Category Archive: Just Thinking

He Foiled a Terrorist’s Attack in Syria

02-27-08 © duncan1890, Courtesy of iStockphoto

 

The armed men charged full speed to Damascus – driven by the bloodlust of war. The infidels had to suffer and die.

  • No one could quell these ardent fundamentalists’ passions.

While most didn’t share the radical views of these terrorists, very few dared speak against them. They were vocal, educated, and opinionated. Even worse, they were legalistic; they justified the murders of their opposition in the name of religion.

  • Intimidation silenced their critics.

When threats didn’t work, they didn’t shy from using brute force. And when necessary, they employed lethal measures.

  • A bloody corpse among the rubble impassioned the lead terrorist.

He’d witnessed the dissenter’s death. Although he didn’t throw the first stone, he had participated in the man’s massacre all the same. The murder had stirred his prejudices. He progressed from assisting the killers to becoming one.

  • His reputation for violence spread throughout the region.

His tyranny of Christians wrought fear into every believer. His ideology viewed each one as a heretic and worthy of death. This became the radical zealot’s purpose in life.

  • The followers of Jesus had to be eradicated – not just attacked.

But those scare tactics only fueled the spread of the Christian message. Others saw how different the true Christians were to their fellow man. Their faith seemed unshakable; their witness, unstoppable. That’s why Saul of Tarsus, a first century terrorist, undertook the journey into Syria.

  • That’s when Saul had his Damascus Road experience.

He met the very One he thought was dead. Saul encountered the Risen Lord. Confronted by Truth, Saul no longer fought on the side of untruth. Blinded by God’s glory, he no longer sought his own.

  • Saul entered Damascus a changed man.

With his transformation came a new name, Paul. It goes without saying that God used his conversion to affect the world, even as we know it today. Only Jesus had more impact on the New Testament church than did Paul.

  • Paul influenced Christianity and the whole world.

It occurred because of the Light of Truth shining on a terrorist in Syria. I don’t know if Jesus will ever do such a thing again, but I pray that God’s glory will be as evident as it was on the Damascus Road that day.

 

Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went … so that if he found any belonging to the Way … he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting …”

~ Acts 9:1-6, NASB

 

Have you ever had a Damascus Road experience?

A Hairy Situation: Traveling Like Jesus

There comes a time when the boy sits down,

And the man stands up.

~ Dr. Jay Strack

11-20-06 © clu, courtesy of iStockphoto

There are certain rites of manhood that boys must go through. Maturation requires achieving firsts. Shaving. Driving. Dating.

  • In some cultures, ceremonies initiate manhood.

I witnessed a Bar Mitzvah at the Western Wall, and a young man joined the ranks of men descended from Jacob.

  • In some cultures, it requires tests of courage.

The Australian aborigines complete a walkabout, where they trace their ancestral heritage through songlines in the barren wilderness. In the South Pacific, some islanders jump 100 feet from makeshift bamboo stands, with only thin vines tied around their ankles to keep them from plummeting to their deaths.

  • In some cultures, the rites inflict great pain.

In South America, some Amazons must suffer the stings of bullet ants, exposing their bodies to neurotoxins thirty times more potent than a wasp’s sting. Papau New Guinea’s adolescents have to endure bloodletting and skin mutilation to become warriors.

  • I’m just thankful I had it a little easier.

But at the time, you couldn’t have convinced of that. My dad was a gentle but stern man. He’d do anything for anyone, whether they liked him or not. He was forgiving, but he wanted his sons to respect authority – especially, his authority.

  • My passage into manhood was a hairy situation.

By hairy, I mean hair. I was the last boy in my grade with a buzz cut on the sides. Daddy didn’t want a hippy son. He wanted people to be capable of identifying that his sons weren’t girls from a distance.

  • My lack of hair became my identity in our new community.

We’d just moved to a new school, and people picked on my brothers and I because we had the 1950s GI look in the late 1970s. We begged for longer hair, but he wouldn’t budge.

