Lessons from a Little Red Truck and a Man Named Floyd

26 04 2020

Back when I turned 16, I had the distinction of being the first in what you could call myJohn & his truck family circle to get a driver’s license. My mom, two great aunts and a great uncle did not drive, so it was going to be my job to get us around to all the places we needed to go. Unfortunately, though, I was also the first to get a ticket, have my license suspended and wreck a car. Or two. Or three.  To be truthful, what was supposed to be a blessing for all of us was the curse of the reckless teen behind the wheel. Since no one drove, we didn’t have a car or anyone to practice with me. Another distinction I had was being one of the few that the first vehicle I maneuvered was the driver’s ed car. That did not go well either. When I took my driver’s test, I flunked the first time and had to retake it. Thank goodness for my girlfriend at that time, whose dad and a few others came along side to help me learn. I did get my license, but like I said, it wasn’t a pretty situation. I had so many accidents that it wasn’t long before I was back either bumming rides from friends or walking every place I needed to go. Truthfully, I started to think perhaps it was better if I never sat behind the wheel again; might even live longer.

But then the boss at the place I was working pulled me aside one day and asked why I didn’t drive. I told him the truth and he told me to find a way out to his place the next morning. A friend took me over and Floyd, my boss, came out and leaned against this old red truck, a 1963 short bed Chevy. “You ever driven a three on the tree?” he asked. I gave him an honest answer. “What’s that?” He told me to get in the passenger’s seat and he started this old girl up. I couldn’t believe how sweet the hum of the motor was. Pulling out of the driveway, he took me down the road explaining how to shift. When we got a few miles from the house we switched seats and I drove it back, stalling at least once and shaking us up as I rattled through the gears. He never got mad, just told me what I was doing wrong and how to correct. He also told me a couple other things I didn’t know that helped. We got back and Floyd said, “You want to buy it or not?” I sure did, but I didn’t know how much he wanted. “How much do you have?” Opening my wallet, I had $260. I had just gotten paid the day before and by the way, that was two weeks salary. “I’ll take $225, that will leave you enough to get it plated and fill the tank. Try to do that these 48 years later. This was by no means the type of transportation I wanted to be seen in. An old beater truck just didn’t seem to fit my persona, but it was wheels so I was very appreciative to old Floyd. I didn’t realize then he had done me the biggest favor in my early days of driving.

A couple of my favorite verses are Romans 8:38-39; “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” I heard a friend define verse 38 like this, “You are not defined by your mistakes; you are defined by God. He loves you no matter what.”

I had almost given up on driving because I was lousy at it; I know a lot people who did. But Floyd made the point that you might make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from them. I found out later he really loved that truck, but he saw I not only needed a vehicle, I needed confidence to overcome the problems I had in the past. Legendary basketball coach Dean Smith put it this way, “What do you do with a mistake? Recognize it, admit it, learn from it, forget it.” It’s the same with Christ. When you make a mistake that makes you feel like a failure as a Christian, He’s there telling you that you made a mistake, but that won’t stop His love for you. Ask forgiveness and guess what? He does! And whenever I’ve done that; I’ve accomplished more than I ever did before, knowing my Lord still loves and believes in me.

Psalm 103:10-11 “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him.” Isn’t that awesome?!!

I never saw Floyd after I left that job, but have always been grateful for what this “Traveler of the Rock Road” did for me. Like I said, the truck turned out to be a dream. Ended up taking many road trips including down past Fort Lauderdale in that old girl. I sold it to a neighbor before I left Ohio and he drove it quite a few years. As the years have rolled on; I’ve had many newer and nicer vehicles, but that little red Chevy will always be one of my favorites. Would love to have another just like it. Of course, if I did find one; I’m sure I couldn’t buy it for $225. Who knew what vintage cars and trucks would go for one days. Sheesh!!

See ya next time.



Fool 17

12 04 2020

As we’re coming away from this Easter season, I found myself thinking about all that hasRock _n occurred to me and all the people who have come along side to help me understand a true relationship with Jesus Christ. The ones who showed that knowing Christ was more than a religion we practice on Sundays, it’s an everyday walk, talk, sometimes rejoicing, other times struggling. I’ll be the first to admit it hasn’t always been easy; there were times I saw no purpose or reason to continue on this path. But by watching others when they hit rough road and still held strong to their faith, I learned a great deal about trust and faithfulness. One of those individuals is a dear friend of 50 years I some times refer to as, “Fool 17.”

Back in the early 70s a movement started in California and quickly swept the nation was known as the Jesus Revolution. I can’t begin to count the number of young people that began carrying Bibles and openly telling others about the love of God through His Son Jesus Christ. You couldn’t go into the schools, or a store, or even walk down the street without running into some “Jesus Freaks” as we called them. They were blessed everywhere, and the more I encountered them the more I was turned off by what they were pitching. I’ve never been a person to jump on a bandwagon for whatever was popular at the time and this didn’t seem to be much different than a fad that after a while would wear down. But a friend who I happened to be playing music with came to band practice one evening and announced, “Last night I gave my life to Christ, and today I’m a new creature.” New creature, huh? Well, we’ll see, I thought. The prior day had been April 1, known by many as April Fool’s Day. Perhaps I was thinking that’s fitting, seeing that this wasn’t everything it was cracked up to be and he would soon be back to his old self. Besides, he was one of the best male singers I ever worked with and I sure didn’t want to see him going off the deep end being a Jesus Freak for Pete’s sake! But as I watched him, I saw something different.  He wasn’t just toting a Bible; he was reading it. Deeply he would throw himself in the Word to dig out everything it had to offer. It wasn’t long before he was leading Bible studies, sometimes of groups over a hundred. Not only that, he began writing songs about his relationship with Jesus. One of my favorites went like this; “O Holy Jesus, how could you let them nail you to the cross? O Holy Jesus, how could you suffer so and die for us? I don’t know how I can express the things I want to say. O Holy Jesus, I’ve just accepted you today.” His heart began to convince me that this wasn’t a fad he was following; this was knowing a true and loving God and obeying Him. It took about 18 months before I came to the point in my life that I gave my life over Christ, and with the help of my friend and many others, I, too, began to know God, who He was, and why He loved me.

