I found the inscription on the concrete floor of the workshop.

L. B. Wright

R. T. Epps


Zoe Blair Epps

It still looks pretty professional, smooth. My first concrete job.

Me: Hey, Blair! Do you remember the time I helped you with that cement project?

Blair: (He laughs) Yeah, I remember you mumbling something, but I couldn’t quite make it out.

May 3, 1998

It was a pretty hot day. We had come over to Blair and Mary Jane’s house to lay a concrete pad for Blair to build a storage room onto his workshop.

Blair’s daddy had been quite on accomplished cement contractor, back in the day (as well as a blacksmith, horse doctor, and tenant farmer). Blair’s mom could do the figuring for his concrete jobs at the kitchen table. And Blair had learned what he knew from doing and watching and doing.

He still had his daddy’s old gas powered cement mixer.

And he had me for a helper. (I had never done this before.)

Wendy, Chelsey, Mary Jane, and two year old Zoë had chairs in the area to see this grand project develop.

My job was to pick up the 80 lb bags of concrete, pour them in the mixer, add water, shovel mixed concrete into the wheelbarrow, wheel the barrow over to the prepared spot, dump it where Blair told me.

His job was to make it smooth.

“Hurry, Randy, we don’t want it to set up before we get it ready.”

I didn’t see him wink and grin at his audience.

So I hurried.

Oh my gosh. I never even stopped for a drink of water. No time. I didn’t want it to set up too soon.

Every bag seemed to weigh five more pounds than the one before.

The wheelbarrow seemed more and more difficult to control.

Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth….

When the job was completely poured, smoothed and we began to do the part where two people move one long stick across the surface to remove the excess cement, (No, I cannot remember what that is called and I really don’t care at this point what it was called) I remember thinking how completely exhausted I was.

I may have mentioned this fact to Blair.

“Well, it’s no wonder. You didn’t have to work so fast. We had plenty of time.”

I mumbled something almost under my breath.

Everybody laughed.

Well, almost everybody.

That day, I learned that I did not want to be a cement contractor.

I also learned that I learned more from my father-in-law than I learned from anybody else in the world.

And that was worth everything.



April 28, 2017

I like to watch movies that make me feel.

Gifted, today at the movies, a story of a man raising his genius niece, trying to give her a normal life that her genius mom didn’t get to live, trying to find a balance between “her gift”, her purpose, and her happiness.

The Hollars, tonight on television, a story of a family, struggling with commitment issues, and the understanding of love, coming together to deal with the brain tumor discovered in the matriarch of the family.

It turns out, I usually doze off during action movies, but give me a movie that is well written and real, and you’ve got me.

After Gifted, I couldn’t even finish a sentence without breaking up a little.

I am beginning to understand this “image of God” concept.

Inside each human is a creative personality, placed there, lovingly, by the original Creator.

Some people spend their lifetimes, convinced that they are not the creative type, convinced that their deficits outweigh any strength they may have.

But everybody has a gift.

The image of God.

To create.

To find truth.

To solve problems.

To love.

Sometimes we don’t see the image, because the darkness obscures our sight.

The image is built into the original design.

But, the life, the power that fuels the image, the creative ability, to its maximum effect, has to be there.

It must be added to the design, in order for the design to function as it was designed.

Even if it is only a tiny spark.

The spark of life, that is the real gift. The ability might be what the world notices.

But the spark is what fuels it, carries it, elevates it.

When I see this spark in others, it increases the fire in me.

I am learning to look for that spark.

When I cannot see the spark, I just want to share some of my embers.

It’s not for me. It’s for you.

So you can use and enjoy that incredible gift you were given, be a light shining in darkness.

“God has given us eternal life

And this life is in His Son.

He who has the Son, has life.

He who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”


AM I A RACIST?(Part 1)


1. I went with my father-in-law for some of his medical tests. A nurse walked in, carrying a big smile, a friendly disposition, a great sense of humor. We really liked her a lot.

But, I couldn’t help but notice that she was black.

