BUMMER! (SOONER?) Subscribe To My Blog (RSS)(Click this icon to Subscribe)

If you've never been to the OU/Texas game (aka: the Red River Rivalry) you need to put it at the top of your Bucket List. To begin with, I went several years and never had a ticket until I arrived outside of the stadium (so don't use that as an excuse). Admittedly, that was before the Internet became the place to buy/sell tickets. My belief is that the intensity is so fierce there, you don't want to show up to the game unless you're positively planning on winning/celebrating; otherwise the aftermath there at the fairground is brutal. So the faint of heart or those with wavering resolve, sell their tickets to avoid the hazing and humiliation that follows a loss; so tickets can be found! For the most part, Texas fans with extra tickets only sell to fellow Texas fans, and OU fans follow suit (keep it in the family, misery loves company, to the victor go the spoils...you name your cliche).

But this storied event has several things that make it truly unique. Yeah, it's an intense rivalry; but there are alot of those across the country. Sure, a bunch of folks are holding up "We're Number One" fingers; but in this game half the folks hold up "We're Number Two" fingers (aka: Hook 'Em Horns) while the rest of the fans hold up the symbol for "Killin' Horns" (aka: yeah, you ARE Number Two; BOOMER SOOMER). Also, the game is held on the fairgrounds of the Texas State Fair, one of the nicest, cleanest, most enjoyable state fairs I've ever attended. Alright, I've only been to THREE state fairs (the Oklahoma State Fair, the Texas State Fair and the Alaska State Fair) so I can hardly be labeled a State Fair Aficionado! But with my intense love for the Great State Fair of Oklahoma, for me to even hint that the Texas version might be superior is deep-fried blasphemy. Oh wait, I have been to the Tulsa State Fair and the Muskogee (State?) Fair (yeah, you're right...those don't count). Anyway, the setting is superb.

Lastly, as you can see in the picture above, the stadium is evenly divided (at the 50 yard line) between OU fans and Texas fans. So, depending on the quarter, your team may be driving the football towards enemy lines or into the welcoming roar of the home crowd. Either way, each endzone is loud; VERY loud; awash in Puke Orange or Perf Crimson.

The result of all this? You have a stadium full of fanatics with basically one opinion; one belief: "Our team is going to win!". The problem with that logic (not counting the pouring rain and 15-15 tie in 1984 that I sat through) is that half the fans are WRONG (it just takes three hours or so to prove which ones are mistaken). Still...you are SURE when you enter that stadium that you are on the RIGHT side of the 50 yard line; the RIGHT side of the BOWL!

Is it wrong to want to be right? I had a life changing epiphany in Mrs. Vandewalker's third grade class at Willard Elementary School in Ada, Oklahoma. She was the only teacher I ever had that I was sure didn't like me. Sure, we've all uttered things like "She hates me!" and "He doesn't like me!" about different teachers we've had, when deep down we knew it wasn't true.  Being challenged or disciplined can often come across as 'dislike' or even 'hate'. Many times God's chastening and/or life's trials can cause us to wonder if we're 'jinxed' like Joe Btfsplk or if we're on God's 'bad side' like a Hittite or an Amorite. As for me, I personally have never thought God was mad at me. I have wondered what He was trying to tell me or what in the Land of Goshen He was waiting on. But I'm His child; and a Father never hates His children. A parent will always love their child. Mrs. Vandewalker was a parent (I think!). But she wasn't MY parent (I thank!).

It all began in second grade. I transferred to Willard (from Shawnee, Horace Mann) in the middle of the year, and I discovered the second graders at Willard were well into writing cursive (and I wasn't).  Old lady Vandewalker was the 'cursive writing' teacher for the second graders. She seemed to have very little patience with my feeble attempts at writing properly and took great joy in grading down my writing papers. Still to this day I'd rather print than write; and outside of my signature and an occasional check, all her efforts to get me up to speed in the writing department were pretty much wasted. Unfortunately (for both of us), she also wound up being my third grade teacher. I vividly remember her passing out a test paper once, and when I saw I had made a 100 on it, I said something out, like "All right! I made a 100!" To which she responded quickly and snidely, "Now if you could just get to school on time!" Talk about lettin' the air out of a kid's balloon. Now c'mon...if you're in third grade, and your mom brings you to school late, then how is that the kid's fault? Excuse me for not riding the bus! I also remember her slapping a kid on the back to get his attention (that might have been me she whacked, but I'm not as sure on that particular memory).

Mrs. Wiggly's 4th Grade Class (first row; striped shirt; post epiphany)

So here's the memory I am sure of...Mrs. V. was teaching geography. She was waxing eloquently in front of the class, but had written something on the blackboard that didn't seem correct to me. I raised my hand and questioned her about it. She kind of shut me down in a hurry (as some of my classmates snickered at my foolishness to question her 'highness') and bulldozed right on with the rest of her lecture. Even though I felt sure of her error, I sat down, shut up, and tried to sink down as far in that wooden desk as possible. But sure enough, a few minutes later, she seemed to realize what she had written was incorrect, she nonchalantly changed it, and kind of patted herself on the back (not to be confused with being 'whacked on the back') for catching the error, and went back into lecture mode. Try as I might to say, "That's what I was talking about!" or "Hey, I told you so!" it was too late! I had wimped out so much in earlier my attempt to correct the teacher, that my moment of 'glory', my chance to take the old gal down, the opportunity to show that I was indeed 'smarter than a fifth grader' (teacher) had passed. Her royal "V-ness" had blown me off; and I in turn had blown it. And that was the epiphany. As small of a moment as it was, I decided right then and there, that I'd rather be embarrassed for loudly saying what I thought to be right, than sit idly by and even be mildly ridiculed by being told I was wrong (as long as I was pretty sure I was right). In other words, no gumption, no glory. If you wrote (or said) something that was incorrect, I wasn't going to be afraid to point it out; to show you how smart I was. It's certainly a confident way to live. But how long is it before confidence becomes obstinance? At what point is it no longer Christlike?

Jesus was never wrong. He knew everything, but He wasn't a 'know-it-all'. He was humble about it. He didn't need to laud his perfection over his disciples. He didn't need to prove over and over to them that He was always right. And I believe He offers me the relief that comes from NOT having to be perfect. I can let my guard down. I don't have to always be right. He says to let HIM handle it. That's not MY burden...that's HIS burden.

Matthew 11:28-30 "Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

What have I REALLY learned in over 50 years of life? Here it is, so listen carefully. Not only is nobody ALWAYS right, most of the time nobody is EVER 100% right. Now please understand I'm not talking about Biblical rights and wrongs. I'm referring to the 'rights' and 'wrongs' we encounter in our every day lives and in our dealings with others; the difference between "I said this," and "he heard that"; or "she said this" but "I heard that".

It's an eye-opening revelation (certainly much deeper than my third grade one). The subjective nature of how I interpret what you said versus what you meant when you said it are often worlds apart. Yet each one of us (at the time, and certainly later on) are just as sure of what we heard (or said) as the other person is sure of what they said (or heard you say). Confused? Don't be. Just realize that none of us are as good at communicating as we think we are. We think; and then we speak. Even if we speak without thinking, a host of input has gone into that 'blurtation'. Either way, the person we are speaking to doesn't have the luxury of our prior thoughts (or the unique knowledge from which we speak). Therefore the message is never pure; is never exact; is never exactly as the speaker intends it (or as memorable as the speaker might think).

So much of what we say is inflection, that it's very much like 'singing voices'. They always sound 'right' in our heads...not nearly as 'right' on recordings. Music is subjective. Likewise, listening is subjective. The secret to surviving the not-so-exact science of communication is not to be obstinate in your message giving; not to flex your all-knowing muscle about what you say. The solution (at least my contention) to dealing with the inevitability of miscommunication, is to step back, and try to ascertain how the person might have heard the message differently than you delivered it. To me, that's the description of an all-knowing person; the person that can see both sides (and is always looking at both sides). It's not the OU or Texas 'fan' attitude (short for 'fanatical). Because if there are winners and losers, then you're describing a tackle football game or a debate...and debates (or hard contact sports) aren't really fun to be in. Especially, when you thought you were in a conversation.

So let me go all Stuart Smalley on you for just a minute (or at least look in the mirror). It's not that I was right and you were wrong. It's not even that I said one thing and you heard another. If I say that you weren't listening closely enough, it's just as likely that I didn't communicate effectively; that I didn't work hard enough to get your full and undivided attention. I can reverse the pronouns if that helps clear it up for you. And darn it, you need to understand it (if you want people to like you).

Miscommunication is not a win-win; it's not a win-lose; it's a lose-lose. "You didn't hear it right" is synonymous with "I failed to get my message across". Neither one of us succeeded. I am no more to blame than you are. So how can either one us be sanctimonious and proud about being correct?  What a 'burden' that is to live with.  That's what the world calls pompous (and sometimes adds other words that can be found in the Bible, but aren't appropriate here).

If you can mold yourself, to be more considerate, to be more understanding of the art of communication, you may find yourself to be a person that is much more pleasant to talk with and to deal with. You will be a person folks don't avoid, but like being around. A gentle person. An humble person. More like the person of Jesus. If you're a Christian, shouldn't that be your goal?

"Communication Breakdown" is not only one of the all time great Led Zeppelin songs, it's something that happens a lot...I contend that it happens all the time. Maybe every time. In fact, the sooner you assert that you know what you meant, the sooner you can be sure you were probably misunderstood (at least partially). And you know what they say happens when you 'assert' don't you? (Well, maybe I heard that one wrong, but you get the point, don't you?)

Still sometimes, the best way to communicate, is to listen. And if you find yourself always explaining (defending) your point of view, it may be time to listen. But beware; you can be just as misunderstood when you don't speak (but if no one's listening, then does the 'tree make a sound?').

So how do I tie this all together? Well, besides already sounding like a preacher that can't wrap up his sermon, let me summarize it like this: the more you talk, the louder you speak. The more you listen, the louder you communicate. The SOONER you get this, the better you'll be. In other words, TEXAS BITES!

Now do you get it? BOOMER! (Did you think I said "BUMMER"?)

posted by Randy Whittern from his Blog - Randym Thoughts on 01/19/2012

The Show Must Go On Subscribe To My Blog (RSS)(Click this icon to Subscribe)

My mind tends to wander. That was one of the reasons behind naming this Blog, 'Randym Thoughts'. I wanted to be able to bounce around from topic to topic, from thought to thought, with the barest of connections. In literacy, it's called 'stream of consciousness' writing; a 'free association' of ideas, much like our thoughts tend to ramble; here and there; to and fro; very randomly! So let's meander!!

This first thought is not so random, because it has totally affected my life for the last few weeks (although the action that caused it was random). It took over 30 years, but I broke my second bone, my right wrist, about three weeks ago, falling off of a step ladder trying to help my daughter decorate her first teaching room. Refusing to admit that I might actually be hurt, I continued to use my good hand to help put up posters on the wall and borders around blackboards until the swelling got so bad, that we realized a trip to Immediate Care was inevitable. Funny how all the attributes of that super light, really portable step ladder that is easily transported from room to room, and is niftily folded and stored in the closet...those same attributes that made me buy it, are the same attributes that caused it to fold up, flip out from under me, and toss me to the floor (rump first). Since then, I have toted it out to the garage with one hand with the greatest of ease, swiftly folded it up, and tossed it in the garbage (rung first) never to speak of its portability again. Naturally, I couldn't allow a little something like a broken wrist to slow me down! Below is a picture of me the following night, singing my hard (cast) out! Notice the right arm in its permanently bent position!

Live at the Rodeo Opry

I've always been a big believer in the adage 'the show must go on'. As far back as college, it didn't matter how sick I was (or members of my band were), I expected all of them (including me) to show up for a gig, and play through whatever ailments we encountered. I can remember literally running off stage (is that why they call it the 'runs'?) in the middle of a song during the guitar solo at a gig we had at Bishop McGuinness High School, so that I could make it to the bathroom long enough to 'gather my wits' and stumble back to the mic to finish the song (and the set). In fact, as I was coming out of the stall, a kid washing his hands looked questioningly at me and asked, "Aren't you in the band?" as he listened to the loud music coming from the auditorium down the hall. I nodded my head to the affirmative as I 'ran' back to my place on stage.

That's why dutifully, Saturday night, with my cast barely 24 hours old, I stepped up to the mic and sang two songs for the Rodeo Opry Anniversary Show. Then early the following morning, I showed up to the church, and played our church's beautiful Steinway Grand Piano (with just my left hand).

We all have certain personality traits, that both define us and shape our behavior. At times, just like the step ladder that now sits in a landfill somewhere, the same traits (quirks) can be both positives and negatives. Take honesty, for instance. After all, it's said to be the 'best policy'. It's one of the Ten Commandments. Thou shalt not lie. When the 'truth' is in our favor, we welcome it. "Tell it like it is!" "You tell 'em, brother!" But when the 'truth' goes against us, we suddenly aren't as big a fan of it. Isn't that why we like shows like People's Court (in my day) or Judge Judy? Both parties think they're in the right; and we get to sit back and watch while at least one of the complainants (and sometimes both of them) are told they are in the 'wrong'! Why does America love to hate Simon Cowell? He tells the truth (or at least his version of it). His willingness and eagerness to openly point out singers' shortcomings, either endears us or reviles us. Same trait...different results.

