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.

Garden Talk

I just want to talk about gardening.

I enjoy listening to people talk about their gardens. Even the hippies. The new age hippies that think the government won’t know where they live if they quit paying the power bill and live out of a converted horse trailer. They will talk on and on about non-GMO milk, free-range green beans and raw, unpasteurized chickens. I am not quite a hippie but I have been using organic toothpaste since the Bush administration. I can appreciate their enthusiasm though. Especially on social media.

I can appreciate anyone’s garden enthusiasm on social media. I genuinely enjoy seeing someone share a picture of their garden. The people that care about gardens, really care. When someone shares a garden picture what I see is a lot of forethought, patience, and hard work.

Who I really like to listen to talk about gardens are the people who have had gardens for fifty or so years.

“Did you get any lids yet? I got enough for 75 quarts of green beans, and 105 quarts of vegetable soup base.”

“If you run that heavy tractor tire between them rows it’ll pack that dirt down hard and won’t no weeds grow in it.”

“I like to put some of that field-kicker on it.”

“I only plant Rattlesnake Pole Beans. Them’s the ones you like.”

I think the retired people have the best looking gardens. They have the kind of time it takes to keep rows neat and tidy. I see these kind of garden’s out in the country while I’m riding my bicycle. It’s as if they are expecting the Garden Inspector General to swing by unannounced and grade their work.

The last two years I’ve had Bro. Art come over and plow up a garden plot that is way too big for me to manage. It usually gets out of hand around mid-July and I feel guilty for letting the weeds overtake it. I don’t want that to happen again this year so I had Bro. Paul come over and plow up a garden plot that is way too big for me to manage.

In an effort to keep our garden as low-maintenance as possible, I didn’t plant any pole beans this year. I think I’ll just plant two crops bunch beans staggered by a couple of week. Sarah did plant one lonely tomato plant, although neither of us eat tomatoes. It just seems like the right thing to do.

Hollynn likes tomatoes though.

I do chuckle a bit when people say they are planting “non-GMO” crops, as if people for thousands of years haven’t been crossbreeding plants to arrive at what we have today. The Native Americans from the Maya all the way up to the Iroquois planted the Three Sisters: corn, beans, and squash. None of these crops are found in the wild, they have to be cultivated. The Three Sisters grow well together; the beans will climb the corn stalk. Meso-Americans were so good at developing this kind of agriculture that the pre-Columbian population could have been as high as 112 million. I don’t plan to grow on that scale anytime soon, but it is fascinating to me. This is the kind of stuff I think about when I look at a garden.

It would be difficult for most of us to pick a favorite vegetable. Except for the potato people. Potatoes is the only vegetable that they even eat. I think I would have to choose green beans, but I would make sure that all the other vegetables knew that I loved them too. My favorite way to eat green beans is sauteed in oil and garlic. Or cooked to death in bacon grease; I’m not particular.

Earlier this week my beans started sprouting. I was so excited. I told my brother thinking he’d be just as excited.

“I feel like I’m talking to my Dad.” He said laughingly.

It is a wonderful feeling to see something shoot up out of the ground from a seed. It is a spiritual experience. One that never gets old. I hope that you all grow record tomatoes this summer and that your beans don’t quit producing until it frosts.

While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and not shall not cease. Genesis 8:22

Between Books

There is a certain amount of guilt that comes with giving up on a book.

Sarah can always tell when I start reading a new book that is really good because I’ll stay up past 9:30pm. There is nothing quite like a book that really captivates you. You’ll find yourself thinking about the characters and plot even when you’re not reading. When you finally do finish it there is a bit of sadness because it is over. Then you have to hope that the next book your pick up is as good, but you never know. Sometimes you feel obligated to press on through an uninteresting book. You try to press on, but when a book is boring there is no motivation to read, and instead of staying up to read you close the book and go to sleep. There is a certain amount of guilt that comes with giving up on a book. When you finally make the decision to ditch a bad book you run the risk of going through this whole process again. This is what I call being stuck between books.