I was almost the legal age to drive. I didn’t want long hair. I just wanted to know what it felt like to have hair actually touching my collar, forehead, and ears.

  • I pondered how I could convince Daddy to skip the buzz cut.

Since he was a bi-vocational preacher, my father believed every word in the Bible. It dawned on me one day as I read about Samson that men in the Bible had long hair, including Jesus.

  • Aha! I had him.

I could have my man-to-man talk with him before my fifteenth birthday. So, one day, while we worked on his old red-and-white Galaxy Ford 500 that I’d get the privilege to drive, I broached the subject.

  • “Daddy, did you know Jesus had long hair?”

He didn’t stop tinkering to even look up. “Is that so?”

“Yeah … so, I was wonderin’ if I could let my hair grow just a little longer? You know, like all the other guys in my class … like Jesus.”

  • He just kept tightening bolts on the engine, still not looking up.

“So, you want to be like Jesus? Is that what you’re saying?”

“Yeah. I, uh, guess that’s what I’m saying.”

“Then, you may just have to travel like Jesus did then.”

“What?”

“Jesus may’ve had long hair, but He walked every place He wanted to go.”

  • Daddy did eventually let my hair get a little longer.

I’m not too sure he was happy about it, but I know he realized my hair length didn’t change the man he taught me to be. He even let me drive his prize car.

Before I knew it, he treated me as one of those he sought advice from. Even though I’m now a grandfather, I’m just as proud to call him “Daddy” – short gray hair and all.

In what ways did your father impact your life?

Syria’s Problem, the World’s Problem

08-07-06 © caracterdesign, courtesy of iStockphoto

 

The whole world looks at the smoke rising over Syrian cities. As with other civil wars, brother kills brother. Religious and political ideologies vary depending on the worldview each person has. Those caught in the middle run for cover. But even there, they’re not safe from the peril that engulfs them.

  • In conflicts such as these, it’s hard to know whom to trust.

An ally today is an enemy tomorrow. Loyalty in such circles is fickle. It’s more about what one can do for them today that determines their allegiance.

  • Knowing the enemy is a key to victory.

This is the crux of the Mideast crisis. Politicians don’t know what to do. As we watch from afar, thousands upon thousands perish. Even more suffer.

  • Sometimes, the enemy knows us better than we do them.

As much as Napoleon lost the battle because his enemies used his military weapons against him, it was his enemy’s understanding of the emperor that caused his defeat. They took advantage of his pride and arrogance.

  • We must be careful that we don’t become victims to the same.

If we read Napoleon’s history, we discover he never learned this lesson. We mustn’t be shortsighted. We must be alert to avoid being blindsided as well.

  • But the Syrian issue threatens far more than its citizens.

It empowers those nations who oppose freedom. It disrupts peace and stability in neighboring countries. Most especially, it threatens Israel, our greatest ally.

  • What happens in Syria will have consequences for the whole world.

That’s why we must be in prayer for discernment and wisdom in our leaders.

A king’s heart is like streams of water in the Lord’s hand:

He directs it wherever He chooses.

~ Proverbs 21:1, HCSB

We must also continue to pray for those suffering and dying. And we must pray for our Christian brethren who suffer persecution from all sides.

 

Please take a moment to pray for those suffering in Syria and for wisdom among the world’s leaders.

 

A Syrias History

All roads lead to Damascus.

05-25-11 © Georgios Kollidas

The world turned its attention to Syria. For centuries, the nation was at the center of those desiring world domination. (Now’s no different than then.) Since biblical times, the caravan routes connecting the continents of Asia, Europe, and Africa traveled through Damascus.

  • It was the crossroads of the Kings’ Highway.

Napoleon’s ambition was to possess this region so that he could weaken the British Empire. No longer would the English have easy assess to India and its Asian colonies.

  • His plan was simple but far-reaching.

He’d send forces from his newly conquered Egyptian strongholds to march through Palestine. He’d use his superior naval forces to supply his formidable army along its offensive.