This would be a pretty awesome story if in continued like this, but as I predicted earlier, many who called themselves Believers walked away. Some, like I said, because it was the popular craze; and when it ran it course, they moved on to something else. There were others that fell upon hardships of one type or another, and when God didn’t deliver, they simply walked away. But for others and my friend, they stayed the course, some like him attended Bible Colleges and Seminaries to go into full time Christian work. Another song he wrote seemed almost prophetic. “Many brothers, friends, and lovers now have fallen by the way. Their act is one as if they’d never cared. But deep within their eyes, you see their frightened spirit run, to catch the sweet resurrection train for home.”  So, one could get the idea that his course was set and God was blessing his every move. Oh, if only that was true for any of us. You see, over those 50 years of friendship I’ve seen his high points as well as his low. I’ve been with him when it seemed he couldn’t take another step from the hardships. I’ve been there when he’s lost ones dearest to him, and I’ve witnessed moments when his dreams and plans lay in ruin. On occasions, his life seemed to be in a downward spiral, and truthfully, if had he called me and said, “I can’t do this anymore and I’m not going to,” I probably couldn’t have blamed him. I’ve seen some mighty men with half the trials he’s endured throw in the towel. But you see, that’s what separates those who follow a religion or a practice from those who serve their Lord no matter what comes. That my friends, is my buddy.

James 1:12 “A man who endures trials is blessed, because when he passes the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” My friend was not going to be swayed from trusting and obeying his Lord. The harder the times came, the deeper he held to Christ. As one fellow put it in the Old Testament, “Though he slays me, yet will I hope in Him.” Reminds me also a quote from Lincoln, “Be sure you put your feet in the right place. Then stand firm.”

So, now that we’re 66 and not 16, I can look back at “Fool 17” and realize what his stand has meant to so many who have needed to know that no matter what, God is still there for them. And that truly means this man as well. Thank you, Donnie, I wouldn’t want to even think of where I would be had God not brought you into my life. I’ve rejoiced with you as our Lord has used you for His purpose, even on three continents, and I’ve cried with you when the world was crashing in; and still, you stood firm. I love you Brother.

Tonight, I want to close with lines that this “Traveler of the Rock Road” wrote that sums up Donnie so well.

“Lord, don’t know where I’m going, no don’t know where I’m bound. Won’t you, come into my heart now, cause I’ve just driven myself in the ground.

Lord I know that you’re with me, and now I submit to your love. I know you’ll always protect me, just the same as the sparrow and the dove.

Lord, you’ve got to carry me, please carry me on to my home. Lord, I’ll slide and I’ll falter, unless you hold, onto my soul.”

Happy Belated Birthday Donnie.  May God continue to raise up many Fool 17s.

See ya next time.














Joy in the Jigsaw

29 03 2020

I was born in West Virginia, but the summer of 1959 Ma and I made our way to Rock _nFremont, Ohio. My Great Aunt Pearl and her husband, Price, had already been here for several years. Because of Price’s illness, he couldn’t work so Pearl was happy when they came to Fremont where jobs were plentiful. They first came up when an employee recruiter for Heinz was working the Appalachian states and hired Pearl, gave the two of them bus fare and a place to stay when they got to Fremont. After some time, she found she could make more money at Quikut, a company that manufactured some of the best kitchen knives in the world; some my Lady and I still have to this day. They had a layoff and Pearly Mae found employment at Union Carbide, maker of the Eveready battery. This was where she was working when I arrived to live with them. Mom had a job at Tony’s Bakery, which later became Nickle’s; the company she retired from.

I was too young to understand, but money was very tight back then; Pearl and Ma barely made enough to pay the rent on the little house we lived in on Sandusky Avenue, pay utilities and buy groceries. Even though the place we lived in was small, I liked it. Many of the people around us had come up from West Virginia and Kentucky also, so folks were over constantly.

I have many memories of those days, but one stands out more than some of the others. Pearl came home from work one day and had a big smile across her face. She had been given a raise that would help out greatly. And what was that magical amount that made her so happy. She was now making $1.25 per hour! Okay, I’m sure young folks reading this right now are scratching their heads and saying “Seriously?!!” Trust me, young ones, back in 1960 that wage for a factory worker was worth celebrating. And speaking of celebrating, Pearl had two other surprises. She pulled this small book out of her purse and showed me where she had opened a savings account and deposited $5. “It may not seem like a lot now, but if I put $5 away every week and pretend it doesn’t exist, it will someday be a lot of money.” That was exciting for my young mind, but she had one more surprise. Reaching for a bag she brought home; she pulled out this box with a beautiful picture on the top–a jigsaw puzzle.

