What uncommon things do we want to become common?

Things like:
our children having mutual love and respect for each other.
our teenage children having love, honor, respect and obedience for their parents.
us continually becoming better friends and lovers.
our family totally trusting God in all things and putting our faith in Him to fulfill his promises.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Family Christmas

By Granny Kay
Brack's six year old son, Harlem, is spending the weekend with us.  So we're having our Istre family Christmas tomorrow.

Harlem is helping me tonight while Brack is working at Cracker Barrel.  

We are doing something different this year.  Instead of buying gifts, we're doing virtual gifts.  We drew names, then each of us will draw or cut and paste to make a picture of the gift we would buy that person and tell why.  So when Harlem came over today, I helped him get started on it.  He asked a couple of times, "we're only having PRETEND gifts?"  But after he got into it, he found it was quite fun to try to figure out what someone really likes and then "give" them that by making it for them.  We each are making two, so we each will get two.  We must tell why we would "give" them that particular gift or trip or whatever. There will be prizes for the winners. I think it's going to be a blast! And of course, everyone is a winner!  Oh yes, and the prizes are something for them to make or do and be creative with.

Well, Harlem drew Sterling's name and Steele's name.  For Sterling he cut out pictures of Sterling's favorite football player and said Sterling would go to their next game and get to stand on the sidelines with him.  For Steele, he cut out pictures of LEGOS and said he'd give those to Steele b/c he likes LEGOS and "Can I play with him again at his house upstairs with his LEGOS?"  So precious!

Well, once he got into it, he couldn't stop.  He wanted to make one for EVERYONE!

He did stop long enough to help me make three dishes for our Christmas breakfast in the morning and clean up the mess.  He's a great little helper!  Guess I'd forgotten how much fun it is to cook with a six year old...cracking eggs and then fishing egg shells out of the batter!

He's sitting beside me while I'm typing and said just now, "I can't wait until we eat that breakfast we made!"

Have yourself a merry little Christmas and enjoy this RAIN we're getting!

Our New Friend Brack

By Creg

Brack Daniels has been staying with my parents at their house for the last 3 months, on good weekends he has his 6 year old son, Harlem, with him. We met Brack at Faithworks, a non-profit organization that teaches work & social skills with a spiritual emphasis to the underemployed, when we delivered a lunch there. He graduated on Tuesday and afterward was baptized at Jacob's dream at ACU. What a night to remember. He was one of five chosen to make a speech about his life story. Here it is:
"As I live today chasing moments, valuing togetherness, overcoming all obstacles, I think back to the biggest opportunity missed in my life.  I was eleven years old when my mother decided for us to relocate to Columbus, Ohio for a fresh start. I can still remember her words to this day: "Son, you're the man of the house now." It was like I went from being a momma's boy, sucking on my thumb and playing with her ear to fall asleep at night to being something that I never was truly introduced to...a real man. But that's not to say it wasn't possible.  I complained about everything...not having name-brand clothes, shoes and being able to do and have what other kids had. Instead of looking at the most precious blessing in my life, which was a strong mother, who was willing to walk to work every morning through the blistering cold snow to provide for her family. It was that selfishness that caused me not to be there for my daughter and having to serve five consecutive years in prison.While I was incarcerated, my mother would blame herself for me rightfully being where I deserved to be for my debt owed to society.

After being released in 2012, I fell back into some of the same traps. Weeks prior to signing up for FaithWorks, I was shot by two men seeking to rob me of drugs and money. My initial reaction was, "They're gonna die for what they did to me!" Then I thought back to an analogy that reminded me of my self worth. Life is similar to being in traffic. Everyone has his own lane. But there's gonna come a time when a reckless driver attempts to play chicken with you. Your pride and ego will tell you, "Don't back down!" But the Spirit of the Lord will say, "Pull over! Be still and allow that person to go ahead."

To everyone here tonight, life has value, purpose and meaning. FaithWorks has reminded me of my own. As an overcomer, I couldn't have done it by myself. First I must thank the Creator above for all the divine connections He has placed in my life:

*Paul Mathis, as the FaithWorks instructor, who walked with me when the rest of the world walked on me.

*The Istre Family for having the biggest impact on my life over the last two and a half months.

I can finally breathe now, with assurance that I am more than smart. For a smart man prides himself in getting out of a situation that a wise man would never put himself in.