I guess now is as good of a time as any to confess that I am a bibliophile. I don’t just love to read, I love books. A book case is the first thing you see when you walk into my home. I love the smell of a century old book. I love the feel and color of old paper with words that were mechanically printed with ink and typeset. My parents bought books not only to read, but to display.

When a book is really good it becomes a part of our family language: an integral part of how we express ourselves.

Being between books demands a decision. We can either reach back for old books that we’ve already read (and there are some books that should be re-read) or we reach forward for the unknown of a new, hoping that we will chance upon a story that will become a part of us. Or we can stop reading.

In a larger sense, we can compare our lives to a series of books. There is romance, love, horror, tragedy, adventure, mystery. There is one exception though, you can’t really re-live any of these books. You cannot start over, but you can start new. And there is still a possibility of getting caught between books.

In life it is sometimes hard to tell when one book ends and another begins, which can make for dangerous transition traps. Thankfully, early on these lines are drawn more clearly for us. We go from Kindergarten to first grade and so on; each school year a new volume in the library of life. Once we graduate we lose the preset beginnings and endings that school provided for us yearly from age five until whenever we stopped our schooling. Because of this, we can all too easily forget the feeling of beginning anew once we become adults, and many people feel the pressure to somehow to make forty year run until retirement with no new fresh starts. In short, it is quite difficult for people to affect a new positive change in their lives-or even recognize a when a change is necessary- without help from an outside force.

As a result people get caught between books in life. Or worse, they continue re-reading a bad book hoping in vain to finish with a different ending, or without a concept of ever finishing. To use Bible language, these people are drifting aimlessly through life “having no hope.”

The basic message of Christianity is repentance. Or making a complete new start with the understanding that the routine that I was in before is no longer an option. It takes a lot of guts to make a new start like that. Jesus Christ said it best:

The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached and every man presseth into it.

Luke 16:16

John came preaching “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” What an offensive word: Repent. It is still as offensive today as it was then. No one wants to hear that they are doing anything-much less that they are living and thinking-wrong. But the message of Christianity has not changed since the birthday of the church in the book of Acts, and the preaching of the repentance still pricks people in their hearts, or cuts them to their hearts. This kind of preaching demands a decision.

There are many people who see what this kind of change requires and are unwilling to pay that kind of price, and they go away sorrowfully like the rich young ruler.

In fact a lot of “churches” have long ago quit preaching any semblance of conversion, because they also have quit preaching repentance in an effort to be less offensive. These assemblies, or congregations-I’ll not call them churches-offer no hope to people who desperately need a new start.

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. I Corinthians 5:17

So, what have you been reading?

Dan Theo Wells, 1935-2021

Ology is often translated as the study of. It is from the root word logos, word in Greek. It is more accurately translated as what can be said of.

Theology- that which can be said about God.
Psychology- that which can be said about the mind.

What can be said about Dan Theo Wells?

We must first establish his identity. Who is Dan Theo Wells?

He is a man of many titles: Bub, Slim, Pop. I suppose that some of my cousins could say that they lost Uncle Bub, Uncle Slim, and Uncle Dan and elicit treble condolences from sympathetic friends.

But when the roll was called in the Army only one name was read out, Dan Theo Wells. After a moments hesitation, Slim and Bub both stepped forth.

I knew him as Pop. My paternal grandfather. And really the only grandfather I knew. Tinker Reynolds- or Brant Douglas Reynolds, both one and the same- died when I was only two years old.

Most people knew Pop as Slim. But unless you were one of my cousins from Chicago, it only sounds right if you say it with a Southern accent. For anyone who struggles with a Southern accent, when in doubt make the vowel a diphthong: Slee-um.

Pop was incredibly economic in his elocutionary endeavors. I have ridden from Sterrett to Irondale and back with Pop and said fewer than three sentences.