On her way home, she stopped by Woolworth’s downtown and purchased this now vintage entrainment center. Getting a card table out from the closet, she poured out the puzzle and we separated the pieces first by straight edge so we could assemble the border, and the rest by color scheme from the picture on the box. You see, we didn’t have TV; so, this was our entertainment for the weekend. Usually two work on it for a while and then let someone else have a turn. By the time Sunday evening rolled around, we had assembled all the pieces and now could view our work, maybe like an artist stands back to view their latest masterpiece. Monday morning the puzzle would be disassembled, placed back in the box and put in the closet. The next Friday we would work on our latest $.25 work of art, and to really make the night special Pearl would sometime make us Chef Boyardee pizza. It must have been expensive because we’d only have it once or twice a month; maybe a buck, buck and half.  Looking back, it sure wasn’t a lot to get excited about compared to novelties, entertainment and cuisines of today; but I remember it sure brought us a lot of happiness.

“Real contentment must come from within. You and I cannot change or control the world around us, but we can change and control the world within us.” Warren Wiersbe.

As a child, I didn’t recognize that we were poor, I was happy with whatever was given to me. The adults on the other hand, well they knew, but that didn’t mean they were sad or bitter of the situation. Pearl taught me to be thankful for everything because as she would say, “All good things come from God.” You could see that in what brought her happiness:  gardening, raising beautiful flowers, tropical fish, and even a crossword puzzle.

Philippians 4:11-13 “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

I thought about those days tonight as my Lady, granddaughter and myself put together in puzzle; I can’t even remember the last time I’ve done one. And I thought about the situation we are all in with this dreaded coronavirus and how we must be isolated as much as possible. And I pray that this pandemic may soon be past us all and we can go back to our normal lives. But during this time of holding up in our homes, maybe we could use some of it to reintroduce ourselves to the joy that comes from simple things; perhaps there’s more blessing in them than we realize.

As for my favorite “Traveler of the Rock Road,” Pearly Mae; well I told you she started putting $5 each week away and not touching it. As time went on the amount grew that when she retired, she had a pretty healthy nest egg. Not bad for an old gal that began working at $1.25 an hour. In my opinion, all because she saw happiness in the simple thing and everything a blessing. Just a thought gang. But I think it’s a good one.

See ya next time.

You Can Hurt Me, But You Can’t Scare Me

15 03 2020

A subject I rarely speak on is that as a child I was physically abused, and not just me but Rock _nmy mother as well. Because Ma, as I called her, had special issues and her mother passed away from cancer, she went to live with her aunt and uncle. I’ve spoken often of my Great Aunt Pearl and how she was the shining light in my life. But the man she married might possibly be the most hate-filled individual I have yet to meet in my 66 years. Pearl’s ways of discipline could be tough at times, but were filled with love and understanding. Price, as everyone called him, believed in force and abuse to get his point across. So, Ma had to walk the line or suffer the consequences. He was a big man over 6 feet tall and weighing in around 300 pounds, so if he hit you, you were going to know it. When I came along, I was subject to the same terror. More than once I would be on the receiving end of an open hand slap to the head that would send me tumbling to the floor. And if I cried, I’d get it even worse. Old man Price was also a master in verbal ridicule or as it’s called today, emotional abuse. I seldom had friends over because he would take that moment to say terrible and mean things about me in front of others; then walk away laughing. Speaking of laughing, his seemed to be the only voice that was allowed that privilege. If I laughed at something I found funny, it was a sure bet I was going to pay the price for acting so stupid. As I said this isn’t an easy subject to write on. As my fingers fly across the keyboard typing each word, the memory of those abusive days come to the forefront. So, I have to stop, relax, maybe get up and walk around the room, then get back to it once more. I’m sure that there are many who can relate to my situation. But tonight’s subject isn’t really about childhood abuse. It’s not about forgiving even though I did that years ago and wrote on it. If someone missed it and would like to see a copy, I’d be more than happy to repost. It’s about overcoming fear and the grip it can have on you. And it all started with a coffee mug, thrown like a Nolan Ryan fastball!

It was during the summer of around 1964. We had moved into an old house there in Fremont, Ohio that needed much repair. I was bouncing a ball on the sidewalk that circled the one side of the house to the back, and Price was fixing something on the porch. We had a very large front yard and grass seed had been recently been planted; the tender little green blades had just started to come up. Price, warned me, “Johnny, don’t you set foot on any of that new grass or you’ll kill it.” To remember back those many years on exactly what transpired is difficult; most likely when my ball got away from me and landed in the yard I didn’t think, just stepped onto the grass to retrieve it. All I know then is everything went numb. My vision blurred and I couldn’t walk without staggering. I made it around the to backdoor of the kitchen where Ma and Pearl were. They both screamed; Ma picked me up and Pearl started running water from the kitchen tap. As rotten as an old fart as Price was, I don’t believe he meant to hit me with the hammer he had in his hand. His anger just exploded, and he swung forgetting the tool he was holding. Blood was everywhere from my wound, shirt, pants, floor and sink. Price came in and Ma unloaded on him. Now a little gal not weighing more that 120 pounds was no match for the likes of a man the size of Price, and he beat her to the floor. Jumping to her feet she let go a barrage of insults that as the old saying goes would have made a sailor blush. He came at her again but this time she had wrapped her hand around a thick coffee mug that probably could have been used as a doorstop. She let that projectile fly with pinpoint accuracy striking him in the forehead and dropping the big man like a giant oak. Standing over Price she told him what would happen if he ever laid a hand on her or me again. There’s a lot more to the story, but to shorten it up; the next day Ma and I were walking up the street with suitcases in hand and moving into a 2nd floor apartment until we returned to the house a year later. Again, another story for another time.

