May your life be a continuous journey of growing in love, faith, hope, gratitude, and joy. May your humility take you to prayer often. May God's grace be bigger than your problems and your failures. May Christ's words be your guide for living. May you find meaningful and joyful work and play. May you find hope in the midst of your greatest trials. And when your time comes, may you find eternal life in Jesus Christ.
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Life in the twilight
There comes a time to gather up memories by the armfuls. They call it the twilight time, when years ahead are significantly fewer than those behind. A passing temptation is to company up with self-pity, but that will not do. Neither is this a time to be bitter or regretful. If we are to be angry, then let our anger be directed at trying to change those things that are wrong -- violence, hatred, greed, selfishness, injustice. Life beckons in that twilight time to love more boldly, to tell what we really think about stirring issues like war and guns and the death penalty and music and such, to eat good food with friends and really enjoy it, to explore a new place, a new thought, a new idea, dance even if it is a slow dance, to sing a song never sung until just now, to write the last chapter of that book yet unwritten, to kiss that face, those lips longed to be kissed by you, and to talk a lot with God to get a better understanding of what God expects. After all, you hope soon to move into His place but not right away.
I have been blessed with good friends in my life. I have known people who came across as insincere, working hard to do what seemed to please other people and market themselves, trying to gain acceptance, gratitude, and more. I have known people who seemed angry about something all the time, their unfulfilled feelings of entitlement tainting their ability to be thankful for the grace and goodness in their lives. I have known people who simply loved and appreciated those around them. Those boundaries we call social, economic, race, class, ethnicity, or even language can melt away with that kind of sincerity.
I find that people are more alike than different. Most people are good, wanting to be accepted and appreciated, to take care of their families, to get along with their neighbors and even help them when needed, to share in the good things in life.
I have been blessed with family--lots of it--from grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, parents, a brother and a sister who each had their own blessed qualities, my children - adopted and sired all of whom I am proud and love deeply, grandchildren, sons-in-law, a daughter-in-law, and now a granddaughter-in-law, and a great grandson. My work with family genealogy has connected me with cousins I never knew I had. At the end of 2018 I did the Ancestry.com DNA testing and their results indicated that I am 50% English, 37% Scotch-Irish, 7% Germanic, and 6% Norwegian. The Norwegian part was a big surprise. Family stories about American Indian lineage and suspicions of some African American ancestors didn't pan out in these results, but I may still have cousins and certainly have brothers and sisters in Christ who are of other races and ethnic origins.
I have learned over the years that we are all integrally connected in ways that we are not even aware. That is the way God has put us all together, to be community, to keep each other from being lonely, to share what we have and bless each other and thus, to bless God.
This photo was taken in 2009 at a Scout outing.
Link to some funky latenight multitrack solos:
I am on Facebook:
My family has become more and more dear to me, as have my friends.
My best memories in life are those when I was worshiping God in churches just after some big community mission program, or when fishing with family or friends, or bicycling with my children or grandchildren. We will still gather to eat and visit when it is safe to do so. I look forward to bicycling again with grandkids. Judy and I hope to go fishing soon. Family and friends are important. We would like to see you.
For my friends, family, and former church members: Message me on Facebook and maybe we can stay in touch through all this. Judy and I don't travel far from home these days. I don't drive for more than 2-3 hours in a day. We have spare bedrooms in our rather plain and somewhat rustic barndominium west of Sherman and east of Whitesboro in North Texas. Be patient with me. I don't get on Facebook every day and am slow to call people back. My rememberer needs a tuneup.
My life is flavored by a childhood in Arkansas and Tennessee near Mississippi, by a long adulthood in Texas near the border of Oklahoma, and by the friends, family, and times I have shared with people from Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arizona, Germany, California, New York, Zimbabwe, India, Korea, China, Japan, Ireland, Oklahoma, England, Nigeria, Iowa, Missouri, Mexico, South Africa, Alabama, Georgia, New Mexico, Arizona, Iowa, North Carolina, Colorado, Oregon, Iowa, the Philippines, New Mexico, Washington, South Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and lots of other places.
I grew up around music. Born in Helena, Arkansas, I was surrounded by blues, rock, country, gospel, and much more. Living outside Memphis at the age of 4, I was already an Elvis fan. I could "do Elvis" which meant shake my leg and sing "You ain't nothin' but a hound dog." The Strother family would gather around Granny's piano and sing hymns while one of several musical family members played. Levon Helm spent time in that same house where Granny helped him with the buttons on his high school band uniform and he played music with my Uncle Carroll Jennings "Jinx" Strother.
