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The “C” in Christmas by JoAnn

Some words should never be misspelled, and Christmas is one of them.  I have few pet peeves, but the one on the top of my list has to be the big “X” used to replace Christ in Christmas.

As a Christian, to see someone replace Christ’s name with a big ole X, is offensive.  I say the “o” word cautiously, as I know that in this day and time, people can be offended at the drop of a hat.  But to replace the name of the one whose entire existence is reason for the season, really makes me sad, and a little angry.  

I understand Christmas is a lengthy word to place on a decorated window, or to write in a quick text.  But if you remove Christ, what exactly does XMAS mean?  If you are a believer like me, I can’t fathom it not hurting your heart to replace your Lord and Saviors name with a big X.  And if you are not a believer, then why are you wishing someone a merry anything?

Over my life, I have happened upon many an unbeliever.  It always surprised me when the same people who preached God to not exist, did indeed celebrate at Christmas time.  They would put up a tree, decorate their homes, send out holiday cards (careful to not include anything resembling Christ), and would exchange gifts on Christmas morning.  I never understood why.  I spent time in their homes, enjoying their holiday cheer.  But at the end of the day, no mention of Christ’s birthday was ever made.  I walked away wondering what exactly were they celebrating?  Their own Winter holiday?  I guess so.       

I imagine this debate has been going on for a very long time, and probably one of the reasons the sayings “Happy Holidays” and “Seasons Greetings” came about.  I really don’t mind those two greetings, I find them cheery and respectful.  Just don’t X out my Lord.  After all, Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.  If you feel this to be a myth or fairy tale, please don’t disrespect His name by using an X.  Simply choose another expression of holiday cheer.  There is no need to offend people like myself, who hold the Lord’s name with such love in their hearts. 

I’ll climb down from my soap box now.  Merry Christmas! 

I Love Meat

It has been two months since my last missive, and I have missed the daily jotting down of things that roam aimlessly thru my mind.  Hopefully, I have mended my wasteful ways and am now back to allocating the 15 minutes each day I use for writing.  Whenever I lose interest, I go back to 2007/2008 and read some articles I wrote then, and they give me so much pleasure.  Things long forgotten are instantly brought back to memory.  Therein lies my motivation.      

⌘⚽ I’ll bet you are unaware that the most widely consumed meat on Earth is pork.  Personally, I thought it was chicken, but pork is consumed by 36% of Earthly residents and chicken is 2nd with 33%.  My favorite (beef), comes in at a mediocre 24%.  The average person in our country eats 51 lbs of pork each year. You guys are eating a lot of pork!

I’m confident my family doctor thinks I eat too much meat because each time I go in for my yearly physical he always hands me literature on healthy eating, and it never includes very much meat.  I probably wouldn’t be taking a cholesterol pill if I consumed less meat.  I used to eat a lot of steak, but after choking on it back in 2014 and almost losing my life, I switched to meat that wasn’t so dense.  Mostly now, my meat is chicken, hamburger, or something else that’s easily swallowed.  I remember that life-threatening event and it had a lasting impression (thanks to Cindy for saving my life). 

Sometimes, I wonder if we see the past as it actually happened, or do we intentionally forget certain aspects of what occurred.  I believe that all of us have some type of burden to carry from our past, but I also think our past is unchangeable and we should always try to put it out of our mind unless they are beneficial or beautiful memories. 

Anyway, back to the meat thing.  We all know that too much of it will eventually clog our arteries and generate all kinds of health problems.  I walk around with 200 lbs on a frame that my doc tells me should only have 175 lbs.  My only explanation is that, somehow, I believe I’m a healthy 200 lbs.  My doctor ordered an echocardiogram last week, so we’ll see what damage all that meat has done to my cardiovascular system.  I dunno how it can come back showing problems because I feel as healthy as a horse.  We’ll see.  I know that I’m a grateful recipient of undeserved grace.

Update:  The doctor’s office called and said everything looked good.  That made me feel better. 