  • His scheme seemed flawless.

Even the British Navy discerned they couldn’t match the French at sea. But someone forgot to notify the English sailors in the Mediterranean. In the Battle of Nile, they captured an 80-gun battleship from Napoleon’s fleet.

Commodore William Sidney Smith then sailed the ship to assist the seaside fortress of Acre against Napoleon’s siege. Acre was the last major stronghold that stood between Napoleon and his prize, Syria.

  • The emperor miscalculated the city’s resolve.

A smug Napoleon had thought that the Turkish army in Acre would capitulate at the sight of his massive army. The citizens of Acre had heard about the massacre of thousands in neighboring Jaffa when the French conquered it. They dug in for a long siege.

  • When all seemed lost, the weary heard the British are coming.

Commodore Smith arrived with the weaponry they had captured from the French. The city of Acre repelled Napoleon’s attempts to conquer Acre – using France’s own weapons. By doing so, they prevented Napoleon from his most desired possession: world domination.

  • And it all happened as part of the notorious history of Syria.

Once again, Syria is the middle of the news. World forces from America to Russia, from Israel to Iran are focused on what transpires in a bloody conflict there. If we’re not careful, we may suffer from the same problem as Napoleon did:

 

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

~ 1 Peter 5:8, NASB

 

Please pray for those suffering in Syria – especially the Christians being targeted by both sides for their faith.

Monkey See, Monkey Don’t

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetuate it.

He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.

~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

03-29-09 © Todd Bates, courtesy of iStockphoto

See no evil. Hear no evil. Speak no evil.

When we hear this phrase, everyone pictures three animated monkeys in a row. One hides his eyes. The second cups his ears; the third, his mouth.

  • This image portrays a Golden Rule in Japanese culture.

It’s an admission that all humans make mistakes, that no one should condemn another for sins because he or she is guilty in some way as well. At least, that’s our rationale.

  • But there’s a fourth monkey most ignore.

This little simian symbolizes the idea: Do no evil. Perhaps, we’ve limited it to the first three because they’re easier to ape.

  • To do no evil is harder for politically-correct, urban jungle swingers.

We all know there are sins of commission for which there needs to be no explanation. Murder and child abuse are two that moralistic societies deem as contemptible. Few argue this.

  • However, Dr. King argued for sins of omission as being evil as well.

This idea didn’t originate in the Civil Rights Movement, although it was evident then. Dr. King only expressed what he’d learned from Scripture. James, the brother of Jesus, wrote:

… if you know the right thing to do and don’t do it, that, for you, is evil.

~ James 4:17, MSG

  • Scripture is clear here.

When we turn a blind eye to heinous acts, we’re participating in evil. When we turn off any arguments against murder or child abuse, we’re condemning ourselves. When we bite our tongues instead of speaking against such atrocities, we’re allowing such practices to continue. We’re guilty of the evils we’re allowing from our inaction.

  • That’s exactly what the mainstream media’s guilty of doing.

One reporter had the audacity to say why networks didn’t cover the Gosnell murder trial was because such cases weren’t newsworthy. Yet, these same agencies covered the Jodi Arias trial and O. J. Simpson trial ad nauseum.

At least one media executive admitted that they didn’t want to give the abortion industry a black eye. But that same mentality is what enabled Dr. Gosnell to commit all the heinous crimes he’s guilty of for decades.

Government agencies looked the other way. The media followed suit.

  • Those who did so are participants with the evils he committed.

And that may be another reason they ignored the trial as well.

 

Deliver those who are being taken away to death,


And those who are staggering to slaughter,

Oh hold them back.

If you say, “See, we did not know this,”


Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts?


And does He not know it who keeps your soul?


And will He not render to man according to his work?

~ Proverbs 24:11-12, NASB

What evils continue because we look the other way?

Ben’s Heroic Journey

A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.

