become not only one of America’s wealthiest individuals, but also a successful entrepreneur whose products are known the world over. He was a visionary builder of the town which bears his name and a philanthropist whose open-hearted generosity continues to touch the lives of thousands.

He and his wife Catherine never had children so his fortune was given to create and provide the resources to educate poor and underprivileged children. When founded, the school was called the Hershey Industrial School and was intended for the basic education of poor white boys. Four students were in the first class. Current enrollment is about 1,700. The name was changed to the Milton Hershey School in 1951. It became racially integrated in 1968 and allowed female students beginning in 1977.

The student all live is provided homes with substitute parents to give them a role model with all clothes and food provided free of charge as is the school.
Today, the student population hails from 29 states and Washington, D.C., but seven out of 10 of the students are from Pennsylvania.

During the last century, about 8,600 people have graduated from the school. If the past is any indicator, about half of the 1,700 students enrolled this year will go on to four-year colleges and 40 percent will attend two-year colleges or technical schools. Students can earn more than $70,000 in college scholarship money from the school.

Milton Hershey signed over his entire $60 million fortune as an endowment for the school. The original endowment has grown to $6.3 billion, making MHS "the best endowed K-12 school in the nation ... also exceeds most universities," according to author Rob Hardy. To put that into perspective, Penn State's total endowment reached $1 billion in June.

The Milton Hershey School's land holdings include more than 10,000 acres, or about 15.5 square miles, in Dauphin, Lancaster and Lebanon counties.

On September 13th, five-thousand people celebrated Milton Hershey's 152nd birthday in Hersheypark Arena. Attendees also celebrated the centennial anniversary of the Hershey Industrial School for orphaned boys which were under preparation when we visited the school.
After visiting the Chocolate World, where we viewed how the Hershey products are made, we took a trolley ride though the city. The trolley guide saw to it we had plenty of free chocolate during the tour. It was a very unforgettable ride and made me feel more appreciative of the Hershey family. I need to advise you that one day is not near enough to see everything in Hershey but we picked out our choices early.

Jim and I visited the Antique Auto museum, and what an eye opener, as we saw many types of cars including three Pierce-Arrow’s, a Ferrari, DeLorean, Bizzarini, and a Lamborghini. Besides the 100 or so cars, there was a whole floor given to motorcycles and scooters. On the lower level was an assortment of buses of every type vintage.

After this excursion, we met our wife’s for an Italian meal at the popular Fenicci's Restaurant on Chocolate Avenue in downtown Hershey.

The next time you are in Pennsylvania, be sure to give Hershey a couple of days and you will find and we did it is the sweetest city in the world.

“My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the LORD.” Psalm 104:34

Lancaster Co., Pennsylvania

Where is the Second Largest Amish community?

Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is a bustling city but its fame lies in the famous Amish farms in the surrounding county containing many large dairies, farms, and crops of great variety.

Upon our arrival, the Lowe’s and us, decided to stop at the Hershey farm restaurant for an Amish breakfast. It was truly Amish and beyond expectancy.

Since we had studied the area and locations we wanted to visit, we headed for Strasburg and stopped at Ed’s Buggy rides. We looked about and thought it might be interesting to take the 3 mile buggy ride into some Amish farms which included stopping and observing the farm and how it was able to operate without electricity.

The water was pumped up into a reservoir by a windmill. A water picket had good water pressure as it delivered water into the horse trough. A cash register was run by a battery.

We talked to the old father and mother who ran a little shop in a portion of their house’s lower level while their children brought in the crop of corn and tobacco.

My wife and Jean looked through the many quilts that ranged from $595.00 to $795.00. Jams, Jellies and jars of many food items were in abundance. My souvenir was a computer mouse pad with Amish Country imprinted on it.

Our driver was an Old Order Amish man name Chris and was very helpful in defined the differences of the Amish and all others who he called “The English.”

It was a unique ride. Entertaining, informative, and fun, as we saw the country side with huge and well kept farms.

We had already bought ticket to see “The Creation” at the Millennium Theater own by a devote Mennonite who also owns an exact Theater in Branson where the “Noah” is presented. The props, music, and actors we were very professional and the story as well presented as possible.

