Just Another Christmas Story

What’s your favorite Christmas story? Perhaps it’s one of the many works by Charles Dickens such as A Christmas Carol or The Cricket on The Hearth. My personal favorite was always

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry.

With it’s emphasis on man’s redemption, the yuletide season serves as a fitting backdrop for so many great stories and novella’s. Not only do these works wonderfully entertain us with their irony and drama, but in a classic fashion they remind us of what is yet good in this world by projecting it against what is evil. Speaking to the faint glimmer of hope held within each of us the desired effect is to draw us in. To, through the timeless magic of the story, embolden us to confront our own internal struggles and to realize some similar victory of virtue within ourselves. These stories are about giving and receiving and the triumph of good over evil in mens hearts. They hold out to us the possibility of a different perspective than the cynical one held by so many in this world today.

The following is my Christmas story, on the surface it’s about how I overcame my own personal obstacles and made it home for Christmas one year but on a deeper level it’s also about faith and trust in something much bigger than myself.

Making specific plans when your a truck driver can not only be an exercise in futility, but one of frustration as well. This is due to the fact that as such you’re continually at the mercy of a far greater range of un-foreseen happen-stance that can, just like they did in John Steinbecks novel Of Mice and Men, wreck havoc on “even the best laid plans” that one might make. Knowing these things full well, I didn’t make a lot of specific plans that year, I simply knew that one way or another I was going to get home by Christmas!  The company I drove for at the time routinely shut down on the 21st of December and so on the 20th I was set to deliver my last load of tools to a sale truck in Indiana which would then free me to come back west and stop over at “the house” during the holiday. But after delivering my load and placing a call to my dispatcher (who plays the part of Scrooge in this drama) I was informed that after my drop, I was needed to make a pick up in Kentucky that would have to then be taken back to the warehouse in Kansas without delay.

OOP’S!

As I drove along I reasoned that the natural solution to this dilemma would be to simply call my wife and have her pick me up in K.C. (a 6 hour drive) but after inquiring after such, I was informed that she had to work (3rd shift) every night until Christmas, making it quite impossible for her to come and get me.

OKAY…

Another complication was that I had a bunch of gifts in the truck with me that I’d bought.  My only option available seemed to be to call her and have her meet me at a point closest to home on my way back west and drop the gifts off with her thereby freeing me up to then make my way home by whatever means unencumbered. After achieving that objective rather easily, I continued in my duty and returned to the warehouse in Kansas arriving around mid-evening. Resolved to my lack of any other remedy for my predicament I slept for a few hours and before light the next morning I was on my way back the way I had just came toward my home.

How you ask? by what mode or method? on foot my friend…

I took off walking with only a rolled up rain poncho and a black magic marker to make my destination signs with. I had to walk about 10 miles on 207th st. which is a gravel road before I came to hyw 69 at Stanley Ks. I scrambled up an embankment to the 4 lane road and within minutes was offered a ride with an older gentleman who took me to Harrissonville Mo. Next, I was given a ride from the 7/71 jct. on the back of a 1 ton flatbed all the way to Spfd, Mo. It was a very cold ride but despite my discomfort, I was most content, quite thankful even…imagine that!

Soon I arrived in Spfd at the I-44/13  junction, my new friends were headed into town and so I hopped off there. I was rather numb in my legs from the cold and so my walking was with a stiff limp. I hobbled over to the nearby McDonald’s for the days first “nourishment” of any kind and upon returning to my journey couldn’t help but notice how many people were crowding the ramps of the highway that day, panhandlers holding signs each pleading their case for charity. I remember I felt some embarrassment at that because I was afraid I would be mistaken for such because of my cardboard sign that read,”hyw 60 east” but I had come much too far to let such a baseless reluctance dissuade me.

It was nearly midday now and I had made it close to half way home! In the waning hours of that late December afternoon what I remember the most was walking what seemed like great distances on the snow covered frozen shoulder of the highway, hands and feet stinging from the lack of circulation in them, feeling the blasts of frigid air pushing me back and then swirling around me as the endless convoy’s of the freight trucks blasted by. Under these circumstances,one must also steel themselves to the thousand’s of curious stares fixed upon them by passing motorists, each with questioning eye’s which at times seemed to ask,

“What are you doing out here?’

But the Lord was with me…and after several warm comfortable rides I traveled the remaining 150 miles. By 4:30 that afternoon I was on the phone to my stunned wife asking her to drive the short distance into town and pick me up! As I think back I’m still amazed by many aspects of what occurred that day. I’m amazed at the kindness of strangers who perhaps disregarded their better judgement in giving me a lift that day. I’m amazed at my own tenacity that I would even attempt such a thing. Being put in the position I was, what was most essential to me was my faith and trust in God, that he was with me and that he would make my way if only I would just continue to put one foot in front of the other quite literally walking in faith! My feeling was that for every step I took after Him, He took two towards me! It was as if he longed to express his love for me and show me that no detail is too small to escape his notice and that nothing can separate me from his love and care…Several years have passed since then, but just like so many other times in my life before and since when I needed Him, my heavenly Father was always there!

