Happy New Year 2019

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It’s been a long time since I have written. A lot has happened in my life. A marriage ended, a brain tumor, surgery, and healing. Yes, healing; in more ways than I could have ever imagined.

I have been blessed with new friends, and a new perspective. God is so good. So in short, my wish for you is that 2019 brings you love, kindness, and perspective. In Jesus name, I love you all.

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Sermon with relevance

Every person looking for a mate (and even those in relationships) should watch this! It is about Jacob and Leah in Genesis; full of deception, dis-functional family dynamics, and sin. It is ultimately about codependency, as defined as using persons (including spouse and children), places or things as your sole source of identity. This sermon is so full of truths, such as, do not look for a mate to be your everything or to complete you, and don’t look to your mate to redeem you. Earthly longings are fleeting and your transcendent longing can only be filled by a transcendent God. Thank you Pastor Josh, this really spoke to me.

Hear, O Israel…

Great idea for Lent!

The Salt

For the past five Lents, I have started and ended each day by reciting the Shema (“hear,” in Hebrew), an ancient Hebrew prayer. Starting around Deuteronomy or so, the Israelites took on this daily ritual, in keeping with one of the Lord’s commands (I assume that contemporary Orthodox Jews do the same).

I don’t come from a Jewish background, and reciting the Shema isn’t a typical Lenten practice, nor is it specific to this season. And yet, I find myself coming back to it each year, in fact, I look forward to it. Right now, I’d like to reflect on why that is.

To start, let’s take a look at this prayer, which is made up of three chunks of scripture:

4Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with…

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The Wild Truth, by Carine McCandless, a book review

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Have you ever watched one of those extended car chases on television? Many times you never know whether the chase started because of some minor infraction or whether it started because of some historic criminal occurrence. You keep watching to see if the chase will end in dramatic fashion or with a peaceful surrender, and whether innocent bystanders will be injured during the pursuit. No matter what, you can’t stop watching ’til the bitter end.

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If you start this book, you will be on a similar journey. A dysfunctional family, each side pursuing their version of the truth, yet no one can actually grasp the truth because the driver of the truth has died. Carine McCandless has suppressed her version of the truth for much too long, a choice she might regret, but her reasons for suppression were noble at the time.

Carine is the sister of Chris McCandless who was the subject of the Jon Krakauer book and the Sean Penn movie Into the Wild. Carine shares her account of a family fractured by lies, manipulation, and, finally, the death of Chris in the wilds of Alaska. The death lingers, the manipulation never ceases, and relationships are severed. This book is more about Carine, her accomplishments, a few of her failures, and her relationship with Chris, their parents, and the other “siblings.”

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There is no doubt that Carine idolized her brother and has placed him so high on a pedestal that no one can compare. This has probably led to her own failures in life. The fact that she has survived and flourished under such circumstances is a testament to something inside her. I would attribute Carine’s accomplishments on her faith in God, but she only tangentially mentions her faith, much like Into The Wild only tangentially mentioned the McCandless family’s dysfunction.

I was left to wonder whether this book actually captures the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I have my doubts. Other members of this family may seek to capitalize on the legacy of Chris McCandless, in pursuit of their own truth. If there are other books pursuing the “truth” about this family, I’m sure I’ll be reading them as well, because I can’t stop watching a good pursuit.

American Sniper: Reivew and Controversy

Author Sean T. Smith

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I read Chris Kyle’s autobiography last year, and when I learned that the book was going to be turned into a movie, I was thrilled and a bit skeptical. Clint Eastwood has delivered a movie that exceeded my expectations, a war film that deserves a place beside Saving Private Ryan and Apocalypse, Now. I hope it wins a truck-load of awards.

The pacing is excellent, juxtaposing scenes stateside with the war in Iraq. Bradley Cooper is utterly convincing in this role as the most lethal sniper in U.S. history. His performance is nuanced and heart breaking. The battle scenes are riveting. As the credits rolled, the entire crowded theater remained in their seats. No matter his flaws, Chris Kyle is an American hero, and this film is a great tribute to him and the brave men and women who risk their lives everyday defending our freedom.

Chris Kyle’s heart comes…

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Books of 2014

Kind of slacked on my reading in 2014.