2. One of the Bible studies I go to has about 10 men. I really like James because he and I always interrupt to ask questions. He’s always thinking.

I couldn’t help but notice that he is black.

3. The nurse was having a conversation with us, and I mentioned James as a friend.

I said he is a black man who grew up Catholic.

(Wendy later questioned why I felt that his skin color was a necessary insertion.)

4. Wendy and I watch a lot of cooking competitions, and we usually root for the one that appears to be the nicest.

Sometimes we choose a white person.

Sometimes we choose a person of a different skin color.

I may say, “I’m rooting for the black girl.”

5. We have a gas station in Hawkins that is run by a middle eastern man.
I noticed it right away.
He has a bit of an accent.
I asked him where he is from.
I love the chicken tenders there.
He is nice, and often gives me an extra piece of chicken.

6. When I stop at a store sometimes on the way home, I am really tired.
My tired face looks pretty frowny.
When I see someone of color, I try to smile and say hello.
I don’t do this for everybody.

My problem is, I can’t help but notice.

So, does that make me a racist?




In part 1, a friend pointed out to me that I got off subject.

Oh, yeah, I did.

He also told me that I should get out into the community and talk to people to open up my understanding.

So, today, I did an interview.

It was my friend from my Bible Study. We will call him “James” to make the story flow.

I asked James if he thought the U.S. has a problem with racism.

He said, no, maybe 5%, but….

I asked if he had ever been stopped because he was black.

He said back in 1969, he and his wife were looking to move and they drove into Mesquite, to look at a house.

As soon as they got into the city limit, a police car pulled behind him, beeped his siren, and James pulled over.

The policeman asked him what he was doing, and James said they were looking at a house.

“Well, it might be a good idea for you to get back into your car and head on back to Dallas,” suggested the policeman.

James said, “Okay,” and left without an argument.

A similar thing happened to him and his wife a few weeks later as they pulled into a Realtors office in another little community east of Dallas.

Similar question, similar suggestion.

James said, “Yes sir.”

James tells me, “You know, I realized that those policeman were hired to keep peace in their neighborhoods. They were doing their jobs. They knew their town, they knew way more than I could ever know, and they were just trying to keep trouble away.”

“There was prejudice, but I figured that my attitude toward all this stuff was the important thing. Racism is up here and in here.” He pointed to his head, then his heart. “All that I was responsible for was my own reaction.”

I love this guy.

To be totally transparent (figuratively, not literally. I am literally not invisible)

James’ first three choices for president, in order, we’re Cruz, Trump, Carson.

He knows people who hate the white man.

He knows people who hate the black man.

But he told me that a person who wants to succeed in this country can, if he has the right attitude “up here.”

James tell me, in so many words, that the power of racism lies in the response of the receiver.

When James was born again, he began to see his value in the eyes of the God who loves him.

When someone looks down on him because of his race, we’ll, he feels sad for that person,


That person doesn’t know the God who James loves,

Nor does he know the love of God.

Thanks, James, and I was only 30 minutes late to my appointment.




The ideas were bouncing around the room.

“Because of free will, some will never enter into the kingdom.”

“Do we give up our free will when we become Christians?”

What do you think?

Do we really have the free will we say we have?

The freedom to make our own choices.

The freedom to do our own thing.

I will say this: I believe we can choose our paths.

But, I doubt we have much power beyond that choice.

I can’t control what happens to me.

And, it us so hard to control how I respond to what happens to me.

Have you ever tried to go through a whole day without committing a sin? (If you believe in the concept.)

I mean, setting your mind, your will, your “free will” to say to yourself, “Today, I will make no mistakes .”

Can’t do it…I just can’t.

So what if I choose the path to make me a follower of Jesus.

Do I at that point give up my right to choose for myself?

Let’s say, I walk through this gate. The sign above it says “JESUS WAY.”

I didn’t get here on my own, and I know it.

Believe me, I tried…couldn’t make it work.

So, I made myself a prisoner to this new set of rules.