As a teenager I crossed paths or frequented some of the places with music greats like Conway Twitty, Levon Helm, Sonny Boy Williamson, Ace Canon, Bo Jenkins, Skeet Seaton, C.W. Gatlin, A.W. Seaton, Larry Shirley,Jimmy Allen, Robert Snyder, and lots of others. I was honored to share music with Tommy Darnell, James Rutledge, Ed Darnell, Ronny Webb, and some of those listed above.
There are still some music genres that do not appeal to me, but I will not mention them here. I find that the most inspiring and moving Got Talent music performances for me tend to be those who sing opera. I didn't grow up an opera fan, but opera seems to transcend genre and class and culture and economics and race and ethnicity and nationality and all those other things that keep us divided as many peoples. John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world . . ." and that does not include any of those things that human beings have done to divide us. Me, a opera fan? Go figure. I usually listen to praise or modern spiritual, classic rock, and modern country when I drive. I may even listen to classical occasionally or to jazz.
Musings about Heaven
Will I be an older me, a younger me, or someone else entirely? Will we be able to recognize former friends and visit with them? Should I leave the toilet seat up or down or does it really matter? Do I take a shower in the morning or in the evening or will I need one at all? Will I have a car? Will it be a Mustang or Camaro, a Thunderbird, a Corvette, or a Ford Focus or Fiat like the Pope drives? Do heaven’s cars look like something from a SciFi movie or are there none at all? If there are cars in heaven they are surely powered by love. No fossil fuels or batteries to charge. Will gardens have weeds? Will I have to take harp lessons? Is it much like playing guitar? What will we use to shop at Wal-Mart since the streets are made of gold? Or will Wal-Mart be in that other place with very long lines and self-check counters and no one to assist? What about Amazon and Google? Will Google still be able to track us in the afterlife? Will Amazon be trying to corner the market on angel dust, bells, and manna? Having no one running for office and no elections will be a blessing in itself. Surely people will not be so concerned about money and careers and status and prestige and their opinions. The meek will inherit the earth and things will be so much better. We will all stand in the presence of the Truth and there will be no more political rhetoric and unkept promises. Will we automatically have wings, or will we have to wait and learn to fly, leaping from place to place in the meanwhile? Maybe there is the equivalent of training wheels for people learning to fly? Maybe there is a hierarchy and only certain people will have wings -- the canonized saints perhaps. If that is the case, I will be blessed to get a tricycle. A lot of us are going to be uncomfortable, having demanded our own way for so much of our lives. Someone other than us, God, will be in charge and we will have no choice but to let it be that way or move out. We will have to give up our offensive and defensive attitudes and take on a new one.
I have often said that we take ourselves too seriously and God not seriously enough. Otherwise, we would be less defensive, less offensive, more hospitable, more genuine, humble, and friendlier to everyone around us. We would be more grateful for what we have instead of demanding what we think we deserve.
Heaven will be what God makes of it (Rev. 21:1-2) and the Bible tells me it will be what God has intended from the beginning, a place where God is light, where tears and pain and suffering are gone (Rev. 21:3-4), where God will gather up "a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages" (Rev. 7:9). God decides. It will not be a democracy where we get to vote for our own way and be upset when we don't get it.
May we learn to live in such ways that are pleasing to God who loved the world so much that He sent His Son, so that we might not perish but may have everlasting life. May we practice loving God in such ways that other people notice without any doubt. May we love all the neighbors God gives us to love. May God look down on us and declare, "That is my child with whom I am well pleased and that one over there and that one and that one and so on . . . ." "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done. . . "
good food is meant to be shared
Food can be seen as a metaphor for life. The good things in life should not be clutched at and kept to oneself. Sharing makes them richer experiences. Food is like that. It can be a way to say, "You are special to me," or "Welcome to something I enjoy. Let me share it with you."
