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No one told me to do it, at least I don’t remember anyone telling me, but whenever my dad spoke I listened. He was a man of very few words, so it was important to listen when he did speak. Usually, those were words of instruction. He told me what I needed to know and I tried to apply it right away.

One of my brothers and I were playing near a brick pile. We both suddenly froze. Staring at us was a large lizard. At least it was large in our eyes. It was time to capture the beast. My brother stole up to the front and I took the rear. Our hands were ready to pounce. Suddenly, following a flurry of activity we were stunned that thrashing about in the dirt was the lizard’s tail. Excitedly, we ran to get our dad who followed us to the scene. He chuckled. “You scared the little reptile. He left his tail to distract you while it escaped. Clever.” There were many life lessons like this.

I saw a sleek looking garter snake slithering through the bushes. Naturally, I grabbed it, played with, and finally let it go. That’s when I smelled a foul oder all over my hands. I told my dad. “It was protecting itself. If you tried to eat it you would have spit it out because of the taste. Clever,” Another life lesson with just a few words.

My siblings and cousins were all riding bikes around the neighborhood. I wanted to join them but hadn’t yet learned how to ride. Each time I tried, the bike fell, or I put my feet down. Dejected I walked over to my dad and uncles and aunts, muttering, “Can’t figure it out.” My dad straddled a bike and suggested, “Try wiggling the handle bars back and forth when you get started.”

I was game. Next, I rolled a bike out to the street, straddled it, pushed off downhill, started wiggling the handle bars, it gave me enough time to start peddling, and viola! I was riding a bike. Another rite of passage completed in the great circle of life with the words, the very few words of Dad.

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I read every sequel in the Chip series. To my disappointment when I read them all, the librarian sadly told me that there were no others to be checked out. But, she captured that transition and suggested that I read other series by the same author, Jim Kjelgaard. She recommended Big Red.

Kjelgaard entered my imagination with ease. It only took a few pages. Now, I was living the adventures of a championship Irish Setter. The glistening coat, muscular strength, and natural prowess to track the scent of game birds, locate, and come to a frozen point was fantastic.

Every training session, adventure with other dogs, or the quest to track down a game bird was something that I could feel. The excitement of the hunt, the thrill of the competition, and the victory of a successful quest was something that I could feel while reading. It was sheer fun.

There were many sequels to this series by Kjelgaard. I read them all. Each one was a new memory as if I lived the adventure itself.

This author opened the door to many other outdoor writers. My librarian was an endless resource into the classics that made their way to movie screens. These stories wove themselves into the fabric of my dreams and life desires. My years were marked with outdoor activities in the Boy Scouts and personal backpacking ventures into the woods that met all of my imaginations introduced through reading great stories in fabulous books.

Let’s connect one more time on the radio. Check out KHCB “Keeping Him Close By”

105.7FM for “Prayertime” each Wednesday at 10AM Central Time

or online at https://www.khcb.org/wp/listen-now/online-listening/

Thanks so much for tuning in. Joy!

Over forty three years ago my wife and I exchanged vows on our wedding day. We promised to be together for better or for worse. That included “in sickness and in health.” I am seeing my amazing wife practice what she vowed to do so many years ago.

My recovery from spine surgery is an arduous one. There is no escaping the reality that surgery is traumatic to the body. The solution of corrective surgery comes with a price, the pain of dramatically cutting away part of the body to adjust for better functioning. No positive results are guaranteed but the pain management is certain.

Without complaint my wife sets out to assist me in every basic human function. Routine hygienic activities are impossible without assistance. Having her anticipate my needs, watching her tirelessly turn on the light in the middle of the night, and seeing her put every ounce of her energy into helping me move is amazing, humbling, and fills me with gratitude. Many times I am sitting still and imagining the day when I can be independent again. But, my thoughts dwell on how sacrificial love is. I couldn’t make it through this episode of post op recovery without her rendering me aid.

For those of the Christian faith, we talk a lot about “being a servant”. After all, that is what our savior, Jesus is and wants us to be like. In so many ways it is Christian chic to talk about “serving others.” The truth about this common topic is that it is easy to talk about it until someone else treats you like one. Hopefully, my reaction to my wife is never impatient or snarly but exclusively grateful and deeply appreciative.