Throughout my life, Pop was not a church-going man. I used to screw up the courage to invite him to church from time to time.

“Pop, you ought to come to church with us tonight.”

“I know son.” He would sigh.

I remember reading James 1:27 as a teenager and immediately thinking about Pop.

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
‭‭James‬ ‭1:27‬ ‭KJV‬‬

In part, Pop was a deeply religious man. He always kept a substantial garden. Perhaps it may seem a small thing to many, but he grew it to share. I guess you could say that he visited the widow of Tinker Reynolds in her affliction. Among many others.

Pop was also a man of principle. Pop never allowed alcohol at any of the barbecues he hosted. In his way, he more than once warned his employees in the hay business-Zach and me- about the dangers of alcohol.

“I took one drink when I was young and it tasted like horse ?¡$ś.”

I always thought that sounded pretty dangerous.

I think that because he was a man of principle he had an excellent reputation in his community. Integrity doesn’t require wealth or education, integrity requires character. Pop had character.

Around 2012 I think, Pop had an accident on an old Farm-All tractor. He started the tractor before he was fully seated and the tractor was already in gear. The sudden jerky motion threw him off balance and he fell off but his foot hung on one of the pedals and he was trapped in front of the engaged rear wheel. The tractor drug him a few feet until the barn post stopped the forward motion, but the huge tractor tire continued completely tear off his left quadriceps.

Nonna eventually heard him screaming and she ran out to the barn.

“Turn off the tractor!” He said.

It was the hand of God that Dennis Brasher-I think this is the right name, forgive me if I am wrong- happened to be driving by listening to the police scanner. He instinctively knew that the call was for Pop.

“Slim, I’m sorry this is going to hurt.” He said as he applied pressure to the gruesome wound. He kept his hands on what was left of Pop’s thigh for the whole ambulance ride to Birmingham. it is a testimony to Pop’s toughness that he remained conscious for the entire ordeal.

I honestly thought Pop was going to die then, so I got on an airplane and flew to Alabama from Virginia. But he was made of tougher stuff than I thought and lived another nine years out of spite I believe.

Time would fail me to recount a lifetime of fond memories of Pop. Perhaps the best thing that I can say about Pop, is that he had a good name. Even if few used it and even fewer knew it.

A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭22:1‬ ‭KJV‬‬

The last time I saw him coherent was October 27th. He and Nonna had soundly whipped COVID-19 much to my surprise and delight, but something had interfered with Pop’s Parkinson’s medicine and he had begun to hallucinate.

One moment he would be talking to me as clear as he was capable and the next moment he would just be talking to himself, or to whoever would listen about something that happened 40 years ago. Then he would be in the present 40 years ago, or perhaps in a dream.

But he knew who I was when I walked in.

“Is that Zane? Set me up.”

“I’m sorry you got to see me like this.” He said referring to the hospital bed.

“I’ve been worried about y’all’s sugar so I brought y’all some peach pies.”

We chatted for a little bit. Before Pop said, “Give me one of them pies.”

“The more I eat it, the better it gets.” He said with a grin

I must confess that this is not how I want to remember Pop. Sure the hat is there and those look like his hands. But I want to remember the Pop who hit a charging cow with a 2×4. And the Pop who lifted me with one hand into his Toyota pickup truck because I was too little to climb in by myself. And the Pop who brought me a cowboy hat one night after his trip to Tennessee. And the Pop who would bring all of us grandkids an Icee.

Dan Theo Wells

I want to remember this Pop. And I hope you do too.

I love you Pop.

Dan Theo “Slim” Wells, was born on April 16th 1935 to Daniel Webster Wells and Dovie Dunnaway Wells. He served the United States Army in the 3rd Armored Division from 1958-1960. He married Nola Mae Brasher. They had three children Perry Charles, Melvin Johnny, and Jason Theo.

Mr. Wells began working for Stockham Valves and Fittings shortly after his discharge from the Army. He retired from Stockham in the mid 1990s before the plant closed. During his time at Stockham he helped cast many of the valves for the Alaskan Pipeline.

