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Ghost Stories

“The true mark of success in ghost story telling is if someone’s mom has to come pick them up from a sleepover in the middle of the night.”

I’ve heard a good many ghost stories in my life, some of which kept me up all night. If you’re interested I’ll give you the tried and true formula for telling the perfect ghost story. This works 100% of the time, if you’re in the third grade. Once you know the formula, you can take turns making up ghost stories on the spot with your friends the next time you have someone “spending the night” with you. If you’re a grown up it’s probably too late since you lost most of your imagination somewhere before you started caring about the opposite sex and after you realized that using deodorant and brushing your teeth might not just be for the weekends.

Rule number one for telling a good ghost story is establishing when the story happened. You don’t want your audience to be so worried about when the story might have taken place that they miss major plot developments.  For a solid opening, I like to use “Once upon a time.” After vaguely establishing the time, it’s good to pause for a dramatic effect before coming in more intensely with where the story might have happened. I usually go for “In the deep dark woods.” I’m getting scared just writing this right now. Now that we’ve created the perfect spooky setting your audience should be sufficiently hooked and want to hear the rest of your story, now it’s time to real them in with the details. For our next line we need to establish who or what the story is about. A ghost story is only as good as it’s villain. You might try a line like “There lived a man.” You might even throw an adjective in for good measure, “There lived an old man.” The more time you spend on describing the villain the better your villain will be, but don’t spend too time with details, you want to make them wonder. We’ll give him long bushy eyebrows, a lazy eye and bad leg that causes him to limp. Now would be a good time to practice your onomatopoeia as you describe the sound made when he walked across the dirty floor in his decaying cabin. For extra credit you can describe how he received the bad leg, “In a gunfight”, or “on the railroad”, are always good choices if you get stumped. Our next step requires action, what did the old man do? Did he collect toenails, kidnap dogs and cut off their ears, or just knock on doors and run away? Whatever he did, it needs to be something that relates to all of your audience. We’ll go with “Turned off the lights whenever you went to the bathroom.” Now you can wrap up your story with, “And if you’ve ever been in the bathroom and the lights go out, you’ll know it was the old man!” Maybe throw in a little scream at the end for good measure. It helps if later during the sleepover you can cut off the lights while someone is going to the restroom.

It seems humorous writing about it as an adult, but I remember being genuinely scared of improvised ghost stories, even if I was the one telling them. It’s good to know when to stop telling ghost stories and go to bed so you won’t be too scared to sleep. My rule of thumb is to stop whenever I start getting scared at my own story telling. The true mark of success in ghost story telling is if someone’s mom has to come pick them up from a sleepover in the middle of the night.

I remember being quite upset by a ghost story on the 5th grade field trip to a camp in North Alabama. The camp counselor told us that the cabins we were sleeping in were built on Indian Burial mounds that had to be excavated before they were able to start building the campgrounds. During this excavation they found a skeleton that was missing a hand. No one knows for sure, but they think that this hand was lost during initial excavation when they discovered the burial mounds. The counselor told us that every once in a while they saw a skeleton hand, supposedly searching for the missing body. Every time that they had seen the hand they had also heard the Chickasaw Death Whisper. The counselor had been gradually lowering his voice and we were on the edge of our seat with anticipation. He said, “This is how the Chickasaw Death Whisper goes,” and after a slight pause he yelled at the top of his lungs.

A little unconventional, I know, because he deviated from the usual ghost story formula, but I was so scared that night that I eventually got in the bunk with my friend and I didn’t care what anybody said. Perhaps my imagination was a little over active from not having a television in our home. Many of the other students laughed harder than they had screamed once they got over their initial fright. Feel free to tell this one some place I’ve never been.

