LOGS AND SPLINTERS

MAY 20, 2015

THOUGHTS ON LOGS AND SPLINTERS

Everyone tells me I am not supposed to notice other people’s sins, because I have to get rid of my own first. (Jesus’ teaching on removing the beam from your own eye so you can see clearly to remove the splinter from your friend’s eye.)

I wonder….

Maybe Jesus was speaking on a much deeper level.

Perhaps the “splinters” are the things we do, or neglect to do, that show us that we cannot possibly be good enough to ever deserve God’s favor.

Maybe the “log” or “beam” is the idea that I can be good enough on my own to earn God’s favor.

Maybe, the only way to remove the log from your own eye, is to realize that there is no way for you to remove the log from your own eye.

An unyielded life sees only the actions and shortcomings of those around him.

A yielded life “sees” the image of God in those around him, and desires that the log be removed from their eyes as well.

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ONE EASY STEP

May 19, 2018

One Year Ago

HOW TO INSTALL A 20 FT FLAGPOLE IN YOUR FRONT YARD IN 1 EASY STEP

Step 1: Preparation
Do hard physical labor for 11 days straight, sleeping only six and a half hours a night.
On the 12th day (your day off) get up really really early and work for five hours.
Start your day off at noon, to spend a nice day with your wife.
Yawn all day long, complaining about how tired you are.
Get home around 9:00, start unloading the stuff from the car, and please, please don’t start crying because you are so tired.
Man up!
Start watching a movie with your loved one, and never ever admit that you dozed off a couple of times. If you don’t understand something, don’t ever say “Why did they say that?” because, that would imply that you may have gone to sleep.
Go to bed for real at 11:30.

Step 2: Getting supplies together.
Get out of bed at 10:30. (That’s right, 11 official hours of rest. Who does this? Well, maybe millennials….)
Drink a large cup of coffee, with some of your wife’s new natural coffee stuff that gives brain acuity and energy.
Wow! This stuff is great! I actually want to do something!
Eat a good breakfast.
Go to Walmart to get 4 eighty pounds bags of quikrete. (“While you’re there, would you go ahead and get 10 bags of brown bark?”)
And ten bags of brown bark.
Man, I have got so much energy. That coffee stuff is great!
Load bags of bark at Walmart, then thank the young man who comes to help you right as you load the last bag.
Drive to Ace Hardware to get concrete, because Walmart didn’t have it.
Check the difference in price between 40 pound bags and 80 pound bags.
No price on pallets.
Try to pick up 80 pound bag.
Go inside and pay for eight 40 pound bags.
Go outside to load.
Thank the man that helped you with the last two bags.
Drive home.

Step 3: Doing the deed
Put gravel, shovel, hoe, posthole diggers, and concrete mixing tub in wheelbarrow.
After you turn the wheelbarrow over, shovel the spilled gravel back into the wheelbarrow.
Dig a hole with the posthole diggers, 28 inches deep by 18 inches wide.
When you discover that the sand is too dry, and too fine to be pulled out of the hole with the p.h. diggers, run water into the hole to make mud.
Finish digging the hole.
(Yes, it’s okay if it is 15 inches wide at the bottom and 24 inches wide at the top)
Pour the gravel into the hole about 6 inches from the bottom.
Stick plastic pipe into the gravel, making sure it sticks above the ground about one inch.
BE SURE TO PUT THE PLASTIC CAP INTO THE OPEN END OF THE PIPE. (You do NOT want concrete in your pipe.)
Go get some more water. As you walk by your wife in her rocking chair on the porch in the shade, smile when you hear her say, “Oh, you’re already done with the hole? That wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.”
You don’t have to respond. Just smile.
But, man, I can’t believe how much energy I still have! That coffee stuff is really great.
Pour 2 forty pound bags of concrete into mixing tub, “making a well to hold 7 pints of water. Slump should be 3 to 4 inches.” I don’t know…don’t ask.
Mix water and concrete together.
Listen to your wife if she says there is an easier way.
Smile. Really, you don’t have to say anything.
Really.
Shovel the concrete into the hole.
Realize that you have to do this three more times.
Do it three more times.
Now, when you realize that the two levels you brought out aren’t going to work, go get another level.
Carefully, put the flagpole into the tube.
Take the plastic cap out before you try to carefully put the flagpole into the tube.
Hand your wife the level and have her move the pole back and forth until it is level in all directions. (I know, you want to do this part…let her do it.)
Push the concrete into the gaps.
Stop for a minute to admire your work.
Carefully pull the flagpole from the tube.
The concrete needs to dry for twenty-four hours.
Wait twenty-four hours.
After twenty four hours, slide the flagpole into the tube.
Take a minute to admire your work.
Then, try to figure out how to attach the flag.

