A TALE OF TOE

Blair turned 92 on July 5th. We gave him a card and a promise: dinner on us at Flying Burgers and Seafood in Longview.

Good catfish.

Good shrimp.

Blair’s favorites.

So, today after church, that’s where we went.

We ordered our meals and picked a booth.

After the meal, Mary Jane reminded me,

” Randy, take your receipt up there and get our free cinnamon rolls!”

Oh, yeah! Free cinnamon rolls with dinner on Sunday! I grabbed the ticket.

“We would like four cinnamon rolls, please.” I handed her the receipt. Being the good son in law, I asked, ” Do you have coffee?”

“Yes, we do.”

“We would like four coffees, too, then.” Coffee and cinnamon rolls. Now we’re talking.

She turned and grabbed four nice ceramic mugs. She handed them to me with a smile. There was a k-cup inside each mug. I looked by the drink machine and there it was; a single one cup do it yourself keurig coffee maker.

“That will be 5.60,” she smiled.”Do you know how to work a keurig?”

I know, free cinnamon rolls, but you pay for the right to make your own coffee.

I started the first cup. Two servers came out from behind the counter with four hot cinnamon rolls. I pointed back to our table, and they delivered them.

The first cup took at least 4 minutes. So, I started the second cup, looked for the powdered “cream” and Splenda, then stood there until the next one finished.

I started the next one, carried the first two back to the table.

“Randy, you are all right! ” Blair said. I gave him a thumbs up. I could smell the cinnamon.

I love the smell of cinnamon.

I hurried back for the third cup.

Oh, great, the keurig is out of water.

I went to the counter. “I need some more water for the keurig, please?”

A couple of minutes later, one of the girls brought out a Styrofoam cup half filled with water, and poured it in.

“Thank you,” I said as I started the third cup.

I played a game on my phone. Finally the familiar ending spurt.

I started the fourth, carried the third to the table, and hurried back for my cup.

“What? One inch of coffee? Come on?” (Silent words, not out loud.) I saw the add water light flashing. “This is worse than self checkout!”

I asked for more water, waited a few minutes, and they handed me another cup of water.

I poured it in the reservoir, hit the brew button, and waited.

Another game on my phone.

Twenty five minutes to get 4 cups of coffee.

I went back to the table and they had finished their cinnamon rolls and their coffee.

Wendy’s mom was finding pictures on her phone and showing them to Wendy across the table.

Blair hadn’t said much while the catfish was on his plate.

“That’s the one time he doesn’t talk much,” Mary Jane said,” When he’s eating catfish.”

She found another picture, turned her phone toward Wendy. They both laughed.

“You know,” Blair began, “these clouds remind me of a time when I was about 10. Me and my friends were outside my house breaking up little pieces of wood so we could build a fire. Three guys were about my age and one guy, Douglas Teasdale, who was older, but he liked to hang around with us.

“I was swinging the axe, and it slipped and hit my little toe.”

He held is fingers about 3/4 of an inch apart and said, ” About this much of my little toe was just dangling there.

“It was bleedin’ pretty good, and none of the guys my age knew what to do. No adults were around, but Douglas said to one of the guys, ‘Go inside the house and get a needle and some white thread. And some alcohol. Get some alcohol.’

“He ran into the house, found the stuff and came running out. Douglas poured the alcohol on the needle and the thread, and sewed my little toe right back on.

“You know, it never did really hurt at the time. I guess I must been in shock a little bit.”

“What ever happened to Douglas Teasdale?” I asked.” I hope he became a doctor!”

“I don’t really know,” he chuckled, “but, if you look at that little toe, you can still see a little bit of a stichin’ pattern.”

That little toe still works, too, 82 years later.

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THE DAY OF MY SECOND BIRTH

THE SECOND TIME I WAS BORN

On November 15, 1951, I was born into this world to the family of Houston and Ruth Epps.

On May 8, 1978, I was given life a second time into the the family of God.

In celebration of that day, I will share again the story.

My Testimony

On the day of the 38th (now 41 years7/17/19) anniversary of my second birth, I feel compelled to share the story of that day, in order to bring glory to my Lord, my savior, my friend, Jesus. I will attempt to make this as concise as I can so that those that don’t believe may not get too bored.😉

My family, being a southern traditional Christian family, always belonged to and attended church religiously. I grew up with Sunday School and church attendance every Sunday. Every Sunday. Vacation Bible school every summer. Every summer. Summer church camp from fourth grade through my senior year in high school every summer. Every summer. In fourth grade, as was the tradition of my church, in the spring we would have a “pastor’s class” to instill in us the beliefs of our denomination. In the spring, at the end of the class, we all “joined” the church, making us eligible to take communion, and we were all baptized on Palm Sunday. I felt warm and happy.

