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.

 

 

 

 





Tom

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.





2019

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





The Eagle and the Deer

24 11 2019

Last weekend a situation or rather, situations, came up where I had to drive to three Rock _nlocations here in the Midwest. It wasn’t anything that would have an effect on me personally, or anyone in my family. But there was this constant urging in me that I had to make the trip and it had to be right then. After talking and praying with my Lady Thursday evening, I threw a few belongings in the car Friday morning and headed out. As I drove, I tried to remember how many times I had done this in the past; hearing of a need that I felt I could help with and without hesitation heading down the road. Now, I’m not a pastor per say; but I’ve always felt a desire to be there for someone and tell them of the love and hope there is in Christ. Now I must admit many times in my younger days, I gave no thought or prayer before jumping in with both feet. And truthfully, there were times my presence accomplished nothing. It was on a whim that I knew I had to go, without giving any thought to what God may have wanted for me. As I’ve grown older, that quick mindedness has left me. I still hear of matters that I wonder if I should involve myself? Often the answer is no. I take more time to seek God’s guidance and do not rush into a proverbial house on fire like I once did.

Still, there are moments when something will invade my mind and heart to the point, I’m thinking about it constantly.  I tell myself there’s nothing I can do except pray, so I won’t get involved. But if it stays so prevalent in the forefront of my mind, I can’t help but thinking, “God are you calling me out? I’m not the man for the job!” I felt this is one time it’s wasn’t me, but my Lord saying, “Go.” It was strong on my mind as I drove down the highway, “What am I supposed to do or say? I don’t know! God, I sure wish you’d just tell me if I’m really supposed to be doing this.” Now, I know God doesn’t directly speak to us like He did in the Old Testament, which is a good thing; probably freak this old man out! But I do believe He has His ways of communicating if we’re willing to be attentive. This occurred twice while on my trip. The first was when I noticed a shadow on the ground to my left traveling at the same speed as me as if it was an escort. Looking up in the air I noticed a large eagle that stayed with me for a mile or so. Very strange. There was no body of water near there where generally bald eagles hang out. “What are you doing out here big bird?” After a while he soared off in another direction. I thought “Well thank you Lord for sending one of your beautiful creatures to say hello; it broke up the monotony of the road.” While the sighting of the eagle was still fresh on my mind another interesting situation occurred. I looked down the road and a large buck deer crossed in front of me. He was easily an 8 or 10 pointer. That’s not so unusual since there was a large grouping of trees where he was heading. Then he did something that had me shaking my head. As soon as he crossed, he turned right back around and ran in front of me again. I had to brake to keep from hitting this ole boy. As I was now at a slower pace, he ran directly across from me for a couple of hundred yards before turning back. Whoa! “Okay God, thanks for the nature show. But are you trying to tell me something?”

Over the next two days, with lots of prayer, I completed the task I felt I was called to do. (Sorry, I don’t feel I can discuss the details at this time.) Nothing spectacular or earth shaking occurred, but I truly believe I was where God wanted me to be. As the days have passed, I continue to think back to the weekend. And I still have to wonder why me, I know there are many others more equipped than I am. Then, I remember the two majestic encounters I had, and these verses came to me.

Isaiah 40:30 “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Habakkuk 3:19 “The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.”

Now you can disagree with me and that’s alright. But this man feels God sent the eagle and the dear to remind me of something. He doesn’t call the best into service, He calls the willing, the ones who will listen, obey, go. And when He calls, and you answer, God is faithful to give just what you need for the task.

Perhaps in this moment all He wanted was for me to plant a seed in His name, nothing specular. That isn’t much to some. But if it’s what the Lord calls for and you’re willing; trust me, He’s got bigger plans than you may ever see. He just might have given you a chance to be part of something awesome.

Well, this isn’t my usual writing; but just as I felt the urging of my God to go, I felt it also to tell this story. I hope you can come away with something to help you on your “Travels of the Rock Road.”

Hey, thanks for reading.

See ya next time.

 

 

 

 

 

 





The Saga of a Drunken Drummer and a Church Pianist

3 11 2019

It was a summer of 1971, and a gal I knew was getting married. It was going to be a Rock _nbeautiful ceremony with a reception to follow. The only problem was she had little money left for entertainment; in other words, a band for the reception. Being that she was such a dear friend, we made the deal if she would buy a keg a beer for the band that we could keep in the back of the stage, we would come and play.