I have been making BBQ sauce since 1972 and my Dad made it before that. I took his recipe and adjusted it. In fact, each time I make more, I adjust the recipe because I lost the recipe but recently found it and confirmed I was using the same ingredients, only in different amounts, depending on how I wanted it to taste at the time I make it or how I think someone else might want it to taste. Tart, sweet, hot, mild, tangy, salty, sometimes smoky, this BBQ sauce stimulates all your taste buds. Someone asks whether it is vinegar, mustard, or tomato based and the answer is "yes." It is great on beef, pork, chicken, turkey, and even wild game. It is my favorite sauce for taco salad and my grandsons agree. I once ran into a friend and asked how she was doing; her reply was simply, "I am out of barbecue sauce."
Several people have asked if I sell it and so far I have not. Over the years I have made jars and bottles of it for personal use and for giving away. I typically make about 2-3 gallons at a time. Our mail lady said it was so good she could "drink it from the bottle." Her daughter wanted to know if I made "hot." I do and I grade it up to five peppers. With relatively new health issues, my tongue does not tolerate too much heat these days. Three peppers used to make me sweat. Now it only takes one or two. Five peppers and I would keep a glass of milk, several slices of cheese, and a salt shaker handy. (I learned long ago that licking salt in the palm of my hand is the quickest and longest lasting relief from a heat overdose to the tongue. Being on a salt restricted diet now, I find that my potassium chloride salt substitute works too, just not quite as quickly.) I don't make the really hot stuff for Judy and myself any more. It always has black pepper and cayenne, sometimes more. The only water in the recipe comes from canned tomatoes, vinegar, and mustard.
Morning harvest From our garden earlyAugust 2018
We have had a garden of some sort nearly every year, but since retiring, we have really gotten "with it." With Judy's help I made about 12 gallons of pickles and relish in 2018. We froze gallons of okra, ready to fry or make gumbo. I made three cases of BBQ sauce and gave most of it away. We gave away gallons of pickles and okra too. I was busy being ill most of 2019, having open heart surgery, becoming an LVAD recipient, recovering from an infection, and trying to discover what "the new normal" would be.
Because I spent most of 2019 as a critical heart patient with various issues, that year was a bust garden-wise, but this year - 2020 -- we worked hard to get our gardens going. We cooked and canned over 100 jars and bottles of BBQ sauce in 2020, sharing much of it with friends and visitors. Of course, it is low sodium now and we are experimenting with flavoring, spices, and tastes. I discovered our first tomato the last week of April and we were still eating tomatoes from our garden in early December (the secret was to pick the green ones just before the first hard frost and put them in covered boxes or baskets until they ripen). I cut up and froze a lot of peppers his year. We take them out, cook them with onions, and eat them in chili, steak sandwiches, greens, fajitas, taco salad,or many other dishes that call for peppers and onions. We had little blackberries loading our vines -- both thorned and unthorned. We got grapes and muscadines this year for the first time and our peach trees are loaded, but the peaches didn't turn out well. We needed rain at the right times.
I returned to a hobby that I took up when I was a Boy Scout--foraging. We had a different name for it then. We probably called it "wild foods." Boys Life magazine ran an article on wild foods that contained some recipes in the 1960s. Wish I still had that issue.
I have long known that dandelions, cattails, wild onions, persimmons, wild plums, muscadines, blackberries, dewberries, plaintain, nettle, and some other foods could be quite good when found in the wild. I once discovered some wild garlic while picking up trash with Boy Scouts. I discovered wood sorrel and found a recipe for a dressing for fish that was quite good, kind of lemony. Clover tastes like "grass." Sow thistle is tasty once you get past the stickery leaves. Chew it well. I prefer the taste to baby spinach. Still learning, being very cautious, and my wife is merely looking on to see if I get sick. Granddaughter Nina said, "Let's eat some grass, Papaw," as she brought me some sorrel she picked. I caution her about not eating things she doesn't know for sure. We have also learned the wonders of dock, boiling it, sometimes with spinach or other greens, sometimes with bacon, and almost always eating it with malt vinegar.
We have grown dependent on commercial food suppliers and grocery stores to provide safe food, but news in the past few years have turned up food recalls, salmonella, genetically altered food, a meat market that is filled with drugs and antibiotics. Foraging seems to be catching on across the country. Our forefathers did it. Native Americans did it. Along with gardening, foraging is a viable alternative to GMOs for the people who become educated in what is edible.
What next? Maybe for me, more foraging. Definitely more gardening, cooking, canning, preserving, freezing, and sharing some of the goodies with family and friends.
Try this link if you live in Texas: http://www.foragingtexas.com/