In my senior year in high school, I dabbled in marijuana and cheap wine. (Boones Farm and Spanada) I explored different moral choices than those I had been taught.

In college, I did not deem it important to be in a church. I joined hippy-type activist groups, let my hair continue to grow long, looked for hippy-type girlfriends. I remember one time when a campus crusade guy came to my dorm room, showed me a pamphlet that showed a cross on a throne and a person on a throne, and asked me which one was I? I laughed at him, he talked a little bit, smiled and left. I also took a Jewish girl that I was hanging around with to a “Jesus freak” rally. (Actually, it was her idea) When they started holding up one finger (for One Way) we kinda slipped out the back. I was totally untouched.

I started dating a girl, Wendy Wright, I had gone to high school with, we lied to her parents, lied to mine, and moved in together while I was still in college. She got pregnant, we got married, and we still are. One good thing from the messy way my life was turning.

Sometime during my senior year, I left school ( yeah, I know, why didn’t I stick it out?), moved back to my hometown, got a job, and settled in to “adulthood”. Man, when I look back, I realize that every thing I did was for myself.

I worked for Safeway, then got a job as route salesman for Dr Pepper. I loved it, I was good at it, and I got fired for stealing. Later, I got another grocery store job, and I got fired for leaving out the fact that I had gotten fired from Dr Pepper on my application. That was really a low, low time for me. And yet, I still considered myself a good person by comparison. Finally after having a few fill in jobs that I didn’t love, I was hired by Pepsi as a route salesman. I became top salesman 3 of the five years I worked there, was written up in an article in the national Pepsi magazine. I felt pretty good about myself again. After a while, I figured out how I could make a few extra bucks by changing some tickets, and one day as I was leaving one of my stores, I thought I had been discovered. Horror gripped me, and as I was driving back to the plant, I thought I would be fired immediately.

I prayed, “God, please don’t let me be fired. I will give you my life, I will do anything if you will protect me.”

I was never found out. I did stop stealing. I got a new route, one in my own part of town, and stayed on top in sales. I and my wife Wendy decided we would begin to go to church, because we had a daughter named Chelsey and I thought it was good for kids to go to church. So we joined the church that I had been baptized in, 18 years earlier.

After a while, someone in the church asked if I would teach the high school Sunday school class. “Sure, why not?”

The class had just begun studying the Gospel of John, and I stepped in at Chapter 2. I had never taught anything, had only read tiny portions of the Bible in all my 26 years, and the kids were totally fall asleep bored. So, I took the bull by the horns, checked a big fat commentary out of the church library, and prepared for the next week.

The next week, Wendy and I were meeting with a guy, Gary Frazier, who I had known in high school and was selling his house. It was like Wendy’s dream house, four bedrooms, fenced yard, established neighborhood….

The problem was, our credit wasn’t good enough to qualify for the loan.

Gary said that he was going into the ministry and needed to sell his house to pay for seminary. He believed in us since we were “good Christian people,” and he was willing to cosign for us on a loan. We met with he and his Banker, and it became a possibility for us to get the house after all.

Wendy and I left the meeting, got in the car, and she said, “Randy, God doesn’t want us to get this house.”

We never in my memory had really discussed what God did or didn’t want in our lives, so this statement kinda shocked me, especially considering how much she wanted that house. So, we called Gary and told him we couldn’t accept his offer to help us.

I had always felt like I was a church going semi-religious person. Wendy wasn’t so much, so, in the back of my mind, I think I was thinking she was coming to a new place of embracing the type of religion that I was comfortable with.

Apparently, looking back, God was working on a much grander plan.

Sunday, I went to teach the Sunday School class. Chapter 3 of the book of John begins with this guy named Nicodemus coming to Jesus after dark so no one would know, and tried to flatter him. Jesus told him he had to be born again to even be able to see the Kingdom of God.

What?! What the heck does that mean? I had never heard of this, and I certainly didn’t know how to explain it, so I read on through, talked a little about John 3:16, bored the kids to death, and finished the class thinking, these kids don’t even care to learn.