The night was great, good crowd enjoying the music we performed, and plenty of liquid refreshment in-between every song. I was enjoying myself, but truth be known, it was just another gig. That night, I was going to enjoy myself, mix with the crowd and come down from the stage every chance I could. I saw a friend sitting at a table with another girl, so I made my way over. The girl was very pretty, but something was definitely different. While everyone was knocking back alcohol as fast as they could drink it, she was having a orange soda. “Are you okay?” “Yes” she answered. “Why do you ask?” “Because everyone is having a good time drinking, and you have an orange soda. What’s up with that?” “Oh, I don’t drink.” That was the first time I ever met a girl in that setting that wasn’t partying with everyone else. Weird! “Well, do you dance?” I’m not sure I gave her a chance to answer as I grabbed her by the hand and led her out to the floor. I handed my drumsticks to a guy and said, “Here, go up and get on the drums, and tell the guys to play a slow song.” He gave me a big smile and he was on his way. So, we danced, slow and close. About halfway through the number something seemed to be happening, so I held her closer, and she did the same. When the song ended, we exchanged smiles, a small kiss and returned to my spot on the stage. When the time was over, we said our goodbyes and I didn’t think any more about it. She told a friend about me and they told her, “Don’t waste your time, he has a girlfriend.” But she told her friend that God seemed to whisper in her ear, while we were dancing, that this was the one. God didn’t whisper, speak, or yell anything in my ear, I just knew I was with a hot babe. Of course, I was so full of myself back then and only cared for my wants; God would have had a hard time getting through to me. That is until several months later.

Many of my friends were getting turned on to Jesus and telling me constantly I had to get saved. I believed in God; but didn’t think I needed to get as radical as they were. I agreed to go with a couple of them to a little church they were attending. It was fun especially seeing how many young people were there, but I didn’t see anything else that special. That is, until I took a look at the gal playing piano and realized, “Hey, that’s the chick I danced with!” The relationship didn’t take from that moment, but it began a spark. The more I wanted to know about Jesus the more she helped me understand. It was fascinating to me how someone so young could have such a grip on what the Bible said. I found out that she had been adopted, and from the moment she entered in the home of her new parents they taught her about the Lord, that at the age of 4 she accepted Christ as a Savior and kept growing from that point on.

I had broken up with the girl I had been dating, but I thought maybe this is what we both needed. Well, she wasn’t interested in hanging out with a bunch of “Jesus Freaks.” Most likely the truth was she didn’t trust me, and I couldn’t blame her. Like I said I was so full of myself that I couldn’t be trusted. But something was changing in me and, I believe, for the first time in my life I was letting the Holy Spirit guide my life. Because I knew I had a lot to get straight in my life, I wasn’t interested in having a new girlfriend; guess I couldn’t trust myself. But with every challenge, every obstacle I had to overcome this gal was there to help me. So, we dated. And we broke up. And we got back together again. And we broke up again. And each time we broke up it was if a part of me was missing. I didn’t feel complete. And as we talked, I learned she felt the same way.

Proverbs 31:10-12 “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.”

I had not seen many good marriages growing up. My father deserted my mom and living with my great aunt and uncle, I found him to be a hateful man to his wife. So, I was afraid of what kind of husband I would make. But this gal told me that she believed God had brought us together. It was then up to us what we did next.

Well two years later, November 3, 1973, this gal became my wife, my Lady. And if I told you that last 46 years has been constant heavenly bliss, lightning might come down and blow up my laptop! It’s been easy, it’s been hard. It’s been happiness, it’s been sadness. It’s been laughter, and it’s been tears. There’s a quote that goes, “There are no perfect husbands and no perfect wives, but if you’ll keep believing in each other, there will be plenty of perfect moments in your marriage.” Therein lies the secret in making a marriage work, keep believing in each other and keep working on the relationship.

We started out as two completely different people, the type of differences that many would say don’t have a chance at a lasting relationship. But God had other plans. He didn’t see our differences as a reason to keep us apart. He saw them as the very reason to bring our lives together–to grow as one. I’m convinced that had we not committed to each other and to honoring our marriage before God, I doubt you would be reading tonight’s story.