No matter what season it is, can a man have any more comfort than that?

tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy…

It’s in there…

Last Friday I took off from Myrtle, Mo. on a bus trip with the F.F.A. teacher and students for a preliminary state qualifying meet in Cape Girardeau,Mo. We drove for about an hour or more and I was getting tired so I started talking to the Ag teacher about a variety of topics related to agriculture. The drought in California, soil conservation, even the mineral depletion of our soil and the resulting lack of nutritional value in commercially grown vegetables. As I drove along I began to understand that different people perceive “excellence” in different ways and that in some peoples eye’s quantity does equal quality. When it’s all about the money, (and what isn’t these days) success is seen as profits to the farmer. I certainly don’t have a problem with that but wouldn’t you know it I would have a problem with the whole idea of money being more important than people.

I was reminded of this passage from one of the greatest novels of all time…

He loved the land no more than the bank loved the land. He could admire the tractor, it’s machined surfaces, it’s surge of power, the roar of it’s detonating cylinders but it was not his tractor…The driver sat in his iron seat and he was proud of the straight lines he did not will, proud of the tractor he did not own or love, proud of the power he could not control. And when the crop grew, and was harvested, no man had crumbled a hot clod in his fingers and let the earth sift past his fingertips. No man had touched the seed, or lusted for the growth. Men ate what they had not raised, had no connection with the bread. The land bore under iron, and under iron gradually died; for it was not loved or hated, it had no prayers or curses.

John Steinbeck The Grapes Of Wrath

Look at all of the different ways we raise food in this country, giant hog farms that Iowa Governor Tom Harkin had to ask for millions of dollars to be tacked on to the stimulus bill so that they could do something about the horrendous smell there, the toxic slurry from which has done terrible damage to streams and rivers wherever they are.3269394941_1172731d7c_b

And chicken farms? we raise poultry under conditions that would land you in jail if you tried them with the family pet. Cruel just doesn’t cover what we do to chickens, it’s sickening…they’re no longer animals, they’re only seen as “stock” inventory, they’re fed hormones and antibiotics to make them grow that have harmful side effects on us when we ingest them.2163400974_2e56ab79fa_b

These are Gods creatures, do you care?

Whats my “beef” on beef? they’re unnaturally fattened on grain so that they’ll weigh more which also increases the LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) content of the meat as opposed to being pasture fed which is much healthier for us and them! Of course throw in all of the hormones and antibiotics and we’re still just scratching the surface of the problem.

My last blog was about what I see as the state of our relationship with our health care system and how similar the church’s relationship is at times to the people we’ve been “commissioned” to be reaching for Christ. I’ve been wondering lately to what degree the modern institution we call “the church” resembles that first century church. Of course I understand that things change, and that instead of home based groups of worshipers we now have mega church’s that are run like corporations.

Here’s an example of the perception of Christian corporate thinking…356825881_d59ceb3b6d_o1

The Most Offensive Church Sign I Have Ever Seen by Jacob...K.

Another “Dandy”

I looked up the definition of the word “corporate” , here’s what I found…Corporate, is a word used to describe the shift of individual responsibility or liability from individuals or from a group of people who have come together with a single minded purpose. It’s kind of like having a scapegoat to blame your rotten behavior on, a nameless,faceless,heartless, impersonal, entity.

Nature has it’s own system of checks and balances that play out in man regardless of how intelligent man thinks he is or how special he believes he is. I see corporate farming as an unethical,unnatural, unhealthy, unfortunate, reality. I think that we were meant to live close to our food source’s, to have a connection to them, to occasionally do as Steinbeck said and crumble a hot dirt clod in our hands, to perhaps have a decent regard for the animals that sustain us. When man, for whatever reason, ignores these check’s and balances, the repercussions are always against himself, in spite of his mindset that he is the rooster who climbed upon the dung heap of love to crow.

It’s all about the relationship’s we have, to our food, to other people, and most importantly to our Heavenly Father. I wonder if Steinbeck’ s motivation to write the Grapes Of Wrath was how much money he’d make on it, or any artist’s motivation for that matter…what about you?

Someday, when it’s all been said and done, what will matter most about the way you’ve lived your life? Will it be the number of zero’s in your bank account, or will it be the difference you’ve made in other peoples lives for the better.

Our system of providing food is making us sick and starving us, it’s robbing us of critical vitamins and trace minerals that either aren’t found in our foods anymore or that are lost during processing as a result of non-ripe picking, transportation, and various profit motivated activities that I covered before relating to all different types of food. It’s got a lot to do with why we’re so overweight in this country, we keep eating and eating to try and get the nutrition we need while ingesting thousands of empty calories and unneeded fats. Is it really such a shock that we’re also spiritually starving in this country too?

So, whats your deal Alton?

Are you some kind of “chronic malcontent” ?

No, What I’m trying to say here is that man has allowed satan to pervert every blessing that God has given him into some kind of carcinogenic counterfeit…

This verse applies to everything having to do with man except that which God has had to do with man.

Proverbs 16:25 (King James Version)

25There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.

So, that seems to be the central question, exactly what IS in there?

Is it love? if it’s not…then Gods not in it.

Is it just “In there?” or is it in the re-lationship