While I am indescribably uncomfortable during these days of recovery, I am amazed at the view of a selfless, tireless, faithful servant doing all she can to get me back to health. I am truly blessed. Maybe in times of pain, this living view of marriage vows is the best elixir there is.

Whoever introduces a youngster to books that virtually read themselves deserves a humanitarian award. The world of stories make up the fabric of life with texture, dimensions, emotions, and personalities. Someone deserves that award in my past but I don’t remember who. But, what I was introduced to in those formative years is a forever-delight.

One of my favorite childhood stories was Chip the Dam Builder by Jim Kjelgaard. No one had to tell me to turn on my imagination. There was no introduction to personalities imposed on wild animals. Any appeal to particular beavers was natural and normal to my young mind.

When a beaver colony faces disaster, I am drawn into the horror and grasping for the hope of rescue. The dismantling of a home in the wilderness is tragic news and unsettling to my young understanding. But, emerging out of that disaster is the brave, resilient, and enterprising Chip the beaver, I was hooked.

Every chance that I got I would pick up the book and read for as long as I could. I wanted to find out what happened, how it happened, and what to expect next. Chip forged into the wilderness and was at risk to the many dangers in the forest. He did not have his den, his dam, or his pond to protect him. To complicate his dire situation, he had his mate, Sleek, to protect. Even more, he and Sleek had a brood of kits to feed and shelter from the predators that were always lurking around the next tree.

Each chapter left me hanging. I wanted to find out what happened next. Too often the book ended way too soon. My passion for reading was born.

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It’s been decades of living through discomfort and learning to adjust to the latest in mobility limitations. In the early days I guessed that I had pulled a muscle, strained ligaments, or injured something in my back that would eventually heal itself. Foolish notions for sure.

One week I was on a ministry trip to a Great Lakes state. During my morning shower, I dropped the soap, bent over to pick it up, and wham! The pain was like being slammed by a round from a high powered fire arm.

The only way that I could make it to the bed was to crawl on all fours and pull myself up, climbing up like a crab. Once the pain eventually subsided, I was able to contact help and get to a hospital. Doctors found nothing, prescribed muscle-relaxing pills, and I was back on my schedule albeit shell-shocked from the episode of excruciating body pain.

Over the years I sought advice from many doctors. Alternative approaches to pain were mainstays in my routine. I read articles, researched approaches, adjusted activities, etc. Finally, one year, during the Christmas season, I asked my Orthopedic Surgeon brother about my situation.

After listening, without conducting any examination, ordering no tests, he casually comments, “Oh, you have spinal stenosis.” “What’s that?” He explains in detail and says several relatives have it. It runs in the family. “Why didn’t you ever tell me?” “You never asked.”

Hopefully, after years of discomfort and an incalculable number of episodes with excruciating pain, a very experienced and skillful surgeon will attempt to correct my spine. It’s off to surgery tomorrow. Thanks for your prayers!

Let’s do some radio. Check out KHCB “Keeping Him Close By” at 105.7FM every Wednesday in January 2021

at 10AM Central Time for “Prayertime”

or online at: https://www.khcb.org/wp/listen-now/online-listening/

See you on the air.

Graduating from High School was more of a signal than a celebration. It was time to get a real job in anticipation of college expenses. Money was an essential necessity in those transition days.

I remembered an offer from my Boy Scout Troop Master. Mr. Bergold asked me what I was going to do once I was out of scouts and done with High School. Naturally, I was headed to college so I needed to look for some temporary work. He suggested that I keep his son in mind. Larry, whom I met in scouting, was now an Assistant Manager at JC Penney and would be happy to hire me.

That offer was one that I acted on. The short drive to the shopping mall passed quickly. In the employee entrance, I filled out the application, turned it in, and was ushered into an office where Mr. Bergold was waiting. He smiled, “Always happy to hire an Eagle Scout.”