I can finally breathe with assurance that now given a second chance at being a father, the men in my life today are fully equipping me for the job.

I can finally breathe now in the contentment FaithWorks has provided me with a full-time job at RenTech and has brought me to this very moment today.

My baptism signifies me being dead to sin and alive through Christ.

Walking in wisdom is to walk in grace.

Submitting to God is how we seek His face.

Christ set the ultimate standard to how we should live.

So today, this life of mine, Lord to You I give."

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Violin Concert

By Creg

Hendrick Hospital
Samantha & Chelsa went with their violin teacher and her other students last Saturday to play a violin concert. They played at the children's wing of Hendrick Hospital and at the Chisholm House nursing home. Needless to say, they were well received by all who were there. 

Chisholm House

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Icy Fun

By Creg

Samantha on the sled ready for take-off.
We were hit with a 9 degree cold front last weekend that came with a little ice & snow. It wasn't fun breaking the ice in the animals water containers, but bring out a sled and a ramp and let the fun begin.

I would back the 4-wheeler to the ramp and a kid would hang on to the sled which was at the end of a long rope.

Steele getting air-born.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Thanksgiving Traditions

By Creg
Sterling, Steele, and Samantha working on the Thanksgiving table cloth.
 Since 1980, when I was 13, my mom has had our family write on our table cloth every Thanksgiving. After our hearty lunch we get out the markers and the calendar and fill our space with the many thankful things for the year. It started out with my brother and I writing, and drawing mainly about our favorite sports teams, our own accomplishments, and our girlfriends (All except one has been crossed out :). Now it's filled with stories and pictures about how God has worked in our lives. Since all four of our kids are now participating we go through a table cloth every few years. It's really neat to look at the previous years and remember our blessings.

Samantha and Steele's 2012 Thank You on the table cloth
  This year we added something new. The kids had die-cut some Thanksgiving images on colored paper and we all wrote a note to everyone. Our guests this year were Brack, Lloyd, and Brigitte and her two kids; they were in on it too. After lunch we took turns reading our notes about why we are thankful for that person. We all went home with a lot of neat mementos, a thankful spirit, and a full belly.

Friday, November 22, 2013

West Texas Weather

By Creg
Samantha's horse Belle heading to her warm barn.
Is it winter now? Yesterday it was 77 degrees. Today it's below freezing with sleet on the ground. You know what they say about West Texas; "If you don't like the weather, just wait 5 minutes."

Last weekend Chelsa had the second of her herbal medicine workshops. Ten ladies showed up and participated in a 3-hour seminar that included lunch and making their own products to take home. They learned how to make medicinal salves, lip balms, immune boosting tinctures, and a strep throat gargle. I think Chelsa had as much fun preparing for these classes as the ladies did attending them. She has really taken to absorbing all she can learn about the benefits of using herbs. It seems God has given us most of the medicines we need in our own gardens!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Marshmallow Test

By Creg

A famous experiment was done in the 1960’s by scientists at Stanford who wanted to test the willpower of a group of 4-yr-olds. The kids were brought into a room & presented with a selection of treats, including marshmallows. They were offered a deal: They could eat one marshmallow right away, or, if they waited a few minutes, they could have two marshmallows. Then the researchers left the room. Some kids gave in to temptation & ate the marshmallow as soon as the adult left. About 30% managed to ignore their urges, & doubled their treats when the researcher came back 15 minutes later. Scientists, who were watching everything from behind a 2-way mirror, kept careful track of which kids had enough self-control to earn the second marshmallow.

Years later, they tracked down many of the study’s participants. By now, they were in high school. The researchers asked about their grades & SAT scores, their ability to maintain friendships, & their capacity to “cope with important problems.” They discovered that the 4-yr-olds who could delay gratification the longest ended up with the best grades & with SAT scores 210 points higher, on average, than everyone else. They were also more popular & fewer did drugs. If you knew how to avoid the temptation of a marshmallow as a preschooler, it seemed, you also knew how to get yourself to class on time & finish your homework once you got older, as well as how to make friends & resist peer pressure. It was as if the marshmallow-ignoring kids had self-regulatory skills that gave them an advantage throughout their lives.