Before the presentation, Chris had told us of a real Amish restaurant, owned by his wife’s uncle called Dienners on highway 30. I knew we were in for a treat when all the waitresses wore prayer caps after the Old Order Amish with welcomes in the Pennsylvania Dutch favored with English.

The fresh, tasty, food was delicious and pasties and pies outstanding.

Don’t just spend a day in this country. You will miss so much.

”And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, these are the true sayings of God.” Revelation 19:9

”For by these He judges the peoples; He gives food in abundance.” Job 36:31

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Petit Jean Mountain is worth a trip

When I was a college student I had the opportunity to work for Winthrop Rockefeller who had build a beautiful home, ranch, and air trip atop one of the most popular sites in Arkansas.

My job was to escort visitors across the grounds and in the home until to many items was being picked up for souvenirs, etc.

At that time, he had not gotten into politics (He was later the governor), but before that had influenced so many industries to settle in the state. During his tenure he brought many to investigate the possibly there.

It was not known why he chose the mountain to build his properties on, but having been raised about 35 miles from there, I could understand how a person from the big city life of New York City would be enamored by such a place.

Because Petit Jean Mountain is a special place – an unforgettable place – known for the legend of Petit Jean, the story of a French girl who disguised herself as a boy and secretly accompanied her sweetheart, an early explorer, to the New World and to this mountain.

Petit Jean State Park, Arkansas’s first and flagship state park enhances this over 300–year–old legend with windswept views, enchanting woodlands laced with streams and wildflowers, and a spectacular 95-foot waterfall called “Cedar Falls” that is fed by a 100-acre lakem, a reservoir contributed into by small creeks. Lake Bailey is also a popular place for pedal-boating and fishing. Tennis and basketball courts, swimming pool, and picnic areas are available for the use of park guests.

The scenic overlook at Petit Jean's grave, which is just to the right as you just finish the grade up to the mountain, provides a spectacular view of the Arkansas River Valley and is worth the short walk.

To those who would like to know more about this unique place read Dr. Lee W. Woodard’s book entitled, "Petit Jean's Mountain: The Origin of the Legend." He provides many historical evidences that suggest that the old glamorized oral legends about "Petit Jean" (an assumed or nickname) are traceable to known historical records about the drowning of a young French Noble variously called De Marne or De Marle. This youth drowned while bathing in the Arkansas river on Saint Jean Baptiste Day, June 24, 1687, while fleeing with six other survivors of horrendous assassinations and murders involved with Robert Cavelier De La Salle's tragic French Colonization attempt during 1684-1687. This young French noble's tragic death and burial were described by two French companions, Father Anastase Douay (who was an officiate at the burial) and a French soldier named Henri Joutel. Woodard's is the first book by a doctoral level historian to identify the actual tragic events and the actual death and burial connected with old Arkansas Oral Legends of Petit Jean.

I seldom go to my home area without thinking about this place of my past or taking the short trip to revisit. The Museum of Automobiles (build since my employment up there) is less than a mile from the main camping areas near the Rockefeller farm and home.

But often it is the dreams of home that attract me most.

“But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” - Hebrews 11:16



He rolled out from under the long Cadillac where he had been working. The khaki-clad man made his way toward us. We waited as he approached us while cleaning his hands on a dirty shop towel.

The farm manager said, "Fellows meet your boss, Mr. Rockefeller." The sudden unexpectency alarmed us already timid and frightened boys. Why he was doing his own work, when he had mechanics sitting all around doing nothing while he worked on his own car, I thought.

Our college professor, who had gotten us the job, told us he was just like other man--only rich!

However, it didn't take me long to see he was a man that liked to do what others did, and while he had inherited over a quarter of a billion dollars, didn't appear to be the stuffed shirt we figured he would be. He was a large man who humbled many with his stature and wealth, and I will always remember his contribution to my home state and the many he helped. At the time I didn't know he would become its future governor and a benefactor to countless he served.

Winthrop A. Rockefeller as the first Republican Governor of Arkansas since Reconstruction. He was a third-generation member of the Rockefeller family.