The next day, May 8, 1978, I was back at work, driving my big Pepsi truck back to my first stop, doing what I knew I could do well. But I was so depressed. Tears were welling up behind my eyes, and I had no idea why. I prayed. “God, why do I feel so bad? Shouldn’t a person feel good on Monday after going to church on Sunday?…….And, what does it mean to be born again?” ( Now, I wasn’t that much of a praying man, but these two prayers I remember.)

I drove up to the Skaggs Albertson on Centerville Road in Garland, Tx, got out of my truck and kind of shuffled in through the back loading dock, hoping I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone just yet. I was so low. My head was down, and I had to step over a pile of trash that the floor crew had swept to the back room. Right on top of the pile, there was a tiny pamphlet that said in bold letters, “Have You Been Born Again?” Huh. I picked it up and stuck it in my shirt pocket. As I walked out into the store, I stepped over another pile of swept up trash, and right on top of it was a tiny pamphlet that said in bold letters, “What Does It Mean To Be Born Again?” Huh?! I picked it up and stuffed it into my shirt pocket.

After I finished my work in that store, I walked out to my truck, climbed in, started the engine, and pulled the two pamphlets from my pocket. I read them both from start to finish, reading the prayer at the end of each, out loud, with feeling! The prayer said something about believing that I could not attain heaven by anything I could do, I could not even get any favor from God for my own “goodness.” It wasn’t enough to believe in Jesus; I had to let Him own me. I had to belong to Him. That day, I gave up my right to myself, and I asked Jesus to take over, that I would follow Him wherever He wanted me to go.

Now, here is the part I want you to hear, if you can. ( When I was in the fourth grade, I got my first pair of glasses. I had never realized that I had difficulty seeing at a distance, until I walked out of the optometrist’ office and saw, for the first time individual leaves on trees.)When I looked up this day, my perception was as if I was seeing color, for he first time. There was no sadness, no depression, and I felt like I was alive to life for the first time!

For the first time in my life, I sensed love for God, I mean a real love for someone that I had hardly ever really thought about for 26 years of my life.

A lot has happened to us in our lives since this day, but that is a book in itself. God’s presence has NEVER left me, He has proved His truth to me countless times, and my love for Jesus grows even stronger by the day today. If you had asked me on May 7, 1978 if I was a Christian and if I thought I was going to heaven, I probably would have said yes. ( Though, honestly, I hadn’t given it much thought.) But if you asked me what I knew on May 8, 1978, I would have told you, I have LIFE, FOREVER!

When I think back to that time, and see how God was orchestrating all these little things in Wendy’s and my lives to cause us to want to turn to Him, I am still overwhelmed at the prospect that He even care about us at all, much less loved us enough to change our lives.

I never tire of telling this story, and, the funny thing is, this was only the beginning. The richness of my life since that day has made the first 26 years just seem like so much darkness, and self-centeredness. If you have never tasted the life that I am trying to describe, I would love to share with you anytime you would like.

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WHY IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR AN ATHEIST TO RECEIVE GOD’S FREE GIFT OF ETERNAL LIFE

January 19, 2016

While the gift is free, it cannot be earned, there is the condition that one must have the faith to accept the gift that has been offered.
Two prerequisites for that faith to be there:

1. A person has got to believe that God does indeed exist.
2. A person has to believe that God will reveal himself to the One who truly desires to find Him.
(Hebrews 11:6, my paraphrase)

An atheist cannot do that.

July 13, 2019

I was talking to one yesterday.

I don’t know his name, only his pseudonym. I assume he is a man, but I could be wrong about that as well.

He had compared God to an imaginary figure from an old South Park cartoon.

I felt like entering the discussion.

As a rule, this group just wants “evidence”, solid physical evidential irrefutable proof that this God we believe in is in fact as real as the doorknob on a door.

I told him he would never be able to “see” Him unless he was born again. I said that being born again (trusting in the payment God made for his rebellion) would open his eyes to the spiritual.

He asked me, “So what actually happens, then, like in reality. Brain synapses in a certain configuration or something?”

I responded with the Hebrews scripture that to come to God, you have to believe he exists, and you have to believe that he rewards those who diligently seek Him. The evidence of God is in those that have received this new life.
There are many. I am not the only one.

His response was that I was saying that something exists only if you believe in it.

I know, that is not what I said.

But, he did make me think.

Jesus said that one can’t see God unless he is born again, born from above by the Spirit.