Maybe Jesus knew what he was talking about when he told his followers to deny themselves.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Shindig

By Creg

I've never seen so many beautiful, healthy, polite people in my life. The Great Ozark Mountain Shindig was a 4 day seminar in central Missouri for Christian families sponsored by No Greater Joy. It consisted of classes, games, fellowship and hundreds of wonderful home-school families from all across America getting to know each other.

There were classes on Bible study, herbs, young love, budgeting, marriage, teenagers, and much more. We all benefited from their wisdom and experience. In between classes they had volleyball, frisbee, basketball, and other games for all ages. And there was plenty of free time to fellowship with the other families.

The Plath family
The first afternoon we met the Plath clan, a wonderful family from Georgia. They have 9 beautiful kids from ages 15 to 7 months who would sit on the front row of the classes for almost 2 hours with barely making a peep. The mom, Kim, has written a booklet about herbal products, so you know her and Chelsa hit it off well. It is so neat to see such Godly parents and kids.
Our cabin. It had 5 bunk beds & a bathroom.

The inflatable water park where we had a lot of fun.

We met a 17 year old home-schooled author who was selling his books. Sierra enjoyed his book on the way home.

Exploring a cave with the Plath family.

Sterling found several bats in the cave.

Monday, September 16, 2013

DFW Trip

By Creg

 After a trip to Lego Land, Steele decided to try the bungee trampoline in the Grapevine Mills Mall. He had planned on trying to do back flips but once he started bouncing high he said his stomach was coming up to his head so he decided not to try it.
This is Samantha in the BIG sign right outside the Hoffbrau Steakhouse in downtown Dallas. They had a lunch Rib-eye for $10 and it was delicious!
 The Dallas World Aquarium is amazing! This is feeding time in the shark & stingray tank. Here a saw-fish is eating some shrimp and squid.
 Here is a Moon Jellyfish that glows in the dark. They don't have a heart, brain or blood.
This is a Leafy Sea Dragon.

Isn't God amazingly creative to give us these wonderfully beautiful creatures to enjoy!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Welcome Porky

By Creg

He's faster than you think.
 We recently added our newest member to Istre in the Making. A mini-potbelly pig, whom the kids named Porky. He was added to our farm so we could get a feeding permit from the government that allows us to continue receiving produce from a local grocery store.    

Laying in his food bowl.

Pushing over his food bowl.
We put him in Sailor's (Sierra's male Golden Retriever) pen and we had to put metal sheets all around the bottom because everywhere Porky could see out he tried to bust through. The trampoline is in his pen so he has plenty of shade and we make sure he has plenty of mud to cool off in.

He's been a big hit for the field trips that come to visit. They enjoy watching him push mud around with his nose & listening to his contented grunt.

P. S. We really like bacon.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

River Tubing

By Creg

When God delivered 5 inches of rain in 3 days last week our river rose & Chelsa came up with a great idea. So, we inflated 6 tractor inner tubes that PaKing had gotten for us, put on our swimming stuff & drove to a bridge about a mile west of our house to unload. As Sierra drove the truck back to the house the rest of us jumped in the Clear Fork of the Brazos with our tubes & headed for the Gulf of Mexico.

It was a blast. New Braunfels has nothing on Abilene. There were twists, turns, whitewater, and a fallen tree to slide under. We had so much fun we talked Sierra into going with us for another 30 minute ride.

The next day we got even more adventurous. Chelsa & I drove to another bridge east of our house to drop off a car so we could ride back home after our tubing trip. We excitedly jumped into the river & headed downstream, absentmindedly noticing that the river wasn't flowing near as fast as the day before.

After almost 2 hours of fun I started to wonder how much farther it was to the bridge. Those concerns were soon outweighed when I saw a 100 foot log jam ahead. It seems a farmer had cabled fence panels across the river & the driftwood was getting hung up. We eventually decided to try to walk across the logs, and to my amazement, it worked!

After 3 hours on the river we came to the bridge with sunburned shins, hungry bellies & a lot of stories. Believe it or not, I was attacked 3 times by a 12 inch gar! It went air born each time, jumping out of the water toward me; making direct contact twice. Once on my ear. When a gar jumps at you one time, that's random. Twice is a coincidence. But three times; that's called stalking.

We can't wait for the next big rain.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Mother's Day & Birthday

By Creg

This 1st class raft will have the comfort of used carpet.

