Monthly Archives: January 2011

The Power of a Snowflake

I remember writing once about a snowflake and receiving a strong written response from one of our church members. This happened in January of 1987 following a very harsh snowstorm in Tulsa. I wrote:

Once again we have seen the awesome power of a snowflake. A snowflake is such a delicate wisp of frozen moisture, yet so strong that it can destroy cars and trucks in an instant. When enough snowflakes get together they can stop traffic, cause roofs to collapse, destroy power lines and bury a city. Add a half-inch of ice under 8½ inches of snow, slightly melt, then refreeze the whole thing (three or four days in a row) and you have a Tulsa Popsicle, or the world’s largest Slip n’ Slide. Well, it has been pretty. Some Christians tell me they can’t do much, if anything, for the Lord. Think about snowflakes. See you in Sunday School.
Bro. Darryl

I was simply trying to make a point about how even fragile snowflakes working together can change the world. It was also about how some Christians, who may under-value their time, influence and capabilities, can change the world by working together. Take the church, for example. Here is the written response I received. This was published the following week in the church newsletter, The Evangel, and is being reprinted here with permission:

Editorial Reply:
In addition to my father’s column about the harmful and dangerous ways of snowflakes, they are very useful. You can enjoy the beauty of the snow or build a snowman. They are quite peaceful and relaxing activities. You could also make snow ice cream, go sledding, or just take a walk in the snow. To keep the snowflake’s good honor, I suggest you read this and remember the good, fun, useful ways of the snowflakes, not just the bad things about snowflakes. See you in Sunday School.
Dayna L. DeBorde (age 10)

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Do more than you think you can. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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All Aboard

Do you remember your very first job, the one with an actual paycheck? I remember opening that first pay envelope and seeing check for about $30, big money for 1964. Yet I was disappointed to see that they had taken out of my paycheck Railroad Retirement taxes and union dues. I was told it had to do with death and taxes. I was the fill-in-where-needed summer vacation relief Yard Clerk for the Miami rail yards of Seaboard Airline Railroad (CSX today). I was working there because my father got me the job. He was one of the Yard Masters.

The rail yard is where incoming and outgoing freight cars get sorted out and sent off to their various destinations. Passenger trains were in a different area. My job was to inventory every box car, flat car, tank car, hopper, engine, caboose, etc, on more than a dozen tracks. I listed the cars on a form sheet in exact order, by numbered track, noting if I was starting from the north or the south. These lists were matched with the cars’ intended routes, pulled from their places in the yard and then sent out to tie up traffic all over south Florida. Within a few hours my lists needed to be revised because new cars were coming in as fast as the old ones were going out.

My job included climbing on top of box cars over to refrigerator cars to check the level of ice they contained before they left the yards. It also meant I learned how to step up on and jump off of a moving freight train to save me walking to the other side of the yard. This is harder than it sounds at 3 a.m. on a moonless night. The only time I was really frightened was one afternoon when, lost in thought, I came upon an empty box car. A voice inside the car suddenly shouted out, “Hey boy!” I jumped. There right before my eyes were three grizzled hobos. They wanted to know the time. I had never seen a real hobo in person. I had heard about them and even watched Red Skelton play one many times on TV. We might call some of them the homeless today, but a hobo was supposed to be someone who traveled the rails in search of work and a place to move his family. People used to provide extras for the hobos.

Times changed, wars came, and the emotionally wounded, physically addicted and very angry found themselves with few trains to ride. Our society needs to seriously address this rising crisis. But it always starts with you and me. If Christians are not willing to earnestly address the mental health issue who will—the politicians?

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Get on board. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Providence and Provision

This is a true story of God’s providence and provision. In July of 1979, Dorothy’s first cousin and his wife from Houston stopped by to see us on their way to spend a few days with friends at a cabin by the lake. They were taking their vacation very seriously and decided not to listen to any news reports for the whole week. As part of their time with us, I took David to see our church. While I was giving him the grand tour, we stopped by the kitchen where some of the ladies were hard at work. After introductions, one of them commented about a hurricane headed towards Houston. This was news to us and thus began a series of divine events.

Tropical Storm Claudette was a slow-moving, rain-inducing storm working its way across the lower Gulf of Mexico, passing close to Puerto Rico, across Haiti and Cuba before turning directly towards Houston. We decided to go back to our house and try to contact their college-aged son at home to see what he knew. After a brief conversation where he reported heavy rains and early neighborhood flooding, it was decided that David and Nina Jo should head back home. Before they could leave, they needed to tell the couple they were meeting at the lake that they would not be making it. They did not have a phone number for the couple because cell phones were not around yet. The only clues we had were the name of the couple and the name of the lake.

Dorothy and I only knew one family who owned a cabin at that lake, so we called them to see if they knew of this couple. They did – in fact they were letting this couple (their next door neighbors) use their cabin for the week! But there was no telephone in the cabin. She took the names of some people out at the lake who might have a phone. In those days people could call telephone operators and talk to them, but that week the operators were on strike. Dorothy dialed 0 anyway. As she began to explain what she needed, the “operator” said, “Dorothy, is that you?” Somewhat surprised, Dorothy said “yes” to the one friend of our church family who was a telephone supervisor and had been drafted to cover during the strike. Together they found the right number, and Dorothy talked to a lady who was glad to relay the message to the cabin located a few hundred yards away. God provided. David and Nina Jo made it back to Houston in time to secure everything before the record floods descended.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. God does provide. And let’s experience the love and power of God together

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It’s Just Not Fair

“It’s not fair. It’s just not fair!” cries the young child, the teenager or the troubled adult. “Why me? Why this? Why now?” are the usual follow-ups to the fairness question. The theological question seems to be, “Does God play favorites?” But mostly the hidden question is, “Why does everything bad happen to me?” Preachers and rabbis, gurus and screenwriters have wrestled with this issue in popular sermons, books and movies. And there are lots of popular and even sometimes helpful responses.

From my perspective the fairness question is based to a great extent on comparisons to other people or situations. We can always name someone who has it better off than ourselves or who was healed of that malady or who never lost their job. This ranges from the mundane of “Why is her piece of cake bigger than mine?” to the Psalmist’s question, “Why do the wicked prosper?” But notice that the questions usually involve comparisons to someone else. We equate fairness with justice, and equal with equal. If God is Just, Good and Love, why does one child live and the neighbor child die of the same sickness?

I may not have a very satisfactory answer, but I do believe if we seek to take the comparisons with others out of the equation, we just might begin to see our situation(s) from a different perspective. We do not seem to jump as quickly to the fairness issue when we receive the bigger slice of cake, but we are still comparing. Parents cannot always provide “equal equal” fairness to all of their children at all times. Sometimes the parent provides something to one and something else to another because that is what is best, most appropriate or necessary at the time. I trust God has a higher purpose when I do not understand why unsettling things happen to people. Sometimes we just over-think our problems and dig ourselves deeper into the muck and mire of pity and pride. The Bible advises that no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Draw closer to Him. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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The New Year Lies Before You

Here is a simple but elegant video tribute to a new day, a New Year, and a new beginning.

“The New Year lies before you like a spotless tract of snow,
Be careful how you tread on it, for every mark will show.” Anonymous

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