But Ma taught me a valuable lesson from that whole episode. “Johnny, we’re going back to live in the house again. I don’t think he’ll ever hurt either of us again, but he’s still hateful. No matter what don’t let me see fear in you. He feeds off of fear and that’s what gives him pleasure.” She was right, from that point on whatever he said to me I no longer cried nor was I afraid of him. I would simply walk out of the room and if he followed me, I’d go outside and head down the street. When I became a teenager, I saw him in a different light. He was big but mostly fat; Price was good at hurting others smaller and weaker than he was, but as he grew older, I saw he wasn’t as big of a threat as I once thought. Granted, had he still grabbed me with those big hands, he could have hurt me. But he could no longer scare me.

Robert H. Schuller, “If you listen to your fears, you will die never knowing what a great person you might have been.” Old bubble-butt Price used harm, intimidation, and ridicule not just to force me to do what he said, but I think he feared that one day I might develop into someone who saw myself as worth more than he told me, and he less than he proclaimed. For years I bought into that lie and saw myself as worthless, a loser. But Ma, Pearl, and host of others poured into me a confidence that I could achieve and become more than what I, or Price, was giving me credit for. Of course, a lot of chains of fear fell off when I took Christ as my Savior and learned how important I was to Him.

Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.”

Here’s how the Message tells James 1:5-8, “If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who ‘worry their prayers’ are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.”

Over my life I have met so many that have been held back in life because of abuse at the hands of another. Don’t believe the lie! You are special. You have a gift or ability that’s fitted to you only. And you are loved. Jeremiah 29:11, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

When this “Traveler of the Rock Road” looks back on those days, it’s no longer with anger, hate and fear. Its pity for a big man I once knew; someone must might have failed him in his young days, and he bought into the lie. And that’s sad. But there also is Ma, Pearly Mae, and my Lord to lift me up and remind me, there’s no reason to fear. I am important. I am loved. And that my friends, is an awesome memory!

See ya next time.

You’re Not Dumb, You’re Ignorant

8 03 2020

Some years back I told the story of how elementary school was very difficult me. I wasn’t Rock _na good student by any means, I didn’t understand much that was taught, and I was teased, laughed at and ridiculed whenever I was called on to answer a question in class because I would generally get it wrong. So, the early days of education for me were, if I might speak bluntly, pure hell! Had it been possible, I would have dropped out of school by the 5th grade and went to digging ditches for something–anything that wouldn’t have reminded me of how dumb I was. It wasn’t until I was held back in the 6th grade that a dear saint of a woman by the name of Esther Cobb became my personal tutor.

I met Esther when she would fill in as a substitute teacher at the school. I really liked her because she had such a calm manner especially in her teaching techniques. If you got a question wrong, she wouldn’t make much out of it and never allowed others to do so either. She would explain what the correct answer was with patience and gentleness. So, I was happy when I began meeting with her privately for lessons. Still, frustration followed me as I made a feeble effort to comprehend all she was teaching me. One afternoon that frustration boiled over while trying to read. Pushing the book away, I said in an exasperated voice, “What’s the use, I’m never going to get it. I’m too dumb!” Dear old Mrs. Cobb took the book, closed it, folded her arms and said gently, “Johnny, you are not dumb, you’re ignorant.” Now as the old saying goes, I knew I wasn’t the sharpest pencil in the box; but it was my belief the two words meant the same thing, just one was just a little fancier than the other. Esther could see my confusion, so she continued. “Suppose I said you have been selected to pilot the next rocket into space what would you say? My first thought as a child was “Awesome!” But truthfully, I had to say I couldn’t do that. She asked, “Why not?” “I don’t know anything about rockets. I’d do something wrong right away and would probably kill myself and anyone else who was with me.” Leaning towards me she then said, “That’s ignorance. You don’t know because you’ve never done it or had it taught to you. It has nothing to do with being dumb, it’s about lack of knowledge on the subject. It’s the same way with schoolwork; you don’t do well because you don’t understand. And we’re going to fix that!” This precious old gal was right. Up to that point it was safe to say I couldn’t read, and no one had caught it. I had memorized a number of words, but how letters came together to form those words was a complete mystery to me. Looking back, I’m not sure if I scraped through by the skin of my teeth to elevate each year to the next grade, or the teacher just wanted to get rid of me to become someone else’s problem. Continuing with her gentle admonishment she said, “Johnny, I know you’re not dumb, you’re very smart and we’re going to bring it out of you for the world to see.” Now she really had my attention. “How do you know I’m smart?” No one had ever said that to me before. “Because I see you have a great deal of common sense that few have at your age, and we’re going to tap into that to help you learn.”

(Okay a little side note here. Perhaps Lady C saw something that I and others didn’t. Over the course of my occupational career, I’ve had to take several aptitude tests. On two occasions I scored in the top 1% of all taking that had taken this test in the category of common sense. Of course, those scores and $5 will get you a Happy Meal at Micky D’s! Okay, back to the story.)

So, we began anew and there were times if I didn’t understand she would use a different technique or strategy to approach the lesson. Little by little letters became words. Words became sentences. Sentences became paragraphs and pages in a book. And the world of comprehensible reading became vibrant and exciting. The door to understanding didn’t just open, it came off the hinges. People were wrong about me. I was wrong about me!