My wife is honest. She honestly believes whenever I sing or lead worship, that it's wonderful (even when I played that Sunday with one hand tied behind my back). Now, certainly you want your mate to be a big fan...I can't imagine it being any other way. But if she tells you it's great, no matter how bad it is, she ceases to be a good barometer of what's transpiring. I, on the hand, stay acutely aware of every little mistake, every transition that could have been smoother, and any note that I didn't like (not necessarily a wrong note, but just not the one I wanted to sing or play) and so therefore, I see most performances as 'sub-par'; which in music is a BAD thing. On the other hand, in golf a sub-par performance is a great thing. Even if you didn't hit the ball well, or missed a lot of fairways, if you're sub-par, you're really good!

Sometimes 'really good' can translate into 'arrogance'. So, how about 'arrogance' on the golf course? I think Tiger Woods had a bunch of it (in his prime); a sense of 'invincibility'. Once he lost it, he became much more 'human', but much more 'defeatable'. What was good for his personal life (being humbled) hasn't been so good for his golf game. Many of the more aggressive traits, so lauded in the field of sports, and also rewarded in the corporate world tend to have more downside than upside.

"A Face In The Crowd" - Andy Griffith and Patricia Neal 

The film debut of Andy Griffith called "A Face In The Crowd" is still one of my favorite movies; and is a superb example of how certain traits, like 'arrogance' and 'invincibility' that can help you get ahead in life, can also come back to haunt and destroy you. Find a way to watch this movie if you've never seen it.

Another of my favorite flicks combined the 'arrogance' of a ship's captain, Quint, with a town's mayor who wouldn't accept the 'truth' about sharks. "Jaws" has a great character interaction out at sea late one night in the interior cabin of the boat between Quint, police chief Brody, and marine biologist Hooper, where the three are discussing/comparing their injuries, scars and breaks. The seriousness of the scene is 'broken' as Hooper points to his chest to indicate the scar left by Mary Ellen Moffett from a 'broken heart'. All of us who have seen this movie know that ultimately Quint's 'arrogance' comes back to bite him.

 As I alluded to earlier, I've had one other thing broken in my life (not counting broken hearts ;).

Seretean Center - OSU

I was in college, and we were having our dress rehearsal, the night before the opening of Godspell at OSU (where I played the dual role of John the Baptist and Judas). As the call was made for, "Places!", I bolted down the right aisle of the Seretean Center just as the lighting crew was adjusting the lights in the auditorium. They turned them off for just a second, and I misjudged (couldn't see) the last step at the bottom, landed with my heel on that last step, my toe on the floor, felt my ankle twist and the little bone on the side of my foot crack. The ankle and foot swelled instantly, and after a trip to the Infirmary doctor (who also happened to be the doctor for the football team), it was decided that all that could be done for the bone was to wrap it tightly with an Ace bandage, and send me back in the game! So, instead of the traditional tennis shoes I was planning to wear, I borrowed my roommate's combat boots that were about a size or two bigger than what I wore, laced them up, one fit tightly around my Ace bandage, the other with five pairs of socks on the unswollen right foot, and soft-shoed my part the next night like a pro. The only time that I truly felt the pain (over the meds) was the scene where (as Judas) I leave to betray Jesus. The scene called for me to run off the stage, slip and fall on the steps (I had already rehearsed that part), look back at Jesus and the disciples, then run on up the aisle out the back of the auditorium. I noticed about the third performance that I was pushing off with my left foot on that last sprint exit (ouch!). Once I corrected that, I was golden (drugged, but golden) for the full two week run of the production.

The refusal to let life (or circumstances) stop you or hold you back is a good trait. But it can lead to stubbornness and can be a little annoying. Kids can be like that. Once they learn how to do something, they'll holler, "Me do it! Me do it!" whether you want them to do it or not. When sick people won't let you take care of them and insist on doing everything themselves, not only does it further endanger their health, it robs someone of the blessing that comes from helping. Plus, if you're not at 100%, then why not allow others who ARE at their best (even if you think your 75% is better than their 100%) to step in and step up! In the final analysis, what I kind of already knew, but rediscovered with this most recent incident: there's just not much 'patient' in this patient!

So, what's the take-away from this break-away? Take your gifts, your abilities, your personality, and harness 'the way you are' in a way that pleases God and is most pleasant to those around you. Take your attitudes and make them attributes. For example, if you're a perfectionist, use it to raise your level of performance, but don't allow it to cause you to only see the imperfections or shortcomings in another person's performance. Others will not like being around you if they know they can never measure up. Also, allow yourself the freedom to enjoy what you do; even when it isn't perfect. We aren't expected to (nor can we) live a perfect life; but we should strive to live justly.

Or if you are proud about how truthful, straightforward and honest you can be, make sure you combine that truth with mercy, and administer your truth with grace. Time and time again the Bible combines them: truth and mercy, grace and truth; because they belong together.

He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.  Micah 6:8

That sounds like a pretty succinct recipe for good living to me. So what about your gifts; the things at which you excel? It's fine to be confident in your abilities; there's nothing wrong with being good at what you do. But the more humility you show, the more people will admire your abilities (rather than be put off by them). And if your humility causes your abilities or your performance to go unrecognized, don't worry about it. I would submit, though, they are rarely ever unnoticed and are probably discussed; just not with you. If you brag on your abilities (or are just really self-absorbed) then very few people will admire or acknowledge you. They won't need to because you've done it for them. Jesus told a great parable about 'recognition' that not only teaches a great lesson, but is really good advice regarding 'tooting your own horn'!

Luke 14:7-11
When Jesus noticed that all who had come to the dinner were trying to sit in the seats of honor near the head of the table, he gave them this advice: "When you are invited to a wedding feast, don't sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited? The host will come and say, 'Give this person your seat.' Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table. "Instead, take the lowest place at the foot of the table. Then when your host sees you, he will come and say, 'Friend, we have a better place for you!' Then you will be honored in front of all the other guests. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

Confused-us says, "He who toots his own horn plays in a one-man band."

Shakespeare said, ""All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts."

Arte* says, "It's not that 'the show must go on', the show does go on; and on and on."

In summary, as you pursue your role in life, and hopefully attempt to live justly, to show mercy and to be humble, the best advice I can give you is this: "BREAK A LEG!"

That's why He sent the messengers,
And He gave us the Law,
Then He showed up for questions,
And He answered 'em all,
He conquered the grave,
Completed His role,
In God's show.**

*Arte = R.T. (aka: Randym Thoughts)
**Lyrics taken from "It's God's Show" from the CD "Red Letter Day"

posted by Randy Whittern from his Blog - RANDYM THOUGHTS on 09/30/2011

Can't See The Trees? "Run Forrest, Run!" Subscribe To My Blog (RSS)(Click this icon to Subscribe)

Is there anything more mischievous and wonderful than water balloons? We just recently had a 4th of July picnic at our church, and we broke up into teams and basically played dodge 'water balloon' ball. Water balloons, and dare I say, water in general brings out the child (aka: immaturity) in all of us. Naturally some of the younger guys (at least younger than I am) attempted to continue the water atrocities long after the games were over, and of course it got out of hand, cell phones and innocent bystanders got wet; and 'horseplay' suddenly became an 'incident'. But rather than 'preach' on self-control or forgiveness, and 'out' the perpetrators, I'd rather use myself as the bad example for this object lesson. Because many years ago an incident that started out somewhat innocently definitely ballooned out of control. It happens to be one of my most favorite stories from my high school days and it does involve water balloons...at least that's how the whole thing got started.

As I recall there were four of us (junior and senior boys from Putnam City High School). We had begun a long school trip for the summer that involved Washington, D.C., then New York City and ultimately Europe. Of course, one of the guys had brought along several packages of balloons with the idea of creating some havoc on the other side of the ocean. But there was no way we had the discipline (or desire) to wait that long (or to stay out of trouble until then), so we busted out the balloons at our first stop in Washington, D.C.

We were staying on the third floor of a modest motel there at the nation's capital, and that afternoon we'd made several attempts to 'nail' passersby on the street below from our tiny patio that overlooked the street. Up to that point, one rather large, fat gentleman in a blue Ban-Lon shirt had been the highlight of the afternoon. But as the day was drawing to a close, we noticed a man with car trouble, who had parked his car there on the street and popped his hood to see why his car wasn't running properly. Leaving the hood up, he returned to the driver's seat, and began to rev the engine and listen to the motor. As he leaned over the steering wheel and listened more intently, one well-heaved latex projectile landed on that hot carburetor and immediately exploded with enough force to scare the pistons out of the poor guy. No doubt he assumed the engine had exploded (certainly his heart had blown a gasket). He nearly fell over himself trying to get out of the driver's seat to get a safe distance away from that car. When he finally worked up the courage to give it another go, he spent an hour trying to discern what on earth had happened beneath his hood. Meanwhile, we were watching all this from afar, rolling on the floor laughing our balloons off (ROTFLOBO)! Darkness and hunger brought an end to that day's festivities. As we ate, we all decided that surely this was the funniest thing we'd ever see. But we were wrong; and early the next day we packed our bags and our balloons, and headed off to the Big Apple.

That next night we checked into an old flophouse hotel in downtown Manhattan. This time we were about twelve floors up, with huge floor length windows out of which to launch. It was a little harder to be discreet...after all, the big open window with the boys jumping up and down and laughing hysterically would have been hard to miss; in reality, just timing the toss out of the window, down a dozen stories, across the street onto fast moving taxis or briskly walking pedestrians proved to be a real challenge, and we were having trouble even drawing enough 'bal-lood' to possibly get 'bal-lamed'! In fact, by the time we felt like we were finally getting the hang of it, we suddenly realized we were out of balloons. So, now what?

Although it was a little riskier, we started filling up cups of water, and attempting to time it, so that as an innocent bystander made their way down the sidewalk, we could disrupt their day with a wet slap on the head (or shoulder). We at least were hoping they would think it was spit or the random act of an insensitive pigeon or even someone emptying mop water out of their apartment window. But alas, those little plastic cups, so abundant there in that hotel room, were having no perceptible effect on the New Yorkers below us. A combination of bad aim, swirling wind, and a minimal amount of moisture was ruining our fun. We tried to ramp it up some, and one cup at a time soon became one in each hand, and ultimately became all four of us trying to dump our cups in unison. Our feeble attempts at escalation had only resulted in the minor annoyance of one or two of the patrons of the nearby drugstore/deli; and although we were a little nervous about being 'found out', we thirsted for more. We had no concept of 'when to say when' (that little catch phrase hadn't been coined yet). So, now what?

NYC is known for its cast of characters. They have long been the subject of jokes, monologues and stories made famous by comedians, late-night talk-show hosts and sit-coms, from the taxi-drivers to the street walkers, from the pigeons to the rats. We had watched in amazement the hustle and bustle of the streets, and had actually noticed three different 'ladies of the evening', each on their own street corner, each one confronting/addressing/admonishing those with whom they came in contact. Throughout the afternoon, we had been casually observing to see if any of them would make a love connection for the evening. One gent appeared to have entered into negotiations with one lady, but he subsequently had walked off, gone around the corner, checked his wallet, and thought better of it. The unfortunate thing from our perspective, was that although their three respective corners were within sight of our hotel room, they were nowhere near close enough to assault (especially without even so much as a single balloon at our disposal). We voiced aloud that maybe one of them would cross over to the empty corner nearest us, and therefore have to cross beneath our window. Or better yet, perhaps they would escort a 'client' to our hotel, and on their way cross near enough for us to get a shot off. Just in case, we decided three or four ounces per cup wasn't going to have the impact we needed (I mean if we truly wanted to make a statement). We didn't have a mop bucket (no maids were in site) but we did have a nice, big metal trashcan in the bathroom. It was way too big, however, to fit underneath any of the faucets (even the one in the bathtub); so ounce by ounce, cup by cup, we painstakingly worked to fill that bad boy up. Then we collectively dragged and carried it over to the window, precariously balanced it on the sill and tried to be ready to lock and load if by some chance we had the opportunity to single out one of the 'singles'.
We nervously watched...and waited.

Suddenly the planets aligned. Like a puppet on a string, one 'lady' crossed the street and began talking to her competition/counterpart on the other corner. We had no idea what the conversation was about; perhaps there was a sale on hair spray at the drugstore, or a buy one/get one deal at the cosmetic counter for heavy eyeliner and black mascara. It had to be something 'special', because it also attracted the interest of the third 'pro', and she strolled down the street to join in on the conversation. Now remember, these weren't your MTV video hip-hop/rap starlet wannabes masquerading as ladies of the night. This was 1972 and these three were vintage Baretta/Starsky and Hutch white girls of the streets with big Amy Winehouse (r.i.p.) beehive hair-dos, wearing layers of make-up to cover up the layers of living they had experienced. This was way before Madonna had made it fashionable to wear underwear in public, so all three 'professionals' were outfitted in lady of the 'evening dresses'; the original dress for success from the original profession. These girls had definitely spent some time getting ready for their night out, and it was just a matter of time before some working class moth was going to be attracted to the flame.