In creation, God created all the animals before man.

He created each kind for a particular purpose, and the purpose appears to be built in (instinct) so the salmon knows when to swim upstream, birds know when and where to migrate, honeybees know how to build a hive and produce honey. The honeybee cannot say, “Meh, this is too hard. I want to be a sloth.”

All these animal occurrences had to be there from the beginning.
No learning process to discover their purpose, because they couldn’t survive one generation without already performing what they were programmed to be.
The animal kingdom does a dance of praise to their creator by living in their purpose.
Once, when Jesus was entering Jerusalem on a colt, the crowd was singing praises to him, and the Pharisees told him to make them stop.
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
All creation, as it fulfills its created purpose, is “singing out” in praise of its creator.
Creation lives in “joy” by being what it was created to be.
Man was also created for a purpose, made in God’s image, so he would have fellowship with his creator. Made in love by the God who is love.

God knew that love had to be a choice, so he gave man His ability to think, reason, create, to search deep meanings, so that, in the process, he could choose to fellowship with God, or go his own way.

He chose to go his own way.

This is where I realized the meaning of the Hebrews scripture.

Since God is love, he made a way for man to come back to Him.
He paid the full price for man’s rebellion.

All he had to do was to realize that he was in rebellion to God (believe He exists) and accept the free gift of eternal life offered to him (and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him).

If an atheist doesn’t believe He exists (though,I think most just don’t want there to be a God) there can be no turning back to God.

My atheist friend proves that he can’t “see” the kingdom of God.

I asked him if God were to appear before him, would he be glad to meet Him, thinking he would say “No” again.

He didn’t.

He told me to “go ahead, pray right now for your god to appear before me. You don’t know who I am, but, if he exists, he knows. I swear to your god, absolutely, as serious as a heart attack, I’ll wait right here in this room I’m in for your god to appear. And, if he appears, I will absolutely convert, and my blog will praise his name forever. I’ll change it to “the former atheist” even. Go ahead. I’m waiting.”

I wanted to.

But, I didn’t make the rules.

God is God, and He will not be manipulated.

I find a deep affection for this person and his followers, and a deep sorrow for their inability to discover the joy that comes from receiving this great great love.

So this is my prayer:
Father, I know that you alone can reveal yourself to man. I pray that you will open the eyes of my anonymous friends so that they will know that there is a choice they can make that will change them forever.
I pray that you will manipulate things in their lives to cause them to want you, to need you, to want to experience that love that you have had for them since the beginning of time.
I pray, beloved Father, that they will realize how great a love you have given to us, and that they might become children of God.
Because of Jesus!
Amen and amen!

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TRUST (really?)

TRUST?

7/12/16

I read a poem yesterday that made the statement (paraphrase); when you finally realize that god cannot be trusted….

I couldn’t focus on any other part of the poem. I thought and thought about that statement.

Is that even possible? (No, not that I thought and thought. The statement, wise guy.)

You can learn that a dog can’t be trusted because he has bitten many times.

A child may not be trusted, because he lies, and disobeys.

A spouse may betray you, and you may find that untrustworthy.

But, what does it mean when one trusts God?

My understanding is that you give up your rights to yourself, your way, your plans, and say, “I trust You with my life. It is Yours.”

Now, if things in your life get rocky, or scary, or very, very uncomfortable, do you say, ” Well, obviously God can’t be trusted”?

What is trust? It means to place your life in the care of another.

God is not a human.

He doesn’t make human errors.

No mistakes.

When things don’t go the way you want, we’ll, that’s exactly right. The way YOU want.

When you trust God, you tell Him,

“Whatever You want!”

You don’t know what the outcome will be.

He does.

Now, you can say,”I don’t trust God,” or “I won’t trust God,” but you can’t say He cannot be trusted because you haven’t trusted Him.

That’s what makes this born again thing so difficult for most people.

” You mean, You make all the decisions?”

Not for the faint of heart.

Faith is Trust.

You don’t know what God will bring, but you know, He is good.

Proverbs 3:5-6

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Changing A Light Bulb

REMEMBER THE OLD JOKE

7/11/15

How many Vietnam vets does it take to change a light bulb?

YOU WOULDN’T UNDERSTAND! YOU WEREN’T THERE, MAN!