I remember telling ghost stories with our neighbors, Jared and Creed numerous times. Jared and Creed had a popup camper that they would take on vacation to the Great Smoky Mountains. I know they went to the Great Smoky Mountains because while they were gone I fed their Blue Tick hounds and I still have a pack of Great Smoky Mountain playing cards that Jared brought back as a thank you gesture. I’m sure Mr. McDaniel appreciated the break from his shift work for Alabama Power at the Logan Martin Dam. There was a leak in the dam and his job was to pump concrete into the hole. He’d been pumping concrete for about 30 years. Whenever they got ready to go on vacation, they would air out the popup camper in the basement and this was the perfect place to tell ghost stories. We all four piled into the camper and began the time honored swapping of improvised ghost stories. Zach told one and we all laughed, he was always to jolly of a story teller to be all that scary. Creed told one and it must have been pretty scary, because Jared moved to the back of the camper where Creed and Zach were, leaving me in the front. Now it was Jared’s turn to tell a story. I think he was still doing character development on his villain when I decided that it would be a little safer on the other side of the camper with the other three boys. As I crossed over to the other side the trailer tipped swiftly backwards and the tongue banged against the ceiling of the basement right beneath the living room where Mr. McDaniel was trying to catch up on his sleep in the recliner. Mr. McDaniel was jarred awake by the commotion in the basement and stormed downstairs. We were more afraid of Mr. McDaniel than any ghost story villain our imaginations could drum up, mainly because Mr. McDaniel was real, and at the moment, he was “real mad”. He looked at each of us in turn as we were piling out of the camper, then he said to Zach and Me, “Boys, it might be a good time for y’all to go on home.” We quickly obliged him. I hope his vacation brought his blood pressure down.

In the rural community that I grew up in legends were still very much alive. These legends spawned grown up ghost stories that were terrifying to children. What’s even scarier than that is that many adults still whole heartedly believed that they were true. One example that comes to mind was the legend of The White Thang. I’m sure I should spell it “Thing”, but that isn’t how I heard it spoken. The White Thang was a fantastic white creature that lived on the mountain and terrorized the community. Sort of. No one ever fully saw the White Thang, they just described it as a flash of white. What people were able to describe in detail was the ear splitting noise that the creature made. Some said is sounded like a woman screaming, or a panther. It was taken so seriously by the community that I remember it making the newspaper at least three times in my life. There isn’t much to tell, maybe that’s why it was so widely believed and what makes it so scary, the fear of the unknown. All of the stories about the White Thang were pretty similar. Someone was on the mountain hunting and they heard a scream like a woman and saw a flash of white, or someone was fetching wood late at night and heard a wild screech and saw a flash of white. It may have been an albino panther or mountain lion. There was never enough moon light for anyone to get a good glimpse of the creature. More likely there was too much moonshine. Whatever it was, many people of Sterrett, Alabama swore up and down that it was real and they had heard it and seen it, or at least a credible relative you had seen it. The White Thang might be more believable than some people’s credible relatives.

I haven’t told or heard a good ghost story since the last time I went camping as a teenager. I think I finally realized that I don’t like being frightened. These days I shy away from ghost stories in general because real life is scary enough.

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A Rock in The Stream

It is time to pick a new plan for reading my Bible through again. This year I chose a chronological plan because it helps me with a lot of questions I had as a kid who was very curious about history. For 2022 I did one of those plans where you get three chapters of Old Testament, some verses from Psalms, a couple of Proverbs, and a chapter from the New Testament. It was nice to get a variety every day, but I missed the feeling of moving from Malachi to the Matthew after you have been reading about how fed up God was with generation after backsliding generation then suddenly- to use a Bible word- there is hope!

“The flattening of language is a flattening of meaning. Language which is not taut with a sense of its own significance, which is apologetic in its desire to be acceptable to a modern consciousness, language in other words which submits to its audience, rather than instructing, informing, moving, challenging and even entertaining them, is no longer a language which can carry the freight the Bible requires. It has, in short, lost all authority.”

Adam Nicolson, God’s Secretaries.

As an English-speaking Christian who is gravely concerned with Truth, I use the King James Version as my Bible. I do like to cross reference other versions like the Amplified. If for nothing but its literary value, I prefer the King James Version. Even so, I always ask myself if I should read a different version for my daily reading plan. The conversation this year went like this.

Are you going to read the King James Version again? Yes. Why? I think I’m starting to get a grip on it.

This internal interrogation reminded me of something that Sarah recently showed me in one of the books on our bookshelf. It was something that my grandfather Tinker Reynolds wrote. He was constantly writing on everything. He would turn books sides ways and write in the margin.