Started with a depressing account of the many massacres of Native American Indians. Oh What a Slaughter: Massacres in the American West 1846-1890 by Larry McMurtry is a thumb nail sketch of many of the massacres. I next read Wild Men, Wild Alaska II: The Survival of the Fittest by Rocky C. McElveen. I read Rocky’s first book last year. This is much of the same; Rocky’s guiding adventures and his faith. Next was more Alaska stories with Return to Toonaklut: The Russell Annabel Story by Jeff Davis.  Davis is a big fan of Russell Annabel.  

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During the year I read the “English Creek” Trilogy by Ivan Doig: English Creek, Dancing at the Rascal Fair, and Ride With Me Mariah Montana. Fictional accounts of the history of Montana through the eyes of generations of one family.

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I read a few books about hunting and fishing. Kicking up Trouble: Upland Bird Hunting in the West by John Hold covers the many species of upland birds found in the high plains, foot hills and mountains in the Western United States. A good read. The Rufus Chronicle by C.W. Gusewelle is about a hunting dog’s life written by a gentleman who truly loves his dog. The fishing book, All Fisherman are Liars by John Gierach; more adventures of Gierach. If you can’t go fishing at least read about it. Gierach might make you think you are right there with him.

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My final three books start with my interest in the dust bowl. Whose Names are Unknown by Sonora Babb follows a family from the dust bowl to California. Overshadowed by Steinbeck, but Babb actually relates to the characters in her book. My inspirational book of the year was The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. Hope for the broken; and we’re all broken. Finally, I read the Bible through using the One Year Bible through YouVersion. YouVersion has many reading plans. I highly recommend downloading the app to your phone or mobile device.

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A Farmers Life

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“Well life on the farm is kinda laid back
Ain’t much an old country boy like me can’t hack”

Irwin Kirk (Grandpa) Naylor

1915-2014

98 years, 7 months, 25 days

When it comes Grandpa Naylor, my favorite farmer, the quote from John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” brings up a flood of memories. I never really knew any farmers that were laid back, but I guess it depends on the definition. If you mean by laid back that a person doesn’t let things he can’t control get to him, then that is true of Grandpa Naylor. Moreover, there was nothing that Grandpa Naylor could not “hack.”

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Grandpa was born a farmer, to a farming family, near Buffalo, Oklahoma (the Paruna community to be exact). He told me that his parents met while his father, William Christopher Naylor, was on a harvesting crew and his mother, Estella Warren, was preparing meals for the crew. As a child he witnessed the death of his older brother who fell from the horse on which they were riding. Later, as a young man Grandpa and another brother drove their tractor from the Buffalo area to the Balko community, some 80 miles, by sharing the driving time. One would drive the car several miles ahead and sleep while the other would catch up in the tractor, then they would switch, with the other driving head in the car to wait. This lasted all night long.

Then, of course, there was the drought and the depression.  Grandpa was forced to join the Civilian Conservation Corps. He worked at the Boiling Springs camp. While there he sold his tobacco pipe to another man, never to smoke again. He remembered the camp being run by military men, in a military fashion — barely enough time to wake up, wash your face, wipe your whiskers, and “wee.” [my words not his] He was thankful his time there was limited to six months.

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The drought broke around 1938, and Grandpa married his sweetheart, Mary Ellen Wood, whom he had met at the Balko Baptist Church. Like so many others of the time, he bought a half-section of land that had seen tough times during the drought. The Little Valley Farm, as it came to be known was home to Grandpa and Grandma’s farm and dairy. Two daughters were raised there and the grandchildren, including myself, called the farm their sanctuary.

Grandpa could fix or build anything. If grandpa thought he might have to buy a part, he would first try to fix the old part, or make a part from scrap iron lying around in the scrap heap. Like most farmers, he was a mechanic, welder, engineer, and surveyor all rolled into one.

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At one point in his life, Grandpa was working on the windmill, the ladder gave way, and Grandpa jumped.  He hit the ground hard and compressed his spine.  He crawled around looking for his glasses, got to his vehicle, and drove home.  Once there, Grandma had to drive him the seventeen miles to the hospital. Probably the roughest, most painful ride in his life. He spent quite a bit of time in a brace. He also lost parts of two fingers to a feed grinder. It seems a bolt came loose and dropped in. On reaction, Grandpa reached for the bolt – bad idea! The toil of farm and dairy life were evident on Grandpa in his later years: stooped and arthritic; he never complained. Grandpa’s mood was always positive and grateful.