For the last few days, I have been in conversations with relatives and friends who have been telling me about “white privilege” and about how many of our problems in this country are directly related to the deeply ingrained ideas of the privileged white race, because we haven’t suffered in the same way as everyone else. We don’t necessarily have to think we are privileged, it is just ingrained within us because we were.

I understand the argument, but something inside me is thinking that this is not what is wrong.

I am moving toward 64 now, and I can remember when we were not as divided as we are today.

We are constantly being challenged to choose a side, fight for some group, stand up for someone’s rights.

I’m not saying that this is wrong.

But it is not changing things.

Now, I am a “privileged white guy” and what I say will probably not make a difference, but, for a while now, I still have the right to speak, though maybe not for long.

The world will always have some oppressed class. Always has, always will. Evil does that, and we have evil among us, growing stronger by the second.

Evil causes racism, evil causes violent response to racism, evil divides people, evil convinces people that God doesn’t exist, evil tells me that I am better than you, evil tells people that God does exist, but that you cannot trust Him.

Evil doesn’t care if it contradicts itself.

Evil only wants to prevent good.

When oppressed people respond to the world in the power of the life of God hidden inside them, instead of responding in their natural inclination to fight back and to punish their enemies, the world begins to change.

Our world is more divided today than yesterday.

You are being asked to choose your side.

When your friend chooses a different side, you lose your friend.

If you are one of the “born again believers” whose life has truly changed, try this. Lift up your eyes, see who God is placing in your path today, and engage them in conversation, get to know them, no agenda, no judgment.

The only LIGHT that you have is His light.

There is something really good about light.

Darkness cannot resist it.

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LOVE. THE BATTLE. THE PAIN. THE JOY.

7/11/16

PART ONE

Tell me if you have experienced this.

You have grown in your ability to love, even your enemies. You realize that it comes from that new life that was planted in you. It is not a feeling you have mustered up.

So, you are having a conversation with someone who neither has the life, nor desires to have it. You have that sense of affection for the person, and sorrow, because you know he cannot hear what you are saying.

You hold your tongue to keep from engaging in empty arguments. You try to be obedient to the voice inside you, the one that is not your own. The conversation ends.

You feel beat down, emotionally exhausted.

A bit of time passes before you realize that the person you were talking to, and loving was surrounded by a dark one that hates you, and the dark one was using the voice of the human to accuse, criticize, and beat you down.

Our battle is not against flesh and blood….

Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world.

PART TWO

You have grown in your ability to love. You are starting to experience that strange feeling when you connect with a stranger, when you sense that there is a life in the new person that is touching the same life that is in you.

The words that come to you from a stranger, strike you, as if, someone has been told to say exactly what you need to hear.

Instead of being beat down, troubled and accused, you are lifted, encouraged, energized.

You have gained strength to continue this journey, to fight the next battle, to encourage the next sharer of life.

“I will send you the Comforter….”

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92

Though I wrote this 4 years ago, I can’t think of any way to say it better, except by changing 88 to 92.

This is my tribute to a great man.

I’m glad that fortune teller of his younger days was wrong about the long life he would live until 83.

We all breathed a happy sigh of relief when the 84th arrived.

Blair,

Today is actually the day before your 92nd birthday, but I wanted to share some thoughts with you and give them to you on paper for your birthday.

When we first met, because I was falling for your daughter, we didn’t have the best of beginnings (100% my fault), but as time passed, and Wendy and I were married, you totally accepted me into your family.

First of all, you are absolutely the best storyteller I have ever known. Some of the best memories of my life are sitting with you and listening to the true stories of your life. You remember everything, and I hope my memory holds as strong as yours has.

You have had a major role in helping me to become the man I am today. You took me under your wing and taught me car repair (oh, I hated doing those brake jobs, but you always got me through them), fence building, carpentry, cement pouring (way harder than brake repair), gardening, fishing, camping, plumbing, electrical (maybe not so much) repair, lawnmower fixing, and the list goes on.

We spent a lot of time together, and you always made me feel like you were glad I was there.

You gave me my first power tools, helped me through some really hard financial struggles, and you did not hire me when I asked you for a plumbing job. (Seriously, that was a God-directed decision.)

. I honestly believe that I would never have been able to start my own business had it not been for strengths you gave me through the time we spent together.

You have taught me patience, kindness, perseverance, contentment, fearlessness, courage….

You are the best man I have ever known.

You are the best friend I have ever had.

Honored to be your son, even if I had to marry my way in,

Randy

(the “them” of “Wendy and them”)

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