“Most of our hard heads can never absorb the beautiful wisdom and knowledge as it flows by. Like a rock in a clean spring branch if taken out of the stream to lie in the sun will be dry and hot so soon. But as The (Lord God, Jesus) is forever flowing we do not have to ever be moved out of the stream and we may not be able to absorb it all, but we can stay fresh in it. Besides, if one could absorb it all there would the stream cease to flow to touch others, it is so soothing to me I want to pass it on to others. If I only had knowledge I would be forced to converse with fools and illeterates, and to a fool you couldn’t impart knowledge. Oh to think that Jesus our Lord will sit down in our chamber and talk to us and is so glad to give us his wisdom, but will also stop with a drunkard on the edge of the gutter and tell him I love you too. So glad to be like that rock in the creek, still in the flow.

Tinker

That’s really how I feel about reading the Bible. I want to stay fresh in it daily.

3,909.2

Have you ever failed to reach a goal? Sometimes the feeling of failure is so strong that you struggle to find the courage to begin again. Sometimes almost reaching a goal gives you the motivation to try even harder the next time. I had planned to cycle 4,000 miles in 2022, but I fell short by 90.8 miles. That is one really good day of riding. Or one week of consistent riding. Or somewhere between 2,500-3,500 calories, I’ve never really trusted my burn rate calculations. I did not achieve my goal. No one really wants to hear excuses why I didn’t. But I almost did it.

There are some goals where almost doesn’t cut it. Like finding a good wife. That’s an honorable goal. You don’t want to almost find a good wife. This is a discrete goal, where you either achieve it or you don’t. You don’t almost shoot a deer and expect to feel good about your effort. However, if you have a goal that is on a continuum, a number like 4,000 miles may have been picked arbitrarily because it is a nice round number.

I feel good about almost riding 4,000 miles this year. I think the main reason I can feel good about almost reaching that goal is because it still took a lot of hard work.

By nature I am a list maker. I am constantly making Birthday lists, Christmas lists, to-do lists, wish lists, grocery lists, and inventories of guitar gear. One of the most important and closely followed lists I make is a list of goals for each coming year. A lot of my yearly goals involve doing something every day: reading the Bible, studying Spanish, playing guitar, and cycling. I am a believer in daily habits. It is the daily things that make the big things happen. Although it is interesting when someone does something remarkable in one day, it is the people who are able to be consistent on a daily basis that really impress me.

You would be hard pressed to find an athlete on the planet that could cycle 4,000 miles in a single day. Maybe there is someone who could learn a language in a day, but I have not met them. Most of the people I know who have accomplished remarkable things also tend to be extremely self-disciplined. And I suppose that is one of my biggest goals: to be self-disciplined.

Self-discipline sounds like a a miserable thing to a lot of us. It comes out in our language when we comment on things that take a lot of self-discipline. “Why would you want to do _________? That sounds horrible!”

The Bible is clear that temperance (self-control) is a fruit of the Spirit. And whether you call it self-control, self-discipline, self-restraint, or temperance, it is against our human nature. It just isn’t natural. We need divine help in this area.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5‬:‭22‬-‭23‬

I want to wish everyone a very happy and temperate New Year.

Morning Person

Are you a morning person or do you drink coffee? What is your routine?

I haven’t always been a morning person. Mom would often have to summon me by my full name to get out of bed for school. I have always been a breakfast person though. Maybe some morning people are born, but I believe that more often something makes you into a morning person.

I think I started being a morning person when I was working at Parks & Recreation and I had to be at the school by 6:30am. I was forced to be awake by the feeling of responsibility of running the before school recreation program, knowing that a couple dozen parents were depending on me to be there. But after a while, I just started enjoying being up that early.

There is something special about being awake before the sun comes up. The air smells and feels different in the morning. The atmosphere isn’t clouded with traffic and it is easier to think.

There is a difference between being a morning person and having to be at work early in the morning. If you have ever worked early in the morning you will understand what I mean. Morning people usually have a routine that happens before they even think about going to work. This baffles non-morning people. A morning person’s routine might consist of running a six miles, working in the garden, or even laundry.