Whatever they were discussing, the net result was a change of venue. Apparently, those three corners had dried up, and they were looking for greener (wetter) pastures. They were about to find them. Like one big mass of female humanity, they all three suddenly turned and began to walk, side by side, down the sidewalk that ran directly below our hotel window. We were absolutely giddy. We had hoped for one...but we were about to get the who' hat trick, as all three made their way toward the drugstore, in the direct path of our air to surface missile. Despite our big boy bravado, we momentarily just stood there, all hands on can, hesitant to pull the trigger; first looking at the street below, then at the huge can of water, and then at each other. Should we? Dare we? We'll be sorry! Wait! No, don't wait! Do it?? Yes, do it!! Now? Now?? Yes, now!!! And with a sudden rush of adrenaline coursing through our bodies, in unison we flipped that old rusty trashcan topsy turvey towards the street, spewing gallons and gallons of water into the air and stood there mesmerized as it headed straight down to the sidewalk below. It seemed like slow motion as the giant blanket of water floated to and fro, parallel to the side of the building, a huge wet umbrella passing floor after floor, going window by window on its way to infamy. Those three women continued their stroll down the walk, oblivious to their fate. In fact, for just a split second they literally disappeared beneath a massive sheet of water. But then suddenly, BOOM! Like a miniature monsoon they were engulfed in a cascade of water; and we could see them freeze in their tracks as the hairspray was instantly removed from their bouffants, and they went from high and dry to soaking wet; from sultry to saturated. In an instant, (and I mean with the speed of sound) we heard Halloween-like shrieks and shrills bouncing off the pavement, ascending twelve flights and piercing the stillness of that hotel room (and the surrounding city block). They were stunned and they were loud! We immediately felt that same sinking feeling you got when you were a kid after hearing the shatter of fine china or the crash of Grandma's big decorator lamp in the corner and you realized, "Oops. We screwed up! What were we THINKING?" So, now what?

There was no running for the dust pan or fumbling for the super glue! This was not going to be swept under the rug or pieced back together. We immediately ducked back into our room, flipped every light off, double-locked and chained the door, then cowered in the shadows, all the while listening to the commotion below. Finally, one of us dared to sneak a quick peek. A crowd had gathered and they were ALL looking up, pointing fingers, and searching for retribution. We were afraid to move. We literally feared for our lives. Could they tell from which window the attack originated? What if someone dared to knock on our door? We wondered if the throng of people below would ever give up without a sacrificial lamb. After all, this was America and justice needed to be served! We huddled together praying we wouldn't hear the NYPD Blue bull horn calling for us to put the trashcan down and come out with our hands up. So now what?

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 1 Corinthians 13:11

It's hard not to be childish sometimes. It seems to me, that one of the main attributes we gain (and need to develop) as we get older, is the ability to see the consequences of our actions; to look past the temporary thrill or satisfaction of a deed and ultimately see the ripple effect; how a cup of water here, and a few cups of water there will ultimately overflow into one big honkin' trouble-causing can of chaos (did we perhaps unknowingly event the term 'open up a can'?).

When we venture into a gray area now and then, chances are no harm will befall us. When we speak unkindly of somebody here and there, it may not cause a scene. But that's the short-sided mindset; the mindset of an immature person; the thought pattern of a child. How subtly and easily things balloon out of control! Too often what doesn't hurt us, does hurt others.

Looking at it one way, you could say, "Anything goes. Because of God's immense generosity and grace, we don't have to dissect and scrutinize every action to see if it will pass muster." But the point is not to just get by. We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well. 1 Corinthians 10:23

That's the Apostle Paul writing a letter to the church at Corinth and I think he really got it! All of us will hear that internal voice speak to us, "Should we? Dare we? We'll be sorry! Wait! No, don't wait! Do it?? Yes, do it!! Now? Now??" Our response, based on our own desires, will naturally be, "Yes, now!!!" Not until we think about others will our reponses change.

The challenge is in this self-centered world in which we live, there's not much stopping us from doing just about anything we feel like doing. We can speak any way we want. We can eat anything we want. We can show out in any number of ways. We live in a culture where 'doing your own thing' is celebrated! But when we live out of control and without restraint, there are going to be times when we can't hide in a dark corner and get away with it; when someone's day is ruined and you have to deal with the consequences.

Of course, hurting someone is not always an intentional act. Sometimes you look up and realize you've stumbled into a bunch of hurtful old trees; into the Sure Would (but Shouldn't Have) Forest. You got carried away, didn't realize what you were doing, where you were going, but nevertheless, you are there...in the wrong! Then of course, the conditioned response is to, "Run!" At that juncture, no matter what our intentions were, things turn out better when we come clean, admit we were wrong, and ask for forgiveness. Simple to write...hard to do.

It sure didn't happen that afternoon in New York City (God was probably our only shot at forgiveness that day; and believe me, He definitely heard from us). We got the entertainment we wanted, unwittingly provided by three consummate 'professionals'; and we're lucky there wasn't a high price to pay. Fortunately, the crowd eventually dissipated. I assume the girls clocked out early and called it a night. I know we did!! (how's that for gettin' off the 'hook'?!?)

Sorry Mrs. Gump, but life's not really like a box of chocolates. It's like a big bucket of water; and you have the free will and imagination to use it any way that you choose. The possibilities are endless. You can use it to do something as simple and basic as satisfying your thirst or washing your hands; or something more creative and fun like filling up squirt guns or bobbing for apples; it can be the vehicle used to perform something as life-changing as baptism or as life-threatening as waterboarding. Radically different examples, to say the least, but no more radical or different than the lives we can choose to live.

In this story, the lesson to be learned had nothing to do with whether that big old trashcan was half-full or half-empty...only that it was haphazard (characterized by lack of order or planning; having no forethought concerning the outcome). The moral to this glass, class, is to think before you play in the water; anticipate that everyone's liable to get wet; and assume that somebody's not going to be happy about it.

So, now what?  Before you run, think Forrest, think!

posted by Randy Whittern from his blog - Randym Thoughts on 08/24/2011

WINNING! (Part Two) Subscribe To My Blog (RSS)(Click this icon to Subscribe)

Sure this story may seem insignificant to you. Most things are that way. What's important to me is NEVER going to be as important to you (unless it involves you). Without the 'like' button or the 'comment' button or the 'retweet' button, social media would die. Yes, social media is a good way to keep up with your friends (current or otherwise). It's also a great way to stay in touch with your family (especially if they live several hours away). But it's the Internet's way of saying "Me too! Me too!" by thrusting your name, your picture and your comment into the lives of every one of your so-called 'friends'. "Don't just look at them! Look at me! Look at me!"  "I like that, too!" "I'm laughing out loud, too!" "I'm shaking my head, too!"

Conversely, it's a great way to avoid looking at pictures of kids and grandchildren (other than your own). Just say, "YES, I saw those on FACEBOOK!" and then quickly change the subject (or go home and post some of your own). C'mon now...newborn puppies aren't that cute (I'm talking about the hairless mole ones). Kittens with closed eyes and no hair...hideous. Every picture taken at a hospital right after a birth...squished and frowny. The best thing you can say about a newborn baby is, "He's a C-section baby! Isn't he cute?" Meaning, the size of the head, although still largely out of proportion, hasn't been altered like an orange sherbet push-up that was just squeezed through a keyhole. As for my babies (see, you just got less interested) they were the cutest around; but that first week, they were more 'fetus' than Fabio; more 'goober ' than Gerber. And if your babies happen to look like your previous babies (and they probably will, since they all look alike) the flooding of memories will mask what you are actually cooing at and fawning over, and will make them even more wonderful to look at (through your eyes). But it's just God's great auto-tuner. Every family thinks their kids can sing. Every family loves to look at pictures of their babies.

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." That's not from the Bible. That phrase first showed up in the novel Molly Bawn, about 1878. In 1953, there was a great episode of The Twilight Zone (Eye of the Beholder - Episode #42), where the ugly woman in need of a make-over was Donna Douglas (the original Elly May Clampett). The problem was everyone in her world was grotesquely deformed. She, on the other hand, looked like Elly May in a hospital gown; but alas, her operation fails, she keeps looking like Elly May and she never achieves the 'ugliness' she desires, in order to blend in with society (based upon the very subjective definition of beauty that dominated that world; see what I mean?).

If you can only find one person on earth that thinks you're beautiful, tell your mom you love her too (but I'm sure there are others!). If you find a thousand people that like your singing, you've got a platinum record! But that doesn't mean you sing good, now does it? Most things in life are pretty subjective that way. Even athletic ability is relative to who you play with and whether that ability increases or decreases in the clutch.

As for me, I always liked black and white things as a kid (not the colors, but clear cut things). I thought math was one of the fairest subjects around. Either you got the answer, or you didn't. No teacher favoritism (or lack of favoritism) could hurt you either way. No essay questions or term paper variables that were dependent on your point of view or who you were; just get it right (or it was wrong). Spelling pretty much works the same way. So naturally, I found myself buzzed (pun intended) about the eighth grade spelling bee.

This was in and around 1968, and the Vietnam war wasn't over; so there hadn't been a large influx of Vietnamese (or Asians for that matter) entering America and signing up for spelling bee contests yet (therefore it was easier for a country kid from Muskogee to 'nguyen', so to speak). It was also before the kids from India realized how easy two and three syllable English words were to spell, especially when compared to the multi-syllabic words in their language. Even having to spell some of those tough two syllable winning words like 'guerdon'* and 'stromuhr'** must have seemed like taking Gandhi from a baby to them! For instance, the names of the last two years' winners: Anamika Veeramani and Kavya Shivashankar. Let's face it; those kids had to be pretty smart just to put their NAMES on their papers!

I knew about none of this, of course; but I did know spelling came easy to me. I almost had a photographic memory back then (it's hard to find film these days, though), and I prided myself on knowing the spelling of words. Like most kids, I grew up screaming at the top of my lungs, "Mom, how do you spell 'multi-syllabic'?" to which she would reply, "Look it up! You may need to use it in a Blog someday!" Alright, I made up that last part, but my mom NEVER spelled a word for me. It was "look it up" or make it up!

Eighth grade happens to be the last grade in which you can qualify for the national spelling bee. My family had just moved to Muskogee, Oklahoma, and I was determined to make a name for myself (like anyone else really cared). I took that study book they had given me home, and tried to make myself study it. But there were hundreds of words! Luckily, the book was divided into three word groups based upon difficulty; and I figured the kids would drop like flies long before we got to the tough words (plus I had things to do; like PLAY) so I gave most of my limited attention to the first two sets of words (assuming that would be more than sufficient to 'guerdon'* the coveted title to myself).

So there we were, in a classroom at Alice Robertson Junior High in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and sure enough nearly all the other little competitors had fallen to the curb; all of them except one little plump red-headed girl named Suzy Smith. I could be tacky and talk about her freckles or her lack of friends (therefore her ample time to study compared to the rest of us) but the fact is, the little girl could spell. She was a southern girl, and like most of us had a bit of a drawl. She was also very soft-spoken. She kept quietly spelling those 'little ole' words and then turning to me as if to say, "Your turn."

We had finally begun to enter that dreaded group of 'tough' words and I was winging it on sheer brain power (luck). I knew eventually I was doomed. My only hope was that maybe she would trip up. Then suddenly she did. The word was 'marsupial'. Now I had done a book report in 7th grade on kangaroos and other marsupials; so I stood there like a 'possum in wait, ready to 'hop in' with the right spelling if she faltered; and therefore it pleased me to no end when she spelled: m-a-r-s- (hesitation) -u-p- (more hesitation as she decided one 'p' was sufficient) -i-e-l (followed by a look of desperation as she heard gasping from around the room; suddenly realizing she had worried so much about the consonants, she'd tripped over the vowels). The sweet old teacher who was monitoring from the back of the room, sat up in her chair, leaned forward (trying to be nice), and politely asked her, "What was it you said, honey?" As I mentioned, Suzy spoke very quietly; and indeed had barely exhaled those last three letters. The looks and sounds of the room had told her she had 'zegged' when she should have 'zagged'. So, when she repeated it, she succinctly said, "m-a-r-s-u-p-i-a-l, marsupial".

Now everyone in the room had heard it right (or should I say, "wrong") the first time. So when she corrected herself, the teacher dutifully asked her, "I thought you said 'e-l' the first time," to which the little girl replied in her best southern drawl, "Sometimes my a's kind of sound like e's."