⚽⌘ It seems as if the heat index for our area in Virginia has been over 100° for the past two weeks, thus, our thrice weekly walks really took its toll.  It would be easy to say, “to heck with it” and stay inside all day, waiting for cooler weather to prevail.  But, upon further reflection, I decided that wasn’t the choice I wanted to make, and it wasn’t a hard decision.  Over 200 years ago, families loaded all they had into wagons pulled by horses and trekked all the way from the Eastern Seaboard of our country to the shores of the Pacific coast.  They did that in the heat of summer and the cold of winter.  Heck, it’s hard for me to visualize anyone today driving a car that far without an air conditioner in it.  I wonder what the settlers of that time would think of the people we have become today.  Yes, I’m confident we still have strong, sturdy people that roll out of bed every morning and work outside in the extreme heat and cold, but a lot of us don’t, we stay inside and find things to do, rather than open the door and walk into a heat index of 110°. 

Well, I decided that I don’t want to be that guy, the one that stays inside and cowers from the heat, I want to stand straight and tall, breathe in that hot humid air and say, to no one in particular, bring it on, I can take it!  What I may have failed to mention is that part of my motivation comes from my wife.  She heads outside in just about any weather, except the rain, doesn’t want her hair to get wet, other than that she’s finding something to do out there.  The odd thing is, she never sweats, nothing, nada, not a drop of salty brine glistens on her forehead.   Turn your head and look in my direction and you would assume I was just in someone’s swimming pool with all my clothes on.  I don’t quite understand why a person doesn’t sweat when the temp is nudging 99°, but then again, she doesn’t have a lot of meat on her bones, unlike the more than plump guy standing beside her, apparently preparing for his role when Satan opens the gates of Hell.  I’m thinking the Lord believes that if he turns up the heat some of this fat will melt from my body, if only I have the willpower to step into his oven. 

Don’t get me wrong, I have no desire to be a pioneer, but neither do I want to become a couch potato.  I’m going with an old proverb that says, “The best time to plant a tree was ten years ago, the second-best time is now”.  My take on that goes like this, “The best time to take a stand was ten years ago, the second-best time is now”.  So, tomorrow when that old temperature gauge heads towards 100°, I’m gonna step out into that oven and take a stand, refusing to stay inside where the temps stay around 78° all day and all night.  But I will be watching to see if the fat melts away 😊.  I am reminded of a quote by Saint Vincent de Paul “Be careful to preserve your health.  It is a trick of the devil which he uses to deceive kind souls, to incite them to do more than they are able, in order that they may no longer be able to do anything”.  Hmm, maybe I need to rethink this thing?

⌘-⚽ A few months ago, our longtime neighbors (Mary Beth & John) moved about four hours away and their lovely granddaughter (Beth Ann/ Alvin) took over their beautiful home.  We now have five handsome boys, anywhere from age 3 to age 12 living next door to us.  It saddened our hearts to see our friends move, but we knew it was the right decision.  They needed to be near their daughter (Robin/Greg) to get help with their health needs.  From experience, I know that as you travel thru life, people enter your circle, stay for a while, and then move on.  Some, you miss very little, and then some you miss a lot.  Mary Beth and John will be missed terribly.  The good news is that when we are finished with COVID-19, we can go visit them.  It looks like that will happen in the Spring of 2021 (7 months).  By then, we will have been marching in place for a year.  That’s a lot of time to relinquish to a virus, especially when you get older and the years you have left get fewer. 

Our time “hunkered down”’ here at home isn’t a total disaster.  We have visited with family, always using a face mask and social distancing, and gone to the grocery/drug stores for food and other necessities.  We spend a lot of time outside working in the yard, hovering over every weed that pops up and immediately sentencing it to the gallows.  As soon as a gumball or pinecone hits the ground, it is pounced on and deposited into my handy cart for disposal.  As you can tell, I have too much time on my hands.  I also spend a lot of time on my PC, but that happens whether we are in the middle of a pandemic, or not 😊. 

