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There were no models of fancy engagement proposals in my background. Yvonne and I just knew as we grew together that we would be together for life. We shared, made memories, dreamed, voiced our fears and our dreams. It was a blessing to grow together.

We shopped for a ring together. It was just natural to do it. Once they were fitted and we were able to pay them off, we picked them up.

Then, one evening as we finished off our date, I took her by her hands, told her that I loved her, and asked if she would do me the honor of being my wife.

Life accelerated after that. The plans, news to share, and calendar management were all a part of coming days. It was the best decision that we ever made and has proven true to this day. No, it wasn’t fancy, but it was permanent.


Discretion was my guiding operational function. Slowly, I turned to see whose voice had captured my attention. Once that face was etched in my mind, I took every opportunity to join in the group discussion, and of course turn my attention towards Yvonne.

Now, my whole Christmas break was up for an audible. No matter what I tried, it seemed to work. Casual walks. friendly talks, invitations, and everything serendipitous fit together.

We went out, exchanged vital contact information, and mutually sensed something happening. My plane ride back to Texas gave me plenty of time to plot out possibilities. Long distance phone calls, writing letters, sending gifts, and praying for a special lady took over my life. I was so pleased to experience that wonderful journey.

All other interests just faded away. God showed me my target and it was time to hunt. Everything concentrated on getting to know this one life. I was smitten.

I arrived at the retreat center with enthusiasm. Conversation after conversation unfolded. Great news happening in the lives of great friends filled my mind. The speaker was good, the worship was excellent, and testimonies were stimulating.

The weather turned for the worse. Heavy rains and stormy winds led to the cancellation of all outdoor activities. Undeterred, we all made adjustments to our expectations.

At first I stayed in my cabin. I was going to study for the upcoming sermon for the next Sunday to be preached in San Francisco. But, it was just too weird being sequestered alone after a long first semester in seminary. Bah, I gathered my notes and headed up to the gathering area where everyone was squashed in from the rain. A cozy fire was attracting a lot of attention. I joined the milling crowd.

A welcome spot on a sofa was just what I needed. Then, I opened my Bible and notes and tried to study. But, there was a distraction. Behind me a group conversation was taking place. They were talking about the “chain of command” in marriage and family. That topic was intriguing but I was captivated by one of the voices in the group. It was the sexiest voice I have ever heard.

My first semester at Dallas Theological Semester was entering the books of history. It was time to make my plans for Christmas. I was looking forward to the break.

With my carefully earned savings I bought a round trip red-eye airplane special to my home state. The big draw was the Winter retreat of my home church for college and career students. It was scheduled for our traditional site of the Ponderosa Lodge on the grounds of Mt. Hermon Christian Conference Center.

Many good friends excitedly told me that they would be at the retreat. Anticipation of reunions are thrilling. Also, a church in San Francisco asked me to speak at their morning service when I was home for the break. Relatives also told me to fill in their Christmas celebrations while I was home for the break.

Now, my two week hiatus from my first year at seminary was all set. In the back of my mind were several connections with wonderful women that I wondered if they would develop. I had to leave that option up to the Almighty.

Dallas Theological Seminary welcomed me as new student during the Fall of 1974. Finding work, locating a new church, meeting new friends, setting up my study routine, finding my way around a new city in a new state were all challenges. Of course at the ripe age of 23 old friends and new friends were introducing me to my future “Mrs.”

Friends invited me to check out their church. Their friendliness often came with a “Oh, by the way, I would like you to meet …” Naturally, it was polite to go along with the introduction, be friendly, Christian, and naturally charming. Finding a lifelong partner was way up on my prayer list, so I was a-tuned to however God would sovereignly lead as I tested the opportunities.

Those meetings were fun, fascinating, and a distraction from rigors of seminary studies. Pleasant conversation, hearing stories of another person’s life, tracing the spiritual pilgrimage of another was always a curiosity, and of course wondering if God was starting a connection with my life partner was always on my mind.

The age-old question of how a person really knows when he meets Miss Right still lies in the foggy realm of the mysterious. Yet, I noticed some clues. First, godly friends have great hearts. Their tastes in possibilities was always commendable. But, that intangible subjective chemistry seemed to have its grip on the pathway to “I do.”

I am still a friend to the movie with a happy ending. “Wonder” is one of those films. You’ve never seen it? I highly recommend it.

A young boy is born with a goofed up set of genes. Operations and special care are a part of his life. He is a great kid but he is severely damaged in his own psyche because of how he looks.

His parents and sister are fantastic supports. But, the world is an unforgiving place when it comes to standing out. Peer pressure is huge. The masses stare and openly ridicule young Augie. Yet, true friendship and family win in the end. It is brilliantly written, cast with excellence, and is certainly one of my favorite movies.