Oh, shoot! I just noticed I said 1 simple step.

Uhmmm!

Okay!

Skip steps one and two.

Voila!

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COME HELL OR HIGH WATER

COME HELL OR HIGH WATER

It’s just an expression to emphasize the fact that I am going to do something, no matter what happens.

To be honest, though, I can’t really say that, can I?

High water alone can stop me.

What happens if I find myself standing before the Almighty God, being asked why I wanted to come into His town.

I may be a blubbering idiot, if I haven’t looked forward to this moment for a long time.

If I am standing there, surprised that there really is a God, then I may suddenly understand why those Christians used to always say that “the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.”

I am very afraid!

I am starting to wish I had gotten some of this wisdom back when I had a chance.

I thought I had figured it all out.

I had said over and over, “How can a God say he loves me but threaten to send me to hell if I don’t love him back?”
Who brainwashed these people?

Of course, there was that one guy who tried to tell me, “He doesn’t send you to hell.
If you suddenly died, and, surprisingly found yourself in a place that you didn’t expect to be, because you had said, “there is no God,” and you were standing right in front of him, would you want to spend eternity with him or away from him?”
I answered, “Away!” And I said a lot of other stuff for emphasis.

He went on, “Then YOU chose!
He let you have what you said you wanted. He had offered you a free ticket, over and over and over…. You said that you weren’t interested.”

This guy had been so aggravating.

Now I am really, really afraid that I may have been wrong!

(To see the conversation that inspired this, go to https://randyepps.blog/2019/05/14/i-may-have-been-hasty-in-judgment-2/amp/ and scroll down past the story to the comments.)

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TOO MUCH TO REMEMBER

May 16, 2018

Wendy sent me this in a text at 11:30 this morning.

“Maybe you can bring this home for dinner tonight,” she added. “Gladewater or Mineola?”

“I think Tyler is the closest one. Way far from me.”

I worked until 5:30, googled Jack in the Box and remembered the one in Gilmer.

It would only add about 20 minutes to my trip home.

“Just look at the ad and text me what you want.”

She texted, “Cholula Buttery Jack and Cholula Fries.”

Sounded good to me. Make that two.

Got home, put food on the plates, gulped it all down, and I asked her what she thought.

” I think I really like my cooking!”

Me, too.

“At least you got one free…”

Ooops.

“You got one free, didn’t you?”

Uuhhmmm?

“Are you kidding me, Randy. That was the whole reason I suggested it in the first place. Is you’re brain just not working anymore? You think I was just dying for Jack in the Box hamburgers?”

I thought Cholula Buttery Jack sounded pretty good.

But, my brain got distracted when I had to teach the jack in the box guy how to work the pump pot for the coffee I ordered to drink on the way home.

I think it’s clear, now. One thought at a time. One at a time.

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I MAY HAVE BEEN HASTY IN JUDGMENT

May 14, 2018

Last week, I made a statement about what hearing old rock music from my teen years did to me.

I heard another one today. I always thought it was really, really shallow. But, thinking about it, I may have decided it was genius.

“ADAM! WHY ARE YOU HIDING?”

Eve gripped his arm and hand in fear.
“Stay down,” said Adam, “We can’t let Him see us like this.”

“I said, why are you hiding?”

“ I was afraid, because I was naked.”

“Who told you you were naked?”

They both were hanging their heads, not looking up, focused intently on the dirt in front of them.

“Did you eat from the tree I told you not to eat from?”

“Well…the woman you gave me…”

Eve jerked her hand away. Adam could see her glaring at him out of the corner of his eye.

She kept glaring at Adam. “It was the serpent…”

“Eve, where are you? Wait!”

Adam was running after her, leaving the garden.

“How could you do that? You threw me under the bus!” she called back, over her shoulder.

“What? What are you saying? I don’t understand! What is a bus?”

“I don’t know. It’s just an expression! Just leave me alone.”

Adam watched her walk into a cave.

He walked, alone into the woods.

“Eve…Eve…are you in here?”
Adam was sobbing.

“I’m here. What?”

“ Back there…in the …in uh gadda…when we were…in uh gaddavida…”

“Adam! Pull yourself together. I can’t understand a word your saying! Take a breath and talk to me…like a man!”