His positive attitude transferred to his dealings with others. Grandpa was never a man to get angry at another or use any distasteful language. I remember the first time I heard him cuss. He was working on a tractor, the wrench slipped, and he busted his knuckle. I think I was around 15 or 16, so I knew swear words, I just never heard them from Grandpa. Those words from his mouth were extremely rare.

As I observed, his anger was limited to his milk cows who would sometimes become ornery and ill-mannered in the milk barn. Needless to say, some of them were not “barn broke.” Then the day came when Grandpa and Grandma decided to quit the milk business and sell the cows. I think Grandpa might have cried over loosing those ill-mannered critters.

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Grandpa kept farming into his ninety’s. He even rolled his belly mowing tractor when he was in his mid ninety’s. He survived the broken ribs, punctured lung, and many bruises. However the accident probably kept him from reaching his goal of living to 100.

Grandpa Naylor was active in his church and was an avid Bible reader ’til the end. Many will remember my Grandpa as a supporter of the community school, community activities, as well as the Church. Many, many youth in the Balko community were recipients of Grandpa’s (and Grandma’s) generosity during their time in the Balko community.

If I can only be half the man Grandpa was, I will have accomplished something. Grandpa trusted and had faith in God. His faith was evident in his life. I believe he would tell you today that the only reason there “ain’t much an old country boy like me can’t hack” is a faith in God.

Faith, family, and friends are the things that mattered to Grandpa. If Grandpa mattered to you or if you have special remembrances of Grandpa Naylor, please share them in the comments.

Oklahoma City Memorial (Half) Marathon

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I’ve been training these past few months with the goal of running the half marathon as part of the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon event. Well, this past weekend was the event. Start time was scheduled for 6:30 A.M., so I arrived downtown about 5:30 A.M. – experiencing my first 0-dark-30 traffic jam. As I was walking toward the start, my route took me directly to the bombing memorial itself. The memorial was lit beautifully, and as I approached the 9:01 entrance I became surprisingly emotional. Everything about that fateful day came flooding back.

I was several miles north of the bombing in Edmond, just off the Broadway Extension, but I could hear the blast as if it were in my backyard. I actually thought a plane had crashed in the field behind my house. I immediately turned on the television and saw the birds-eye view of the smoking Murrah Federal Building. Later, I learned the my wife was on her way to assist in site security and rescue/recovery efforts. The images I viewed were surreal. Extremely more surreal than the sea of people gathered for this fourteenth Memorial Marathon.

Photo: People.

The start of this marathon was delayed almost two hours due to Oklahoma’s predictably unpredictable weather. Rain, lightning, and thunder greeted all of the runners, forcing us to take shelter in area parking garages. Finally at around 8:10 A.M. everyone gathered in the start area, an area covering a four lane street almost four blocks deep. Due to my slow predicted pace, I was near the rear. When looking downhill toward the start line, and being reminded of the reason we were running, the emotions came back. What a view it was. Finally the start horn sounded, and I stood waiting for the people to start moving.  I waited several minutes before slowly walking toward the start. Because of all the people, it took eighteen minutes for me to actually reach the start line. The rain had stopped, but the air was still heavy with moisture, yet cool enough so that I was not uncomfortable. The weather, however, did not stay that way.  Welcome to Oklahoma weather.

You know in Oklahoma “the wind comes right behind the rain” and so does the sun. By the time I finished, some two hours and twenty-two minutes later, it was getting very warm. The time in between was the most pleasurable experience I could have imagined while running 13.1 miles. People lined the route, whether there for some runner they knew, or just there to see and cheer on the runners. Along with the kids and adults along the route, I was constantly surrounded by runners. Some times it was crowded, but never too crowded that I became frustrated at the pace. I felt like I passed more people than passed me, but it didn’t matter.  Everyone was very courteous and friendly on the route, and I haven’t even mentioned the volunteers.

Every two miles we were greeted with water and sports drinks.  I learned very quickly how to grab water on the go without having to slow down too much, even though the slight slowdown was welcome. These stops were only possible due to the volunteers.  Being my first long race, I did not know what to expect.  How would I know where to turn.  Would I get lost or off course.  Well this race is so well-organized, there is no need to worry. Signs and volunteers, not to mention the group of runners around me, keep everyone on course.

I haven’t yet decided whether I will run again next year. I do know, however, that I will never forget this great experience.