Winthrop Rockefeller was born in New Jersey to John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and his wife, the former Abby Greene Aldrich. His four famous brothers were: Nelson, David, Laurance and John D. III. Nelson served as Governor of New York and Vice President of the United States.

Winthrop attended Yale University from 1931 to 1934 but was ejected as a result of misbehavior before earning his degree. Prior to attending Yale, he graduated from the Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, Connecticut.

He enlisted into the 77th Infantry Division in early 1941 and fought in World War II, advancing from Private to Colonel and earning a Bronze Star with clusters and Purple Heart for his actions aboard the troopship USS Henrico, after a kamikaze attack during the Battle of Okinawa. His image appears in the Infantry Officer Hall of Fame at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Rockefeller moved to central Arkansas in 1953 and established Winrock Enterprises and Winrock Farms atop Petit Jean Mountain near Morrilton, Arkansas which is only 20 miles from my hometown.

He summer students from Texas A & M, who were studying Animal of Husbandry, would come to the farm because of his raising of a new bread of cows crossed from the Texas Longhorn and Brahman bulls. Bulls weigh 1,600 to 2,200 pounds and cows weigh 1,000 to 1,400 pounds. At birth, the calves weigh 60 to 65 pounds. This breed became known as the Santa Gertrudis. The birthing barns were, but hospitals for the delivery of these huge animals.
Mr. Rockefeller loved fine horses and was seen riding often with his wife or the farm manager.

In 1956, Rockefeller married his second wife, Jeanette Bartley McDonnell, a native of Washington State. (Who was his wife when I was there). She was a gracious and kind lady to us young workers.

She had previously been married to a pro American football player, a lawyer, and a stockbroker. By her, he acquired two stepchildren, Anne and Bruce Bartley. (He had a son, Winthrop Paul, by his first wife).

Rockefeller initiated a number of philanthropies and projects for the benefit of the people of in my home state. He financed the building of a model school at Morrilton, and led efforts to establish a Fine Arts Center in Little Rock. He also financed the construction of medical clinics in some of the state's poorest counties, in addition to making annual gifts to the state's colleges and universities.

These philanthropic activities continue to this day through the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.

He may have learned from his early days what David learned late as recorded in Psalm 39. "Every man at his best state is altogether vanity...Surely every man walks in a vain show....he heaps up riches, and knows not who shall gather them"

Cody is a place to see

Cody Museum a must see

While visiting Wyoming in 1993 we had the possibly of stopping at The Buffalo Bill Museum which examines both the personal and public lives of W.F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody (1846-1917) and seeks to tell his story in the context of the history and myth of the American West.

However, more than this is the other collections in the Museum that interpret the history of the American cowboy, dude ranching, Western conservation, frontier entrepreneurship and, perhaps most importantly, the source of our concepts about the West. The museum records how Buffalo Bill, in an age without television or motion pictures became the world's foremost communicator about the American West.

Buffalo Bill's Wild West was a spectacular panorama of cowboys, Indians, trick shooters and specialty acts. He called his show "an educational exposition on a grand and entertaining scale."

The show ran for 30 years, from 1883 until 1913, touring the United States and Europe with legendary figures such as Sitting Bull and Annie Oakley. While it wasn't possible for millions of Americans to experience the West as he had, Cody brought it to their front doors.

If you are interested in learning more about Buffalo Bill and the West then you will find this a remarkable place to visit.

Of particular interest to me was The Cody Firearms Museum which houses the most comprehensive assemblage of American firearms in the world. The Winchester Collection, the heart of this museum, was transported from New Haven, Connecticut to Cody in 1976. Dedicated in 1991, but provides an expansive permanent home for the collection. However, virtually every significant manufacturer in the world is represented. Within the exhibits, visitors are able to trace the evolution of modern firearms technology from its earliest days through today's outstanding variations.

You may also view the Whitney Gallery of Western Art Digital Collections.
Learn about the outdoor sculpture conservation project funded by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation.