Although there is something therapeutic about a morning routine, what I like most about the mornings is the morning sunlight. The kitchen in the house I grew up in faced due East. I can still see the light pouring through the window onto the kitchen table. That’s where much of the human interaction in our home happened. These days I enjoy seeing the sunlight peak over the horizon as I ride my bike through the backroads around my house.

I could tell you about it. I could even show you pictures. But it is really something that you have to experience for yourself. Maybe it will make you into a morning person.

Marriage

It is significant that Jesus began his ministry at a wedding.

I recently had someone ask me some honest questions about marriage. There were several questions, but this one carried the essence of them all:

“What is in it for me?”

In the current hedonistic, godless culture that Hollywood has been so successful in helping to create, this question does not seem irrational. There are tax benefits in some instances for not being married. The 20th century Feminist movement that challenged gender roles has now ushered in the gender identity crisis which has further convoluted the very idea of marriage. To ask “What is in marriage for me?” today, as selfish as it sounds, is a sincere question; and it needs an answer.

In order to answer this question properly, we have to define what marriage is. Marriage is the God ordained union between one man and one woman. The marriage contract precedes all human government and even the church. You could say that marriage is the only thing that survived the fall of man: a remnant of paradise.

Marriage comes with the great responsibility and commission from God to be fruitful and multiply. It is God’s intent for marriage, and especially the role of women, to sustain human life on Earth.

Marriage is also a metaphor for God’s relationship with the church. The Old Testament book Song of Solomon, or Song of Songs, is dedicated entirely to this purpose. In the New Testament the church is portrayed as the Bride of Christ.

It is significant that Jesus began his ministry at a wedding.

What is in marriage for me also depends on your values. Do you value trust, commitment, and companionship? If these things are more important to you than tax breaks then you are starting to understand marriage. Do you value life? Do you value your children having a stable home, or are you ok with someone else raising your children? Do you value the other person? If you truly value a significant other there is no higher degree of commitment and love than marriage.

The Bible has an interesting term for misplaced value: unnatural affection. People who are inhibited by unnatural affection will not see any value in marriage.

Lastly, we must address the selfish nature of the question, What is in it for me? Marriage is one of the most selfless commitments that someone can take. I would argue that selfishness is the root cause of many marriage failures.

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. Ephesians 5:25-27

Marriage requires so much more than many are willing to pay. How expensive is giving yourself?

The same question that was asked by my friend in regard to marriage also applies to The Church. There is only one church, that’s the one that Jesus gave himself for. That church is holy and without blemish. Just like the many contracts that fall short of marriage-open marriages, friends with benefits, partnerships, and such like-there are a myriad of places that try to offer some sort of perverted substitute relationship with God that do not meet the high standard God places for His Church.

My relationship with God and my relationship with my wife are the two most important things in my life. These relationships provide the context for dealing with every other thing in the cosmos. My answer to the question what is in it (marriage) for me? Everything.

On Time

The art of time management is a very grown up thing. It is ultimately what distinguishes us as adults.

I suppose I have the same self awareness as I did in my earliest memories. But lately I’ve been feeling very grown up.

Perhaps it’s is because I have a mortgage now. A death pledge to pay a lot of money plus interest. There was a time when I would roll my eyes at stuffy grown ups who didn’t know how to loosen up and have fun. Now I wonder when silly young people are going to quit wasting time and get serious about life. I think there is a keener awareness of time that comes with age and gives older people the ability to be sharp and direct with words. I haven’t reached that point yet, but I can see it in the distance.

A lot things that adults have to do are not enjoyable, which is why a lot of people are reluctant to become adults. People who do not choose to evade responsibility are grown up. Responsibility often looks like a father working to provide for a family, a mother taking care of a home, a child taking care of a pet or a toy.

I think the main reason that I am feeling so grown up lately is because I am keenly aware that I cannot do everything that I would like simply because of time.

One of the greatest things about being a grown up is being a master of your own time. One could argue that working a job does not make one a master of their own time. I suppose that may be the case for many people, but I tend to look at time as currency that I can trade for resources to support my family.