Say what? Does Steve Nash tell the refs he was really saying 'Fudge' when they 'T' him up? Does Kevin Durant say "sometimes my dribbling looks like walking!" when he flails out of control into the lane and expect the reps to call off the traveling call? Does Tiger Woods claim, "I thought I had the five iron! No wonder the ball went in the water!" in hopes of getting a mulligan? Of course, not. Tiger screams 'fudge', drops a ball and takes the penalty strokes. There are no mulligans in spelling bees!!! But what was the teacher going to say? My suggestion would have been, "Liar, liar, hair on fire!" I mean, what kind of 'kangaroo court' were we dealing with?? But the teacher had to take her at her word; and after all, she had spelled it right (the second time).

Needless to say, I was reeling from the whole ordeal or no deal (no telling what the 'stromuhr'** would have registered at that juncture, because my blood was pumpin'!). Not surprisingly, I loudly and confidently misspelled the very next word, and little Suzy Smith became the spelling bee 'winner' and went on to represent Muskogee at the next level. Meanwhile, I went on to the ninth grade, never to enter a spelling bee again. I did sing 'Harry the Hairy Ape' later that year and won the talent show, but it didn't make up for the wrong that had been done. For several years after that, I didn't care much for redheads or koala bears. And I determined in my mind that I would never do anything like little Suzy had done to me. After all, words mean things!

Psalm 34:12-14 Does anyone want to live a life that is long and prosperous? Then keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies! Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it.

James 3:8-9 ...no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.

So I hope all of us can learn from this by choosing our words (letter by letter) very carefully. That's one of the main reasons I wanted to write this blog; to pass on experiences I've had and how they've affected the way I live my life.

For instance, if it sounds like I'm talking about someone behind their back, it's just that sometimes when I voice my concerns about a person's behavior or actions, it sounds like gossip.  And sometimes it sounds judgmental when I'm really just pointing out obvious shortcomings. And yeah, it may sound prideful and arrogant when all I'm doing is calling it the way it is. See what I mean? I learned a valuable lesson there in eighth grade.

And I may say I'm doing this or that for God when it appears like I'm actually doing it for myself. Or even when I'm fully aware of what He expects, it may seem like I quite often do what I think is best for me. But don't jump to conclusions; pay closer attention! Because sometimes my "He's" kind of sound like "me's".

What do you mean you bet I can't spell 'obedient'!??

Can I get a definition?

Can I get a witness??
*2008 winning word-Sameer Mishra correctly spelled 'guerdon'
     (n. a reward - vb. to give a guerdon to, reward).
**2010 winning word-Anamika Veeramani correctly spelled 'stromuhr'
     (instrument for measuring the quantity and speed of blood flow).

About a year or so after the spelling bee-bacle, the country tune 'Okie From Muskogee' hit the airwaves and our little town became quite famous (plus it gave folks something to talk about besides how I was robbed in the 'spelling bee' ;). Even though my family moved to Oklahoma City in 1972, I ended up going back to Muskogee to sing/play several times during my 'rock-n-roll' years, and the band I was in during those days, Marin, wound up playing a unique version of the song one night in 1977 at the Muskogee Civic Center. Our sound guy, Mark Hendricks often carried a Teac reel-to-reel with him and he captured the audio live on tape. Recently, I threw together a slide show to go with it, including a few pictures of the band members here and there. Anyway, I've been looking for an excuse to post it to the Blog...so if you neglected to click on the link above, here it is!

posted by Randy Whittern from his Blog - Randym Thoughts on 05/19/2011

DEATH AND 'FACTS IS' (Part Two) Subscribe To My Blog (RSS)(Click this icon to Subscribe)

This whole Blog was not meant to be about vacations; but about the permanent vacation, aka: death.  As a worship leader and default pianist for our church, I play and/or sing at a lot of funerals.  Most have been dear saints who were at the end of long, mostly productive lives (to my knowledge, anyway), so tears of grief were mixed with those of joy and relief.

But there have also been some folks die quite unexpectedly recently (technically before 'their time', as 'they' say).  A couple of them were riding motorcycles and that in itself gave me reason to reflect.  A pretty good friend of mine (not a 'BFF', but a good buddy) named Doug Jones died the final day of my sophomore year at Muskogee Highschool while leaving school. It was a sad ending to what is normally a pretty happy day ("School's out, school's out..."). He was a guy that I went to both school and church with; and he was widely hailed as the 'toughest guy in school'. You never expect one of your highschool classmates to die...but especially not one as tough and rugged as Doug. He was one of those Timex guys, that could take a licking (and keep on ticking). I observed a couple of his playground fights; and afterwards was always glad that he was my friend (and not my enemy).

Most of us have experienced that kind of death at least once in our life.  Think about some of yours for a moment; when you had a schoolmate or someone about your age die suddenly; or even just some kid who lived down the street who died needlessly while going about his or her normal, everyday routine...for the last time.  I'm not speaking about that group that lives 80 plus years, and dies after a long illness or extended nursing home stay, as sad though as that can be.  I'm referring to the unexpected news; that interruption of a life that seemingly would go on and on and on. Doug Jones. Michael Freeburg. Trevor Roberts. Diane Smith. James McLish.  Truthfully, the longer I sit here and think, the more names that come to mind.  Most of them didn't get to marry or to have kids.  They didn't get to worry with bills and mortgages or find themselves without a job and struggling to make ends meet.  They didn't see the Murrah building blow up or the Twin Towers fall.  They didn't get crows feet and worry lines.  They didn't lose their hair and their looks.  They didn't get to retire.  They didn't get to live...at least, not very long.  And not as long as you or I have.

But you see...that's what living is; lots of good...lots of bad...lots of routine; for who knows how long. Too often the bad can overshadow the good and the routine can overtake it all. I stop and realize that I don't even know what my dad's little brother's first name was. Fact is, I don't know the names of people in your lives that were unexpectedly taken. All any of us have right now, besides a houseful of 'things', is RIGHT NOW; a life that was extended longer than several others that we came in contact with. It doesn't make us more valuable or 'special' because we're still among the living; it doesn't even mean that we have a higher calling or a worthwhile purpose that they didn't have. It just means we're still here. The fact is we don't know 'why'.  We don't know 'why not'. The fact is most of us won't take time to sit and reflect on it; or even to put it down in a Blog (or to divide up our houseful of 'things' in a 'will'). I can also tell you that I don't know if that's good, bad, routine or somewhere in between! If the place they are in, is indeed a 'better place', then maybe the joke's on those of us still here on earth.

I always tried to encourage my kids to enjoy the 'now'. I warned them that when you got to junior high, you'd wish you were still in grade school (but wanting to hurry up and drive). When you got to highschool, you were wishing you were back in junior high (but wishing you didn't have a curfew).  When you got to college, you realized how easy you had it in highschool (but you couldn't wait to get out and get your own job).  Too much time spent pining for the good old days, yet wanting the next milestone to hurry up and arrive.  Sigh!  But it should make us all stop...and appreciate our life; the one we have TODAY. It makes me thankful; not just to be alive, but thankful for those who, although they perhaps did die 'before their time', managed to touch my life in the process.

So part of me thinks, "I've got so much to do. Put the lid down and step away from the laptop!"  But here I am, typing away.  "Oh look! The sun's finally out." Get off the computer; and DON'T get on Facebook.  But here I sit, still typing.  When we tally it all up, maybe we've WASTED more time (and more key strokes) than the aforementioned folks actually lived (or typed).  Hopefully that's not true; but let's all at least resolve to try and quit wasting time; or at least as MUCH time (in their honor!).

Yes, we're lucky (blessed) to be alive. I believe I've been blessed by the good AND the bad things of life. We'd be so boring if we didn't lose sometimes.  We'd become way too self-reliant if we didn't have to call on others (especially God) to get us through the tough times. But with that being said, I do want to focus on the 'good' things in my life and choose to joyfully live (and acknowledge the gift of) each day.  To that end, you probably won't see me post statuses, tweets or blogs about the 'routine or the in-between'...like I said, I don't want to focus on that.  I may even choose to blog less...but hopefully live more; so that when I do blog, you'll be glad you invested your time to read it.  While you're at it, read Psalm 51 which includes this verse:

Psalm 51:12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit.

Just for fun, go to my Red Letter Day CD and listen to Can't Take My Joy Away! It's a good five-minute aerobic tune about holding onto your joy (actually it's a three minute song with a two minute jam!).  So, hit play...then start dancing (think 'Snoopy Dance')!  Let it roll while you work around the house, clean in the kitchen or wrestle with your kids (or your spouse). Value today. Pursue joy! Then hold onto it (for dear life!).

...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. Philippians 4:8

Don't debate them.  Don't over-analyze them.  Just meditate on them.  Be content.  BE HAPPY!  You're alive!  Enjoy the fruits of the spirit.  I'm particularly partial to these: patience, kindness, gentleness and self control.

So, exercising my 'self control', I'm going to now stop typi

posted by Randy Whittern from his Blog - Randym Thoughts on 04/06/2011

WINNING! (Part One) Subscribe To My Blog (RSS)(Click this icon to Subscribe)

Well folks, our family's week on Family Feud has rolled back around and our shows will air the entire week of March 28 at 1:00 p.m. on Channel 34 locally. If you are out of the OKC area, you can go to http://www.familyfeud.com/, type in your zip code and find your local station. Most of you don't know this, but Family Feud was not my first experience with 'winning' on television, although it was certainly my most successful one.

My first actual TV appearance was when I was about six or seven years old. My mom carted me up to Oklahoma City (from Ada) and I appeared on The Foreman Scotty Show. For those of you that are as OLD as I am, you'll remember it as a local kids show (similar to Ho Ho the Clown) that featured a studio full of kids each week day, with the host, being Foreman Scotty.

Foreman Scotty

That first time that I was on the show, I got to sit on Woody, the Birthday Horse. Yes, of course it was my birthday. That was one of the few perks of having a birthday during the summer when school was out; you were free to skip town, and do special things. After all, it was difficult to invite very many kids to a birthday bash, since they too were out of school, hard to reach (life before FACEBOOK), and often on their OWN family vacations.

The second time that I appeared on the show, my Uncle Rickey went with me (my mom and his mom, Granny Bo, drove us from Shawnee where they lived, up to Oklahoma City for that appearance). Rickey was my uncle, but he was only about three years older than me. Once we got to the studio, there was a shuffling for kids to get seated on the risers there. Being short (it runs on that side of the family), Rickey and I got to sit on the front row. That was one of the few perks of being short; you got to sit on the front row for pictures, choir concerts, and on Foreman Scotty.

I loved Foreman Scotty. He was on every day at 4:30. I always thought that Foreman was a strange first name. It didn't click to me until years later that he was the 'foreman' on the ranch; the Circle 4 Ranch.  Foreman Scotty ALWAYS wore a hat. I think that when I perform and/or sing at the Rodeo Opry, I just don't feel right unless I wear my hat. I blame that on Foreman Scotty (besides, the 'hat' makes me look taller).

Two really exciting things happened every day on The Foreman Scotty Show (for all the kids that were there). Each show they gave away a 'Golden Horseshoe' and a 'Golden Zoo Key'. Now in order to win the 'Golden Horseshoe' you had to EARN IT. The point was for you to make the funniest, most ridiculous face you could make or jump up and down doing the silliest thing you could imagine in order to get the attention of the camera; which in turn had a lasso superimposed on the screen, that panned crazily to and fro until it landed on (lassoed) that special, crazy kid who was making the funniest face (or making the biggest fool of himself). Honestly, it probably would normally go to the cutest little girl or darlingest little boy no matter what they were doing; but we were sure that it was an award based purely on merit and we were both intent on earning it.

As I mentioned, we were on the first row of chairs; in fact I was in the very first seat on the end and Rickey was in the second seat right next to me. During the first commercial break Rickey turned to me and asked me to switch seats with him.  "Why?" I asked. Turns out Rickey was going to be doing some kind of a 'bird thing', with his fists in his armpits, and his elbow-wings flapping (think Red Skelton and the two seagulls, Gertrude and Heathcliff for all you fellow old-timers) and he needed the extra room on the end there, for his routine to really take flight. Being the acquiescent little nephew that I was, I switched seats with him. So the time finally came for the 'Golden Horseshoe'. I began to contort my face. Rickey flapped his wings. I stuck out my tongue and turned up my nose. Rickey flapped his wings even harder. And guess what? That's right...neither one of us won! Some little cute girl on the second row left that day with the Golden Horseshoe. We couldn't believe it!

During the next commercial break, we sat there whining like Kobe Bryant looking for a foul call, lamenting to each other about had badly we had gotten robbed. We almost didn't notice when the cameras started rolling again and it was time to award the 'Golden Zoo Key'. We both were startled when they announced that the winner of the 'Golden Zoo Key' was whoever was sitting in SEAT TWO! You see, you couldn't earn the Golden Zoo Key. You couldn't lobby and beg or even hope to perform your way into winning it. The Golden Zoo Key (at least the way we understood it) was a random drawing of a random seat number, and once it was pulled out of a hat (or from whatever orifice they extracted it from), the random child received it as his or her 'lucky' prize. The problem that day was that Rickey HAD been sitting in SEAT TWO. But he, of course, had swapped seats with me, in hopes of securing the 'Golden Horseshoe' and thereby forfeited the winning ticket, as it were, by now sitting in SEAT ONE. In his mind, I had taken his 'Zoo Key'; in his mind, he was supposed to win it; but I got it, since I was sitting in SEAT TWO: his seat. I got what he deserved.