Then there is the Plains Indian Museum which tells the significant story of the lives of the Plains Indian peoples, their cultures, traditions, values and histories, and the contexts of their lives today.

In the words of the Crow tribal historian Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow, the Museum is "a living, breathing place where more than just Indian objects are on display."

Since 1979 the Plains Indian Museum has been a leader in promoting public recognition of the importance of Plains Indian art due to its nationally significant collection. Visitors to the Plains Indian Museum learn, not only about the beautiful objects made by Indian people, but the stories of the people behind the objects and the special contexts in which these objects were made and used in daily and ceremonial life.

The majority of the collection is from the early reservation period, ca. 1880-1930, and relates primarily to Northern Plains tribes, such as the Lakota, Crow, Arapaho, Shoshone, and Cheyenne.

If you are a western fan, as I am, and want to really educate yourself, then don’t expect to do this in less than a day or two.

The west is a most important part of the history of our country and so much misinformation has venture over the past. Take time when you are in the area and get caught up.

They like all peoples look for a better life and a place of bliss beyond this life. They, like us, were looking for more than a cultural foundation. My prayer has always been that all people find what the spirit of a man craves for and for eternal better home.

“Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.” --Hebrews 11:10

Saturday, August 22, 2009

51 years and Running

My longest trip to date

On August 18, 1958 my dearest friend and I planned a trip that would last a lifetime. We haven’t made that milestone yet, but on August 18, 2009 we had concluded 51 years of blissful traveling and enjoyment.

It all began when I was introduced to a beautiful young lady, whose friend was a state policeman from where she went to church, but who attended my church every Wednesday evening when he was in town for business. Being from about 45 miles away and because of two lane roads we had in those days, he always stayed over, and being a single myself we would often spend time afterwards at a café for fellowship.

On one evening he unceremoniously asked, “Why aren’t you married? Every preacher needs a wife!”

“I have never gotten the right one to propose to me yet,” I jokingly replied.

The truth of the matter was, unbeknown to him, I had been engaged to a wonderful young lady but with time we both learned we were not compatible enough for married. (I later learned also had been spoken for but it too ended.) Nearly a year had elapsed before we would even meet each other.

We talked a bit about some other things then he came back with, “There is a young lady in our church I think you ought to meet. On your next free Thursday night come over and I will introduce you to her.

I was pretty shy back then so was reluctant in immediately accepting his invitation, but as he continued to tease me until I said I would.

Thursday night came and I drove my 1949 Hudson Hornet to his home and he took me to meet her. He had not even told her, so we drove into the yard without giving her any time for preparation. She already was prepared for bed since it was about 8 p.m. with her hair in rollers already. Not a good time to visit a person who wants to present her best look.
But she undone them and he took us to an A & W and then said to us, “You know I just remember I have to get something ready for work tomorrow. Alton, would you drive her home?”

We looked at each other when I said, “Do you believe we have been setup?”

She smiled and we were soon happy he left.

Six months later we were married, which was hardly accepted in those days and especially for a preacher.

(I learned after we were married this gal always wanted pre-warning.)

Our first years, we like so many during our generation, knew money was limited and my church only paid me $15 a week, so I had to have a second job selling suits in a men’s store which added $25 to my salary. There were very few vacations at that time for us, but we were truly in love and traveling had never been in our lives beforehand. If fact, she had only been to one other state which was only 30 miles from where she had grown up.

Well, 51 years have passed and we enjoyed 19 years as a pastor before entering into the various roles of denominational work. She was a remarkable pastor’s wife and respected by the ladies in the churches we served. At my last pastorate I met an officer of a large independent publishing house from Wheaton, Illinois who persuaded me to join their ministry of offering the printed page to the “Whole World” which was a portion of their mission statement.

Then she made a gracious first lady when I began to serve the denomination in other roles. First, as the State Executive Secretary in Ohio for 20 years, and secondly when I became the President/CEO of Randall House Publications in Nashville, Tennessee.

During these roles we were able to catch up on all we had never been able to see or visit, traveling into all of the 50 states, but Nebraska and North Dakota; all but 5 of the provinces of Canada, and 35 foreign countries and some of them as many as 19 times.