The art of time management is a very grown up thing. It is ultimately what distinguishes us as adults. Time is the ultimate responsibility. How someone spends their time defines them. If you don’t believe this ask someone who is doing time.

How we treat time perhaps is more telling of our character than how we spend time. One could hardly deny that the irascible, impatient, reckless driver forcing his way through traffic like a Bull of Bashan has a concept of his own time, but a total disregard for the time, and indeed the life, of others. These people are bound by time, not masters of it. Frankly, they are not grown up.

There is chronological time, which is what most of us think about when we think of time. You can measure chronological time with the steady predictable ticking of a clock. We can think of this kind of time horizontally, like a timeline. And there is kairological time, which cannot be measured with a clock and could be thought of vertically. Heaven often operates on kairological time.

Jesus spoke of “The times and the seasons.” Chronos and Kairos. Acts 1:7

Kairological time is manifest when an unpredictable event comes and unapologetically crashes into chronological time. The birth of Jesus Christ, The Crucifixion, The Resurrection, and The Day of Pentecost are the most significant kairological events in the history of mankind. But kairological events are not limited to these. Every time the Word of God is preached there is potential for a kairological moment. Every time someone is filled with the gift of the Holy Ghost is a kairological moment.

The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. II Timothy 4:2.

Instant in season and out of season: Kairos and Chronos.

It is simpler to get a handle on chronological time. The whole world operates on chronological time. And how we handle it defines us as humans. But there is much less awareness of kairological time. The entire Cosmos operates on Kairological time. And how we handle it defines us as spiritual beings.

Funeral Processions

This came as a surprise to me when I moved away as an adult: not everywhere allows funeral processions. Even some places in Alabama have given up on this tradition.

Uncle Barry and Gram made the trip up to Cullman a few Saturdays ago. We ate at my sister’s house and just visited. It was good to see both of them. Uncle Barry was having open heart surgery the next week. He had had a heart attack earlier this year. After they amputated his big toe, they told him that he needed to have open heart surgery, but he wasn’t strong enough to handle it just yet.

I had to struggle to reconcile those words “not strong enough” relating to Uncle Barry. When I was a kid I didn’t think there was anyone stronger in the world. He once picked up a headache ball with one hand. I wasn’t exactly sure what a headache ball was, or how much one weighed. So I imagined it as a wrecking ball used to tear down old buildings, and I gave it the satisfyingly immense weight of 300lbs. A real headache ball weighs at most around 100lbs, and is used to keep the cable on a crane from flying around in the wind.

I watched Uncle Barry lift up Jacob Wray onto the roof the church so Jacob could fetch the keys that he had thrown on the roof. I can still see the panicking women and the grinning men watching the spectacle through the clear church windows.

Before I was born, Uncle Barry and Uncle Tony came over to Dad’s house to help level an ancient building in the back yard. An old neighbor came over to watch the men work because that is what old men do. Uncle Tony, ever the prankster, told the old man that Uncle Barry’s name was Charles Ray. Uncle Barry single handedly lifted up the building so Uncle Tony and Dad could sure up the foundation with cinder blocks.

“Y’all killing Charles Ray!” The old man protested not knowing Uncle Barry’s herculean strength. This saying has survived in our family and is used whenever one person seems to be doing all the work.

Every Christmas Uncle Barry gave me a pocket knife. Even after I was grown he wanted to know what I was carrying. Or maybe he just asked that because he really wanted to show me what he was carrying.

The last thing I did with Uncle Barry was pray with him.

He came through his surgery fine the following Wednesday. I was glad to hear that. I am always amazed at how quickly heart surgery patients bounce back.

But then Friday came. My sister told me early Friday Morning that Uncle Barry didn’t make it. That was July 1st. It is one thing to know that death is imminent and another when death comes suddenly. I am still trying to sort out having seen him laughing and carrying on less than a week before his death.

My Nonna died on July 4th. It took me by surprise, but it shouldn’t have. The last time I went to see her I felt like the little boy that Dad was taking to visit a bedridden relative that I really didn’t know. I was always amazed at how he could carry on a conversation and laugh with someone who was barely awake and incoherent. Now I realize that he was probably saying goodbye to a shell of a person who used to be so full of life. That was Nonna, full of life. And laughter.