Dan Theo Wells passed from this life in his home on November 12th, 2021.

Sunday Afternoons

Sometimes I wonder if people who don’t go to church on Sundays still take a Sunday afternoon nap. My parents always took a Sunday afternoon nap between church services. When I was little kid, I didn’t fully appreciate this practice. Instead of napping, I would read the Sunday comic page. Or that was always the first thing I did instead of napping. The Sunday comics were special because they were in color, and many of the strips followed a different story line on Sunday. Some comics only appeared on Sunday, like Prince Valiant. Which I read religiously even though I always felt like I started in medias res and that the only way to get the back story and fully understand what was going on was to have started following the comic back in 1937. But the artwork was good so I toughed it out while Mom and Dad settled in for their nap.

We had to be quiet during the nap, or at least until they fell asleep. Being quiet meant not stomping around or yelling. You can only read the comics for so long and then they are done and you have to look at all of the photographs and read the captions in the various articles until you find something that might be interesting. Then you could read the whole article, or until you got lost in all of the Balkan names. The 90s offered us a lot of good news content. Kosovo, Princess Diana, Monica Lewinski, Elian Gonzalez. Even world events get boring after awhile and I’d go find something else to do, but the newspaper ritual continued as long as I lived at home.

When I started playing guitar I would go back to the church on Sunday afternoons and hang out with Jacob, a friend who was also learning to play guitar. Perhaps that’s misleading, he was learning, he already new how. He was a gifted musician. If it hadn’t have been for him, I probably wouldn’t have started playing guitar. Initially I wanted to play the bass. But Jacob got a bass before I did, so I got a guitar.

He was always saying, “Go get your guitar.”

We’d meet back at the church after lunch and hang out until the next service. I suppose the statute of limitations has expired so I don’t mind telling you that we raided the Sunday School refrigerator and snack cabinet quite a few times. I don’t think they missed that forgotten vanilla ice cream though.

We would spend the afternoon all of the guitar riffs that we new and some of the ones that we didn’t and we couldn’t tell the two apart. It was great fun. I still kind of do the same thing now at band rehearsal. We just don’t raid the Sunday School snack cupboard. And we are practicing church songs that we are going to sing for the evening service, and not trying to perfect Lynyrd Skynyrd licks.

Jacob was notorious about waiting until I had just finally got handle on a rock’n’roll guitar lick enough to make it remotely recognizable when he would suddenly say, “Sir?” while looking toward the front door of the church. It never failed to scare the daylights out of me.

On rare occasions, probably due to impending weather, we would help Pop haul hay on a Sunday afternoon. There was always a tangible unspoken urgency to hurry through the chore in order to make it to church in time for the six o’clock service.

Appreciation for a Sunday afternoon nap comes with maturity. Just like having a steady job comes with maturity. Perhaps the shiftless can enjoy a Sunday afternoon nap, but they didn’t earn it.

There are a lot of differing opinions on the art of a Sunday afternoon nap. Clothes or pajamas? Recliner or bed? Post nap shower or no? I’m a pajama-bed-shower man myself. But sometimes the nap is so good you just have to get up and get to band practice and hope for the best.

“That was a good nap huh?” Adam will say if I ever skip the post-nap shower.

“Yes. How’d you know?”

“You got that nap hair going on. Hehehe.”

I don’t always get a Sunday afternoon nap these days because we have a one year old who can’t entertain herself by reading the Sunday comics yet. But as soon as she can read, I’m taking a Sunday afternoon nap.

What I Liked About My Dad

I got a message this week from one of the ladies at church.

Would you mind sharing with me what you liked about your dad, for Father’s Day presentation?

This is the answer I gave her.

I suppose I would be lying if I said I liked everything about my dad. There are the things that he and I share in common that I have to constantly keep in check and I wish I could change. But these kind of things, and more importantly how we deal with them, are a part of what makes up a person’s character. Thankfully, the shortcomings alone of a man are not what define him.

