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I read once that western cowboy stories are America’s knight-in-shining-armor stories. That author obviously wasn’t talking about the recent ones. But about Matt Dillion and ones like him.

Marshal Matthew Dillion was someone you could look up to – literally and figuratively. James Arness was 6’7”. He stood head and shoulders over everyone else in Dodge. But more than that, he was a hero. He stood for honor, justice, fairness, and right. He was a gentle man full of quiet strength. I am working my way through Gunsmoke episodes on Netflix and it always amazes me the way he walks right into danger – because it had to be done. Wrong had to be faced and stopped. And whoever was being hurt had to be protected.

I look at the “heroes” now and I don’t see any. They are just as apt to murder as the bad guys are – sometimes you really can’t tell them from the bad guys. Hollywood talks about flawed heroes as being more realistic. Maybe that’s so, but then who do you look up to? Who do those “heroes” inspire to be better people? Who learns about honor? Or justice? Or what makes a man?

So many of our kids are latch-key kids who raise each other. I wonder how they would be different if they had heroes like Marshal Dillion to learn from, to look up to, to want to be like.

I’ll miss James Arness. While he was here, it was like Matt Dillion was still here, too.

I’m almost always in the mood for a western. Not the new icky Lonesome Dove kind. I like the old white hat/John Wayne kind. Where good guys stand up for right and win. Where there is a right. Where there’s a satisfying ending. The Silverado-Open Range-Gunsmoke kind of westerns. Someone once called them America’s knights-in-shining-armor stories.

I read recently that Wyoming’s governor has now made 10 principles derived from “”the Code of the West”  a symbolic part of state law.*

Folks in Wyoming are officially urged to:

… live courageously, take pride in their work, finish what they start, do what’s necessary, be tough but fair, keep promises, ride for the brand, talk less and say more, remember that some things aren’t for sale, and know where to draw the line.

Sounds like good ethics for Christians to follow too. How ’bout it – wanna join me ‘n ride for our brand?

*reported by Associated Press

You hear stories of cats waking up their people when there’s a fire and other things like that. But I never gave it much thought until yesterday. We have a courageous cat.

Muff was afraid of the vacuum monster. As soon as I got out the cleaning supplies she would run and hide as far away as she could get. In fact all I had to do was start picking up her toys and she would run.

Lilly is afraid, too. But she deals with it very differently.

She’s obviously afraid. She crouches in a corner – preferably a high corner – and doesn’t take her eyes off it. But, yesterday, I noticed that she doesn’t leave. In fact she follows me from room to room.

I was trying to figure out why she would do that. If she’s afraid, why not go somewhere else? Discretion is the better part of valor after all!

Then it occurred to me that she must be protecting me. She follows me from room to room – she doesn’t leave and hide in rooms I go to – she’s not there when I get there. She comes in after me and the monster.

Could she really be keeping watch? Making sure I’m alright? The way cats think is always surprising, but I’m amazed that she would think it through that way.

She’s a gem!

PS: on the petting front – she has decided that she likes it! In fact when we come home she’ll go up on her hind legs (like a meerkat) to reach our hands! Makes you feel like something special!

Avatar

I keep hearing about “conservatives” hating Avatar. I don’t know if that’s politically correct for “christian” or not. But I wonder at the anger of these people. I don’t really understand it.

There is a native population in tune with nature (reminiscent of the Indians). There are mercenaries willing to destroy a planet’s eco-system to provide what their dying planet needs (reminiscent of our global warming debates and colonialism). The powerful throughout history really don’t have a great track record – is some kind of guilt coming out as anger? What would make these writers/commentators take it so personally – as if it were a personal attack on them?

Anyway – all the things they focus on are peripheral – none of the angry remarks touch on what the movie is about. Makes me wonder if they’re uncomfortable with it.

They ignore the beautiful story of a broken, empty person finding himself and becoming whole.  It was wonderful. It was inspiring. It was encouraging. What more can you ask from a movie?

Twilight Zone turned 50 years old last week. I happened to see an episode they had on to celebrate. It was one I had never seen in all the reruns and marathons.

Changing of the Guard is about a teacher at a boys’ school. He’d been there forever (now teaching the grandson of one of his students). He received a letter that he thought was a contract for the next year. It was a letter retiring him.

He spent hours looking through old year books – at the boys that had so much promise but died in wars. Had all his years of teaching done any good? Why had he spent his life that way? He was about to commit suicide, but a class bell rang.

Habit being what it is, he went to his classroom. It was full of boys.

They were the the ghosts of students who died in the various wars (it was Twilight Zone after all). Each one, in turn, recited something that he had learned in class. Something that gave him the courage to do the acts of heroism he died for. Teaching is not wasted.

We may not all be teachers in the classroom sense. But most of us have a teaching role with someone we know. Moms teach. Dads teach. Even friends teach sometimes.

We may hear thank yous as we go along. Or it may be a long time – maybe not ’til heaven. But never doubt that your teaching matters. The smallest thing may turn out to have the greatest impact on another’s life. It may not even be words, but actions.

Just continue. Continue to be faithful. To be loving. To be kind. Who knows what might stick!

I’ve watched and read a lot of the coverage of Jaycee Dugard’s release from that backyard prison. Such an unimaginable horror. So much of it sounds like some awful movie script – you wouldn’t think it could be real.