Now I could make all kinds of parallels here but let's start off here:

Isaiah 53:4-6 (New Living Translation) Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God's paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.

Put simply by Paul and Peter: Christ died for our sins.
Put simply by me: He swapped seats with us.

Does that mean we get the 'Golden Gates Zoo Key'? That analogy might be a bit of a stretch although I certainly didn't earn it or deserve it. Perhaps I would have won the key even if I hadn't switched seats (after all, I'm sure I was the 'darlingest little boy' there that day ;). I do know that every time we went to the zoo with that side of the family from then on, and I would pull out my 'Golden Zoo Key' and use it to hear about the animals, Rickey would immediately start in on how it was his key and how I had been sitting in his seat!

Oh the joys of winning!

Conversely, we've all had times in our lives when someone else has gotten something that we felt like we deserved...when we wanted to be the winner, but someone else got the prize. Those times are not nearly as pleasant but are every bit as memorable; and they perhaps shape our character more than winning.

Oh the heartbreak of losing...

(to be continued)

posted by Randy Whittern from his Blog - Randym Thoughts on 03/28/2011

DEATH AND 'FACTS IS' (Part One) Subscribe To My Blog (RSS)(Click this icon to Subscribe)

My family always took vacations.  Every year, we'd load up in the car and drive somewhere.  When I was really young, a couple of times it involved staying with relatives along the way.  It was both a chance to see them, and to get a free room for the night.  Mostly though, there never seemed to be a lot of vacation planning.  In fact, a few times, my dad would sit down the night before we were to leave, open up a map of the United States and ask out loud, "Which direction should we go this year?"  Then he would 'kind of' plot our route.

We only actually flew somewhere once, which not so coincidentally was the first time I flew in a plane.  But that flight was preceded by a long and winding road through New Orleans, down the coastline and on to Panama City Beach.  Somewhere along the way we decided to catch a flight from Panama City to the Bahamas.  If we could've driven to the Bahamas, I'm sure my dad would have done that instead, to save the money.

The problem with flying out of the panhandle of Florida was this: we had to take off and land three times to just get to Miami, lay over about six hours, and THEN fly to the Bahamas.  I tended to get a little car sick when we drove, and taking off and landing that many times in the same small plane about did me in.  By the time we reached Miami, I was miserable.  To quote the Beatles, "All the way the paper bag was on my knee, man I had a dreadful flight!"  I sat there in the Miami airport with my head in my hands, trying not to throw up, hoping to rid myself of that horrible nausea.  I wound up being VERY thankful for the six hour layover and a chance to finally return to my normal color before I boarded that last flight to Nassau.

I'm sure the Bahamas was my mom's idea.  She was always interested in seeing the world.  She made sure she got to see Hawaii and Israel before she died.  They used to put 'stickers' on your luggage when you flew, and we had the 'Nassau, Bahamas' stickers on the sides of our suitcases from then on. We lived in Ada at the time, and not too many folks had even flown that lived there, more or less been to the Bahamas. She dropped the 'Bahamas' bomb whenver possible in conversations (to impress). But from my perspective, I had only bad memories of that trip.  Whatever last minute hotel we booked in Nassau wasn't really on the beach, just near a not-so-nice public beach; and after the initial 'flying' experience, I spent most of our time in the Bahamas dreading the flight back.  I have no desire to go there again, so I won't be buying any timeshares in the Bahamas!

One year my dad plotted out a trip to the Northwest. We managed to take in Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone, and the Great Salt Lake during that 'swing'. We never really went to cities; we just aimed for National Parks or tourist destinations (although on the Bahamas swing, I think we DID actually take a half day guided tour of New Orleans.  I just remember the above ground graves.  Those things stick in your head as a kid).  As usual, we never booked a hotel in advance.  We always drove way longer than we should have each day, and waited much later than we should have to find a hotel.

Remember, there wasn't the plethora of hotels back then that we have now, so normally it was a small one-story motel by the side of the road, where you parked in front of your door, and stayed the night.  The ritual always involved finding a neon 'no vacancy' sign, where the 'no' wasn't lit up (think Bates motel).  Then my dad would go to the front desk, get a key for a room, and go look at it first, to be sure it was clean and presentable before he'd ever actually secure the room.  I can remember many times when he'd come back to the car, when the room WASN'T worth renting (even for him), and it was back on the road until we got to the next town, and the next motel with a vacant room.  It was a rare occassion when we would decide to stop driving about 5:00 to stay at a motel with a pool, so that there'd be time (and daylight) to swim; but never more than once a road trip.

The same scenario played out that year when we arrived at Yellowstone.  Once we got there (which was pretty much in the middle of nowhere) we discovered the only rooms to be had were in and around the park.  Of course the 'lodge' was booked up.  However, my dad found us a great deal on a tiny one-room cabin in the heart of the park.  There wasn't a bathroom (I think we all shared a large one, that was down a path through the trees) and I'm not sure there was even electricity in the darn thing.  Even though it was summer, it was, of course, high up in those mountains, and that night it was frigid.  The ONLY heat in that cabin came from a small open woodburning stove in the corner.  Thank the Lord my dad was a country boy, and knew how to get that little stove percolating.  However, it was still really cold (you could see your breath), and the only way to stay really warm, besides keeping several layers of clothes on or crawling in bed underneath a ton of covers, was to stand right in front of that stove.

Like most kids, I was never good about heeding warnings.  I had a small scar right beneath my eye for many years from running with a screwdriver in my hand in spite of the fact that I'm sure I got the "you'll poke your eye out" warning many times.  I swallowed a marble when I was about five even though I'm sure I got the "don't put that in your mouth" warning many times also (that marble never DID show up although we watched and waited for its arrival for several days after that).  So, this time was no exception.  My dad quickly said, "Don't get too close to that stove.  You'll catch on fire."  Once again, this would have probably fallen on young, 'deaf' ears, but then he added a little something that really DID get my attention.  "Back on the farm," he said, "I had a little brother that burned up from one of those stoves."  That stopped me in my bare tracks (pun intended).

You see my dad grew up in a one-roomed house north of Seminole, Oklahoma; and that was how THEY kept warm in the winter (way back then).  And it was news to me that he ever had a little baby brother.  I knew about his sister Linda, and his brother Dan.  But I guess there was a fourth Whittern child that got a little too close to the woodburning stove as a toddler, caught his pajamas on fire and died as a result.  Needless to say I was stunned.  Needless to say I NEVER got very close to that fire...no matter how cold I got that night.  It's a warning I never forgot.

The Bible contains many warnings...way more than the infamous TEN that the world has done all it can to hide.  But like all warnings, they're not much good if they stay hidden or remain unread and/or unheard...or unheeded.

Death itself is a warning.  A reminder that tomorrow is not promised and today is all you have to work with.  And that YOU were given a day that someone else wasn't given.

James 4:13-14 Look here, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit." How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog-it's here a little while, then it's gone.

(to be continued)

posted by Randy Whittern from his Blog - Randym Thoughts on 03/18/2011

TOO LEGIT TO MITT Subscribe To My Blog (RSS)(Click this icon to Subscribe)

As previously stated here, I never had a desire to be 'Mr. Fix-It'.  Nor did I have a yearning desire to be 'Mr. Food'.  I learned to cook out of necessity ("stew or die").  I could barely cook mac and cheese when I left for college, but with the help of roommates and trial and error, I figured out a dish or two along the way.  I definitely learned more things from my mom after I left home than when I lived there.  No doubt, I was a more willing and interested student when I had to eat my own cooking.

Unlike my tool drawer (see 'Tool' blog), I have LOTS of kitchen gadgets in my kitchen drawers.  My kids make fun of us because we will stroll through all the kitchen stores at the outlet malls.  I love Tuesday Morning because of their kitchen stuff.  They always have the weirdest items.  Things you'd never ever see (or pay $20 for) at a normal store, but at cheaper prices.  Bed Bath & Beyond: I'm digging the 'Beyond'.  They probably have every kitchen invention that comes down the pike (but not at cheap prices, whether you use one of the coupons they send you every week or not).

A few years ago my favorite spatula developed a crack in the handle and part of it finally broke off.  I still try to use it, but you can't really 'baby' a spatula.  It's your main weapon in your kitchen arsenal!  You have to be able to dig and scrape and pry those good crispy crusts of the fried potatoes from off the bottom of the skillet...that's why you fry 'them taters'.  Since my spatula became a wounded veteran of the kitchen wars, I've been on a mission to find one JUST like it.  I've looked all over the world. I keep bringing them home, but none of them quite measure up.  It's like Chef Ahab looking for his 'great wide spatula'.  I'll probably never find another one like it.  I suspect Farberware just quit making them.

Oven mitts are another staple in the Whittern kitchen.  But they get dirty (or charred) so quickly that there never seems to be enough (clean ones) around. I always hate it when that big nasty thumb gets stuck into a freshly cooked meal (yuck).  It's also a little scary when I brush up against the 'heating element' in the oven and get to endure the aroma of freshly burnt 'mitt'.  Don't expect any pics of oven mitts forthcoming.  None of our mitts are really 'post-worthy'.  Wish I had one that said, "Kiss My Mitt!" (as a throwback to "Kiss My Grits").  When I have my oven mitt on, you will hear no MC Hammer music.

Started wearing mitts pretty faithfully after an 'incident' in college.  I was getting ready for an out-of-town gig and thought I'd cook some green beans before I left.  Now cooking green beans (back then) was pretty simple: open the can, dump 'em into a pan, turn the heat on and stir (I do much more seasoning with bacon and brown sugar now).  But during the college days, it was pretty mindless stuff...and that was the problem.  It was so mindless, that it slipped my mind that I had put the beans on the stove.  A bunch of the band members and I lived in a big yellow two story house on Duck Street (a few years before Garth Brooks lived in it) and I was upstairs showering and getting ready to go.  When I trotted downstairs, I could see the lonely pot of beans on the stove from across the house as I instantly remembered putting them on to cook.  I sprinted across the room and nervously looked into the pot, only to see the dried up, mostly burned now-black beans stuck to the bottom of the pan!  Luckily, I had left the spoon in the pan so I quickly grabbed it to try and stir the beans in an attempt to release them from their fiery grave.  BIG MISTAKE.  The fire hot spoon virtually stuck to my hand.  College boys don't have oven mitts.  They also don't have sense enough to NOT leave a spoon in a hot pan either.  I did have a tray of ice cubes in the freezer, though and I managed to hold one all the way to the gig that night.  WOW, that hurt!!!

I'm not saying that mitts are impervious to everything.  I've held a pizza pan or corningware dish right out of the oven a little too long a time or two and started feeling the heat ("If you can't stand the heat, get out of the mitten").  And yes, I wasn't kidding about brushing up against the oven element and starting a small 'mitt fire'.  Mitts are glorified gloves.  So naturally the thicker the glove, the harder it is to affect the hand.

I used to use rubber gloves alot in the kitchen...at least to reach down into a nasty college-boy sink to do week-old dishes (no tellin' WHAT you might stick your hand into in those sinks).  You could still feel the cold, but the wetness and the slimyness was somewhat kept at bay (sorry spellcheck, you just can't drop the 'y' in 'slimy').  Unfortunately, I too often would reach too far in, and that rubber glove would fill right up with nastiness (or I'd discover a previously unnoticed rip in the glove and realize that my thin wall of protection was pretty much nonexistent after all).

The other day our pastor was talking about the war between good and evil, between God and the devil, and how the only real way for the devil to 'get at' God was through God's people.  I got to thinking, if God's spirit lives in me and directs my life, then it's like I'm the glove and He's the hand.  Now sometimes I'm all 'fit like an oven mitt' and it'd be hard for old Slewfoot to cause any damage during those times.  Other times, though, I'm like an old rubber glove with a hole or two here or there. Not good for much; and an open sieve for all sorts of nasty, slimy gunk.  Paul paints a word picture about the armor of God in Ephesians 6. But since I've never been stuck by a spear or been wounded in battle (other than taking a paint ball in the eye once), it's a bit of a reach for me to fully envision that.  But I definitely can relate to the 'oven mitt' of God...and the three-edged 'spatula'...protected, yet armed for whatever task that lies ahead.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any... (a. two-edged sword, b. double-edged sword, c. surgeon's scalpel, d. triple-edged kitchen spatula).* 

Whatever translation you prefer, the NKJ, the ASV, the Message, or even the RTV*, you get the metaphor.  In life, in battle, in the operating room, or in the kitchen...you need to be protected, prepared and equipped.

Just don't ask me to put on the apron of God! Them's frying words!