The characteristics that I admire most about my Dad are as follows:

Faithfulness

Most will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find? Proverbs 20:6

I never wondered where my Dad was. He was faithful to his wife, his family, his church, and his God.

Love

He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chaseneth him betimes. Proverbs 13:24

Now that I am trying to raise my kids I can relate to the frustration Dad had trying to raise me. I realize now that the driving force behind everything he did was love.

Integrity

The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him. Proverbs 20:7

As an adult I realize now how rare integrity is.

Love for Truth

Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it is established: and by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches. Proverbs 24:3-4

Dad had a deep love for truth. He was always quoting Proverbs 23:23 Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.

Communication


A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. Proverbs 25:11

Dad may not have necessarily been a powerful orator, but he was an excellent communicator. A critic once accused Mark Twain’s work as water compared to the fine wine of higher literature, mark Twain replied, “But the people drink water.” Dad was a master at the art of conversation. He could talk to anybody.

Maybe this was more than she was wanting, but I have been thinking about Dad more than usual this week and I didn’t want to give her a generic answer.

These are some of the characteristics that I am striving to master in my own life. More importantly, I want to instill them in my children.

About Time

“Doesn’t everything take time and money?”

“I’ve always thought skydiving would be fun. I’ve just never found the time or money to do it.” I said this to a friend who skydives all the time.

“Doesn’t everything take time and money?” He asked.

It is true. You can get a lot of things done when you have a lot of time and money. Everyone may not have the same amount of money, but we all are given the same amount of time. The difference is, if you have a lot of money you can buy other people’s time. When I write it out like that it makes me wonder if I’m selling my time too cheaply.

“What’s time to a pig?”

Sean’s grandfather

I had a conversation recently that on the surface was about organization of a daily routine and getting better sleep. At the core though, this conversation revolved around time. And more specifically, the frustration and guilt over the mismanagement of time. In an effort to help my friend, I shared my thoughts about time. It was nothing new, but I think it helped him. So I’m sharing them with you.

Time is currency. We spend it, waste it, or invest it.

Each of us is given and indefinite amount of this currency made payable only in the present. We can make plans on how to use our time just like we make plans to use our future paychecks. We’re not really sure when our time will run out. And we know that at a single instant everything could change. But we do not like to retain this in our knowledge. If dwelt upon, the uncertainty of time is unnerving.

Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭27:1‬

The gift of time is a great responsibility. If time is indeed currency, or money, I want to get the best deal for my hours and minutes. Perhaps it comes with age or possibly is a byproduct of sheer laziness, but economy of time is very important to me. Let me explain.

I am allotted one hour for lunch. Lunch can cost me the full hour, or I can choose to only pay five minutes for lunch and then have fifty five minutes to spend practicing guitar. If I do this five days a week, that is four hours and thirty five minutes of practice gained.

Currently I have precious time bound in my commute to work. In order to make the most of that nonnegotiable hour in the truck I listen to audiobooks. Which means I can read a book a week on my commute alone. If I adjust the audiobook speed I can sometimes squeeze in two books a week.

There are some times when I’m less concerned about how quickly a task can be completed, or rather how cheaply I was able purchase an activity with my time. Some things are worth however long it takes. I am thinking of the time I invest with my wife and kids. I do not believe that all moments are equal. Five minutes on my lunch break is not worth the same amount as a five minute conversation with my five year old.

Then there are the truly priceless moments of opportunity that can never be regained nor renegotiated. How can we measure their worth? These are the moments of decision in life. It may be possible that they can be anticipated by the wise, although they often go unrecognized by the foolish. These are the moments that if missed will be a source of regret and anguish, if acted upon will be a source of strength and resolve.

So what are you doing with your time? If the Chronological Examiners Board showed up at your door to do an audit could you endure their report?

My prayer for you, dear reader, is that you would take time to address the areas in your life that are of eternal significance. Thank you for your time.