I recently read this quote shared by Gospel recording artist TobyMac. “God has a tendency of picking up a nobody, to become somebody, in front of everybody, without asking anybody.” Often what the world perceives of you, and what you perceive is not what God knows nor has equipped you to accomplish. It’s up to us not to buy into the lie so that each can become what God meant for us to be. For some the path is easy. Others, it’s more difficult; but perhaps it’s that way to teach and instill something that’s long lasting, something quite possibly to pass to another. Which brings me to the reason for this writing.

There’s a young person that has crossed my path with the same mindset I had back then. They don’t think they’re worth anything; they’ve been told as much. In the 50 plus years since sweet Esther poured her heart and soul into not just teaching; but convincing me I was worth more than I realize, I’ve attempted to tell and guide others in the same way. To the one who I’m specifically writing to tonight here’s my advice. Stop listening to others; they don’t know what you can do. Stop believing the negativity that’s hurled at you. It’s wrong! Start talking to God daily to help and show you what you need to be doing. Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Max Lucado sums up how God feels about you with these words. “Remember, you are special because I made you. And I don’t make mistakes.” Then get started. Here’s a process I’ve used for years. “Inch is a cinch. Yard is hard. Mile is a trial.” Don’t rush the process, learn at a speed that you can handle.

There you have the educational path that this “Traveler of the Rock Road” had to endure in his early days. I might have been ready to give up on myself, but God wasn’t. So, He sent an earthly angel by the name of Esther Cobb to help and guide me. That sweetheart showed me I wasn’t dumb, just ignorant. And that’s not a bad thing.

Hey, perhaps I didn’t just write this for one person. Who knows? Bet God does.

See ya next time you awesome people!

You Can’t be Friends with Them. Not!

1 03 2020

All my life I’ve had good people around me who have mentored or given me soundRock Road advice mainly on how to conduct my life. And I’m highly appreciative of the ones who cared enough for me to invest sound knowledge and understanding in this man. But there have been a few occasions where I had to take the instruction given with a grain of salt; two such moments come to mind this evening.

There was a time when I was given a position as a floor supervisor. In industry this is an individual who oversees a crew of workers to troubleshoot, and make sure the assigned work gets completed. Several of the people I worked with came to congratulate me and wish me luck, one man who was already a supervisor took me off to the side for a private talk. “Okay John, understand your world here is changing, so you have to change with it. Everybody you see as a friend that you’ll now be boss over can no longer be your friend.” I must say his words took me back a bit so I asked him, “Why’s that?” “Because you have to keep respect for your position, and if they think you’re their friend they won’t respect you like they’re supposed to.  They’ll be times you’ll have to discipline a worker and you can’t do that the right way if you let friendship get in the way.” I politely shook his hand and walked off without saying a word. I mean, what do you say to something like that?!!

It was sometime after I gave my life to Christ that another well meaning person felt they had to take me under their wing so that I might straighten up and fly right. “John, I see you play on a softball team plus you bowl in a league. Correct?” “Yes, these are guys I’ve done these sports with for some time. After a busy week, its my outlet to unwind a bit. Why?” “You accepted Jesus as your personal savior, that means you’ve changed, these guys won’t understand or respect that. You have to separate yourself from these people and spend most of your time with other Christians, or risk falling back into your old ways. Understand?” I shook my head in agreement, but on the inside, I was thinking, “Yep, clear as mud!”

“We are the Bibles the world is reading; We are the creeds the world is needing; We are the sermons the world is heeding.” Billy Graham.

I do understand what both men were trying to get across to me; my role had changed so with it I needed to change. But in the workplace if I suddenly treated people that I had worked shoulder to shoulder with now in a hard and negative ways, I knew all that would cause was animosity and respect would fly out the window. I had to adapt to the new role, but at the same time not make enemies of the ones I needed to do their best work for me.

As for the Brother who was concerned about me hanging out with so many unbelievers, he meant no harm and I think I knew what he was saying. Afterall, an alcoholic when he gives up drink doesn’t continue to go to the bars; he aligns himself with other nondrinkers and joins organizations like AA. You have to be careful because for any of us, it’s easy to fall back into bad habits. But these were my friends, ones I enjoyed spending time with laughing and enjoying a bit of relaxation of just being me. Sure, I got ribbed on more than one occasion of now being a “Bible thumper” as some called me, but for the most part I was accepted as one of the guys even though I had made some changes in my life. And the way I read the Bible isn’t that what we’re supposed to be doing anyway?

Matthew 5:16 reads, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

Often, I like to read a passage from the Message Bible which has a way of using more understandable words.  Matt. 5:14-16 “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”

In Christ, I had found something special, something that gave me hope in life. And if I came across something that special, doesn’t it stand to reason that I would want to share it with people I care for. If I’ve learned anything Christianity, it is not an isolation religion, it’s there for all to receive. Many of us know John 3:16, but how many know what verse 17 says? (16) “For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (17) For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”

I have many friends that don’t believe the way I do, but we still call each other friend. There are ones who have asked me to pray about a situation because they recognize something is special in what I believe. Not a religion, not a set of rules and regulations that makes me look down on them. But a faith. A faith I’m willing to share with them, because I care for them.

Josh McDowell, an Evangelical Protestant Christian apologist and evangelist tells the story of being raised by a father who he hated because of his cruelty to him and his mother. After he became a Believer in Christ his attitude changed toward his father. During a time in Josh’s life he became gravely ill and ended up in the hospital. His dad came to see him, and during that visit he shouted out, “After the way I treated you growing up, how could you love me now?” These aren’t his exact words, but this was his meaning to his father. ‘Jesus loves you with everything you’ve done. And if you’re good enough for Him, then you’re good for me.’