Adam sat down…took a deep breath…and another…”Eve, you are bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh…you are mine…I am yours…”

“And, I wrote you a song.”

“What?”

“I wrote you a song. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking.”

“Okay. Sing my song. What’s that?”

“A zither. I made it to play music…for your song.”

And he started to sing…

“In the garden of eden, honey
Don’t you know that I’m lovin’ you
In the garden of eden, baby
Don’t you know that I’ll always be true

Oh, won’t you come with me
And take my hand
Oh, won’t you come with me
And walk this land
Please take my hand”

Then Adam put down his zither, picked up two limbs from the ground, and started beating out a rhythm…on trees, on rocks, on stumps…for a long time…a long, long time…

Then he picked up his zither, and sang the two verses again…
For emphasis.

He looked at Eve, smiling kinda sheepishly.

“What was that?” She asked.

“Your song!”

“No, the part in the middle.”

“Oh, that was the best part, the drum solo…” He saw her begin to frown… “I don’t mean the best part…the best part was the “lovin’ you” part…then the drum solo.”

She smiled, took his hand, looked into his eyes, and said, “I like it. Could I change one thing?”

Adam handed her the skin with the song on it.

She made the changes, handed it back.

“In a gadda da vida? No one will know what that means?”

“It’s my song. You wrote it for me. I’ll know. They’ll just have to figure it out.”

“I love you, Eve. You look real pretty in that leather dress.”

“Thank you, Adam. It’s a Designer original.”

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LUNCH WITH MOTHERS ( and others)

May 13, 2017

Family mother’s day lunch starts the same as most family dinners.
We find a spot in the kitchen for all the stuff we’ve prepared, make a circle in the den, and the designated prayer (Randy) prays. Thanks for family…food…good relationship…blessings on our lives…in Jesus ‘ name, Amen.

Everyone moves toward the kitchen.

Designated prayer says, “Wait! It’s mother’s day! I forgot to mention mother’s day! Everyone come back.”

No one comes back.

Dishes filled, places found, good food.

Then the stories begin.

The Drowning. (Harper)

The three year old comes into the room.
“When it’s hot, we’re going to the beach. Then I won’t be scared because of the water and sand. It’s not a swimming pool. When I was a baby, I “drowned” when someone pushed me under the water in the swimming pool.”

Someone at the table says, “I
” drowned” too, when I was little….”
Not her story. She walked off.

Haircut. (Craig)

“I stopped to get a haircut the other day.
The girl starts asking questions. ‘So, what brings you here in the middle of the work day?’
‘I just want a haircut.’
‘Must be sump’n going on.’
‘I just want a haircut.'”
Someone at the table says, “She may have really needed someone to talk to.”
“Not to me. I just wanted a haircut. I paid her for a haircut.”

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (Jayci)

The fourteen year old went to D.C. with her family. She told us how the guard at the Tomb of the unknown soldier would march back and forth, with the exact number of steps each time.
There were some people there, talking, being disrespectful.
You’re not supposed to talk at the tomb.
The soldier stopped his march, turned toward the people, and, with carefully scripted words, rebuked the disrespectful talkers.
“That was my favorite part of everything we saw!” said the fourteen year old.

The Troubled Actor (Adam)

An award was given to our family cop for saving a life.
It seems, an actor, having trouble coping with life, had fallen into drugs, moved in with his mom, was feeling paranoid, and was threatening to jump from the fourth floor balcony of the apartment.
“We were trying to talk him down, but weren’t having much luck. The officer downstairs hollered and got his attention, distracted him, just long enough for us to grab him.”
Life saved, for now.

Mean Patient in Doctor’s Office (Zoë)

The new receptionist got broken in fast with customer relations. He came in angry, cursing her, the other receptionists, the nurses.
“He threw some papers at me, used the F-word a couple of times, said he wanted to talk to a nurse, but ‘not that SOB. He’s a liar.’ Except, he didn’t use the abbreviation. I was polite and offered to go back and see if there was someone to help him. But I was shaking so much. The others said he is always like that.”

Dead Bunnies (Kristin)

It started when she found a dead baby bunny in the yard. Then, she found one in the house. The two dogs pretended they had no idea how that got there.
No more freedom in the back yard. From now on, leash only.
Then she decided to use the shock collar, and just watch.
“I looked out the window, and he had a bunny in his mouth. I pushed the button, the bunny dropped, the dog retreated, and I ran out. The bunny was still alive, so, I found the nest, put it back in, put up a barrier to keep out the dogs. I guess it worked. They are gone now. I do not like dead bunnies in my house.”