God brought two “Travelers of the Rock Road” together. A drunken drummer and a church pianist. And He said, “Boy do I have plans for you two!” And did he ever. 46 years and still counting.

“My Lady, it has been so wonderful to grow up, and grow old with you. Love you, Matilda!!

Yes, that’s the nickname I gave her. Cool huh?!!

See ya next time.

 

 

 

 





Is There More Than We See?

20 10 2019

During my sophomore year in high school, a new boy came in. His family had just moved Rock _nto the area from eastern Kentucky and I learned right away he was very shy. When he was called on in class, he would sit with his head down and not respond to the teachers no matter how much they insisted. I had a couple of classes with him and I could see it pained him to even be there. Being my roots were from West Virginia, we had some similar upbringing so I thought I might be able to talk to him, to reach out and become a friend. I tried walking with him after class and striking up a conversation, but it was the same as with the teachers. He would stare down at the floor and not say anything all the way down the hall. After a couple of attempts when the bell rang to dismiss, he’d shoot out of the room as fast as he could which I took to mean he didn’t want me bothering him. I took the hint and left him alone, but still I couldn’t help but to feel sorry for him. Because of his isolationist ways, he was often made fun of which I was sure was making him feel worse about being there in the first place.  But there was nothing I could do so I left him alone and hoped he’d someday open and let people get to know him.

My junior year, I left the senior high and went to a trade school for that year. By then my attitude was a bit like this young man straight out of the Appalachian Mountains; since I was hanging with an older crowd, I didn’t feel a connection to my classmates and I didn’t want to be there. Returning to the high school my senior year, they allowed me to be an independent student where I only went to classes three hours a day and then would leave to go to a job. And who should be in one of my classes but the Kentucky misanthrope. Something had changed in a year’s time. If he was called on to read in class he would respond to the teacher’s command in a quiet voice and still with head down. Someone finally cracked the shell around this guy, I thought. Perhaps I can talk to him now. But like before, as soon as the bell rang, he took off before anyone could speak to him. Oh well, a little progress is better than none. Maybe by the end of the school year he’d open up even more. That wasn’t to be. Two weeks later he didn’t show up at school and it was learned he had run away and no one knew where he was. There were a few jokes told about him, but within a week he wasn’t even a thought as to whether he was alright or not.

Sometime later I was working the evening shift at a factory where I met this woman who was very nice and we took breaks together on occasion. Her accent told me she wasn’t a Buckeye and I learned she was from Kentucky and had moved there to support her family. I then learned the quiet, withdrawn young man was her son. She related how she had been in an abusive marriage and her husband, the father of the children could be cruel to them, especially the boy. This went on until the father walked out on the family and the mother made the move north. “He couldn’t understand why his daddy had to act that way and why all of them had to move away from the only home they had ever known,” she explained. “It was like he was getting punished twice for something that wasn’t his fault.” I think I was on the verge of tears. Here he was unhappy with life, the way it was handed to him and now he had run off and no one knew where he was. “Oh, I know where he is,” she added. “He got a bus ticket and went back to Kentucky and is staying with my brother.” “I miss him dearly, but when I spoke to him on the phone, he sounded like the little boy I used to know, happy and at peace finally.” “Isn’t that what every parent wants for their children anyway?”

“A mother is the truest friend we have. When trials heavy and sudden fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still she will cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.” Washington Irving

This dear soul reminded me a lot of my own mother. Raising me without the aid of a father, doing her best to protect me when I was abused by my great uncle, teaching and consoling me to the best of her ability and then letting me go when she knew it was best thing she could do for me. Oh, the sacrifices these dear ladies make all in the name of love. Like my mother, this lady was deeply in love with her Savior and they both spent much time in prayer for the children they cherished more than life itself.

“There are few things more powerful than the faithful prayers of a righteous mother.” Boyd K. Packer

I never saw this Kentucky “Traveler of the Rock Road” or his mother again after I left that job, but I have a feeling things got better for them. I could see that when she spoke of how he was doing; her face would light up and her eyes would dance with happiness. You don’t get reactions like that if the situation is contrary. I also have a sense that it wasn’t long before this mother pulled up stakes and took the rest of her family back so they could all be together.