My two “Travelers of the Rock Road” weren’t bad guys, just a little confused on what’s important. And whether I agree with them or not really isn’t the issue. It’s the same one for each person in my life. I may not agree with you, but I’m going to do my best to love you the way Jesus does.

Hey, lets get together for some coffee and a few laughs sometime!

See ya next time.






16 02 2020

All my life I’ve enjoyed being in the outdoors, hiking the Smokey’s, BluTom Laxtoneridge and Appalachian Mountains. I’m not a hunter, but I love wildlife and getting as close as possible to them, I’ve even named a few animals that stop by for me to feed them like Rusty and Emmet.

The gentleman you see in the picture with one of his furry friends in none other than John Thomas Laxton, father to Carl, Clyde and Catherine Laxton, who was my mom, and thus my grandfather. Tom, as people called him was an interesting and a bit eccentric fellow. When he wasn’t working, he’d be back in the woods near his home tending to all the wildlife he had befriended and became somewhat of a 2nd family to him. On weekends he’d head up into the hills around his home on Wyoming County West Virginia and live off the land, something I assume he learned from his mother who was Cherokee. While still a boy, his parents divorced, and he and his brother went to live with an uncle. In the 1940s, his beloved wife Cosby died of cancer leaving Tom to care for three children on his own. Carl the oldest, joined the Marines and fought at Iwo Jima during WW2. His other two were burdened with disabilities, my mother had a severe hearing loss and Clyde the youngest had polio. Knowing he couldn’t give them the care they needed and as was the custom back then with hill people; the two children went to live with sisters of his late wife. Clyde settled into life in a town near his home until he became an adult and moved to Baltimore and Ma (as I called her) became the ward of my Great Aunt Pearl and her husband. Those three lived somewhat of a gypsy life, traveling from place to place, state to state in search of steady work and a place to call home. In 1954, yours truly came on the scene, which was an unexpected surprise; so now there were four of us who finally made a home in Ohio. Tom remarried a woman from his area and settled down to life in the same area. Other than a few more details, that’s all I can tell you about dear old Gramps. For reasons not worth going into, my mom had a falling out with him and the family in West Virginia and did not go back for nearly 30 years. If I traveled back to West Virginia, it would be with Pearl and we would only see that side of the family. It was through them that I learned the little I knew of the old man; I wasn’t even sure he was still alive. It wasn’t until I was about ten years old that my Uncle Clyde, who now had a family, along with my Uncle Carl both came into WV the same time we did and invited me to go with them to see Tom. I didn’t know what to say or do I was so excited. I was going to meet my Granddad for the first time. Awesome!

I remember we rolled up in front of the house and my cousins were out of the car like a shot running up onto the porch to get hugs from Tom and his wife before disappearing into the house for some fresh baked cookies. I stayed back with the adults and approached the house probably a little cautiously. Clyde, unlike mom and Carl who lived in another country at the time, visited often so he and his family knew them. He introduced me as the son of Myrtle (which is actually Ma’s first name but she hated it and went by Catherine) and their grandson. Something strange happened. I was used to the other side of the family greeting with big hugs and smiles; these two never looked or spoke to me. I found a place to sit on the far end of the porch and stayed there until we left. I wasn’t sure what to think. Was something wrong that they didn’t want anything to do with me? Clyde’s wife, Aunt Samantha sat down with me later that evening and explained mom and them had a bad fallout, and probably wasn’t sure what she had told me, which frankly was nothing. She said they would make up to me as I visited more. But I never went back. Being quite insecure, I felt I couldn’t risk a chance of being rejected so I turned down all invitations to go again. After all, I got along without him all these years so why take the chance of something going wrong.

Flashing forward I was now 18 and I would jump in the car every chance I could and drive the nine hours to the place and people I adored. I loved taking friends down to meet my family and experience the love I came to know. On one of those trips alone, I was told Tom was not doing well and was in a nursing facility in a town just north of there that I had to pass each time I made my trek. I was sorry he wasn’t doing well, but we didn’t know each other; no reason to stop. Right? Heading for home I kept thinking of old Tom and how the only time we were together it wasn’t memorable. Why bother the old coot now? But for some reason as I reached Beckley, West Virginia, I took the exit ramp and located where he was staying. There was a stillness as I entered the room to see this big man, wore down from the years of a hard life, laying in a hospital bed and staring at the ceiling. “Grandpa, I’m Johnny, Myrtle’s boy and your grandson.” He turned to look at me, and then back at the ceiling. I sat in a chair next to his bed for a good time before either of us spoke again. Then he asked how my mom was doing, what I was doing, and how did I find out about him being there since no one had been coming to see him. We spent about an hour making small talk before I got up to leave. “Tom, would it be okay if I came to see you again the next time I’m down this way?” That would be nice, but it’s up to you.” There would be three more visits, and each time I would introduce myself as his grandson. On the 4th and final time I called on him, I took the little gal with me who would be my Lady all these years. “Grandpa, I’m Johnny, Myrtle’s boy and —” He cut me off right there. “I know who you are dang it! Known it from the first time I saw you; look just like your mother!” That was the most life I had seen out of old Tom and it startled me. But I liked it, and we had our best talk that day. When I left, I think a lot of apprehension that we both felt was now gone. Even found out from some of the staff that he told them about his grandson coming all the way from northern Ohio to see him. Well of course I would. My great love for being outdoors and having more than one critter taking food from my hand is just like Gramps. I’m a living legacy of John Thomas Laxton!