"Are you sure all of us can fit on it."
Chelsa's 41st birthday request was for us to build a raft to float down our river. If you know Chelsa at all you know that this was not anything unusual for my outdoorsy, fun-filled wife. Her previous requests have included a chicken-plucker, & a greenhouse.

So, we bought the plywood, 2x4's & barrels & started to work.

"All done. Now, how do we move it."

 The original 4 ft x 8 ft plan seemed a bit too small for 6 sailors so we bought more lumber & added 2 sections to make it a 6 ft x 10 ft floating deck with four used vinegar barrels wired to each corner.
"Should I just back up real fast & slam on the brakes?"

 It turned out to be quite a bit heavier than we had initially planned, so we used the tractor to get it to water, and with a 55 gallon barrel at each corner it was indeed sea-worthy. 
"Is that a snake?"

 My dad gave us 4 paddles that he had been keeping for a while; 2 of which I remembered using in the pool with our inflatable raft from my childhood. We also had a long wooden pole to push off from the bottom of the river, Huck Finn style. Later my dad found a trolling motor in his garage which fit perfectly on our raft. It works great, but don't plan on going in a straight line. Evidently a rectangular water vessel tends to veer to one side when propelled, so we travel in an s-shaped snake-like pattern down the river. What a blast. Chelsa loves it.

For Mother's day my mom, Granny Kay, had the kids make a poster quilt with one square each. It turned out wonderful. Nothing makes a great gift like a homemade creation where everyone has a part. Happy Mother's Day & Birthday, we love you.
Can you tell what our kids think of their mom?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Sterling is 15

By Creg

Sterling holding his Veggie Tale notebook we made for him when he was 3 with his dinosaurs posters in the background.

From Veggie tales to Pixar movies to dinosaurs to Star Wars to Pro football & back again. Sterling has grown in leaps & bounds the last 15 years. 

His first memories are as a little boy who loved Jimmy & Jerry Gourd from Veggie Tales. He spent many days creating his own world with all of the characters from that series. The movies "Toy Story", "Bug's Life", "Monster's Inc.", and "Finding Nemo" took his interests to Lenny the binoculars, Heimlich the caterpillar, Harley (the yellow monster with a big mouth & no arms), & Bloat the blow-fish. He always seemed to find a minor character to be his favorite. And since they rarely made toys of those "in the crowd" personalities, we spent hours making our own figures for him to play with. It was great.

Later his fascination turned to dinosaurs and he read everything he could get his hands on. We took a vacation with Granny & Pa King to Glen Rose several times to see the dino tracks and Creation Museum. Then his older sister, Sierra, got him into football and he played 2 years with the home-school Jr.High team here in Abilene, leading the team in tackles & sacks.

Now he helps us out with whatever job we're doing, takes care of his 3 turtles, 4 frogs When he's at Granny's house he loves to watch "The Andy Griffith Show", "Pawn Stars", and Animal Planet. He also takes care of all the chickens on our farm and runs the power point during worship at Hope church of Christ. We're proud of him.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Political News that didn't make the News

By Creg

I don't usually like to do political writings but I'm sharing this because I haven't seen or heard anything about these attempts by President Obama to broaden federal power. As you will read all six of these cases that the Obama Justice Department tried against the Supreme Court were unanimously rejected.

This is a copy of a press release by Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Make sure you at least read the bullet points about what the Obama Administration was trying to do.