*a. New King James, b. American Standard, c. the Message, d. Randym Thoughts Version

posted by Randy Whittern from his Blog - Randym Thoughts on 02/01/2011

You're Such A Tool Subscribe To My Blog (RSS)(Click this icon to Subscribe)

My dad used to fix most of whatever needed fixing around our house.  Oil change?  Check. He'd pull out the old oil pan to drain out the old oil and put in the new.  I think he still owns that old metal pan.  Anything pretty dirty or filthy often showed up in that pan.  I remember coming home from school one day, and my dog, Curious (who 'curiously' loved to chase cars) was laying in it.  Curiosity killed the cat, they say.  Got the dog that day, too.

When the garage door spring appeared to be broken, he assumed he could fix that too.  I probably will always remember him calmly walking up to me with his hand wrapped with a red and white towel (that started out white) and telling me to just keep playing, that he was driving himself up to the hospital (which in Ada was only about six blocks from my house).  That old (broken) garage door spring still had quite a recoil.

Yes, during all these 'fix-it' moments, I was usually out playing.  Football, baseball, army, bicycles or skateboards, there was ALWAYS something to do.  I never had an interest in learning how to change brakepads or fix a leaky faucet.  I think I have the aptitude and the fortitude...but not the wantodude.

Certainly I've had my share of projects to complete as a father.  Swingsets, slides, bicycles and scooters all took hours to complete (mostly at night).  Much of the furniture in my house had to be assembled.  If I have instructions I can do it.  But you also have to have the right tools.

My tool chest is actually a 'drawer' that consists mostly of tools I managed to borrow (and keep) from my dad.  I bought my dad a 'leatherman' for Christmas many years ago, and he loves it and uses it to this day.  He's never from from it.  I don't have one and probably don't want one (although it would be a better Christmas present than many I've gotten).  A 'leatherman' (in case you don't know) is part Swiss Army Knife, part Transformer.  It's about 10 tools in one that folds up neatly into a small pouch you can carry around with you or wear like a fanny pack.

Shopping for tools isn't fun (for me).  They're rarely on sale, and I don't know that I need a tool until I'm trying to fix something, and then suddenly realize I don't have the right wrench or drill or socket to do the job.  I have an aversion to the metric system, so that may be part of me being 'tool-challenged'.  So I usually use one of two things: a set of needle nose pliers or a screw driver.  I have several of both.  Whether it's the right tool or not, I'll at least try and fix everything with one of those two tools.  If neither work, I want no part of it; because I've found that when I try to use a tool on something that it was not intended to be used on, the results are never good.  I'm thinking my dad needed a different tool when he loosened the nuts on that garage door spring.  I know my dogs were meant to run and play in the yard, but not compete for pavement space with cars.

As a Christian, I was made to serve God.  I was made to praise Him.  I was made to commune with Him.  At least that's what the instructions say.  Therefore I believe I'm wired that way.  When I'm not doing those things, I'm not going to be happy.  I'm darned sure not going to be productive.  And the results won't be good.

All of us are tools in that way...different ones for different purposes.  Paul used the 'parts of the body' analogy in First Corinthians (Chapter 12).  In today's world, perhaps we could use the 'toolbox' analogy, how all of us are 'equipped' and 'tooled' differently, and we're all needed to get the job done.  Very few (none) of us are 'leathermen' (no matter how smart we think we are or multi-talented we profess to be).  When we try to do it all, we will most likely fail.  The road of those good intentions are littered with broken tools (and bruised knuckles and busted fingers; 'body parts' analogy still works, I guess).

One other thing: I know I especially don't like it when I've been tooling around doing things on my own and then abruptly I realize that God hasn't picked me up in awhile...that I haven't felt the 'hand of God'.  That's also not a good feeling (for me).

That's because I believe we all have a higher purpose, a divine application on this earth.  Otherwise, we're just trees; or animals; or oil pans.  God wants us to 'apply' ourselves to the task He sets before us.  Each one of us has a unique set of skills to use on each task; for each application.  I hope that He looks down on me, has a specific need in mind, and says to Himself (and to me), "I have an app for that."  And then He places his finger on me (nudges me), and then I get to work (and really apply myself).  Otherwise, I'm just another idle (dumb) tool in a drawer full of them.  I've got a drawer like that...and it's pretty useless.

posted by Randy Whittern from his Blog - RANDYM THOUGHTS on 01/26/2011

ON BEING BI Subscribe To My Blog (RSS)(Click this icon to Subscribe)

So I'm reading my Yahoo headlines several months ago and I see that the former Oscar winner for Best Supporting Actress is bisexual? I think the only state that allows that is Utah...but they have another name for it there. I've been to Utah; I think I'll stay in Oklahoma.

God tells us we are 'fearfully and wonderfully made.' He made us...so He has a right to tell us how to behave. I spoke in an earlier Blog about the parts of the body and how they all fit together. I'm glad my 'ear' didn't experiment with seeing or smelling, or try to develop a heightened sense of touch. I envision putting my head underneath the shower nozzle to test the temperature 'by ear' because my 'ear' insisted that it was a great 'feeler' (and in this example assuming my 'ear' had also developed the ability to speak). Somewhat akin to sticking your tongue to the ice pole (Dumb & Dumber reference). I actually have accidentally tested the shower water with my head, when someone left it on. I think I'll let my fingers do the testing.

I also wrote before about ones' calling. How do we determine our life's calling or vocation? I find we too often go back to something we know (or have known in the past). What if Michael Jordan had tried baseball FIRST? What if Billy Joel's parents couldn't afford piano lessons (or a piano). Would he have become famous as the Mandolin Man? "Sing us a song, you're the Mandolin Man" doesn't have the same ring and I'm not aware of very many Mandolin Bars (unless you count Irish Pubs - shout out to the Flyin' Fiddler).

Perhaps we should force our kids to work a different job in a different industry every summer until they have matched their aptitude with a vocation. We're told it looks bad on a resume to change jobs alot. But I've also been told that folks that change jobs frequently wind up being more successful in the end. I do believe this: chasing after what we want is probably never going to be as fulfilling as chasing after what we're good at.

As for me, I stumbled into a sales job at Southwestern Bell (now AT&T) nearly 28 years ago (where they let their fingers do the walking) and didn't even stinkin' know what the job was. I wanted a steady job with good benefits (and that's what I got). Not much of a life plan or goals list, huh? I wound up being pretty good at it for lots of reasons, but mostly because I have the ability to persuade (I was pretty successful as a debater in highschool). I stuck with it because I had a family to support and no longer had the luxury of trying stuff out. But the talents one possesses can be used in a variety of areas and at enumerous companies or jobs and I'm not sure that I can claim that this job that has occupied half of my life (so far) was 'the one'.

I went to college at OBU because I wanted to be a Church Music Leader. Probably the right match for many of my aptitudes (and it was definitely a 'calling'), but it just wasn't the right fit at that time. When church music began to radically change about 15 years ago, I realized that it had BECOME the right fit and the right time for me (finally starting to answer that 'calling'). So for about a dozen years or more I've kind of straddled the fence between the corporate world and the church world, with a heavy dose of performing on the side. So depending on which half of the glass we're looking at, I've had the best of both worlds (or the worst of both worlds).

It's not that I'm a closet 'bivocational'! Both partners are aware of the other one. In fact, I'm not at all 'attracted' to the corporate side, but when the dance floor got thin lo those many years ago, I had to settle for the ugly fat 'Bell' chick (don't ever confuse 'southwestern bell' with 'southern belle' - two totally different broads). Not to mention that the 'Bell babe' was willing to commit.

Regarding the other relationship, it seems like over the years one of the other of us hasn't been willing to commit (either myself or the church) so this half in/half out state has continued. I have always hoped to one day be able to find that perfect union, that bilateral committment and be able to leave my 'first lover'. The good news (and we love to talk about the 'good news') is that the ailment can be cured. First step of course is admitting you have a problem; so here goes: "Hello, my name is Randy and I'm bivocational."

Now that THAT is out of the way, I can work towards leaving the bivocational lifestyle behind and concentrate on my true love: leading worship! It won't be politically correct (being hetero-vocational), but there'll be fewer meetings and fewer parades to have to attend. When someone asks what I do for a living, I won't have to suffer through that uncomfortable moment when I stutter and stammer, and make that quick decision on whether or not to 'out' myself. I can state emphatically "Yes, I like church bodies." I prefer singing to selling. I prefer overcoming a 'bunch of NOTES' to overcoming a 'bunch of NOs'. I sing loud, and I'm proud. I've finally chosen the narrow way, not the bi-way highway; it wasn't the easy way, but it was God's way.  Yes, I'm a Worship Pastor.  I tried it out when we were on the Feud, and it felt good.  It felt right!

So, drum roll please, November 1st, the divorce will become final.  Bell(e) and I will split the sheets!  It was a good union for many, many years, but frankly we've begun to REALLY get on each other's nerves.  I was never unfaithful...but I've definitely had a wandering eye (and I've sinned in my heart against the old gal many times).  I'm not sure what the future holds but I know Who holds the future (pardon the cliche).  Don't be sad...I'm getting a good settlement (and rolling it right over into an IRA).

Some of you may say, "Oh, he won all that money on the Feud, that's why he's quitting his day job!"  Well, my fifth of it, minus the government's take won't last long, believe me.  I actually made this decision before we ever set foot in Orlando.  I wrote most of this blog in April.

It's just the right time (and has been for awhile now).  God's been saying, "Go there."  I'm just finally saying, "Yes."

Thank you, Ma Bell, for 333 months.

As usual, my thoughts are best described in a song.
Click here, then listen to: I Say, "Yes!"
(seventh song on my CD "You Sing One...You Sing 'Em All")

posted by Randy Whittern - from his Blog - Randym Thoughts on 10/21/2010

Twenty two minutes and seven seconds of fame Subscribe To My Blog (RSS)(Click this icon to Subscribe)

Yes, I'm well aware of the Andy Warhol prediction (and now overused phrase) that in the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes (first stated in 1968, and then reiterated by Mr. Warhol again in 1979). And I'm telling you, with Reality TV, American Idol, YouTube, Twitter and who-knows-what next, it's become eerily accurate. At any rate, maybe by the time this blog is complete, you can figure out my math (and where the extra seven minutes and three seconds came from).

Just call me a geek. I like numbers. I'm good with them; and math comes easy to me. Remember a phone number? Easy. Algebra? You bet! Excel spread sheets? Bring 'em on. Numbers allow us to quantify, measure and compare things. Numbers are objective; how we analyze them is subjective. But this blog isn't about numbers...necessarily. But it will stay true to the 'randym thoughts' title; so get ready for a 'number' of them!

My wife and I recently went to see the movie Heaven's Rain. It's a great movie, that accurately and factually tells the true story of an Oklahoma pastor and his family's home invasion in October 1979 (they weren't really called home invasions back then; that term didn't really catch on until about 1995, but that indeed was what it was). I highly recommend the movie. It's certainly a different movie than Fireproof, but every bit as relevant to the concept of 'forgiveness' as any movie you'll see. Since it happened here in the Bible Belt, it is especially engaging. In addition to that, my family attended Putnam City Baptist Church (in 1972) when this pastor, Richard Douglas, was there so I was even more intrigued. (In October of '79 I was in Fresno, California playing rock-n-roll. Back then, before the Internet, news coverage of this in the 'Valley' was scarce, so my first hand knowledge of the crime was limited. I do remember my mom calling to tell me about it on the phone). But to be honest, my main reason to go see the film was to see if I was going to be in it.

You see, I spent a day in McAlester earlier this year (a very COLD day as I recall) playing the part of a newspaper reporter, covering the execution of Steven Hatch (as an extra, mind you).  But I was in three scenes.  Three very important scenes I thought.  I'll save you the boring details, but the first two scenes only appeared on the cutting room floor.  The final scene, where we have left the execution chamber, and are taking the LONG walk across the prison courtyard remained.  The scene opens with about 3 seconds of an eerie full moon next to a prison guard tower (see pic above).  And then (drum roll), my three seconds of fame; a very abbreviated walk into infamy.  If you see the movie (and you should), focus on the moon!  When it fades out, I burst upon the scene.  (Alright, the honesty just exited stage left.)  The truth is, I totally missed it the first time I watched it. Luckily, I snuck my Flip into the theatre, and preserved the moment, and I do mean moment, for y'all to see.  Notice the guy in the middle with his hand out...

Raise your hand, Randy, so everyone can see which one you are!

Coincidentally, as Heaven's Rain ends its run in Oklahoma City (on the 30th), Whittern's Reign (aka: Family Feud) starts its run.  If my sources are correct, October 4th at 1:00 p.m. you'll be able to see the Whit Family in all their glory...twenty two minutes of fame!  You see, one of the things the producer (Gaby - see her in the pic) mentioned when we were getting our pre-game pep talk and instructions, was that they had to cram a whole show, including all of Steve Harvey's antics into just 22 minutes. 

Executive Producer, Gaby talks to the Whittern Family before the show

And although we're obviously not in ALL 22 minutes of the show, the Whitterns vs the Wilsons was a heavy weight fight; four rounds of action with both families duking it out for camera time.  The Wilsons were the first family out of the chute that day (playing a returning champ) for a reason.  They were a flamboyant, outgoing family, and by the time we got to them, they were out for their third win (I had the feeling that none of the other families wanted to play them, either).  It's actually been kind of interesting, because they've already shown the Wilson's first show, where they beat a really strong opponent, The Farwell Family (going for THEIR third win).  It was a really funny show, so I'm not surprised they snuck it in early.  Be watching for their second show, when they take on the family with Shamus, the ballroom dance instructor.  It's a hoot.