I found this quote that I think sums up what happened years back. “A single moment of misunderstanding is so poisonous, that it makes us forget the hundred lovable moments spent together within a minute.” Ma loved her dad, but after the death of their mother, Tom had made the toughest decision of his life; to give up his children so they would have a better life than what he could give them. I feel it wasn’t a matter of rejection of his children, but a hard decision of love for them. Too often people misunderstand the love of God because it seems He’s so far away and maybe doesn’t care for them. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. God loves us so much that he allows a free will and will not interfere with it. But He wants all His children to know they can come to Him, through Christ, and know just how much He truly, truly, loves us. There’s a translation of 1 John 3:1 that I really like. “Simply because you are my child, I am your Father.”

It was a several weeks later I received word Tom had gone to be with the Lord. But! Not before Ma had gone to see him and the two reconciled. Awesome!

If there’s anything I learned from this “Traveler of the Rock Road” I refer to simply as Tom, it’s that sometimes you must make decisions that break your heart, but it must me done. Because of love. Just like our heavenly Father. John 3:16

See ya next time.




The Eyes of a Child

9 02 2020

Six years ago, I received word that they were tearing down the junior high Cathy and I Gymattended back in Fremont, Ohio. This brought a bit sadness because I had many good memories of that old building. I struggled with learning during my elementary school days, but thanks to a wonderful and diligent tutor who wouldn’t give up on me; I received the best grades I ever had during my 7th through 9th grade years. Being rather backwards and shy as a youngster, I made new friends at the junior high, some I’m still close to over a half a century later. I took interesting classes like speech and drama that helped with my confidence. And of course, a memory that brings a smile, I met my first girlfriend. It was in a great centralized location in town that was close to places like Woolworth’s and Kresge’s where you could meet up with friends after school for a soda or shake at their lunch counter.  So, to hear that they were tearing it down and building a new building out by the high school which would be more efficient and larger, well it tugged on my heartstrings a bit. I didn’t understand why they needed a bigger building; that place was huge, biggest building I had ever been in and it did just fine when I went there. So, when I read they would be having an open house to go through the school one more time before they tore it down, we knew we had to make the trip back to walk the halls one last time. Too small and obsolete a building? Ridiculous!’

We arrived at the open house with some friends that also had attended there. Same old building on the outside, but it sure looked different upon entry, at least from what my memory recalled. The swimming pool could be seen from a window and for some odd reason someone had made it smaller. There was no way we had swim class and meets in that tiny wading pool. What’s up with that?! Making our way around to our old classrooms, they definitely seemed different. These seemed smaller also and even a bit run down. Making our way to the lunchroom I had to wonder how in the world they fed all the kids in this area. The last jolt to my childhood memory was entering the auditorium where assemblies and special events were held. The stage was also the gym where we had class and basketball games were played. Now just a cotton pickin’ minute, I know this room was bigger! They would put every kid and teacher in the school in this space. We had award ceremonies, band and choir concerts, special guest speakers, even saw famous Woody Herman, famous jazz clarinetist, saxophonist and singer during the big band era there. Shoot, I even did my first drum solo in that room. What happened!! Truth was memories from my young teenage years were blown out of proportion, and now my nearly 60-year-old eyes was seeing reality. As a child, this place was massive, but as an adult I saw that this dear old building with so many fond memories had run its course and was now obsolete.

“There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million.” Author unknown.

We all go through those moments as children when everything around us is new, exciting, sometimes scary and so, so big. But as we age, we realize not all was as it seemed. Our memory tells one story and then reality catches up with us later. Perhaps the same thing can be said about the Christian life. As a child, we hear the Bible stories, sings the songs, memorize the Bible verses and are happy in the Lord. But for some; when the reality of the world around them closes in with age, they see and think differently. One starts to wonder if the early days and lessons were real and perhaps disillusion sets in. But truth of the matter is they were, just as my memories of junior high. The building wasn’t exactly as I remembered, but the other memories were factual. The lessons on life and the friendships made during that time are more precious than gold to me just like the lessons a child learns about Jesus. Yes, as an adult you’re no longer sheltered from all the world has to throw at you and it becomes hard at times to believe like you did as a child. But the truth is God is still there for you, still sees you, still loves and won’t leave you.

Mark 10:14 “But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”

Once again, I like how C.S. Lewis puts it, “Christ wants a child’s heart, but a grown-up’s head. He wants us to be simple, single-minded, affectionate, and teachable, as good children are; but He also wants every bit of intelligence we have to be alert at its job, and in first-class fighting trim.”

To the many “Travelers of the Rock Road” that shared those three years at Fremont Junior High with me, thank you for all the adventures and memories we share; it was an awesome time of life! To the brothers or sisters in Christ that struggle with knowing Him in your adult years, go back to those childlike years. it just may be what you need to discover a love that’s still there.

See ya next time.