The Confrontation (Jenny)

It was the end of a Parks and Rec fourth grade basketball game.
“We had lost, 35-4. Our girls tried hard, but they were all new. The other team was like professionals. So, I was talking to my team right after the game.
‘Coach. COACH! You need to line up your team so we can shake hands and go!’
‘Are you, a fourth grader, trying to tell me, an adult, what to do with my team?'”
As the mother/coach came out of the stands, the confrontation began.
The storyteller’s eyes were bright, and distant, as the scene replayed itself in her mind…
“Oh, you are one of those…Wait, are you recording this? Why are you recording this?”
Misunderstandings abound. We, too, were seeing the stories with each line.
” ‘Take it outside? What are we going to do? Fight?’ She was a head taller, and strong. I don’t know if I was more angry, or scared. But I knew, if we went outside, I was dead.”
We couldn’t stop listening. The color, the descriptions…
“I was so excited, I probably looked like a crazy peacock, jumping up and down, flapping its wings.” (We got a demonstration.)
“After shaking hands, she accused me of “a racist handshake. ‘Racist handshake? What is a racist handshake? That’s not a thing. Is it? Is that a thing?”
We were all laughing, living the story with her.
Her fourteen year old stepped in defense of her mother.
“Are you going to hit me? Go ahead, hit me!”
“Are you going to hit a fourteen year old?”
We were all leaning forward in anticipation.
The story continued…
“Jesus? Are we talking about Jesus, now? Let’s talk about Jesus! I LOVE JESUS!”
No confrontation is complete unless the police come.
The police came.
She told her story first, then the confrontater told hers, showed her video, and left quietly.
“You’re free to go, Ma’am.”
“Did she really show you the video?”
“Yes, Ma’am, she did.” He smiled sheepishly. “You are free to go.”

The Bullies (Jayci)

Imbedded into the life of the fourteen year old was a story of middle school mean girls, cyber bullying, betrayal, and intimidation. She had not wanted to tell why she wasn’t playing soccer next year, and left the room. She came back a little later, and she told her story. But, where it took a turn, and rose above the typical was when she took out her phone, scrolled through some messages and read us her response. She told her of her faith in Jesus, she offered her friendship, and forgiveness to her tormentor.
The angels were singing.

The old storyteller, 90 in less than two months, was sitting off to the side with his cane, a slight smile on his face, an occasional comment coming from his mouth.
He had been planting seeds of storytelling into these minds for all their lives.
He had learned the perfect balance of when to speak and when to listen.
Today.
Today, he didn’t tell any stories.
Not today.
Today he enjoyed the fruit of his harvest.

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STORIES FROM THE STORYTELLER (Part 2)

May 13, 2018

The rocking chair porch at a Cracker Barrel

THE OLD TAYLOR PLACE

“Mr. and Mrs. Taylor lived on 125 acres, about 8 miles from the old Sabine school outside of Lindale. Daddy had done quite a bit of work for them through the years, and after Mr. Taylor died, Mrs. Taylor offered the place to him to farm on the halves (share cropper). He jumped at the offer, and we loaded our stuff into a wagon and moved in when I was around three or four.
People ask me how I can remember so much of this stuff. I guess it’s because, we were kinda far from town, not any kids close by, and everything I knew was what was going on where I was.
Remember, no television. Heck, we didn’t even have electricity at the old Taylor place.
My sisters were all older than me…didn’t have much to do with me.
So my life was walking with, talking to, watching everything my daddy did.
He didn’t talk much around people. But he talked to me.
And I listened.
You know, I can still see the rocks on that red Sabine sand.”

“It’s just like you’re watching a movie in your head, isn’t it?” I am amazed at how much he remembers.

“Yeah, I guess it is. A movie.
Hey, Randy, did I ever tell you about my teacher at the Sabine school?
Miss Irramae Braziel. She taught the first three grades. She was always telling us about the evils of whiskey.
One day me and a couple of my friends were getting a bicycle pump out of Miss Irramae’s trunk to air up a volleyball. Someone found a bottle of whiskey in the trunk.
We wondered if her husband might have put it there, and we didn’t want to say anything in case she would get upset. So we kinda hid it in some bushes off the schoolyard.
A little later, one of the guys told her what we had found and that we knew it was bad so we got rid of it.
A couple of the guys were out there one day, sipping at that whiskey, and Miss Irramae saw them through the window, walked out into the school yard, quietly spoke a few words, held out her hand, and they handed her the bottle.
She never said another word about it.”

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