One of the things I've noticed, much like in the movies, editing has a significant impact on the final product.  For instance, each show we saw taped, began with the traditional 'family introductions' (usually made by the family captain). So far, I've yet to see one of these make the show.  And I can understand why.  How many times do we want to hear the phrase 'my lovely wife' or 'my crazy cousin'?  Let's leave the comedy to the professional (Steve Harvey) so we can get to the 'stupid answers' as fast as we can. 

 After all, the clock's rolling, and we only have 22 minutes to spare.  Truth is, they switched our order right before we went on, and I accidentally introduced Holly as 'my sister' (instead of as 'her sister' referencing Katie).  I've introduced hundreds of singers and entertainers in over 20 years as an MC at various shows and Oprys, so it's something I almost do for a living...and I still had some 'duh' moments.  So I'm glad the intros are gone.

The Feud is a great vehicle for Steve Harvey and although it is still very much about the families and their personalities (and their answers), just watching Steve is worth tuning in for. Every show I've watched (and I've seen about 25 of them so far) has been entertaining and funny.  Hands down, it has become the best game show on TV.

Fame itself is fleeting. I see it every time I mention an artist or actor from the 70s (or the 60s) when my kids are around. Will my grandkids know who 'Farrah' was? How about Rowan and Martin, Jan and Dean, Chad and Jeremy? I grew up listening to Dean Martin on my mom's stereo. One of the first albums I listened to was King Creole. I went to an Elvis Extravaganza at the State Fair on Tuesday night to see a good friend of mine, Rich Vickers do his ETA (Elvis Tribute Artist) performance (he was superb, by the way). Elvis is alive and well because of these types of events, but the others I mentioned are not so lucky (and not so famous).

It seems like the way you DIE has a great effect on your fame...

...when it should be the way that you lived.

People also confuse 'fame' with 'success'. You can be famous, for good and bad reasons...and even the good reasons don't usually translate into making a living at it. If fame is fleeting, success from that fame is even harder to hang on to. Think of the unhappy child stars. Think of the college athletes who didn't go pro (or tried to, but couldn't). A life can't be judged on how famous it was (or wasn't). 

There seems to be a buzzword about making Jesus famous.  Has there been anyone MORE famous, MORE sustaining than Jesus Christ?  I don't feel the need to make Jesus famous...just important...in my own life.  The rest will take care of itself.  It is quickly apparent what is important in people's lives.  If Christ isn't important in my life, then I won't be much of a PR guy for Him.

Fame seems to be more of a selfish thing...an earthly thing.  In a generation or two, the people we consider famous now, will barely be remembered.  Maybe a history book or two will chronicle their place in history; but the more history we have, even that club becomes more and more exclusive.  Outside of Oklahoma, the Murrah bombing is about two generations away from being nearly forgotten.  Truth is, I can't really remember my great-grandparents.  Fast forward three generations; who will remember you? I loved my mom.  I have great and fond memories of her (notice I've mentioned her several times in this blog).  But my grandkids didn't know her. They certainly won't remember her.

James 4:14  Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.

Your 15 minutes of fame (when and if it comes) won't change anything.  It won't have any real or lasting effect on your life one way or the other.  Nor will my twenty two minutes and three seconds of fame.  And what money you make off of it (if any) will vanish like the million or so dollars most of us will actually earn in our lifetimes (you do the math...$35,000 a year for 30 years).  But what I do about Jesus...that's another thing entirely.  I believe that will have eternal significance.  At a minimum, being a Christian has given my life meaning and my faith has sustained me.  Fame?  You can keep all twenty one minutes and thirty-eight seconds of it.

Where'd the rest go, you ask?  You do the math...

The captain of the Wilson Family, Secily Wilson was quite a lady.  She and Donna struck up a quick friendship in the lady's room (Donna let Secily borrow her mirror, I believe).  She was great TV.  Here are a couple of places you can find her on the web!  Go vote for her!  She deserves it!   

posted by Randy Whittern from his Blog - Randym Thoughts on 09/27/2010

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Animal Kingdom was a great addition to the Disney Theme Parks.  Maybe because it was a whole park that I had never been to before.  But the Safari ride through the live, wild animals was superb and it kind of made the Jungle Cruise over at Magic Kingdom null and void.  It was like a zoo without bars (although we had a couple of cold waters when we were done ;).  The park was really busy that day (and muggy).  And the 'Fast Pass' machines kept messing up, so that an attendant was continually having to help folks get their complementary passes.  Now I've always been one to like to beat the system (one of my many bad traits) and my son has followed in my footsteps, and in fact walked quickly past me in that regards.  He observantly noticed that many times, when all other efforts failed, the Disney worker was reaching around the back of the Fast Pass machine, and pushing a mysterious button that automatically spit out a Fast Pass.  So, from that point forward, whenever we needed a Fast Pass and the machine wasn't cooperating (either because it was truly malfunctioning or because we hadn't waited the mandatory 'hour' between Fast Pass dispersals), Dustin would reach around to the back of the machine, punch the button a few times and voila, we were armed and dangerous...or to misquote the old Palladin line, "HAVE TICKET - WILL TRAVEL!"

Observance and diligence will take you far in life...or at least will put more 'magical' in your day.

Proverbs 13:4 The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.

But the rides that affected me the most throughout several days of themeparking, were the Disney rides that I had first ridden 40 years ago in California (and later about 20 years ago in Florida).  Rides like the Pirates of the Carribean for instance.  There was such talk about the 'animatronics' and the realness of the characters back in the day for some of these rides.  And in fact, many of the sights were mesmerizing back then...the old 'Disney Magic' was alive and real.  But this time around, I could have really cared less.  I was mildly disappointed that they were refurbishing the It's A Small World ride (mostly because I wanted a cool place to sit for awhile).  And if the Pirates of the Carribean would have had much of a line (we basically walked right on), we probably would have skipped it.  We didn't darken the door of the Tiki Hut or the Hall of Presidents (The Tiki Hut said it was 'Under New Management'; I assume the Hall of Presidents is now, too ;).  When I was younger (even as an adult) I would have stood in line and waited for all of these rides (and did). But I've lost my passion for them. For me the 'magic' has worn off.

The rides haven't changed.  I have.
Revelation 2:3-5 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.

There's no doubt I have extended periods of exuberance for Christianity.  But like many of us, I have times when I punch the clock...go through the motions.  It's like I'm riding the Pirates of the Carribean, but I'm thinking about what's for lunch or how tired I am...oblivious to the "YO HOs".  The hound dog still has the keys to the jail cell.  The three pirates behind bars are still trying to coax him over.  And even the horny old pirates are still chasing the 'women of the night' round and round in a circle.  Been there; done that! (the ride...I'm talking about the RIDE).

It's not that I'm lukewarm.  But no doubt I find myself HOT, then COLD; much like the Roller Coaster: I'm FIRE; then ICE.  The ride of life is still coming at me just as fast as ever; full of twists and turns, followed by periods of waiting and watching.  But it's so much better when you're on FIRE; versus being on ICE.  (However, being drenched and beaten by rain pellets at 60 or 70 miles an hour is no picnic, no matter how enthusiastic you are.)

There's always more ground to cover.  One more corner to turn.  One more ride to discover.  But the ride is only as fun, interesting, and engaging as my enthusiasm is for it.  So I find myself, over and over praying the REAL version of Isaiah 40:31 and asking that I run and not grow weary...walk and not be faint.  And as with most scriptures, the original version will sustain me through every event in life (no matter how wild the ride).

About two years ago I had the opportunity to sit down with Eddie DeGarmo and just talk for over an hour.  He was there in Estes Park, CO to give a talk/lecture during the Seminar in the Rockies when I was up there a couple of summers ago.  I wasn't about to miss it.  My first official date with Donna was at a DeGarmo & Key concert in the 80s.  He was the driving force behind one of the first and most successful (from my point of view) Christian rock bands during those early years.  But the venue (room) where he was slated to speak was one of the more obscure ones at the YMCA of the Rockies; and also it was on Friday morning of the week long conference...and many of the young artists clamoring to be discovered, and so certain that they were the next MercyMe or Chris Tomlin had packed up their homemade CDs and left Estes Park early to return to their home towns in dejection and despondency (like so many of the disappointed Feud families).  So, when I trotted up to the room and peaked in, I realized the small auditorium was dark.  I wandered back into the lobby, and asked the old guy sitting on the couch if the seminar had been cancelled.  He replied, "I think it's probably just you and me, partner.  How are you?  I'm Eddie DeGarmo."  So, I sat down, and Eddie and I talked for over an hour.   He told me how he went from traveling and performing, to publishing (and I found out he had been REALLY successful in both arenas).  It was SO interesting and better than any lecture I could have attended.  A one-on-one impromptu session with Eddie DeGarmo...just sitting on the couch, shootin' the breeze.  I tell you this story, because one their best songs (see below) aptly describes my feelings about all this and sums up my Christian ride.  I don't want to be 'casual' about it.  I sure don't want to be 'lukewarm'.  I want to excitedly choose my music...then Rip Ride and Rockit!  And when unexpected storms arrive, I want to show patience and be willing to wait for whatever God has in store for me.  And I want to do it with decorum and class (no matter what those around me are doing or saying; or yelling!).

Casual Christian - DeGarmo & Key

posted by Randy Whittern from his Blog - Randym Thoughts on 09/11/2010

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With each generation society changes...I'm tempted to say evolves; but the word 'evolves' denotes a 'bettering' or an 'advanced state'.  So I think I'll stick with 'changes'.  Today's generation (and my generation to some extent) not only wants, but expects to 'have it all'.  Don't save for the future.  Don't save for emergencies.  Don't save for anything!  The newest cars, houses, clothing, shoes and gadgets are just a credit card swipe or a computer click away.
Buy now.  Pay later.  Pay way more later.  Maybe never pay. 

You know the obvious things.  Here's one of the not so obvious things I noticed while in Florida doing the 'Feud'.  Back in the day, when you visited Disneyland (that's all we had back then), you bought a book of tickets (how many remember that?).  You had A, B, C, D and E tickets.  The A and B tickets were for the lesser rides (like Cinderella's Golden Carousel or the Shootin' Gallery or Swiss Family Treehouse).  The D and E tickets were the 'golden' ones for the Haunted Mansion or the Jungle Cruise.  In fact, even the Hall of Presidents and the Country Bear Jamboree required a prized D or E ticket (we didn't even bother with either of those attractions this time).  The point is, you had to decide which ride you REALLY wanted to ride or which attraction you really wanted to see; because once that E ticket was gone, that was it.  No more 'cool' rides.  My parents (especially my dad) were not about to shell out $5.95 for another book just so I could ride one more 'cool' ride.  No amounts of "Please, please, please, please!" would change their mind either.  Every once in awhile, I might be able to con my mom out of one of her tickets (she wasn't a big fan of rides), but the bottom line was this: you didn't expect to ride all the rides.  You waited in line.  You gave up your last 'E' ticket.  And you made sure you enjoyed it.  End of story.

But today is so different.  Not only do the kids expect to ride every ride, they want to ride them more than once, and not have to stand in line.  So now Disney has come up with the Fast Pass.  You obtain this at the entrance of each ride.  It gives you a specific time to come back (usually more than an hour or two later) and take the 'Fast Pass' to the front of the line.  Now the rule is you can only get one fast pass each hour.  So we had to bounce from one side of the park to the other, grabbing as many fast passes as we could, in an attempt to ride as many rides as possible (with as little waiting as possible).  Now I'm not saying that standing in line is some sort of rite of passage on the way to Nirvana or a 'trial' that you must endure to be 'worthy' of riding some 3 minute thrill ride.  But it's a microcosm of our "I-want-it-and-I-want-it-now microwave world" that we live in.  ("OMG, the iPhone 4.0 is SO much faster than the iPhone 3G!"  Who knew?  Who cares?).

It was interesting to hear people from all over the world, rapidly blurting out their native language, interspersed with the words 'Fast Pass' here and there.  'Fast Pass' is the same in EVERY language!  But I found myself getting sucked into it also.  During our time at the Universal Studios theme park, we paid the extra to get THEIR version of the Fast Pass called the Express Pass (and honestly it WAS worth every penny).  You didn't have to come back later for the Express Pass.  You just went from ride to ride, straight through the park.  No planning; hardly any waiting.  You didn't have to spend an hour in the heat, in a line with very little air circulation, next to those same nationalities that don't have the same bathing habits as we do or next to the teenagers using the wait in line as foreplay for the ride they hoped to experience later.  You got in, you got on, you rode; you got in, you got on, you rode!  More time to eat the high priced food, and shop the high priced gift shops.  Universal gets more money from you and somehow we're all happier.