29 12 2019

As 2019 draws to a close and we prepare for a new decade, I can’t help but reflect backRock _n on the many events that occurred this year. For instance, in January I was still semiretired and living on a tight budget. By year’s end I find myself fully retired, collecting social security, and still living on a tight budget. As my Lady and I prepared for our golden years, we had visions of numerous things we planned to do. Instead we find ourselves back raising children, which is okay, but still not the direction we had thought. Cathy comes to the end of a successful career with a wonderful company where she has enjoyed going to work and being with the people there, so much she will work part time the first quarter of 2020. Getting used to using Medicare over having health insurance has truly been an experience, still not too bad. Where I used to enjoy getting together with some friends and playing guitars till all hours of the night, I look forward to early morning coffee with other retirees. And speaking of guitars, I have some nerve damage in my hand that is making playing difficult these days. I have other health issues that have kept me sidelined more than I like but little by little I keep working my way back up. Perhaps the hardest part has been the number of friends we said earthly goodbyes to. From close acquaintances to dear friends, we lost some thirty folks dear to us this year; without a doubt the most of any years we can remember. I realize we’ve reached an age where that’s not uncommon. Still, it hurts. There have been many occasions I’ve found myself crying in the middle of the night when no one was around missing a friend, wishing I could have had one more conversation.

So, I suppose one could say its been a rough year for us here at the old Miller Manor. But through it all we continue on the one string we have and that string brings it all together. Faith. If I have said once I’ve said it a hundred times, I do not practice a philosophy but have a strong belief in the God who I gave my life to 47 years ago. Life here isn’t always fair and at times doesn’t even make sense, but the love of my Lord never fails and never stops.  1 Peter 1:6-7 in the New Living Testament reads like this, “So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your “FAITH” is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So, when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”

Because of that faith, we pick up each day not knowing what is ahead but still willing to move forward, for we know God is on our side.

“God knows our situation; He will not judge us as if we had no difficulties to overcome. What matters is the sincerity and perseverance of our will to overcome them.” C.S. Lewis

Will 2020 be a better year than 2019? Who knows! But as long as we have God on our side, we are more than willing to face it, and face it with joy in our hearts. And hey, I’ve become a pretty decent three finger guitarist! As for the many we’ve lost, well it hurts but again I have faith I will see many again. Even though I shed a few tears, that doesn’t have anything to do with my faith. Afterall, Jesus wept over his friend Lazarus knowing he would be alive again. But aside from being God, he was human  and the human side saw the sadness in the moment.

May you all have a tremendous New Year and may it follow through the year. But if it doesn’t, remember, the best is yet to come, in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:13-14 “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Look forward to meeting up with you all here at “Traveling the Rock Road” next year.

See ya then!

Christmas Thoughts

25 12 2019

I know I usually don’t post on Thursday and now that Christmas is behind us, I just Candleswanted to share a little something with you.

It was some twenty-five years ago I had to run out to a convenience store on Christmas day. You parents know the routine; buy the kids things that need batteries and then forget the batteries. The store was packed with people and only one girl was behind the counter trying to move folks though with their purchases as fast as she could. But she seemed to be having her share of problems and some were getting a little agitated with the long line and wait. The man in front of me was losing patience and said in a loud voice, “Come on!” I guess he thought it would be a motivator for the girl. Still she struggled and it was obvious she was more than a little flustered. When the man in front of me reached the counter, he wasn’t a bit shy in letting her know his frustration and how she wasn’t smart enough to do a simple job. He walked out and now I was standing in front of this child. Her eyes were filling with tears and she was doing everything she could not to cry. Facing her, I told her she was doing a hard job, but she was doing it well, just relax. My words didn’t seem to make a difference, so I reached into my coat pocket and pulled out a candle I had made. “Here, take this and every time you start feeling overwhelmed unscrew the top and smell the fragrance; it will help you relax.” I left her with a smile and “Merry Christmas, Beautiful,” and for the first time, she smiled back.

On the way back home, I felt good for what I did for that girl, but I thought there must be a lot of people that have to work the holiday and not be with their family. So that started a tradition for my Lady and me. Every Christmas morning, we would get up early, load the car with boxes of candles and make our way around to every business that was open and had people working. That took in convenience stores, hotels, restaurants, pharmacies, law enforcement, EMTs, fire stations, hospitals and nursing homes. I was taken back to realize how many have to work on Christmas as I estimate we’ve passed out over 10,000 candles over the last two decades.

Now please, I’m not tooting our horn on how nice we are to take on such an endeavor. Over the course of the years, you make a few here and there and by Christmas we have enough to meet project. But to see the faces of these people when someone walks in wherever they’re working and not want anything, except to give them a little gift. The smiles and words of appreciation have been priceless. Some even tell us they were waiting for us to show up with the candles; kind of a highlight to their working day. But that’s not the best part.

Generally, like many, Christmas is a very busy time, so hectic you nearly forget what it’s all about. And what it’s all about is giving, letting someone know you care for them, even if it’s something as small as a jar candle. For this man, it drives home the message of the gospel. God loved us so much He wanted to give us something special.

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.’”

The love of God was so great that He sent His Son to be the atonement, the bridge between us and Him. That’s love.

“When Christ was born, so was our hope.” Max Lucado.

Well, I wanted to get this thought out while Christmas is still fresh in our minds for three reasons. The first, there is so much joy in giving and not expecting anything back. If you haven’t experienced it yet, give it a whirl. The second, by giving it keeps Christmas alive in your heart all the year round. The third, if the God of the universe loved us so much to send His son that we might have something more special than we can even imagine, doesn’t it stand to reason that we could do likewise even in a small way?

The season comes and it goes. We sing the carols, put up the tree and lights, spend time with loved ones and then move on until next year. For this “Traveler of the Rock Road,” just the little we do lights up my Christmas like it’s never been before.

So even if it’s the day after let me say Merry Christmas good friends and family.

And a most Blessed New Year.

See ya next time.