When this memory came back to me and I began writing this story; I didn’t really know where it was going to take me to r what I wanted to pass on to you good folks. I suppose it could be that we never know the complete story of what someone is going though and what trials they have had to suffer alone. So, before we make a snap judgement; we need to consider there might be more there than what meets the eye. Even Jesus taught us in Luke 6:37, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”  I realize that’s an area I had to work on a lot. I pray that we all do. But in my mental vison I can still see that mother, worried and caring for her son, but joyous beyond measure that her child was finally happy. You know, that’s the kind of love God has for us. But that’s another story. Let me close my hodge-podge of thoughts tonight with this quote that falls into the category of “right on the money!”

“The work of a mother is hard, too often unheralded work. Please know that it is worth it then, now, and forever.” Jeffrey R. Holland

See ya next time.





Three Monkeys and a Smile

6 10 2019

I’ve mentioned in past writings how grade school was not very pleasurable to me. With all the moving Ma and I did in my youthful days, education took a backseat that when I Fremont Ornamental Iron Co.did begin elementary school I was far behind where the rest of my classmates were in understanding, especially reading. So, when I would get called on to answer a question and fumbled through usually the wrong response, I’d be bombarded with ridicule and the type of laughter that reinforced in an insecure child just how dumb they were.  Looking back, I suppose I could be bitter from those trying years, but I came to realize that was part of the culture especially back then. Talking to some of my former classmates when we reached adulthood, a couple admitted they joined in on the laughter partly because everyone else did and partly glad that it was me and not them. It is a blessing that most of us grow out of those immature ways with age; a few I count today as close friends. But even though life was a hard road, I can look back and see moments and people that made things better, even if they didn’t know it.

Back in the early 60s there was a small business that sat just west of the school property. It was a dingy old building, not much more than an old garage. Several men would be working away with welders and the like to transform metal shaped like yardsticks into ornamental wrought iron fences. On warm days they would open the overhead doors and you could see everything they were doing. I’d stop often just to watch the magic they performed taking common material and making it into something beautiful. They were never bothered with me or some of the other children hanging around to watch and would invite us in to get a closer look–definitely before the days of OSHA.  They even learned of our names and would greet me with, “Hey Johnny, did you stay out of trouble in school today?”  For a time, it became the highlight of my day for the school bell to ring dismissing us for the day and running over to this dirty but fascinating little manufacturing business. On the wall hung all kinds of signs with fascinating pictures. Because I did not learn how to read until an older age, I didn’t know what the signs said but I loved to look at them, especially a yellow one with three monkeys on it. One day the shop boss said to me, “You sure do like that picture, don’t you? How ‘bout you take it home with you?” I was ecstatic as he took it down from the wall and handed to me. I walked home grinning from ear to ear with the sign under my arm not giving any thought to how dirty my clothes were becoming from all the grime that had built up on it over the years. I got home, cleaned it up with the garden hose, took it up to my room and put it on the dresser so I could look at it. I think the first few nights having it in the house, I just stared at it until I fell asleep.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” Leo Buscaglia.

Buscaglia was a college professor turned writer and motivational speaker. During his days at USC he was greatly touched by the death of a student from suicide. This made him ponder these questions: What didn’t we see? What didn’t we know? What would have made a difference in this young man’s life that would have stopped him from self-destruction.  He surmised that it’s not so much something major done to combat the negativity one feels in their life, as it is small, meaningful gestures to let an individual know you care, they have worth, they are loved.

The Christian also has been given rules of life on how to treat others.

Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Proverbs 15:4 “Gentle words bring life and health; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.”

Proverbs 16:24 “Kind words are like honey–sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.”

Proverbs 18:4 “A person’s words can be life-giving water; words of true wisdom are as refreshing as a bubbling brook.”

These workers of iron didn’t know anything about me. They didn’t know the struggles I had in school and life in general. They didn’t know all my insecurities and how I wanted to run away. They knew me only as the little boy who came by their shop every day expecting kind words and smiles; and they never failed to give those precious gifts to me. I am convinced that those small acts of kindness, as well as many who did the same for me helped to mold the man I am today. I do not blow my own horn, for I don’t see myself as anyone special. But I try to make it a habit to extend kindness to everyone I meet. On a few occasions I’ve been told, “You know, I really needed to hear that today; thank you.” What if we all made the effort to brighten another’s life with gentle words and a loving spirit? What kind of world do you think we’d live in? Just a thought, gang.