Press Release of Senator Cruz
Sen. Cruz Releases Inaugural Report on Obama Administration’s Unprecedented Attempts to Expand Federal Power
Contact: (202) 224-5922 / press@cruz.senate.gov
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) today released a report – “The Legal Limit: The Obama Administration’s Attempts to Expand Federal Power” – that analyzes six instances in the last 15 months where the U.S. Supreme Court has unanimously rejected the Obama Administration’s arguments for increased federal power.
“When President Obama’s own Supreme Court nominees join their colleagues in unanimously rejecting his Administration’s call for broader federal power six times in just over one year, the inescapable conclusion is that the Obama Administration’s view of federal power knows virtually no bounds,” said Sen. Cruz. “This is a deeply troubling pattern that we will continue to highlight as long as this Administration continues seeking ways to expand its power in direct violation of Americans’ constitutional rights.”
Sen. Cruz’s report highlights the six cases that the Supreme Court has unanimously rejected since January 2012. Had President Obama’s Department of Justice been successful in its cases, the federal government would have the power to:
  • Attach GPSs to a citizen’s vehicle to monitor his movements, without having any cause to believe that a person has committed a crime (United States v. Jones);
  • Deprive landowners of the right to challenge potential government fines as high as $75,000 per day and take away their ability have a hearing to challenge those fines (Sackett v. EPA);
  • Interfere with a church’s selection of its own ministers. (Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & School v. EEOC);
  • Override state law whenever the President desires. (Arizona v. United States);
  • Dramatically extend statutes of limitations to impose penalties for acts committed decades ago. (Gabelli v. SEC); and
  • Destroy private property without paying just compensation. (Arkansas Fish & Game Commission v. United States).
The arguments advanced in these cases demonstrate an astonishing view of federal power on behalf of the Obama Administration that is worthy of further examination.

Why haven't we heard any of this on the network news?

Saturday, March 30, 2013

A BIG Breakfast

By Creg

Last month a friend contacted us about catering a breakfast for the annual meeting of their non-profit group Connecting Caring Communities. She said to prepare for 30 tables holding 9 people each. Since we did this breakfast last year we sort of knew what to expect. This year we prepared a cheesy sausage quiche (with red & green peppers, and onions), apple cinnamon bread,
and a yogurt fruit salad with homemade granola. There were a lot of compliments.
Sierra, Sterling & Samantha delivering the apple bread

Samantha & Chelsa preparing the bowls of fruit

The room full of delicious food & happy eaters

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Spring Cleaning

By Creg

  Although it's not quite spring, we've been doing a lot of cleaning. Thanks to a lack of rain the past few years we've lost quite a bit of pasture grass. We've sold several goats & will soon butcher 2 sheep to cut back on the amount of grass eaters we have, but we still had to do some work to get a more suitable pasture.

 First we cut down mesquite trees & made piles about 2 feet high with the branches . Next we used a tractor to scoop up the cactus. Sometimes the cactus doesn't come up very neatly so we need rakers to help get the cactus pads into the tractor bucket. It's not the kid's favorite job, but they did a lot of hard work that we're very thankful for.

The cactus is then dumped onto the pile of mesquite wood & when the moist green pads have dried up to a crunchy brown, we will burn the dozens of piles.

 Next we will plow two of our pastures & plant seed. We bought side oats gramma, blue gramma, blue stem, lovegrass, switchgrass, & green sprangletop.

Then pray for rain.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


by Chelsa
Here is Samantha, 12 years old, showing Belle's beautifully arched neck.

 Samantha has really wanted to train a baby horse for quite a while. It all started, I think, when she was 8 years old. Some stray donkeys showed up on our property one day and we ended up keeping the baby boy named Chico, who had never been trained or ridden. He was a gray and white pinto. She would spend hours out with him in the pasture playing with him and training him.  All by herself she worked with him until he was rideable. We have a cute picture of her on him all saddled up with a bit and everything.  He was so cute and small, but we ended up getting rid of him because he was dangerous to have around the other animals. He would chase them and bite them while he was playing. He almost killed our goat Milkshake. Just for your information, male donkeys are not good guard donkeys! Only the females will protect goat and sheep herds.
Samantha, 8 years old, has Chico all saddled up and ready to go. Doesn't he look so cute and harmless?
 When Samantha was 10 yrs old, she got Roman, who was the perfect horse for her at that time. And she happily rode him for quite a while and was content with that. But after a year or so she began to get ideas of training a baby horse. Of course she still wanted to keep Roman and ride him in her Playdays and around the farm, but she wanted to find a mare to buy and breed.

Samantha, age 11, riding Roman at the Hawley Playday

 After much looking she found Ginger, a 16 year old registered Quarter Horse/Thoroughbred who was very gentle and ride able. We tried numerous times to breed her, but because of her age and her having never been bred before, she could not get pregnant. So Samantha began looking at other options.  