~ Joseph Campbell

09-17-08 © Jonathan Hill, courtesy of iStockphoto

Luke Skywalker was a young adventurer who lived in simple innocence, on the backside of a forgotten galaxy, far away from the concerns of an evil emperor. He awoke one morning as a carefree teen. By night’s end, circumstances outside of his control had catapulted him on a voyage that forged him into the quintessential hero.

  • So began the history of the Star Wars franchise.

Moviegoers fell in love with this hero’s saga in May 1977. Its appeal has spread to a new generation, and Disney plans to profit from the infectious story for generations to come.

  • The epic tale follows a classic plot construction.

George Lucas credited Joseph Campbell’s heroic journey structure with the success of his account. Campbell noted these odysseys followed the pattern of most heroic ballads.

So did mine.

  • My hero’s quest originated in innocence – just like Skywalker.

I first met him as a young man. Quiet and strong, but respectful. Athletic but intelligent. Offered scholarships for football and academics. Capable of any profession.

  • Then came his call to action.

Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, threatening more than peace in the Middle East. 9-11 happened. The towers fell. The War on Terror followed.

  • My hero accepted his initiation into the cause.

He responded to the challenge of taking on the enemy, willing to leave the comforts of home to fight on the other side of the world.

  • My hero enjoined allies in this struggle against an axis of evil.

These comrades-in-arms had each other’s back. They risked their own lives to bring their wounded home. Ben had occasion to do just that.

And his brothers did so when a sniper shot my hero through the back.

  • His injuries were severe and debilitating.

Weaker individuals wouldn’t persevere, but he did. The bravery he demonstrated when he enlisted to fight a lethal war paled in comparison to the courage he showed in battling against a new nemesis. Paralyzed from his chest down, Sgt. Ben Tomlinson continues to fight with an undeterred spirit.

  • The next step in Ben’s heroic journey was the breakthrough stage.

That’s when he discovered he had many other allies on his life’s voyage. This man of faith discovered he had prayer warriors enlisted to intercede for him. Other veterans encouraged him. Young kids hailed him as a hero. Adults from all walks of life honored him as a grateful nation welcomed him home.

But Ben’s injuries required a change in lifestyle. The humble soldier needed a special place to live as he settled into his new vocation.

  • To do so, Ben needed a smart-home.

People of renown agreed. The Stephen Siller Tunnels to Towers Program chose to sponsor Ben to raise the monies necessary to do just that. Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band came alongside. Danny Rodriquez, the Singing Policeman, chipped in. And so many others have donated time, talents, and monies to be part of the last phase of Ben’s heroic journey.

  • It’s the hero’s celebration.

On this Memorial Day 2013, I encourage all to honor Ben and the other veterans who’ve fought for our freedom. Please consider giving to Ben’s smart-home at http://www.buildingforamericasbravest.org/houses/?id=27.

If you’d prefer to help the many others in need, please visit these websites to donate on this Memorial Day:

The Gary Sinise Foundation;

The Stephen Siller Tunnels to Tower Foundation;

The Wounded Warriors Project.

  • These are our heroes.

They need allies to come alongside them. This is our call to action. Please join their breakthrough as part of your holiday celebration. Then, you too will be on a heroic journey with them.

 

A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.

~ Christopher Reeve

Who is the hero you honor today?

God’s Answer Takes Flight

A man of God in the will of God is immortal until his work is done.

~ David Jeremiah

05-13-08 © Ken Canning, courtesy of iStockphoto

It hadn’t rained for weeks. The once fertile farmland appeared more like a wasteland than Farmer Morgan’s cash crop. The thirsty stalks withered in the Georgia sun. Most had just given up.

  • Mr. Morgan remained hopeful.

Some plants braved the summer heat wave. But they appeared fatigued as their scorched leaves drooped. The blistering wind forced the remaining parched limbs to flap in its might, creating a cacophony of whistling and rattling from the reluctant vegetable orchestra. Their music was more unsettling than comforting.

  • Only a miracle could save them from financial ruin.

The Morgan family believed in the Lord’s ability to provide just such a supernatural phenomenon. And they prayed for rain.