She was always laughing. Or rather cackling. I love laughter. I wish I had a laugh track from her house circa 1995. Starring Aunt Shelby, Uncle Ferman, Cindy, Dad, and Nonna. I would listen to often. Who am I kidding? I can hear it right now.

We used to go to Pop & Nonna’s every Monday night and party. They’d be enough food to feed half of Sterrett. We ate everything from chicken and dressing-a dish normal people may only get at Thanksgiving but we might get in August-to humble kraut and weenies. I don’t remember ever really running out of food. My brother said the Lord must’ve helped her. She made some of the best cakes. Twinkie Cake was my favorite.

Nonna had two refrigerators and two freezers. I believe that her and Pop might’ve been hungry as kids and they didn’t want that to ever happen again. Not to them, nor their children or grandchildren.

Nonna was also a card shark. For the first part of my life they, the adults that is, played Hand & Foot, a variation of Canasta. I never played that. But I did play Rook. We played a lot of cards, but there was no gambling. There was never any alcohol either. Nonna sure new how to party.

Nonna died of congestive heart failure. Similar to Uncle Barry, her heart just quit.

“I’m just so tired. I don’t want to take any more medicine.”

So we had two funerals in one week. I have to confess, that I much prefer weddings to funerals. There is never any punch at funerals. And there is a lot of crying at funerals. But there is also a lot of comfort at funerals.

After Uncle Barry’s funeral we rode in funeral procession from Sylacauga to the Vincent City Cemetery, just a kudzu patch and a magnolia tree away from the house I where I was raised. Funeral processions passing right in front of the house was a regular occurrence when I was kid. Just like the passing trailers packed with cotton on their way to the Cotton Gin were normal. Mom and Dad had taught me that it was rude to keep playing when the funeral procession passed.

“You need to stop what you are doing out of respect for the dead.”

This came as a surprise to me when I moved away as an adult: not everywhere allows funeral processions. Even some places in Alabama have given up on this tradition.

I got off my bike and stood at attention in my dirty jeans and sweaty glasses and watched countless funeral processions to that cemetery. Even then I could feel the heaviness of this custom. Uncle Barry’s was the first one to that cemetery I remember riding in. It was really moving to see old men pulled over on the side of the road, standing out in the heat with their hats over their hearts, and shirtless young men who stopped in the middle of weed-eating a fence to show respect for the dead. It made me proud to be from Alabama.

Two deaths in the family in such a short time has caused me to do quite a bit of thinking in last few days. Both of these relatives died of heart disease. Heart disease runs in my family on both sides. I am not a cardiologist, but it also seems like heart disease and good cooking run in the same families.

“Uncle Barry, what did the doctor say you need to do about your heart?” I asked him the last time I saw him.

“Don’t get up over 300lbs. Eat regular.”

“I’ve been eating pretty regular all my life! I should be fine.”

“Naw!” He laughed, “You got to eat right.”

I am earnestly trying to reverse the trend of heart disease and diabetes in my family. It is a noble endeavor, but ultimately it doesn’t matter how healthy you are physically if you are not healthy spiritually when you ride in your final funeral procession.

For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.

I Timothy 4:8

Wrecks of the Week

I realize that many people do not find photographs of automobile accidents edifying. In fact most people find them disturbing. I would be concerned about you if these photographs didn’t make you wince. It is not good subject material. Wrecks are an ugly part of life. And we tend to not want to focus on the ugly parts of life. There is something in us that would rather ignore ugliness in hope that it goes away no matter how commonplace, or rampant it has become.

The sobering thing to me about wrecks is they are all inclusive: no driver is immune.

I just read I Kings 13. It is a strange story of an unnamed prophet who arrives to prophesy against Jeroboam and his profane altar. God gave the prophet very specific instructions: Don’t eat or drink anything, here is exactly what to prophesy, and don’t take the same road back home. The prophet does really well until he is lead astray by an older lying prophet. Ultimately, God sends a lion to kill the unnamed prophet for his disobedience. If you will allow a modern phrase, this prophet crashes and burns.