Except, for the first time in my life I felt free.

Free to live the way I had tried to live, and failed.

It was like, all of a sudden, everything in me changed.

I was not doing things because I felt like I had to.

I actually wanted to do these things.

It was like, I was making Jesus happy.

I knew he loved me…he paid my way in.

But, when suddenly, for the first time, I realized that I loved him…man, all I wanted to do was to show him that I loved hanging out with him, doing the same things he did.

And, as time goes on, I like being with him more and more.

And I still make choices.

They just work out better for me when they agree with his plans.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

2 Corinthians 3:17NIV

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”

Romans 8:29 NIV

He will give you the desires of your heart.



One Year Ago


I had scheduled this window cleaning job yesterday.

The pollen was down.

Her windows were dirty.

She was ready.

“I have to leave at 11:00,” she had told me.

I would do the inside first.

When I got there today, she said, “There’s no rush. I trust you. Just go out the back door and lock it as you leave. And don’t let the dog out! I promise you you cannot catch her!”

Now, I’m still pretty quick, but, if I had to chase her and bend over, well, that’s a whole other skill set.

About an hour passed.

“Well, I’m on my way,” she said.

“I’ll lock the door when I’m done.”

I was through inside in less than five minutes. I went to the back door, set my bucket and step ladder out.

She was out in the driveway.
“The dog is out!”

(Shoot! I had forgotten to watch for the dog. I’m glad it sneaked out when she went out.)

I answered, smiling, “I’m glad I wasn’t the one who let her out.”

“You did!”

I swear, I never saw her.
She was really quick.

Now, I’m remembering that she squeezed by me to escape the last time I was there to give a bid. Oh, man.

“She will come back and wait by the back door. Then you can let her in.”

She left.

I watched that little black shih-tzu go chase some birds, some squirrels, a deer, chat with the neighbor’s dogs.

I’ll probably be here for awhile.

A few minutes later, there she was, sitting by the back door. I walked up the steps to open it.

She ran off.

I cleaned a few more windows, walked to the back door, saw her watching me, and said in my highest pitched puppy calling voice, “Hey, you wanna treat? You wanna treat?”

Yep, it was a lie.
A bald faced lie.
She knew I was lying.
But I continued the act.
I walked inside, all the way back to her bowl, shook her feed bag for effect.

I saw her out of the corner of my eye.

I put a couple of pieces of dog food on the floor, and gingerly maneuvered around her to get between her and the door.

She took a step toward the food.

I bolted for the door.

Mission accomplished.

Every time I entered the house and left the house I remembered that dog.
I watched that dog.
I would not let that dog better me again.

But, I could hear her thinking, ” There never was a treat. Was there?”


Thinking on later things

One Year Ago

Andrew Klavan on a conversation with a guy who defuses bombs:

“So, how do you deal with stress in your job?”
Bomb guy: “Oh, there’s no stress.
I either get it right…
or it’s not my problem any more.”

My friend said,”Here’s something for you to ponder. Apatheism.”


“Apatheism. You know what Apathy is?”

“I don’t care.” I grinned.


He had met up with an old work friend from years ago. In the conversation, he had asked his friend if he ever read the Bible.

“Oh, no. I’m not religious. I don’t care about any of that stuff.”

My friend looks at me. “How do you deal with that? If you’re talking to an atheist, you tell him why you believe, he tells why he doesn’t. You have a discussion. But here, he seems happy, except maybe a little lonely. And bored. What am I supposed to tell him? Leave your happy life and be miserable like me?” He smiled. I had to leave.

Thinking about it though, maybe the two have something in common.

One day, the bomb will probably go off.

Then, there is nothing either guy can do.

I get the feeling that the bomb guy is ready. He’s thought about the situation, the possibilities, the probable final day, and he has put his life into the hands of the One that made him able to do this job.

I don’t think the other guy is.

Either, he hasn’t thought about the coming last day…

Or, he has…

And he just doesn’t care.

Or, maybe, he’s afraid to talk about it.