One of the things that bothers me most (besides the fact that that creep was let out of jail at all) is the weird “Christian” statements he’s made. He says he wants everyone to know the beautiful story!

Jaycee’s picture of Jesus and Christianity must be so dark and twisted. I can’t imagine that she would want to go anywhere near it again. So, I’m praying for a miracle.

I’m praying that Christians can be drawn to her. To love her. To encourage her. To help her. Help her build a beautiful picture of Christ and his followers – to even want to be one herself.

God can bring good out of the darkest place. I know this is not too big for Him!

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  (Rom. 8:28)

The other day I was working away on my laptop when Lilly decided it was time for some attention. That, of course, means walking across the keyboard.

Music started playing. I jumped. She jumped. Even Glenn jumped.

It took me a minute to realize that it was those first eerie sounds from Cats – of all things!

I have no idea how she did it. Or what keystrokes I’d need to do it again.

There are a lot of things like that. Things that make me wonder. Or things that make me think “I’ll ask Jesus.”

There are things we will never understand in this world. That’s just the way it is. I can go on the internet and find answers to a lot of things, but then there are things that just don’t have answers.

That’s where trust comes in. Trust in God. That there is an organized mind behind it all and I don’t need to know all the workings of it.

I don’t need to know. I say it to myself every once in awhile. It leaves a kind of calm.

There are things I can leave in His hands – and that’s good.

I watched a lot of the coverage since he died. It’s all so sad.

An abused child became an abused adult. In trying to lose himself, he destroyed a handsome face and changed his skin color. Even his “child-likeness” seemed like a symptom of his brokenness—as if his growth was stunted.

He had a gift for music and the love of fans. But he was so alone. And like the other “king”—he was surrounded by people who wanted to help themselves more than him. He even had enough money to make doctors forget their oath to do no harm.

All week I kept thinking—if only he knew Jesus.

So many times the gospel is presented as the way to heaven—which it is. But that’s only a piece of it. The good news of Jesus isn’t just future, but now. Jesus can heal all the hurts—past and present.

Faith is supposed to be used. It heals us. It strengthens us. It grows us.

How do we use it?

By operating as though it’s real. Counting on it. Stepping out on it and walking.

Believe that God really does love me. That his word tells me the best way to live.
Believe that the Holy Spirit really lives in me. That I have all the resources I need to live.
Believe that Jesus really intercedes for me. That I am not meant to live this alone.

So, let’s live like we’re not alone. Come to him in confidence.

He knows the hurts we hold and he wants to work with us to heal them. Trust him. And hold on tight. He’ll do wonderful things.

Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. (Gal. 5:25 MSG)

You know my method. It is founded upon the observation of trifles.
(Sherlock Holmes, The Boscombe Valley Mystery)

I like to watch people. You can learn alot from things they do. And how they respond. The way a husband responds to something can tell about how he was raised. Or what he thinks.

The same is true of cats.

Muffy was a fearful little thing. Well, not so little. She weighed in a 20 lbs. But she hid from most of life. And even had nightmares. She would wake up screaming for me and had to be petted until she calmed down. We got her when she was 8 weeks old and our home life is really boring by most standards. So, I assume that something happened to her during her first 8 homeless weeks that colored her view of the world.

Lilly was 7 mos. old when she joined our family. I assume she was with a breeder who gave her to the SPCA. Why do I think that?

She’s beautiful and exotic looking.
She wasn’t spayed.
She had a heart murmur (ethically she shouldn’t be having kittens)
She wasn’t used to hands – it has taken awhile for her to get used to petting. And she’s still figuring out how to take treats from my hand.

Anyway, she’s learning. And we’re learning. She’s more comfortable with us. And we’re understanding more about this wonder of a creature the Lord gave us.

I often picture God smiling as he looks at his creatures  – they’re personalities are so unique. So worth knowing.

Muffy passed away this morning.

She was supposed to be Renee’s cat.

I remember when we brought her home. She was so scared that she hid under the couch all day. I let her stay there until after the dinner clean up was done, Renee went out to play and the house was quiet. Then I moved the couch and got Muff out.

I took her over to her food dish. She ate some and then went to sleep. I stayed with her until she woke up. Then we explored the downstairs together. She would take a few steps and then look at me. I’d say “ok” and she’d continue on. We explored the whole downstairs that way. Then we did the same thing upstairs. She went from room to room checking with me every few steps.

By the time the evening was through I was hooked, she had me wrapped around her little paw.

At first, she was so tiny that one of her favorite places to play was a tissue box. I’d toss a toy in it and she would jump in and scurry around after it. I set a mug of coffee down for Glenn and she was just tall enough to get her chin over the top and sneeze in his cup.

She used to give me a two second warning – if I didn’t give her some attention she started climbing up the leg of my jeans. When I had studied long enough she jumped up and went to sleep on my Bible.

She moved on to be a fierce jungle hunter of foam balls. One of her favorite games was hiding behind the drapes and pouncing on whoever went by – she was sure that no one could see her.

She was the sermon supervisor and the neighborhood watch. She had some kind of radar, too, she knew when we needed comfort and she was there with it.

I’m not sure if she was my sidekick or I was hers, but she was my friend. She was nervous. She was shy. Maybe even neurotic. But she was a blessing. And I loved her.

(To see this with the pictures go to our website.)

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