The Lord has given us a remarkable life and I know of nothing I would be ashamed of standing before the Lord.

During our life’s trip we had two sons and now two daughters-in-love whose marriage have given us five beautiful grandchildren.

Life is a journey and my life-mate has made the trip much greater because of her.

During the last three years of my illness I have learned to love her even more as she has continued to dress my operation wounds twice daily without any complaints or excuses.

I can truly say of her, copying something Jesus once said, “Well done that good and faithful servant……”

As we have now grown older we are not able to do what we did, but we know there is “a rest for the weary.
“There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.” --Hebrews 4:9
“Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth.” --Psalm 71:9 Therefore, “I will sing of the mercies of the LORD for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations.” --Psalm 89:1

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Convention Trip and Highlights

Recent Highlights

After months of considering if we could attend the national concave of our denomination, we decided flying would be the easiest for us both and staying in a hotel across from the large convention center, provided by a friend, clinched the decision.

So the arrangements were made beginning by reserving a motel in St. Louis near the airport, because we had to be there by 4 a.m. Then we reserved our air flights and a limo service from the airport in Kentucky to our Cincinnati hotel. Planning was always my forte.

Being somewhat excited, we left home in mid-morning and headed north from our hometown for the 70 mile trip north to the airport. Knowing we could not get into the motel I suggested we visit historic St. Charles. Arriving in the city we began first by driving down Riverside Avenue and immediately learned it was from this location the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition began. After visiting a number of the shops we decided to stop for a lunch in a sidewalk café that waited with welcomed cuisine.

After finishing our meal and relaxation, we decide we needed to head toward the Airport motel. This produced my second surprise. It was here the first interstate system was begun back in 1956 noted by a sign as we entered the interstate.

Soon we turned into the road that directed to our evening abode. To our sudden surprise we saw hundreds of teens in various dress and painted faces, scattered all around the entrance and then on the inside milling around like a mother stirring a large bowl of soup containing a heavy diverse mixture. Every size, shape and color of dress filled every hallway, café, sitting area, as I walked to the check-in counter wondering if we would get any sleep tonight.

The clerk assured me that in two nights they had been at the motel, not one complaint had been called to them. She mentioned they were their in a convention to taught them how to become animators.

With a bid of concern we took our key, signed for the earliest transport to the airport, then started to our room. Being tired from a long day, mixed with the excited of attending our first convention in 5 years, we prepared for bed and then sat reading and talking about who we might see.

To our surprise we did not hear one sound from anyone during the night. Rising at 2:30 the next morning we dressed and headed to the lobby where we would catch our van to the airport-leaving our car at the motel until we returned.

Everything went smooth and we arrived in plenty of time to check in our luggage, get though security, and board the plane for Cincinnati. The flight was great and our excitement increased as we viewed the countryside dissenting over the Ohio River as we had done many times.

Our limo service met us promptly and we were headed to our hotel 15 miles away. Without any problems we were registered and in our room knowing we needed to rest some allowing us to attend the evening session. All of the speakers were old time friends and I did not want to miss even one of them.

Thousands of people attended this convention and we must have hugged every one of them. The speakers, all different, each did a good job of blessing us as they presented in some way the promises of God.

There were nearly 2000 youth that joined with the convention and I am proud of how polite and capable they were.

Our denomination has a great outreach, both here and around the world, so the last night was a remarkable service as Teens carried flags representing all countries and states where we have a missionary presence-completely lining across the entire front of the large convention center. Then we viewed a stage full of missionaries, numbering at least one hundred, gathered and were each recognized by our national mission directors. It was climaxed by a commissioning service of new appointees who will be joining the veterans in their new field of endeavor. It was such an impressive service, capped by an outstanding message of our responsibility as believers to reach all men.

Then the departure came and we reversed the trip back to St. Louis and then home.

Friends, fellowship, and His protection were the highlight of these glorious days for us.