While cleaning the bedroom, we found a plastic box behind a chair that had a bunch of baseball caps and three of my old appointment books.

Wendy started to look through them, turning the pages, looking for a certain day.

“Chelsey wrote in these,” she said with a catch in her voice. She stopped at one that said “Fair Day” on two consecutive days, and she gasped.

“No, that wasn’t the day. That is the 2000 book,” I said. I picked up the 2002 book and turned to October, then to the 8th.

There it was.

“I have to write about this,” I said, the words catching in my throat, tears pooling in my eyes.

1986, Fall.

Since I had started cleaning chimneys in 1982, the fall season was always the busiest time.

We had homeschooled Chelsey since the fourth grade. She was 15, and she agreed to go to work with me, to learn how to sweep chimneys.

I would work from the roof, she would work from below.

(She had never been comfortable with ladders, but she wasn’t afraid of hard work.)

I still have a picture in my mind of the first chimney. We had just finished, and she stood proudly with some equipment in her arm as we prepared to load the van and leave.

She was wearing one of my old top hats, her red hair poking out all around, sooty smudges on her face, communing with her freckles, a hint of a smile.

She was a picture of beauty in this father’s eyes.

A few months later, the local newspaper did a personal interest story on this father/daughter chimney sweep team.

The next year, I began to clean windows, too.

Chelsey liked the window cleaning more than the chimneys. She would work inside, and I would work outside.

I paid her by the hour.

When I started paying her a percentage, her speed picked up. I asked her why, and she said, “Daddy, just think about it…it makes sense. If you pay me by the hour, it’s better if it takes longer. But…if you pay me by the job, faster means more money.”

She was smart that way too.

She was so fast, we ran through our year’s repeat business by July.

So, I taught her how to make phone calls from my files to build up our repeat business.

(Yes, I still payed her a percentage…I’m not stupid.)

I still remember one of the first days. She booked me 10 chimneys in one town, one right after the other. At that time it was one of the most profitable days I had ever had.

I called her when I got home to tell her how well she had done. “But…you’ve got to leave me some time for lunch, at least.”

She replied, “Okay, Daddy, but if you’re not workin’ I’m not making any money.” Yeah, she got it, didn’t she?

Zoë came, then Chelsey became a sign language interpreter, and I made her my business manager/dispatcher.

After her work day, she would pick up Zoë from our house, take her home, do mom things, then she would call my customers setting up jobs, filling up the calendar.

But, every year, in October, we would take two days off as a family, go to Dallas, to the State Fair of Texas…Big Tex.

She would call me. “Daddy, what day are we going to the fair?” and she would write “Fair Day” in the calendar.

Every year.

It was even more fun with little Zoë. Chelsey and Wendy would wend their way through the crowds, enjoying the booths, the crafts, the arts, the food, and Zoë and I would follow, my eyes catching things to show her, her delight becoming my delight.

October 8, 2002 was the last fair that Chelsey scheduled for us.

Everything about our lives changed that day.

The story of that day can be read here:

(March 21, 2019)

But, when God brings things back to us, in unexpected little finds, even while cleaning a room…

Well, the tears and memories don’t have to be a bad thing.

The riches of life include joys and sorrows.

And God is the One that makes life rich.

And, one that leaves ahead of you,

to prepare the way,

reminds you that the best is yet to come!

I see myself, getting ready to walk into the heavenly city, and Chelsey comes running up, beaming, light shining from her eyes, a big smile of joy spreading across her freckled face. “Come on, Daddy, I’ve got to show you something!”




No, you don’t hear that in an inspirational talk.

I heard a conversation the other day between two men, both retired. Both Christians.

“Some people don’t ever have that “moment,” that “come to Jesus moment” when everything changes, and they can always remember the exact time when it happened. Sometimes, it’s just kind of a gradual thing.”

“Or, maybe it never really happens.”

I started to wonder, what holds people back?

What prevents them from that “come to Jesus moment”?