Ginger grazing in our pasture.
We had taken Ginger to Lester Galbreath in Albany, Texas several times to breed her. He was a very nice man who was in the business of breeding and selling horses. He had showed us several of his babies out in the pasture after they were born. After we had so much trouble with Ginger, we asked him if he had any fillies left for sale. He did not have any at the time, but he called us back about a month later to offer Samantha a little yearling bay filly named, Belle, for $400. It ended up that she was one of his best babies that he didn't want to part with, but had to because it was just too expensive to keep her because of the drought. Samantha was SO EXCITED to hear that. She had her heart set on Belle and bought her as quickly as she possibly could. 

Here is Samantha, Lester, and Belle in Albany. This is September 5th and we're getting ready to take Belle home!
Now that Samantha has Belle, she believes that Belle is the BEST HORSE IN THE WORLD!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Honoring Charlotte

by: Chelsa
Here is Charlotte at our house this summer making frozen lemonade for the kids that came to our Istre VBS

 My dearest friend and sister in Christ, Charlotte Felix, passed away recently and unexpectedly after struggling with a lifelong medical condition.  We became REALLY close friends these last few months.  Both of us grew so much spiritually during this time. Several months before Charlotte died, she had asked me if we could share communion thoughts together at our church, HOPE Church of Christ, sometime in the near future. Charlotte had volunteered her services to our worship leader, Jessalyn, a couple of months before her death. Below is the email I received from Jessalyn last week, the reply I gave her, and the communion thoughts I shared in her honor.

Chelsa,                                                                              (January 29, 2013)
     A few months ago we asked for volunteers to do the communion meditation and Charlotte came up to me after church that night and said that she wanted to offer to do communion some time, but not yet. She said to ask her in a few months because she wasn't ready yet but she thought she wanted to try eventually. I wanted to share that story on the Wednesday night after her death but I just couldn't pull it together enough to get it out with everything that has been going on. The time of her death was just about the time she had said to ask her about it again and I had a heavy heart because she didn't get to. But it did stand out to me because I felt like it represents a lot of what HOPE is about. It's special because even where Charlotte was, she was still growing, and I think that is the heart of what we are at HOPE and the transformation we've been going through in the last year. I could tell that it was not something she was comfortable with doing, but I feel like a lot of the change we are experiencing as a church was a part of Charlotte stretching herself and doing the same sort of transformation within herself that we're doing as a community. 

     Charlotte can't do communion this week but I thought maybe you could do it in her honor. I think it would've been special if she had actually got up in front of the crowd, but I think that the more significant thing is that she had made the step towards growth and stepping out of her comfort zone and offered to do it.

     If you thought you had it in you to think about what insight Charlotte might have for communion or even insight you gained from your relationship with Charlotte, I would like to honor her request to participate in communion.
     I understand if it might be too much or too short of notice. I could preface the communion with the story of the night she asked to do communion. 
     Let me know how that feels.

Jessalyn,                           (January 30, 2013)                                                                                   I remember Charlotte talking to you about that. She had spoken to me several times about it and I kind of know what she was wanting to say because we had talked about it. So in honor of her I would be happy to do it. But just a fair warning: I know I will be very emotional. I will cry. I can't seem to help it right now!  But I know she would want me to, and I think God does too. So, yes, I will try and the Spirit will intercede for me. Thank you for asking me Jessalyn.

Communion Thoughts in honor of Charlotte- February 3, 2013 at HOPE

Although I'm going to be sharing things about Charlotte, this communion talk is not about her. She would be appalled if it was. This talk is about how we as Christians are to follow Jesus with the help of the Spirit. 

The very first time Charlotte mentioned wanting to share communion thoughts happened several months before she talked to Jessalyn. We were having Ladies Tuesday night bible study. It happened on a night when we were doing an in depth study on the Holy Spirit. We were discussing how the word used in the bible for Holy Spirit means breath or wind. I gave some illustrations about how oxygen is used in our bodies and how we could relate that to the Holy Spirit in our body. That really resonated with her because of her breathing problems and her dependance on oxygen. After that lesson, she asked me if I would be willing to get up here with her and share communion thoughts together about that. And I told her I would. So even though Charlotte isn't physically here with us tonight, I want to honor her request.

When Jessalyn asked me if I would be willing to do this tonight in honor of Charlotte, I immediately knew what I was going to say, which is VERY UNUSUAL for me. When Charlotte first asked me to do this with her I wasn't exactly sure what she wanted me to do and when we tried working on it, nothing much materialized for me. But tonight, I know. The Spirit has given me clear insight to what needs to be said.