If I had to decide what activity I miss the most during this stressful time, it would be visiting my family and friends.  While all the other stuff is important, bus trips to other cities, dining out weekly, attending church in lieu of virtual services, etc. I miss visiting those dear to me the most.  Arthur Brisbane said it best, “A good friend can tell you what is the matter with you in a minute.  He may not seem such a good friend after the telling” 😊. 

Wherever you are in this world, I hope your family loves you as much as mine loves me.  I know you will return their love abundantly.  That is my intent as well.  I am always grateful that you take the time to read my missives.  Until next time, be well….Tommy

God Grace by Frank Shortt

                                              God’s Grace

Without the grace of God mankind cannot understand the plan of the Creator. Throughout my life I have experienced many high mountains and low valleys. For some reason, each time, I have been spared the inevitable that each human must face sooner or later in this fleshly body.

The first book I was introduced to, as a child, was the Bible. As I went to church and was taught by Mrs. Audrey Addison at the young people’s meeting, I was very quick in finding the ‘Bible drill’ scriptures that she would require us to find. As a result, she referred to me as the ‘Little Preacher’ and prophesied over me that I would eventually preach the gospel. She would be happy to know that for the past 50 years, I have preached to anyone who would listen about the wonderful love of God and how He promised to live in each of His children.

The Shortt family was enjoying a picnic at a small meadow beside the river known as ‘Little River’, in Southwest Virginia. Its beginnings are in Tazewell County at the Tennessee watershed and ends up in the Clinch River. There are several species of fish, namely, Rock bass (Red Eyes), black bass, and several species of sunfish (bluegill, crappie, etc.). I was about seven or eight years old at the time and swam like a hunk of concrete. Although I lacked the ability to swim, I took it upon myself to get into an old tire inner tube to float in the pool below the meadow. When I had floated out to the middle of the pool, I began moving around thinking I could somehow guide the tube back to shore. Suddenly, being very small for my age, I slipped through the opening of the tube. After reemerging, I must have cried out for help, and a savior in the form of Emory Osborne, who was there with his family, swam out, placing me on the tube, and floating me back to shore and safety. I was never able to thank him properly and by the time I found out he had moved to Colorado, it was too late for me to thank him as he had passed this life. God used this man to preserve me for a future use.

I had gone to a tent revival in the town of Doran with some neighborhood boys of Shortt Gap. We were awaiting the meeting to start, and it was decided that we would go down to the Clinch River for a swim before the preacher began the service. Most of the boys were strong swimmers, one in particular being Elmer Pruitt, known as Sputnik, who would soon play an important role in my life.

I was somewhat of a daredevil in those days, being about eleven or twelve, and could only dog paddle if the water was shallow enough. When everyone else jumped in, I did likewise, not thinking of the deepness of the water and the swift current at this time. I suddenly found myself being swept away, in water over my head, and could not reach bottom. I cried out for help and Sputnik swam out and pulled me back to safety. I was able to thank him properly and several times thereafter.  I always considered him to be my Savior in flesh, and so he was, as God used him to preserve my life.

While in the Air Force 1960-64, I drank quite a bit as alcohol was readily available on base, as well as, off base. While drinking with some friends at a club in Carmichael, California, one of the men, Tex R. asked me and a couple of my friends to go flying with him as he owned a twin engine, Beechcraft Bonanza airplane. Being quite inebriated already, we agreed unanimously to go. What we did not know, nor care, being under the influence of booze, we would be required to ride in the rumble seat usually reserved for baggage. I was near the passing out stage when we took off and by the time we reached an altitude to head toward Reno, I was already sleeping soundly. Just as we were about 10,000 feet over Reno unable to land due to heavy snowing, I stretched out and kicked the baggage door open. Had it not been for Shorty Smitherman, my friend who worked at the airport in Fair Oaks, California, I would have been sucked out of the door and goodbye Frank! He pulled me to safety and as we held the door shut with our bare hands all the way back to Fair Oaks, we both had near frozen fingers and quite a sobering up experience. Tex was pretty shook up as he was unaware of anything that transpired in the rumble seat. Besides, his girlfriend was keeping him quite busy as she made over him as he tried to fly the airplane.  Once again, a good friend became the Savior of my ignorant being!