They weren’t alone. Many other families faced similar plights. But not everyone had the faith that the Morgans did.

  • Life’s troubles afflict the godly and the ungodly.

Jesus warned us that the same storms pound the lives of everyone. He counseled that only those whose faith is built upon the Rock – Christ Himself – can weather those tumults.

  • So it was for the Morgans.

The whole family knelt on the cracked, dehydrated clay as they prayed for God’s intervention. As they choked on the dust whirls beneath a cloudless sky, they petitioned for much-needed rain, and lots of it.

  • One day, when all seemed lost, God answered their prayers.

But God didn’t answer in the way they thought He would, which is often how the Lord responds to our petitions. Nevertheless, He replied in a way that blessed His faithful children.

Instead of speaking through thunder, lightning, and a downpour of rain, the Lord’s provision took a different flight.

  • The Morgans found their fields covered in birds.

Not unlike what the hungry Israelites saw when the Lord provided food for His children in the wilderness, God rained down starving birds instead of water. The massive flock ate what remained of their devastated crop. And that was okay with Mr. Morgan because his crop insurance covered just such a pestilence. The Morgans didn’t have as much produce to take to the market that year, but their insurance money made up the difference.

  • Sometimes, God sends birds instead of rain.

When He does, His providence extends not only to His children, but also to the birds. Jesus said:

“Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the sky: they don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they?”

~ Matthew 6:25-26, HCSB

  • Our lives matter to our Creator.

We’re more valuable to Him than sparrows, for which He also provides. We may not understand in this life why God does what He does, but we can rest assured that He’s faithful to keep His promises to us and that He works things to our good.

Even when He sends birds instead of rain.

  • The Morgans believed this before that drought.

They leaned on Him because they knew He would be glorified no matter what and that He’d use them as a witness of His majesty.

  • Even today, that family continues to provide the same witness.

One of Mr. Morgan’s children is Merry Morgan Neisler. They live in our community now, and they continue to be faithful stewards and witnesses of God’s grace to all who know them.

A friend shared how this story of the Morgans had influenced her faith as a teen in Screven County, Georgia. They have impacted me along with many others still today.

David and Merry Neisler’s daughter, Caroline Morgan Neisler, passed away from leukemia this week at age 21. We prayed for her healing if it was God’s will, but her parents expressed their desire for God to be glorified in the way He knew best.

  • Caroline Morgan Neisler now praises her Savior in heaven.

Her family’s witness honors Him on this earth, and I am privileged to know them. Even in death, they celebrate the Life only He can give.

  • We are truly immortal until our work on earth is done.

None of us know the when or the how, but let us do what He has called us to do – glorify Him with our lives just as this precious family has, even when He sends birds instead of rain.

 

Is there a time God sent a greater blessing than what you wanted?

“They-who-should-not-be-named”

It is our choices … that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.

~ J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

"Harry Potter Lego" minifigures, 09-18-11 © andres balcazar, courtesy of iStockphoto

Even before Harry Potter knew he was a wizard, there existed an unseen combatant bent on his destruction. This foe had integrated his ascension to power with this lad’s legacy.

  • Harry recognized his enemy through progressive revelation.

In each segment of the story, Harry learned just how formidable his opponent was. Even more, he discerned how evil his plans were.

  • Harry faced many obstacles in battling his adversary.

There were the complexities of magic he didn’t know. He lacked family support. There were those opposed to his mission. But these weren’t necessarily the greatest hindrances to Harry’s conquest.

  • Those capable of helping refused to acknowledge the enemy.

Fear caused most characters to refer to Lord Voldemort as “He-who-should-not-be-named.” The moniker paralyzed all but Harry.

  • The ruling Ministry couldn’t accept his reality.

They desired Voldemort to be dead and forgotten. They stubbornly opposed any mention of his return because the new minister wanted to forge his own history. So intent was the ruling body to create its own worldview that they preferred mythical fantasy over sure demise.

  • Even in light of the evidence, they spun their own version of events.