One day all of us will be reunited with friends and love ones in a place that will be without end.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:” -- Ephesians 1:3 (KJV)

“A man that hath friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” -- Proverbs 18:24 (KJV)

“Let them praise the name of the LORD: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven.” -- Psalm 148:13 (KJV)

“Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.” --Matthew 10:32 (KJV)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Dead Yet He Liveth

Where David Marks lay

Years ago I was speaking in Elyria, Ohio, but stayed with a family who lived a few miles south in Oberlin where Oberlin University is located.

Doing the course of my visit, I mentioned that one of our early ministers, David Marks, had attended this school and that his funeral had been preached by the famous lawyer, turned preacher, Charles Finney.

I could hardly finish my remarks when the lady of the house broke into excitement and blurred out with, “I care for the children of some of the professors at the college and oftentimes we will walk across the golf course into an old, old, cemetery where I read the eulogies on the head stones. Recently, I ran across the stone of David Marks which contained things about his connection with our denomination. I believe it was in section …, and then she said I just can’t remember for sure.” While continuing her remarks she gave me two sections, but still with uncertainty.

Well, the next day after visiting the library at the college, I found many historical items of my denomination in their archives, including a biography of Rev. Marks written by his wife. Then I made my way to the cemetery and ,after an hour or so, I found a headstone that had been placed there by someone during this century, but noticed the original marker laying flat in the ground and the wording destroyed by time.

The next day I was back at the library and found the biography had recorded what it said. It recorded his length of life (1805-1845).

At fifteen years of age he received strong impressions to enter the ministry. His father needed his help, but finally consented to what seemed the call of God. The “Boy Preacher,” less than sixteen years of age, left home with his father’s blessing.

In order to improve his education, he set out on foot for Providence, R. I. He walked 368 miles. Arriving at Brown University, he was told that tuition would be furnished free, but no further assistance towards board or clothing could be rendered, so with a sad heart he walked back home. Later, he goes to Oberlin, Ohio and completes an education there and gains the attention of Charles Finney who in his sermon at Marks funeral says, “There is not greater among his denomination.”

David Marks had one vision and focus - to reach a better land and have a better life.

As we travel through life, making a fortune or better name is high on our list, but ironically the greatest thing we can do is to not only make a life, and to help others do the same.

Job 33:4
“The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life. “

Psalm 27:4
“One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple. “

Saturday, August 1, 2009

When a Baptist meets the Pope

When I met the Pope

Much of the world is still mourning the passing of the John Paul II (1978-2005) who was the 265th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.
Over the course of my life I have known many men who were very intelligent and whose training had given them many benefits that often places them in roles far above the ordinary.

One such person was a surprise visit to one of the world’s renowned leaders.

My stay in Rome, Italy had been an eventful one visiting nearly every conceivable spot that was of historical interest to me. Then our guide announced that tomorrow was Ash Wednesday and everything in the city would shut down except she had been able to get permission to visit the Vatican and if we desired have an audience with the Pope.

Needless to say my friends and I were interested even though we were not Catholic. The next day came and we found ourselves in the middle of the famous St. Peters Square where thousands hear the Pope. Afterwards, we visited in the world’s largest church and then ushered beyond that area into a heavily secured building with Switzer guards dressed in uniforms designed by Michaelangelo a few hundred years ago.

The view within the Sistine Chapel and the museum was extremely interesting, but the excitement of seeing and hearing a famous man overshadowed everything we saw. Finally, we were told the time and permission to enter had arrived.

Moving quickly and in tight security we entered an auditorium where about 600 people were already seated. Many were praying, tears were evident, as I observed clergy dress of various design, but all obviously Roman Catholic. It was immediately evident to me how Protestant I was because my clergy dress was tourist casual.

We had just seated ourselves when everybody else stood hastily to their feet. Looking back toward the entrance, was our first view of Pope Paul VI, who served from 1963 until 1978, as he entered sitting on a throne type chair being carried above the shoulders of eight Switzers.

The reverence of the moment was embroiled by his presence. Mothers lifted little babies to be kissed and blessed by him as he was carried to the front.

