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IMG_5831 2The Southwest is home for me. Specifically, Texas is my adopted state. I have grown to love it here.

Family and friends draw me back to the West Coast and the Great Lakes. Life has made each of these remarkable regions of our great nation home for a decade at a time. Blood or bonds still make those welcome sites for a fulfilling visit.

Vacations or extended business trips are a part of life adventures. Nevertheless, it is always wonderful to return home. The Southwest has been home for nearly a decade.

There were days when images of huge cacti were a novel sight for me. I expected John Wayne and the Calvary in blue seemed to be close by, ready to sound “Charge!” or drawl the noted Western greeting, “Howdy, Pilgrim.” Now, the terrain with its unique flora and fauna is beyond a greeting; it is the language of my neighborhood.

Don’t misunderstand me, though. Normal does not mean dismissed or ignored. Now, it is even more appreciated. In fact it is the object of my marvel and worth a long lingering gaze.

The Saguaro cactus is unique not strange. It is admired not a sign of desolation. Survival with meager rations of water, armor of prickly thorns, and ancient years of desert sentry duties serve as a testimony of this symbol of the Wild West.

My head turns and I smile like seeing a familiar neighbor. Fewer options of life exists in the vast desert. Like a comforting landmark, this gigantic sentry is steady, consistent, and certain.

God not only decked parts of his earthly great creation with lush foliage, he chose a different design for the dry arid lands. Tough people live in this region. Creativity and determination are commonly shared among my fellow Texans.

The presence and faith in the Almighty is strong here. It comes with chiseling out a living in a land that is not friendly to a life of ease. But, discipline, hard work, and determination find a worthwhile living in a land whose heat frightens away the soft and lazy. It shapes the character of those who are driven, hungry, and determined.

The Saguaro stands for all of that. Maybe there are more beautiful finalists for plant of the planet. But, there is no more a tougher candidate than the majestic cactus. It’s time to tip our Stetson to the giant Saguaro, symbol of the rugged and faithful Westerners of the great Southwest.

photo by bwfong

Unknown-1Lately, I have been turning off my radio . . . a lot. The political ads are flooding the airwaves during this election cycle. Leftwing politicians are buying time on conservative stations and conservative candidates are soliciting on liberal networks.

The volatile political climate doesn’t just seep into the media bombardment but even relatives cross the barrier of “no politics” at the dinner table. One shoestring relative made a proclamation at a gathering of the extended family, punctuating her opinion with the words, “And that’s a fact!” No one responded as the silence in the air almost turned stale as we waited hopefully for someone to change the subject.

My vocation in life is ministry. As a servant of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, I am totally committed to representing him and bringing the Gospel to as many people as possible. But, the temptation to be dragged into opinion wars with fellow ministers is far too common with social media and strong biases from “religious experts” who will side with either political party.

It doesn’t make discernment any easier when high profile ministers become paid “news contributors” where their opinions are broadcast all around the world. Many then assume my position aligns itself with these celebrity pastors. How do you set yourself apart from that generalization and broad-brushing?

Social media may be the biggest culprit. It seems to have morphed into a hotbed of personalized opinion that is filled with criticism, negativity, and contempt. Ministers challenge anyone who is a person of faith to justify their support of either candidate or duly-elected official. It is overly contentious.

My choice over the years has to been to busy myself with what God has called me to be, a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That alone keeps me occupied. I know, as a leader in several situations, how easy it is for enemies to choose to be critical and negative and make me the target of their ire. They pick on a man of peace who is likely not to strike back.

Personally, it is not about being Left or Right for me as a servant of the Savior. It is about priority one: LOVE. My Savior is the Lord Jesus Christ, not any man or woman on earth.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not criticizing anyone for their choices of expression. But, as for me and my calling, I simply choose to express myself in the political debate by voting and then praying for whoever is in office. That’s me: I voted and I am praying.

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