These last few months I spent a lot of time with Charlotte. Not just here at church pushing her around in her chair, helping her in and out of her car, but at her home, too. It really started when she got her hot tub. Some of you may remember going over to her house to unload it off of Philip's trailer. She had asked us and a few others to help her move it into her back yard. As I hung around her that day I felt the Spirit nudging me to be more involved in her life and to show physical affection towards her. I kept thinking about the idea that God didn't create us to be alone. We all need each other. So I began going over there as often as I could to check on her and help her around the house, pray with her, and give lots of hugs. It was then that I got to see firsthand how she managed living on her own and how difficult simple tasks like laundry and housecleaning were for her. I hadn't realized how hard it was for her and how desperately she needed that oxygen. It truly was her lifeline. She could not go without it at all, especially these last few months when she was having so much trouble breathing.

The reason Charlotte struggled so much is because she had Restrictive Lung Disease. That just means that her lungs could never fill up to full capacity because of her severe scoliosis. Kind of like trying to fill a big balloon inside a glass jar. At some point, the balloon can't get any bigger even though it could if it wasn't inside the jar. And this problem kept her from being able to do normal things we take for granted, like walking across the room without stopping. If her muscles didn't get enough oxygen, she had to stop, concentrate on taking deep breaths, and rest until they did. Her lack of oxygen limited her ability to function normally. She knew that the use of oxygen was directly related to how she performed.

The more I hung around Charlotte the more questions I asked her about her health because I wanted to know how to help her best. There were lots of things I learned, but one thing she told me really stood out. And that was about the amount of oxygen she would use on her machine. I would say "why don't you just turn it up all the way if you need more." And she would tell me that sometimes she needed to turn in up, but most of the time she needed to use as little as possible. That didn't make any sense to me for a while until she explained. When we breathe in, we receive oxygen, and when we breathe out we exhale or get rid of carbon dioxide. She could pump in all the oxygen she wanted, but if she didn't exhale enough co2, it wouldn't help. In fact, if the amount of CO2 was too high it could make her very sick. So receiving oxygen is important, but getting rid of co2 is just as important.

After Charlotte died the kids and I decided to study the respiratory system in the human body. Did you know that every cell in the body needs oxygen to function properly? The red blood cells in the blood carry oxygen to all the parts of the body. And when the blood gets depleted of oxygen, the veins take that blood to the heart where it can pump it directly to the lungs. That's where the blood receives new oxygen once again. This new oxygenated blood flows back to the other side of the heart where it can be pumped to all parts of the body again. On average it takes a red blood cell about 20 seconds to make a complete round.

Now lets relate this spiritually. We are the body of Christ. Jesus is the head. We are his hands and feet in this world. His blood cleanses us and makes us clean and whole. Life is in His blood. But do you remember what else is in blood? Oxygen and carbon dioxide. Charlotte would be the first to tell you that a body must have oxygenated blood to function at peak performance. Think about breathing. The name Holy Spirit means wind or breath. As we breathe in, the Holy Spirit enters us and gives us the gifts, power, and support we need to perform as God intended. The Holy Spirit must enter every cell of the body for us to truly be what God intended. But we cannot keep all of this power inside. If we do not breathe out like we should our body will grow sick because we were created to share Him with the world. The fruit of the Spirit is revealed when we reach out and love others. We will not live fully as a church until we let the Spirit pulse through our arteries and veins. Which means each person here needs a Spirit-filled life. Part of that is this intimate communion time we share where we remember Jesus being inside of us by eating this bread which represents his body.


Father, may we see our desperate need for your Spirit as the body of Christ. As we think about Jesus' sacrifice for all of us, empower us to live Spirit-filled lives that love and serve others in need. Help us to see our need for your Spirit every second of our lives, like Charlotte realized her constant need for oxygen. In Jesus name, amen.

This song you're about to hear always reminded me of Charlotte. Especially while she struggled so much these last few months. I think you'll see why as you listen to the words. But my hope is that it will remind us all of our desperate need for God.

SONG- Need You Now by Plumb

Before passing the cup
The more I went over to Charlotte's, the more I wanted to do for her. The more I wanted to show her God's love for her. It was like I couldn't wait to get over there to serve her. It never felt like a burden or sacrifice. It wasn't drudgery. It was pure joy for me. Pure joy. Do you know why? Because it wasn't me at all. I was there and my hands and feet were moving, but the Spirit was working in me and empowering me to love her like Jesus. I don't know how to truly love someone, but Jesus does. And through his Spirit we can love like him.