On the stage his flowing white outer robe was removed and he was redressed with another garment for the pulpit where he would speak. The knowledge of the man was evident as he began to greet and welcome those in the auditorium, first the clergy, and then down the list in proper protocol. I thought he was speaking in Italian only, when our guide told us he is speaking in Spanish welcoming those from Spain. Now he is greeting in Slavic for those from Romania. Before he finished greeting the remaining, he had spoken fluently in more than ten languages as he welcomed all. Then it was repeated when he gave his address as well.

I left appreciating the wisdom of a man. I will never forget this unexpected event in my life. However, many times I have reflected on the moments there.

Leaders, whether great or small, are men who will live and die. Some from poor health or accident, but all will depart.

Today, I am more and more aware that it takes a knowledge of Jesus Christ and His atonement for our sins, who said, "I am come that you may have life."

If every nation in its own tongue could hear this message from the Lord himself.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Beautiful Santorini Greec

Was Santorini really the lost continent of Atlantis?

I had always wanted to see Greece since it was one of the few places in the Mediterranean I had never visited.

However, after visiting Athens and the surrounding area for a few days, we ventured on a weeks cruise that was one of the most beautiful we have ever taken. We had been sailing the Aegean Sea for a few days and had ported in a number of the islands that had left us spellbound to their beauty. But after an all night sailing, we had been told that this day would be the highlight of the trip as we visit Santorini. Well, from the sea you won't confuse Santorini with any of the other islands of the Cyclades.

As we came within view of the island we saw the most a spectacular harbor that's part of the enormous crater formed when a volcano blew out the island's center around 1450 B.C. In short, this is physically one of the most spectacular islands in the world. Santorini's cliff-faced crescent isle graces tourist brochures and posters in Greek restaurants the world over. The real wonder is that Santorini itself meets and exceeds all glossy picture-postcard expectations. Like an enormous mandible, Santorini encloses the pure blue waters of its crater. Even their whitewashed houses from a distance resembles a dusting of new snow on the mountaintop.

To this day, some scholars speculate that the destruction gave birth to the myth of the lost continent of Atlantis.

As we approached the island by tenders little of the city actually shows above the cliff tops but a string of white villages looking like teeth on the vast lower jaw of some monster. Still, the island was called Kállisti, "Loveliest," when it was first settled, and today hordes of visitors find its mix of vaulted cliff-side architecture, European elegance, and stunning sunsets irresistible.

Since the houses and shops are all on the top at more than 400 feet we had three options to get to the top after landing in the port; walking over 400 steps up a winding way, ride donkeys up the same way, or to take a cable car up. After some cool discussions with our wives, my friend Richard and I had been vetoed out by our wives, so we took the cable car from the port to the top of mountain. Even above the screams we had a beautiful ride.

After a long day on this fabulous island, the gals sorted their buys, discussed where they had shopped, and feared the ride back down. I can still remember the way they held their breath all the way down with an occasional “O-o-o!”

The boats back to the ship were waiting and after a long tiring day we gladly boarded after buying our tourist hats that said, “Santorini.” I am still trying to pronounce it correctly.

Back aboard the ship we rushed to the main deck, found chairs, and watched the western sun on the houses atop the island. My how they glistened as the sun began to set. As the darkness began to cover the area we looked west to see the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen. I have always wanted to impact and leave such a ray of light to some sojourner.

Was it the lost city of Atlantis? I doubt it.
But there is a city yet to come whose builder and maker is God that has a beauty that will far surpass what I remember of this marvelous island.

Matthew 5:14
“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.”

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Salzburg, Austria

The Other Sound of Music in Beautiful Salzburg, Austria

We have visited Salzburg, Austria on a number of occasions and always see things missed the time before. Many people of renown have lived in the city and its history and beauty add to the luster of the place.

The city is located on the banks of the Salzach river, at the northern boundary of the Alps. The closest alpine peak - the 1972meter high Untersberg - is only a few kilometers from the city center. About 100 kilometers on the distance side of the mountain is the famous Eagle's Nest well known as Hitler's retreat in nearby Berchtesgaden, Germany.

The inner city, or old town Salzburg, is dominated by its baroque towers and many churches. The city is approximately 150kilometers east of Munich, Germany and 300km west of Vienna, Austria.