About twelve years ago I went for a walk to the local shopping center, as is my morning habit, had my coffee and a roll, and was on my way back to our town home in Evergreen, California. On the way back I encountered an older gentleman named Joe who had recently had open heart surgery. Before I saw Joe, I had been experiencing some strange feelings in my heart area, a burning sensation, as well as some pains, not like gas pains, but much sharper! When I stopped to talk to Joe, the burning and pains subsided. I always stopped when I saw Joe to ask of his welfare and his progress with the surgery. We passed the time for about fifteen minutes, talking of the things of God, and I continued on my way. The burning sensation and the pains returned, even sharper this time. When this happened, I was only about a half a block from our home. As soon as I entered the door, I immediately climbed the stairs informing my wife that I believed that I was having a heart attack or on the verge of one. She insisted that it was probably only heartburn and that I should take an Alka Seltzer and see what occurred. I became persistent and told her that if she would not take me to the hospital, I would drive myself! She immediately dressed herself and we began the trip to Kaiser Hospital in South San Jose. Upon arrival, we informed the emergency crew that we believed that I was having a heart attack and they immediately placed me in an emergency room where a young lady Vietnamese doctor began preliminary treatment for one experiencing a heart attack. By then my daughters, my grandson, and my best friend had arrived, and they all began to pray for me. Just as I had the heart attack, a young Chinese Cardiologist appeared out of nowhere and as I had the attack, the needle dropped to zero, and she instantly administered nitroglycerin into the main artery of my heart. As I came to, the first voice I heard was a soothing, pleading voice saying, “Frank, come back to us, Frank, come back to us!” It was the voice of Charlotte Vu, over my body pleading for me to come back as if I was her own father! She arrived just in time, a miracle in itself. Did I see lights? No! Only blackness! I must have not gone out of my body long enough to enter the realm of light. She was used of God to preserve my life!

As I mended, after a stint was administered into my main artery, which was completely blocked by cholesterol, I wished to send Charlotte Vu a dozen red roses, which I did on one of my visits to the Cardiologist to which I was assigned. I keep the thank-you note from her as a reminder of her diligence and caring nature which caused her to be my Savior in flesh at the right moment!

One Sunday, my faithful friend and brother, Guido Droira invited my wife and I to have lunch with him and his wife. We agreed to go to Black Angus in Milpitas, California to have some meat as I had not had beef in a long time. For some reason, the service was very slow that day and my body requires food at a certain time, otherwise, I become very weak and begin to shake. I ordered ribs and chicken and when the food finally arrived, the ribs were somewhat dry making them hard to chew and to swallow. Upon taking a portion into my mouth, I attempted to swallow it. I must have not chewed it thoroughly in my haste to satisfy my hunger. It became stuck in my throat cutting off my breathing. As I was turning red in the face, with signs that I was having difficulty breathing, my good friend Guido, having knowledge of the Heimlich maneuver, went behind me and began the process of dislodging the piece of rib. After a couple of attempts, and a trip to the restroom, the piece finally popped out and my breathing was restored. The apathy of our race was apparent at that time as not another person around us offered help of any kind, and the room was completely full. Once again, I owe my life to a quick-thinking human being who became my Savior in flesh. I am thankful that all these people have been there at the right time to preserve me for future use by God.

As a human being, I have questioned God as to why I have been allowed to live through so many attempts to end my life! As I walked one morning, I encountered a young nurse on my walk and we began to talk of life and relationships. By the time I finished chatting with her, she thanked me for being there at this time in her life when she is encountering hardships and difficult decisions. This allowed me to look past the curtain of time for an instant to realize that, my total job on earth is not finished.

Praise God for his wonderful grace to me throughout my life!

Murder Wholesale…Frank Shortt

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