Whether out of false hope or ignorant pride, they refused to accept the testimony of eyewitnesses. They feigned transparency but whispered secrets. In school, they taught theories while suppressing practical defensive measures.

  • The ministry accused those who stood for truth as liars.

They projected on them what they were guilty of. Poor Harry faced death again and again because of their incompetence. Dumbledore stood alone as the voice of reason in meetings with predetermined outcomes. Sirius Black was falsely imprisoned and hunted like the dog he sometimes transformed into.

  • The social media was nothing more than the ministry’s mouthpiece.

They reported untruths as truth. The editorials conferred the ministry’s decisions with veracity, even though the audience saw them as false. The newspapers became more like gossip columns and throwaway tabloids than true journalism.

  • J. K. Rowling wrote this storyline so preteens could understand it.

It shouldn’t be that difficult to see how her plot mirrored in many ways what is going on now. If a middle-schooler can understand such events, then mature adults shouldn’t be shocked to see it play out right before our eyes now.

  • Politicians must be living in a fantasy world.

If we look at current events, there are so many who want to suppress the idea of terrorism’s presence. People trumpeted just a few months ago that our greatest enemies were at bay – that the war on terror had been won.

They did so prior to Benghazi, and four men died. They did so in evaluating a potential combatant, and innocents were maimed and died in the Boston Marathon Massacre.

  • They’re using smoke and mirrors like Rowling’s wizards do.

Some politicians want us to think the terrorist threats are over, but the tales they’re spinning are just as mythical as Rowling’s fantasy. “They-who-should-not-be-named” are as great a threat today as ever, if for no other reason than we deny their existence.

Then, consider the Fast & Furious debacle, the IRS scandal, the purposeful ignoring of the Gosnell murders, the alleged retaliation against the AP writers and editors for not playing ball with political agendas, etc.

  • If it weren’t true, it would make great fiction.

 

Dark and difficult times lie ahead. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.

~ J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

 

Which current controversies should bother us the most?

Ruffled Feathers

If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril.

~ Sun Tzu

02-08-08 © James Trice, courtesy of iStockphoto

The eagle’s vision was greater than any creature living in the forest. He perched on the cliff he called home, and none soared higher than he did.

  • He flexed his muscles with each change in the wind.

Every day, the giant raptor opened his wings to flutter in the gusting current. From such heights, he hovered over his domain with fierce abandon, thinking none could compare to him.

  • He constantly sought to whet his appetite.

On this day, he spotted a quiet hare daring to emerge from his haven. An insatiable lust stirred the bird to action. He dove with great precision. A casual observer would awe in the majesty of the eagle, and the raptor knew it.

  • Pride blinded him to the truth.

He wasn’t the only hunter in his forest. Another predator concealed his presence in the eagle’s hunting grounds. The raptor had thought he was invincible, and he had stopped worrying about his enemies. After all, he had conquered them all.

  • As he approached his target, a searing pain jolted him.

He tried to stay on course, but he found himself flailing and falling. He no longer saw the hare beneath him. The wind no longer aided his descent. Instead, he plummeted to the earth.

The hunter’s arrow had pierced him through; his herculean chest, stained crimson with his own blood.

  • The one who thought he had no equal was brought low.

As the eagle inspected his wound, he noticed that the arrow wasn’t a crude production. Instead, its stone was as razor sharp as his talons. The woodsman had taken the arrowhead from the bottom of the bird’s cliff. The shaft, as pliable as his wings in the wind, derived from his favorite marsh.

His enemy had formulated weapons from right under his beak, on his watch.

  • But what he least expected perplexed him the most.

The arrow that had pierced his heart was put to flight with the feathers furnished from his own wings. He had cast off those quills without a second thought, and his enemy had gathered them from the depths he only looked down upon.

With his dying words, he surmised:

It is a double grief to me that I should perish by an arrow feathered from my own wings.

~ Aesop, The Eagle and the Arrow

  • It’s a word picture of a proverb in Scripture:

Pride goes before destruction,

 And a haughty spirit before a fall.