This story, as bizarre at it seems, is a theme for many people in I Kings. Namely Joab, Solomon, and Jeroboam. All of these started out doing really well. Joab defends David many times, albeit he is a little unruly. God appeared before Solomon twice. God sent a prophet to prophesy to Jeroboam. These men did well until they did not do well.

These are the kind of things I think about when I see a wreck. Yes, there is something artistic about a crashed vehicle, but it is not something that makes you feel good. It is something that should make you think long uncomfortable, sobering thoughts.

When I see a wreck I think about what the Word of God calls the highway of holiness. I think of a life off course. Of a young person who made an impulsive decision to get them of course. I think of a middle aged man who made a calculated decision to get them of course. I think of wrecked lives. Broken homes. Addictions.

Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5:7‬ ‭

Ice Cream

I love ice cream. I once received an emergency haircut after I snuck out of bed to finish off the ice cream. I stuck the empty plastic ice cream bucket over my head and licked the sides. There was no hiding the evidence in my hair the next morning on the way to take Zach to school.

My parents had an old Amana ice cream maker that was louder than three holiness preachers. Like so many other appliances from the 80s, it was brown and tan. I am not sure it came from the factory that loud. When you’re a kid you think broken things are normal, like the refrigerator that won’t stay closed. The noise didn’t ever stop us from partying though. And my parents hardly ever made ice cream without it being a party. After all, what you need to have a party is special food and special people. So by that definition, every night was a party at our house.

I suppose the rackety Amana was better than the hand crank ice cream makers that some of my older friends have told me about. I guess you’ll gladly do whatever it takes to have some ice cream. I imagine you could rig up an exercise bike to an ice cream maker if times were tough and you were smart enough. I bet Creed could do it. Anyway, I’m not thinking about engineering, I’m thinking about ice cream.

Like I was saying, the ice cream machine noise was part of the atmosphere of a party. All the adults would be sitting around the table playing Rook. They yelled anyway, but they had to put in extra effort to raise their voices above the electric motor whining away in the kitchen. The kids probably got away with more mischief since the noise was running interference for them. No one ever said anything about the noise until someone turned the machine off.

“Man that was loud.” Somebody would say as if Jesus had just rebuked the sea and the disciples were marveling at the calm.

They always made vanilla and strawberry. Those were the only flavors I thought homemade ice cream came in. Man was it ever good. Strawberry is probably still my favorite, but ice cream has to be real bad for me to not like it. In Virginia they made Grape-Nuts Ice Cream and acted like it was the best thing ever. If you’re not familiar with Grape-Nuts then you probably don’t know about fried bologna neither. It’s a cereal that poor people used to eat instead of food. Just put a little bit of fine gravel in the vanilla next time you make a batch of homemade ice cream and you’ll get the same texture and maybe a little better taste. It tastes bad because you had to grow up eating it for it to taste good.

To someone out there, homemade ice cream with Grape-Nuts in it will bring back a flood of fond memories. It just didn’t do it for me.

Sis. Beane made some lemon ice cream one time at youth camp. She put it three or four times the amount of lemon flavoring that the recipe called for. Bro. J.L. Parker took a big bite and made a sour face. “Sister, that’s the best I ever tried to eat.”

Dad used to tell us about how Pop would ask him and Uncle Melvin what kind of ice cream they wanted from the store.

“Rocky Road!”

“Chocolate!”

No matter what they asked, Pop always brought back Cherry Vanilla.

Dad would laugh about that story.

It was around the time that he knew he was about to die that Dad asked for some Cherry Vanilla Ice Cream. As many times as he told that story, it was the first time that I ever remember seeing it. One of the last things I saw dad eat was Blue Bell Dutch Chocolate. I fed it it to him. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to eat that flavor again and not think of him.

So I’m thinking about getting an ice cream maker, or seeing if Creed can do the bicycle powered deal. I want to experiment with some different flavors. I think peach ice cream would be good. And apparently they used to make that at Nonna’s, but I just don’t remember it. Or maybe we can use some of these blackberries that grow on the back fence. I mean just about any fruit will be good in ice cream.