The first settlements at Salzburg were apparently begun by the Celts. Around 15 BC the separate settlements were merged into one city by the Romans. At this time the city was called Juvavum and was awarded the status of a Roman municipium in 45 AD. Around this time, first records of Jewish settlers appear.

In 1077 a fortress was constructed under the order of Archduke Gebhard called The Festung or Hohensalzburg Fortress and stills guards the city with its very presence.

The mightiest fortress of central Europe, a powerful castle sitting in a prominent position, undoubted Salzburg’s prime attraction and most dominant feature of the city’s skyline. The lights from the sun or evening express a beauty unequaled as it appears to guard the city.

Salz is the German word for salt, making the name literally mean "Salt castle". A variant English form of the name is 'Saltsburg'. The town's river was a main artery for transporting salt mined in nearby mountains.

The city has had its periods of discomfort. It was in the winter of 1731, the 214th Anniversary of Martin Luther's launching the Reformation by nailing his 95 Theses of Contention to the Wittenberg Church door, an Edict of Expulsion declaring that all Protestants recant their beliefs or be banished. More than 21,475 local citizens professed on a public list their Protestant beliefs.

Land owners were given three months to sell their lands and leave. Non-owner farmers, tradesmen, laborers and miners were given only 8 days to sell what they could and leave. The first refugees marched north through the Alps in desperately cold temperatures and snow storms. Goethe wrote the poem Hermann and Dorothea about the Salzburg exiles' march. Protestants and even some non-protestants were horrified at the cruelty of their expulsion in winter, and the courage they had shown by not renouncing their faith.

Finally, in 1732 Lutheran King Frederick William I of Prussia accepted 12,000 Salzburger Protestant emigrants, who settled in areas of East Prussia that had been devastated by the plague twenty years before. Their new homelands were located in what today is northeastern Poland, the Kaliningrad Oblast, and Lithuania. Other, smaller groups made their way to the Banat region of modern Romania, to what is now Slovakia, to areas near Berlin and Hannover in Germany, and to the Netherlands.

But not all was European because on March 12, 1734, a small group of about sixty exiles from Salzburg who had traveled to London arrived in the American colony of Georgia seeking religious freedom. Later in that year they were joined by a second group, and by 1741 a total of approximately 150 of the Salzburg exiles had founded the town of Ebenezer, Georgia on the Savannah River, about twenty five miles north of the city of Savannah. Other German speaking families - mostly Swiss Germans, Palatines and Swabians - also joined the Salzburgers at Ebenezer. In time, all of these Germanic people became known as "Salzburgers"

In 1803, Salzburg became politically a part of Austria, and so it remains to this day.

In 1965, the movie The Sound of Music was filmed in Salzburg and area. The movie was based on the true story of Maria von Trapp, a Salzburg-based nun who took up with an aristocratic family and fled German occupation. Although the film is relatively unknown to Austrians, the town draws a large percentage of visitors who wish to relive the movie by visiting the filming locations. After the exit of the von Trapp’s, the family later takes residence and her offspring maintain a resort near Stowe, Vermont where she is buried.

Besides the von Trapp’s, the city boast many notable citizens, namely the famous composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart who was born and raised in Salzburg. His house of birth and residence are popular attractions. The church where he wrote many of his songs is one of the leading places to visit while there. As we entered it we could seemingly hear the ringing of his music from the walls of this glorious church.

Another that has affected the weather forecasters of the world was Christian Doppler, an expert on acoustic theory, was also born in Salzburg. He is most renowned for his discovery of the Doppler Effect. Josef Mohr was born in Salzburg and together with Franz Gruber; he composed and wrote the text for Silent Night. These are a few we Americans would have heard of.

Located in the beautiful Alps, Salzburg was a candidate city for the 2006 and 2010 Olympic Winter Games. It lost out to the city of Torino, Italy and Vancouver, Canada.

The visit to this area always reminds me that I must flavor the world with His Love.

Matthew 5:13
Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt has lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

Matthew 5:14
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.

It is a wonderful place to visit as one views the surrounding and culture of the area. The only place that beats this city is the place we call home.