Then, there is a huge poster at the top of our steps, reminding of a film that makes me sad and smile. It is called “Up.” Young Russell lives his life as a Wilderness Explorer Scout, trying to win the graces of Mr. Frederickson.

In the beginning of the film there is a speed up of time where there are no words spoken, just music and that lives of Carl and Ellie lived out over life time. Joy, laughter, but ultimately sadness and bitterness stop the fast forward. Life is awful alone. Carl’s life changes when he finds meaning in pouring into the life of a youngster. It is discipleship at its best. Time, love, memories knit lives together for the real meaning of life. It is a fabulous film

While I was a boy, movies with a happy ending were paramount. The older I grew, movies became my stories. That’s when character development was far more important to me. Virtue, courage, and truth became high water marks for me.

Many times good character developing movies had sad endings. But, if the values that I treasured dominated, if the bad guys met justice, or if hope for the future reigned, then I was many times deeply fulfilled with the story. Values that make a difference in the lives of people that I grew to lift up in the movie always means a lot to me.

Mel Gibson turned out a trilogy of war movies that have been favorites: “Braveheart”, “Patriot”, and “We Were Soldiers” Each was based on a historical gathering, all three were set against overwhelming odds, brave comrades died, family sacrifices were experienced, and virtue won in the end. Treachery is common, noble lives on both sides was a tension, right and wrong become victims of war, and individual courage is always present.

“Braveheart” is the story of William Wallace. He is educated thanks to his uncle Argyle and sees no good reason to make war. But, evil forces him to use his keen mind, brave heart, and longing for freedom for his fellow Scotts against the cruel and vicious King of England. It is a sad ending to this movie but Wallace’s inspiration for freedom rings far beyond the confines of a single human life.

“Patriot” is another feature of a man who sees the futility of war. Yet, the evil of the British against his family draws him in. He is a valiant warrior, effective leader, and a patriot of the colonies. Family is a feature that pushes this movie to a resolution in the end and paints the picture of hope for this new nation.

“We Were Soldiers” is a classic story of a military leader who does not love war but loves his soldiers that he leads. He trains, cares for, and strategizes for the success of his troops. Woven into this film are the horrific experiences of the wives that are left behind and the families of the enemy combatants that the Colonel is facing across the battlefield. Does he win or does he merely begin the long line of questionable battles that just more and more human lives?

War takes that best of what we have on earth. Loved ones die. Families are torn apart. The evil never gain all that they want but never stop trying. The good are always trying to be brave and give freedom back to those they treasure.

Yvonne and I planned for a weekend trip to Austin, TX during the Christmas season. Our objective was to take in a live show during this most special time of the year. We had our tickets for Martin Burke’s solo performance of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Now, that will make you do a double-take.

One stage for this live presentation, this single performer plays all 37 characters in this classic film. Burke weaves in the comical and humorous features as well as remembering the tender moments of the story. I never lost a moment in reliving the way those characters engaged the unfolding story, the tragedy, and the wonder of how the story could ever find a happy ending.

Who would go and see such a performance? It seems painfully contrived and hopelessly disappointing. However, if you love the movie, then this play makes all the sense in the world.

I love this movie. It is in fact my most favorite film of all time. Every Christmas I love watching it. It doesn’t matter where the movie breaks into my schedule, I can pick it up at any location.

Especially, I look forward to the final fifteen minutes when George returns to reality, finds that his family and friends are more important than power, success, or money, and that while he never pursued anything selfishly, he learned that he had amassed the greatest fortune any person could in a life time.

How I ended up alone with my mom and on our way to the movie theater I have no recollection. Maybe I drew the lucky straw. At any rate I had no idea what we were going to see, but a young boy loves the thrill of the silver screen and all of the trappings that come with it. My mom bought me popcorn, soda, and ice cream. Those items alone made whatever movie that was scheduled a huge hit.

As it turned out, we were there to watch Sound of Music. The film captured me from the very beginning. The von Trapp family was comical, intriguing, and adventuresome. Throw in a nanny from the convent and the story engulfed me and my youth.

I had no idea how the Countess could be as devious as she appeared to me. Nor could I understand how Maria could trust her “confidence”. In my childhood mind, I knew who did not like and who I did. My feelings burned.

At least the movie a turn for the better when Maria and the Captain got it going. I was elated. Then, the singing competition made me hope for a miracle against the Nazi intrusion. It came. When the family escaped to Switzerland, I remember Maria’s concern, “But, the children…” and the Captain’s confidence took over, “We will help them. We will be fine.” What a great memory to make for a fabulous childhood memory.