Voices

We endure a fool’s speech not because they have some wisdom to offer, but because they may say something so incredibly ridiculous that it becomes entertainment.

I am thinking this morning about voices.

There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.

I Corinthians 14:10

I learned how to talk in a large extended family of loud talkers. So I acquired some of the critical communication skills necessary to be a successful boisterous politician just by going to my grandparent’s house once a week. There are two basic ways to get heard. The first tactic that you learn very young is how to talk someone down. At its basest essence, talking someone down means that you interrupt them and talk louder than them until they shut up and everyone starts listening to you. At its more refined nature it is the ability to successfully address an entire room.

“Zane, you ain’t never heard a story you didn’t think needed interrupting.”

Zach Wells

I admit, interrupting is a bad habit that I am actively trying to fix. But sometimes you must interrupt to rescue people from someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about. My Dad called these people blithering idiots. We’ve all been trapped in endless conversations-rather monologues- with people who don’t know how to be clear and concise. We’ve all needed to be freed by someone who isn’t afraid to talk them down. That’s how I justify interrupting anyway.

“We endure a fool’s speech not because they have some wisdom to offer, but because they may say something so incredibly ridiculous that it becomes entertainment.”

The second way to insure that you will be heard is to have something to say that is worth hearing. When you have something worth hearing, you won’t need to talk anyone down. There are people that can walk into a room and almost whisper and everyone will hush, straining to hear what is being said. These are the kind of voices that I have been thinking about.

But the world is full of all kinds of voices. Voices on the radio shows, podcasts, and blogs. Voices on YouTube, Twitter, FaceBook, and Instagram. Voices you only hear on infrequent phone calls. Voices from the pulpit. Voices on your TV. Voices in your college classrooms, discussion boards, textbooks. All competing with each other for our attention. It gets loud at times. Sometimes you need to take stock and silence some of those voices. But make sure you don’t silence the wrong voices.

From time to time I like to ask myself these questions:

What is the loudest voice in my life? What is the most significant voice in my life? What voices are in conflict? What voices are making me worry or angry? How did this voice make its way here?

I am thinking of my Dad’s voice. Although he’ll never again talk to me in the life, I still hear him loud and clear. I remember him preaching about Herod the Tetrarch, who had the head of John the Baptist presented on a platter. Hell tried to silence “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” And when Jesus stood before Herod “he[Jesus] answered him nothing.”

You cannot silence the voice of the man of God and still expect to hear God’s voice.

Hell is still trying to silence the voice that cries “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” It’s an offensive thing preaching. It comes at us without regard to our feelings. It is an assault on our carnal nature. It is foolish, but “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” I Corinthians 1:21

Of all the voices in my life-and none of them without signification-I need most of all the voice of a preacher. And so do you. Please don’t silence the voice of the preacher in your life.

2020 Booklist

According to my Reading Specialist Mother-in-law, “The same area of your brain is used whether you are reading or listening.”

I listen to a lot of audio books during my daily commute and while performing menial tasks. Although I worked from home three out of five days for much of the year, according to Audible I still managed to listen to audio books for 23 days 5 hours and 5 smokin’ minutes. Now I know there is a lot of debate over whether listening to a book is the same as reading a book. This is a silly argument. According to my Reading Specialist Mother-in-law, “The same area of your brain is used whether you are reading or listening.” There is nothing like sitting in a comfortable chair in a quiet room and reading a real hard back book with typeset printing. Alas, I spend ten hours a week on the road and I try to make the most of that time with audiobooks.

Rather than give you the huge list of books I finished this year-some of which were duds-I’ve tried to narrow it down to the five titles that resonated most with me.

The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill Defender of the Realm by William Manchester and Paul Reid

This was the first audiobook that I tackled back in January. This 53 hour behemoth covers the life of Winston Churchill from 1940-1965. Which is to say that it covers world history from that time period. It inspired me to listen to several of Churchill’s speeches and read a host of other books about World War II. If I could only recommend one of those books it would be The Last Battle by Cornelius Ryan.