He stood, we shook hands, he motioned for me to follow him. I have a job for you as a stock boy. You ok with that? “Sure. Just tell me what to do.” “Great.”

Keeping up with his long strides took a lot of effort. We seemingly raced through the store and made a quick trip to the Girl’s Department. It was filled with shoppers and the cash registers were singing a happy tune. With a mere pause in our nearly jogging escapade through aisles, he pointed out personnel, introduced assistant managers, and the manager. He punctuated my introduction with the words, “He’s the promise-kept.”

We disappeared from the sea of people and ended up in a large store room big enough for a three car garage. Mr. Bergold explained, “It’s a mess, but now it’s your job. This space and product hasn’t had any attention in months. Now it’s up to you. Sort it out, organize it, and make it workable for our sales team. Got it? I’ll check back in a week.”

Every day I would sort through clothes, empty half opened boxes, redistribute product to one side of the store room, and hang clothes in lots. The staff we a great help. They gave me the details of how they needed the product organized. I just listened and made it happen.

The next week Mr. Bergold came by, complemented me on the work, and mused, “Yeah, I knew that an Eagle Scout would be prepared to tackle this project. Nicely done.” All I could think about was how nice it was to have a “respectable” job in an air conditioned building and earning a lot more than $5/day picking tomatoes.

The Sacramento Valley is famous the world over for agriculture. It is the land often called the breadbasket of the. world. Farmers nurture some of the finest foods that feed the world. Powerful machines prepare the rich soil. Other mechanics make sure that there is a bountiful supply of water. Massive trucks stand in line to carry to produce to market.

However, there is a thin line of humanity in the mix that existed in the years of my youth. People needed to harvest the fragile crops like tomatoes and apricots. Gentle human hands lifted the juicy red vegetables and picked the tasty yellow fruit, transferring each to crates designed just for the appropriate processing plant.

Picking tomatoes was hard work. It was done in the blistering Sacramento sun. We tied our shirts over our heads to keep from getting sun stroke. Our lunches baked in the heat and only clever frozen cans of soda kept the meal enjoyable when the lunch whistle was blown.

We were paid $.25 per crate of picked tomatoes. For my 7th grade body that meant I would earn about $5 per day, harvesting about 25 crates a day. Over a week’s labor I would bank $25, big money for a little boy. When it came time to shop for school we’d go to the Department store. I looked at a shirt for $4.99 and figure it was not worth a day’s wages. I would recycle last year’s wardrobe.

That first “job” was hard work and taught me the value of a dollar. I wasn’t born as a cheapskate, but I learned from these days in the hot Sacramento sun to be frugal. My work ethic came from blistered hands, sun burnt skin, and dusty sweat.

My childhood memories of vacations included so many camping adventures. It sealed in my mind the basic equipment, chores, and supplies needed to make a camping trip successful. The destinations were a great because the camping was fun.

Yosemite National Park was a highlight. I caught my first trout in that park. My dad showed me how to clean it, prepare it, and cook it for dinner. It was delicious.

The chipmunks of Yosemite invariably caused us to smile. Back in those days you could feed those little critters healthy rodent food. They would scurry around and make our smiles morph into giggles.

Majestic mountains, exquisite valley views, and pristine lakes made camping in this special park a great memory. Birds that I had never seen before became common sights. Wildflowers decorated every meadow that we hiked past.

We camped near the giant Redwood trees. Their towering presence have to be experienced by everyone who loves the out of doors.There is peace and strength and community all wrapped up in these forests of the gargantuas.

One camping trip took us to the Oregon coast. The smells of the sea always spell adventure. It also left a lasting memory of one of the most interesting animal sanctuaries.

Sea lion cave welcomed our camping family. It was huge, dark, and loud. At first only the sounds of the ocean crashing inside the cavern caught my attention.

But, what mesmerized my memory chips was the sight and sound of scores of massive beasts. They were lounging on rocks in the cavern. Bellowing sounds of male sea lions vying for domination echoed in the chamber.

Camping was not only how we took family vacations. It was the link to great memories of vivid adventures from my formative days. It is no wonder that when I had my own family we kept up the camping tradition for family memories.

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