I was watching a sitcom the other day. The main character had married an Indian (from India) girl, and, he always felt like his mother in law regretted that she hadn’t married the Indian doctor.

Then, when he took a chance, left a steady job to start a company, put his family at risk, he really felt like she would never come around.

Finally, when he asked her why she didn’t like him, why she had always disapproved of him, she set him straight.

They had left India to come to America to give their kids a chance to have a better life.

“We were entering into the Unknown.” She used the Indian word. “The best things always happen in the Unknown.”

There was a man that was born lame. When he was old enough, his friends would carry him to the temple in Jerusalem so he could lay outside the entrance and beg for alms.

Spare change.

In Israel, to keep the law, one was required to give to the poor.

It may not have been such a bad gig.

This had been his life, for years.

He knew what he would do every day.

He knew he would get enough to survive another day.

It was all he knew.

He couldn’t expect anything more.

This was his life.

His Known.

One day, doing his thing, he called out to two guys that were passing by.

“Spare change? Alms for the poor?”

Usually, people would throw a few coins into his basket, not looking at him, not speaking.

He was used to this.

This was his life.

The Known.

The two guys stopped.

One said, “Look at me!”

He looks at him.

The guy is smiling.

The guy is seeing him.

Maybe, this guy is going to give him a big gift.

The guy says, “I don’t have any money…”

Oh, great…

“But what I have, I will give you…”

Okay, now he was interested.

“In the name of Jesus Christ, RISE UP AND WALK!”

He had never walked.

His legs were like twigs.

He couldn’t walk.

He couldn’t even stand.

What was this guy talking about?

The guy with the big smile was standing there, holding his hand out, his empty hand, offering to help him up.

What would he do?

He knew this life.

He had friends.

He was surviving .

It wasn’t so bad.

It was Known.

But, there is this hand…

Reaching out…

Trying to pull him into the Unknown.

He reaches up to take the hand.

The strength of the smiling man begins to pull him forward.

But, suddenly, a shock wave surges through his body.

Every muscle starts to come alive.

It’s like power is erupting inside him.

The Unknown.

What is his life going to become.

Everything is going to change.

He has never, never, ever walked before.

He is pulled to his feet.

He feels the strength,

From the man, first,

Then in himself.

He walks.

He runs.

He leaps. (He leaps! No rehab! Just straight to leaping!)

He yells, “Praise to our God! I can walk! I can walk !”

He had left the life he knew, and began a life anew.

A life in the great Unknown.

The place where the best things happen.



In our family, the coffee gene was there, strong and black. Family gatherings always included the 40 cup percolator with coffee so thick, you could almost chew it.

Of course, there are always those in the family who “prefer tea.”

We didn’t kick ’em out of the family, stop inviting them to family events, talk smack about ’em behind their backs.

We’d just tease them to their faces.

After all, they were still family.

I was listening to a podcast the other day.
John Branyan, a Christian comedian, sets up a microphone once a week and just records a conversation he has with family, friends, and people he just wants to talk to.

Sometimes, the kids walk into the room and disrupt the whole conversation.

Sometimes, he records at Panera bread, and it is so loud, you can barely hear the conversation.

But, he doesn’t edit it. He plays it just as it happens.

And they have deep, searching talks, seasoned with laughter and sarcasm.

But, what I really liked was when John’s mom was angry at John’s daughter for a strong dose of opinions she had dispensed in an earlier podcast.

Mom came to the microphone, and they actually discussed the issues, with feeling, with passion, with thought, with love, sharing the different ideas, opposing sides, and working through it.

It was almost as if…

They really loved each other, even when they disagreed.

Imagine that!

She jokingly told her granddaughter she was considering unfriending her on Facebook.

But, as they talked, they discovered that the things they thought they disagreed on, they were really pretty close.

They found that, being honest, sharing feelings, being willing to listen, to think, to consider, solved differences in a much more effective way than holding onto hurt, or anger.

Could you imagine a family member blocking you because you believed in a different anything?


You gotta love ’em!


(April 20, 2017)