Well, the next school year the shop was gone, torn down and moved to a better location and as often occurs I never saw those “Travelers of the Rock Road” again. But their kindness, laughter and smiles have stayed with me through the years, especially when I remember the gift of a dirty old sign with three monkeys on it. Unfortunately, my Great Aunt Pearl discovered it up in my room. As I told you I couldn’t read back then, but she could. Still not sure what she read, but old Pearly Mae grabbed it up and I never saw it again. But hey, that’s another story for another time.

See ya next time.





Ride of a Lifetime

15 09 2019

As many know Cathy and I have been big bicycle enthusiasts for years. Because ofRock _n medical problems we’ve not done as much this year, but hopefully we’ll be back at it next season. With more trails being added all the time we’ve been able to bike some ten states. And probably the most memorable was biking the Great Allegheny Passage that starts in Pittsburgh PA and travels southeast to Cumberland MD. Some 150 miles of the most beautiful scenic travel you’ll ever do perched on two wheels. The mountains, valleys, and waterways are breathtaking. Passing through small communities that for over 50 years’ time have not changed was a bit like stepping back into history. For four days we nearly forgot what regular life and routine was like as we made our way across Pennsylvania and Maryland like two modern day pioneers always anxious to see what was waiting for us over the next rise. It all sounds exciting and a bit magical, and it was. But the last day of our journey wasn’t the easiest to say the least.

Toward the evening of the 3rd day of our journey it started to rain. Luckily, we were near the place where we would spend the night. The next morning the rain continued and the weather report didn’t give us any hope of it letting up. So, since we were on a time schedule; we packed the bikes and headed out into the wet gloomy weather. We donned our raingear, but it didn’t hold up very well considering we peddled away in a steady downpour for some ten hours. Also, since this was a packed dirt trail many mudholes materialized and I think we hit 90% of them. Within a few hours we were soaked, covered with mud, and freezing cold. Where was fun of this great adventure that we had experienced in the beginning? The beauty of the mountains and trees was gone because we couldn’t look up much from the pelting we were taking from the raindrops. I thought we sure could do without this last leg of the ride. But then, things started to happen. We would pass fellow bikers going the opposite direction in the same state of affairs as we were–wet and covered with mud. But they would see us and big grins would come to their faces as we passed and spoke briefly. I realized they were seeing how ridiculous we looked and not seeing themselves. We then looked at each other and began to laugh like a couple of kids playing on a schoolyard and the rains come. We started having the time of our lives as we muddied along. And as our attitude changed so did everything around us. We crossed a long bridge that went over a deep valley. We could see the clouds hanging low against the mountains giving an aura effect to the valley. We reached an area that had a small shelter and discovered we were at the Continental Divide. There were pictures on the walls of some of earlier travelers that had came that way. Then we reached the Mason Dixon Line and of course we had to take memorable pictures, mud covered and all. We reached another shelter where we had a late lunch of cold pizza leftover from the night before. And it tasted delicious!

Reaching our final destination of Cumberland with night setting in and the juvenile feeling of delight we felt started to fade. We had conquered the Great Alleghany, but we hadn’t made any arrangements for a place to stay.  The trail office was closed so we couldn’t get a list of places. Thankfully a couple was coming out of another office and we told them our dilemma. With one quick call they got us into a very nice hotel that had a bay for washing down the bikes and where we were able to take the bikes up to the room with us. A hot shower, dry clothes, and a wonderful dinner in the hotel restaurant. What a way to end our journey!

Chuck Swindoll; “Laughter is the most beautiful and beneficial therapy God ever granted humanity.”

Instead of concentrating on the mess we found ourselves in that last day, we found a way to make the best of it. We didn’t chuck the whole adventure because of the troubles we ran into; we enhanced them in a good way with laughter and joy. It makes me wonder how often a situation wouldn’t seem so bad if we approached it with a good attitude. I’m not preaching, but it’s a thought. It’s like Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Amen?

Well, after completing the biggest ride we had ever done, I can say this segment of “Traveling the Rock Road” wasn’t exactly how I had hoped and planned. But I am so thankful that I made the journey with my Lady, without a doubt the greatest earthly gift the Good Lord put in this man’s life. And as for the trek itself, from alpha to omega, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world! I hope I don’t have to do anymore rides like that. These old bones don’t dry out as well as they use to.

See ya next time.