While the book obviously focuses on Churchill, it goes into great detail about his relationships with other world leaders like Stalin and Roosevelt. I found it interesting how Roosevelt, ever the politician, slowly and steadily dismantled the British Empire.

Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens

I love Charles Dickens. His books are fun to read, but there is something marvelously appealing to me about listening to a great narrator read in all the Dickensian accents. I like to listen to Dickens whenever I finish a truly heavy work of non-fiction like Night by Ellie Wessel.

Why Little Dorrit made the list is not because of the great storyline-it’s good, but it’s not Dickens at his best to me. This book made the list solely because of his invention of The Office of Circumlocution. Anyone who has ever been frustrated with inefficient government bureaucracy will appreciate Dicken’s satire. It is worth thumbing through if only to read those passages.

Conquistadors by Michael Wood

Of the five books I completed this year in this area of study, this title is an excellent sampler. I found this subject so interesting that I’ve started studying Spanish again after I realized that all the hard words were Nahuatl anyway. This book focuses on Hernan Cortes, Francisco Pizzaro, Francisco de Orellana, and Cabeza de Vaca. It also spurred my curiosity to learn more about people like Father Sahagun, and Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala, and events like the Valladolid debate between las Casas and Sepulvida.

It is amazing how these conquistadors were all more than a little bit rogue. Hernan Cortes was actually fleeing from the governor of Cuba when he began what became the conquest of Mexico. Orellana led a rebellion from a failing expedition and became the first European to sail the Amazon River- from West to East no less.

Perhaps most interesting though is the story of Cabeza de Vaca, who washed up on an island off the coast of Texas after the ship returning from an aborted expedition into Florida sank in a storm. The natives that rescued him insisted that he could heal people. He attempted to refuse, but then eventually began to pray for people when he realized that they would not take no for an answer. For the next few years he walked to through Texas and Mexico healing people on his way back to Spanish civilization. There were even reports of the dead being raised.

This book had one statement that stood out to me. I am paraphrasing, ‘The native peoples were unfamiliar with the concept of separation between the natural and spiritual worlds. They believed that the spiritual world could break in on the natural world at any moment.”

As a Christian, I strongly share this feeling.

The Sultans by Noel Barber

This book helped fill a large gap in my knowledge about the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Turks often receive praise for being efficient administrators of such a vast empire, but we must remember that they did not establish their empire. They overtook a fully functional empire from the Byzantines, who called themselves Romans, who received it from the Greeks, who won it from the Persians, who took it from the Babylonians. In essence the Ottoman Empire-and a lot of the rest of the world-is the scrappy leftovers of the most glorious empire in history: Babylon. (See Daniel chapter two)

The book follows the Sultans from Sulieman the Magnificent, to the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk). The Sultans were a colorful lot as far as characters go. Their biographical sketches read like fantastic story book material, albeit not for children. For all their piety many of these Sultan’s exemplified the basest elements of human nature. I suppose a few could be called supervillains. It is a fortunate thing for western culture that the Ottoman empire slowly self-destructed by fratricide.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

My brother recommended this book to me. Aside from the Bible, this is the most important book that I have read this year. Dr. Frankl was already an established psychiatrist prior to World War II. He survived a number of concentration camps during the war, although many of his family members did not.

In this book he argues that as long as man has meaning-something to live for-he can endure the worst circumstances. He uses his harrowing experience in the camps to support this idea. Without meaning, man loses the will to live and will die. Dr. Frankl states that every person’s meaning is different, and it is up to the individual to find that meaning.

I believe that there is an ultimate meaning that supersedes the elusive personal meaning that Dr. Frankl is describing.

That ultimate meaning can only be found in serving Jesus Christ.

“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.”
‭‭Colossians‬ ‭2:8-12‬ ‭KJV‬‬