~ Proverbs 16:18, NKJV

 

How might this fable be a metaphor of the current crises we face today?

 

What strengths do we possess that our enemy can use against us?

Don’t Throw Momma on the Train

My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.

~ Mark Twain

10-12-08 © Lauri Wiberg, courtesy of iStockphoto

The three cowboys stared at the blazing sun cooking the small town on the butte above them. In the hazy silhouette of high noon, ghosts rose in the summer vapors.

The three brothers were stiff from the long journey. Our iron-carriage still smoked and hissed, tired from the non-stop trip across statelines.

  • Our excitement trumped being saddle-sore a few miles back.

We buckled our dollar store gunbelts to hang loose. My middle brother – a miniature Marshal Dillon – donned his star. I put on my Lone Ranger mask.

  • My youngest brother moseyed around, bowlegged and all.

Quick Draw McGraw was ready to duel the first gunslinger he saw. He yanked out his pistols as fast as he could, showing off his moves.

We had wanted to visit Ghost Town in the Sky for as long as we could remember. Real cowboys like the ones on Gunsmoke lived there. We even heard that Roy Rogers would make a special appearance.

  • But before we could see him, we had to rescue a lady in distress.

My mother would do anything for her children. We didn’t have much as worldly possessions go, but my parents knew of our passion for cowboys. And they planned this trip months in advance, saving up for this day.

The problem: my mother didn’t realize she’d have to go on top of a mountain to let us fulfill our fantasy. She hadn’t considered what “in the sky” meant.

  • And she was deathly afraid of heights.

By afraid, I mean horrified.

There were only two ways to get there: chairlift or monorail. With either method, the patrons had a slow ride up a steep mountainside.

  • My mother panicked as she gawked at her options.

She kept repeating, “We’re gonna die. We’re gonna die.”

My dad offered to take us up so that she could stay on level ground, but she didn’t want that. She desired to see Roy Rogers too.

We reassured her we’d be safe, but she wouldn’t budge. We begged and pleaded. Marshal Dillon tried to force her on by gunpoint. Quick Draw just wanted to “throw Momma on the train.” The Lone Ranger didn’t need a kemosabe. He’d be willing to go it alone.

After what seemed like hours, my father finally decided that we’d just go to some other attraction that was on level ground.

  • That’s when my mother made the ultimate sacrifice.

She was willing to die to let us see Ghost Town … and Roy Rogers. So, onto the monorail we went. Everyone knew my mother’s reservations about this endeavor. With her hyperventilating so, every passenger knew. The conductor even whispered: “Just close your eyes and never look back.”

  • That’s difficult when you think it’s a death train.         

My dad wrapped his arms around my mother as her protector. The whole time she muttered, “We’re gonna die. We’re gonna die…”

As we were halfway up the ascent, I patted my mother’s leg, “See, Momma, God’s taking care of us.” But I had just finished speaking when it happened.

  • POP! POP!

As soon as she heard those bangs, my mother flopped to the aisle, hugging the floor for dear life. She began flailing her legs as she screamed, “We’re gonna die!” I dare say that any person staring in the face of death could have been more terrified than my mother at that point.

  • I’ll never forget the next words I heard.

They came from an angry mother two rows back. “Jimmmy! I told you not to shoot that cap gun inside!” And with that, even my petrified mother began to chuckle, as did the whole cable car.

  • Her laughter was nervous embarrassment; ours, side-splitting.

Everyone was in tears. The whole train was trying to regain their breath when we reached our destination: a day that we built many fond memories.

My mother wanted us to understand that the tragedies of your life one day have the potential to be comic stories the next.

Nora Ephron

  • I’ve always known my mother loved us.

That she’d be willing to overcome her worst fear so that her children could experience their dream is a testament to how great a mother she is. It was one of many sacrifices she has made over the years, and I honor her for the godly woman she is. We say:

Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”

Proverb 31:29, ESV

Can you think of fond memories of your mother?