“Anything with five cups of sugar in it is bound to be good.”

-Bo

I think I’ll start with strawberry though.

How to Ride 100 Miles on Your Bike

No one is going to be impressed if you tell them, “Today I rode my bicycle.”

Unless you are a child who has never ridden a bike, or just got off of training wheels, there is nothing remarkable about that. Any average adult could’ve done the same thing with little effort and no planning.

But it if you tell someone, “Today I rode my bike 100 miles.” Then you are more likely to get a different response. Some people will be impressed, some will think you are crazy as an outhouse rat. But most everyone is curious about things that require something more than marginal effort. It is that extra effort-work, planning, dedication, etc.-that stands out to people.

Riding 100 miles on a bicycle sounds like a nearly impossible task for some people. But it is really quite simple. It’s just takes hard work and some planning. To a cyclist (I guess I am an official gel eating, ride in the rain cyclist) riding 100 miles, or a Century, is a right of passage. As ridiculous as it may sound, it is something that cyclists work their way toward achieving.

I am not saying that it is not possible to get on a bike without any training and ride 100 miles without a plan. But I am saying that it will be difficult to ride the day after you do that. In fact it will be difficult to do anything the day after. I also can’t promise that you won’t injure yourself.

I’m sure there is someone more qualified to tell you how to go about riding 100 miles, but if you are a regular reader we both know that cycling is not really what we’re actually talking about here. At any rate, this is what I would recommend if this is something you really want to do.

Commit to Cycling.

Unless you commit to cycling and go out and purchase a bicycle, riding a century is going to be like anything else that you would just like to do. There is a commitment beyond simply purchasing the bike: riding the bike. Every day. Something will hurt every day that you ride. You will be out of breath and have to do the walk of shame on some of the hills, pushing your bike up as you wonder if you’ll ever get to a point where this won’t hurt. It won’t quit being hard, you’ll just go faster.

Eventually, there will come a point when that one hill doesn’t whip you any more. This only happens to the people that don’t quit.

Set Small Goals First.

There will come a time when you will have to set a distance goal that is beyond what you are capable of doing in your early morning ride. You won’t be quite sure how hard it will be to ride x miles, but you have a rough idea of how much time it will take because you ride n miles every morning and n•5=x. You’ll be confident you can ride that far because you have done it every week for a few weeks, but you’re not certain that you can do a week’s worth of riding in one day.

This is when you have to saddle up one morning and not get off until you have completed your goal.

Fortunately for you, you have me to tell you to pack plenty of food because you stand to burn about 2,000 calories for a 50 mile ride. If you don’t eat and drink enough you will run out of energy and it will take a while for you to feel better.

If you think you don’t need those padded underwear you will change your mind after that first Half Century.

Plan a Route.

The first time I rode 50 miles I had to psych myself up for it. If I am honest I didn’t have a lot of confidence in myself to finish. So I purposefully mapped a route. It is hard to give up when you are 25 miles from the house.

Mapping out a route is even more important when doing a Century. Nothing kills motivation like not having a plan.

Where there is no vision, the people perish…

Proverbs 29:18

You don’t want to have to spend the last 15 miles of a Century mapping out a route. You won’t be in the right frame of mind.

Follow the Plan.

I believe in following the plan. You made the plan when you were thinking straight. At mile 80 you won’t be thinking straight. If you planned to do 100 miles, then all you have to do is follow the plan.

Century I

For your first Century I would avoid any roads with “mountain” in the name.

Century II

Once you ride 100 miles in a single day, any distance below 100 miles doesn’t seem that far. It is a psychological barrier that must be broken. Once it is broken there is also the danger of not riding shorter rides any more because they aren’t 100 miles. I feel pretty strongly that these simple daily rides are just as important if not more important than any Century ride.

Light gains, heavy purses.

-Poor Richard’s Almanac

Anything in life worth doing is probably going to be hard. Easy things hardly ever stand out as great things. The paradox is that great things are generally simple, but simple doesn’t mean easy.

You may have great things that you would like to do but haven’t done yet. I believe that you can do them. It is amazing what you can do with a little commitment and planning.