I want to tell you something that happened to me last week, but I hesitate in sharing it because I don't want you to take it the wrong way. I had this picture come to my mind, kind of like a daydream. I was awake, and I saw myself walking up to Charlotte's front door. As I put the key in and walked inside, my image transformed into Jesus. And it was Jesus coming in to love on her and serve her. Please don't misunderstand what I'm trying to say. I'm not saying I'm Jesus. But I am a vessel He can enter and use. We are all vessels created for Him that can pour out His love to someone else.

2nd Prayer

Father, as we fix our eyes on Jesus, who had JOY in knowing what was coming later, endured the cross, the suffering, the sacrifice. May we find pure joy in serving and sacrificing and suffering for others in need of Jesus. In Jesus name, amen.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Walter Williams on Guns

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'

 By Walter Williams

     When I attended primary and secondary school -- during the 1940s and '50s -- one didn't hear of the kind of shooting mayhem that's become routine today. Why? It surely wasn't because of strict firearm laws. My replica of the 1902 Sears mail-order catalog shows 35 pages of firearm advertisements. People just sent in their money, and a firearm was shipped.
     Dr. John Lott, author of "More Guns, Less Crime," reports that until the 1960s, some New York City public high schools had shooting clubs where students competed in citywide shooting contests for university scholarships. They carried their rifles to school on the subways and, upon arrival, turned them over to their homeroom teacher or the gym coach and retrieved their rifles after school for target practice. Virginia's rural areas had a long tradition of high-school students going hunting in the morning before school and sometimes storing their rifles in the trunks of their cars that were parked on school grounds. Often a youngster's 12th or 14th birthday present was a shiny new .22-caliber rifle, given to him by his father.
     Today's level of civility can't match yesteryear's. Many of today's youngsters begin the school day passing through metal detectors. Guards patrol school hallways, and police cars patrol outside. Despite these measures, assaults, knifings and shootings occur. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010 there were 828,000 nonfatal criminal incidents in schools. There were 470,000 thefts and 359,000 violent attacks, of which 91,400 were serious. In the same year, 145,100 public-school teachers were physically attacked, and 276,700 were threatened.
     What explains today's behavior versus yesteryear's? For well over a half-century, the nation's liberals and progressives -- along with the education establishment, pseudo-intellectuals and the courts -- have waged war on traditions, customs and moral values. These people taught their vision, that there are no moral absolutes, to our young people. To them, what's moral or immoral is a matter of convenience, personal opinion or a consensus.
     During the '50s and '60s, the education establishment launched its agenda to undermine lessons children learned from their parents and the church with fads such as "values clarification." So-called sex education classes are simply indoctrination that sought to undermine family and church strictures against premarital sex. Lessons of abstinence were ridiculed and considered passé and replaced with lessons about condoms, birth control pills and abortions. Further undermining of parental authority came with legal and extralegal measures to assist teenage abortions with neither parental knowledge nor consent.
     Customs, traditions, moral values and rules of etiquette, not laws and government regulations, are what make for a civilized society. These behavioral norms -- transmitted by example, word of mouth and religious teachings -- represent a body of wisdom distilled through ages of experience, trial and error, and looking at what works. The importance of customs, traditions and moral values as a means of regulating behavior is that people behave themselves even if nobody's watching. Police and laws can never replace these restraints on personal conduct so as to produce a civilized society. At best, the police and criminal justice system are the last desperate line of defense for a civilized society. The more uncivilized we become the more laws that are needed to regulate behavior.
     Many customs, traditions and moral values have been discarded without an appreciation for the role they played in creating a civilized society, and now we're paying the price. What's worse is that instead of a return to what worked, people want to replace what worked with what sounds good, such as zero-tolerance policies in which bringing a water pistol, drawing a picture of a pistol, or pointing a finger and shouting "bang-bang" produces a school suspension or arrest. Seeing as we've decided that we should rely on gun laws to control behavior, what should be done to regulate clubs and hammers? After all, FBI crime statistics show that more people are murdered by clubs and hammers than rifles and shotguns.