Now there were one or two rides that did NOT except the 'Express Pass' (aren't there ALWAYS exceptions?) One of them was the Rip Ride Rockit Roller Coaster; where you got to choose the music you listen to during the ride from a list of several genres and artists (kind of like you choose your own music for your final ride into eternity, aka: your funeral).  So this particular day, we chose an opportune time (about lunch time, when we hoped the wait would be the shortest) and got in line.  The 'estimated wait time' posted at the beginning of the line was 45 minutes, so we figured if that was our longest wait of the day, we'd be in good shape.  During your stint in line, the video monitors constantly played examples of the music from which you could chose. Strangely enough, there was no Gospel music to pick from (guess I'll save that for the aforementioned 'final' ride).  Since I once worked with a preacher that had an affinity for ZZ Top (shout out to BBB), I decided that I would choose 'that lil ol band from Texas' to scream along with.

Rip Ride Rockit Roller Coaster

Now I'm not saying it was a 'sign', but I was soon reminded that God controls the weather; for as we were standing on the platform, after about an hour wait, and only three groups away from climbing aboard, an announcement came over the loud speakers (you can't miss the announcements, because they turn off the LOUD music to make them) and it said, "Due to inclement weather in the area, the Rip Ride Rockit Roller Coaster is temporarily closed."  It had been cloudy and rainy off and on throughout the morning, but it hadn't seemed to be an issue until now.  Obviously, some poor soul's final ride into eternity had been on a roller coaster (probably while listening to rap) thanks to some well timed 'lightning' in the past; because we soon discovered that the park had a policy that when the thunder rolls, the coasters do not.  So you can image the reactions and verbal barrage that soon followed that announcement from the throngs of hot, sweaty people who had not only been denied their Sixth Amendment rights to a 'fair and speedy ride' (through use of the Express Pass) but were now being denied their 'Freedom of Screech' (after all, that's what you do on a roller coaster; at least I believe it was one of the answers to the Family Feud question: Name Something You Do On A Roller Coaster).  So I was nervously hoping no one wanted to exercise their Second Amendment rights to bear arms; especially the Hispanic Family just behind us.  They were 'lÝvido' and they were letting the innocent workers have it in Spanglish.  I understood the English parts, and my son (who just spent several months near the Mexican border in south Texas) assured me the Spanish slang they were using was equally 'condescendiente' and 'abrasivo'.  I suddenly felt I had been time warped to a really bad carnival in a really bad part of town and found myself watching for the glint of a 'shank' suddenly appearing out of a pair of slaggin FUBUs.  Fortunately, before the crowd could bum rush the poor kids who were just working their summer jobs between semesters, the thunder stopped...and the coaster rolled.

The weather reared its ugly head off and on that whole day.  We wound up riding the Fire side, of the Fire and Ice Roller Coaster in a driving rain (obviously there was no lightning present at the time; either that or the workers decided it was better to risk our lives than theirs).  I can only describe it as being catapulted on a wheelchair through a car wash at a hundred miles an hour (and yes, I paid to have this done to me).  Fortunately, we were able to use our Express Pass, and the kids (not the mom or dad), rode it several times.  For me, once was enough.

The most strenuous ride we rode during our time in Orlando?  The Disney Parkwalk Asphalt Marathon.  Donna's phone measures the number of steps taken each day, and we discovered that we were averaging about six miles per day.  Fast Pass my ACHING FEET!!!

It caused me to retranslate Isaiah 40:31!

Those that wait in line (Lord help me!) will renew their strength.  They will buckle up and then soar like eagles.  They will ride and not grow weary...they will walk (and ride some more) and not grow faint.

(to be continued)

posted by Randy Whittern from his Blog - Randym Thoughts on 09/07/2010

CARPE FEUDIEM Subscribe To My Blog (RSS)(Click this icon to Subscribe)

So there we were...strangers drawn together by our unique circumstances.  Three or four dozen survivors fearing, yet hoping that we might be next...but above all, hoping to escape with our lives.  No; this wasn't a group of Chilean miners.  And we certainly weren't families in a German concentration camp (no matter how bleak the future seemed).  But we were families...and we came from all over the map.  The Rios family from Chicago; the Thomas family from Georgia; the Wilson family from Orlando; the Whittern family from Oklahoma.  And I know that some of us (all of us) were wondering, "what were we thinking?" or "how did we get ourselves into this?"  And it was a reasonable query without a doubt: Why submit yourselves to possible public embarrassment?  And not just limited, controlled embarrassment amongst friends or family.  This could be coast to coast, replayed again and again, long after you're dead and gone YouTube-worthy embarrassment.

Actually, twelve families would start the day there in one of the Nickelodeon Studio 'green rooms' with dreams of 'big green money'...but only one family would leave with no regrets.  Most would quickly crash and burn.  We had already seen it happen.  We sat there in the audience as they taped the first two episodes of the day for the new season of Family Feud.  We saw the deer in the headlight stares.  We saw the split second difference between buzzing in, and sent home packing.  Yes, we saw the thrill of victory.  But we were especially cognizant now of the agony of defeat.  We watched as the ones with the 'wrong answers' came filing back in.  We saw the dejection.  We felt the'walk of shame' (or at least the 'descent of despondency').

Sure, we were told over and over again, "Enjoy the experience!" and "Just have fun!"  But isn't that what we're told to do every day?  Live the moment!  There are no promises of tomorrow!  That's been our instructions for nearly 3000 years!

Proverbs 27:1  Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.

Easier said than done.  So we tried our best to 'seize the day' (but in this case, it soon morphed into a modern case of Carpe Feudiem: Seize control of the game and try to sweep the board!)  What else could we do? We had already told all of our friends, neighbors, relatives, co-workers, church members, grocery store clerks, nurses, doctors, the whole staff at Walgreens, and every one we ran into that we were going to be on the Family Feud for goodness sakes!!!  Our tunnel memory up to that point was only of the 'high fives' and 'jumping jacks' that accompanied accurate answers and successful 'steals'.  No thought had been given to the SCARLET X of DEFEAT when they superimposed a Big Fat X across your face with each wrong response!  But the reality of it all quickly erased our delusions of becoming Game Show Juggernauts.

First thing, we were stripped of our IDs and our cell phones, and were all herded into the chamber (aka: the studio); then bright lights were pointed in our faces as we were grilled and questioned in 'rehearsal'.  'Rehearsal' is where you quickly go through a mock game play while you're being watched, graded, and sized up for 'show worthiness'.  Many are called...but not everyone is chosen (two or three families didn't make the show).  Personally, I wasn't really 'feeling it' in rehearsal and I wasn't sure how well we 'graded'.  I'm used to being 'under the spotlights' at the Rodeo Opry (and even in church, leading the music).  But 'hecklers' are few and far between at those venues...and the feedback from a performance is rarely so quickly received (or so anxiously awaited).  Let me just say that we definitely felt the difference between the lights of the living room and the lights of the studio.  And that was just with 'Eric' the 'stand-in' host!  So initially we were relegated to the audience and nervously sat and waited, knowing that Steve Harvey would soon be asking the questions (if and when we were chosen).  And this is a man who makes his living poking fun at the masses...in fact, his 'gift' is to see the humor in people and to make sport of them...especially their silly actions and their 'dumb' answers; and isn't that the charm of the Family Feud...normal people...being their normal, but human selves?  And here I was surrounded by a family of blondes.  Not dumb blondes; but blonde lambs, nonetheless, voluntarily being led by their shepherd to the slaughter.  So what do you do in times like these?  Seek solace in the Bible, of course:

Jeremiah 25:34 Weep and wail, you shepherds; roll in the dust, you leaders of the flock. For your time to be slaughtered has come; you will fall and be shattered like fine pottery.

Ooops.  "Bad answer, Bad answer!"

It was actually comforting and calming to observe a couple of shows...to watch the whole procedure...to witness the pressure from afar.  And fortunately, in our case, the waiting was quickly replaced by a sudden swarm of butterflies, for as we were walking out of the studio, towards the Green Room, I looked back and noticed out of the corner of my eye, that they had flashed 'WHITTERN' in blue lights behind the Family Podium, right across the stage from the high energy family that had just won their second game.  Gulp!!!

"Alright WHITTERN family...YOU'RE ON!"

1 Corinthians 9:24  Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

Did we win?  Well, I can tell you that we ran a good race.  Were we embarrassed?  Well, I can also tell you that we did have some 'blonde moments' (and Steve Harvey had fun with the Whitterns).  How many of those moments made the show (and how they helped or hindered our success) will only be completely known (and shown) when the show hits the air.  At this writing, I don't know the day or hour; but unlike the return of Christ (Matthew 25:13 "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour), in this case, the day and the hour (and the channel) will be e-mailed to me in a couple of weeks...then I will pass all that on to you.

Would you like a 'sneak peek'?  Well, one behind the scenes note: the crew quickly nicknamed Holly 'thong' and Katie 'bong'! (You'll see why when the show airs!)  There's even a cameo appearance from Rachel and her whole family (via the magic of FlipVideo).  And rumor has it that a video exists of the 'dance off' between Tito Rios and myself to the Black Eyed Peas tune "I Gotta Feeling" ("tonight's gonna be a good, good night!")

Yeah, I think we made the most of each moment :) and escaped with our lives (and our dignity).  So I'll close with this overused cliche: Film at 11:00 (or probably at 1:00 in Oklahoma).  I'll let you know! 

posted by Randy Whittern from his Blog - Randym Thoughts on 09/01/2010

"Survey says..." Subscribe To My Blog (RSS)(Click this icon to Subscribe)

So I'm sitting in my living room watching old episodes of the Family Feud on the Game Show Network; and I'm coming to some definite conclusions.  First of all, the #1 answer is definitely not always the right answer (and maybe this wasn't even MY #1 conclusion).  It's all so very, very subjective.  Ask 100 people...get an answer.  Ask 100 different people...get a different answer.  Secondly, watching the older episodes (even from the Richard Karn days) may do more harm than good.  The 'era' in which some of these questions were asked (and answered) are direct reflections of that era.  I need all the help I can to keep my mind in the 21st century and out of the 90s (as well as the 80s, 70s and 60s...just ask my kids).  So I'm afraid hearing how one generation responds may negatively affect my thought process.  Fact is, I'm not really sure how you go about preparing for the Feud.

"One hundred people surveyed.  Top six answers on the board.
Name a test you can't study for."

Drug Test.  IQ Test.  Blood Test.  Family Feud. (well, it should have been one of top answers.  Of course, it didn't make the list).  How about when God tests your faith.  Definitely not on the list.  Perhaps you CAN study for that...

So I'm sitting in church on Sunday morning, studying for my next faith test and listening to how the Pharisees, in their attempt to 'answer' questions about the Ten Commandments, had written some 24 chapters on what you could do and couldn't do on the Sabbath (at least and still keep it 'holy' in their eyes).

"100 Rabbis were surveyed, top 300 answers are on the board.
Name something you can't do on the Sabbath!"

Some of the answers that would have made the list?  "Pick up a piece of paper." "Hold a match." "Touch a hammer."  Jesus had the best answer.

Mark 2:27 Then he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

In other words, "don't work so hard!"  If you have to WORK to observe the Sabbath, then you haven't RESTED.  And if the Sabbath doesn't give you rest...then it isn't WORKING!  Speaking of working...

So I'm sitting in the lobby of a hotel room in Lawton, OK (where I'm working for the week) and reading the USA Today.  My kids say I gotta keep up on current topics in case there are some sort of topical questions where I need to know the top answers.  I'm scanning the headlines; well, it looks like the Supreme Court is going to have the final answer on the whole California law regarding same-sex marriages. Hmmmm...

"Alright, we surveyed nine Supreme Court Justices.  All nine of their answers are on the board.  "Name two things you can legally marry in a California wedding."

A man and a woman.  Two men.  Two women.  A man and his dog.  A teacher and her student.  A woman and her plastic surgeon (we did say Cali).  Two first cousins (Cali...not Arkansas!).  A man and a boy (hey, twenty years ago we didn't think a man and a man would ever marry).  Chocolate and Peanut Butter (old news).  Charlie Sheen and girl de jour (Two and a half marriages).

Certainly the above answers I've given as I type this (even the legit ones) would have been far different if asked (and answered) in the early days of the Family Feud.  For instance, the number one answer for this Feud question: Name the most you would pay for a pair of shoes...was $25 for Richard Dawson's show.  For John O'Hurley's show it'd be at least four times that (maybe forty times that for Steve Harvey himself).  I think Michael Jordan helped a lot of us break the $100 barrier on shoes.

So, now you're sitting there at your computer wondering where all this is going (hopefully to Fast Money).  Well, it seems to me the Supreme Court is a whole lot like modern day Pharisees...making hundreds of decisions and interpretations on THEIR foundational law, the 10 Bill of Rights; and it seems like with each decision, they find themselves further and further from the 'spirit of the law'.  Maybe if Thomas Jefferson could return and clarify it all for us (like Jesus did for the 10 Commandments), we'd get it right.  Well, wait a minute...folks didn't listen to Jesus; so a Thomas Jefferson reincarnation wouldn't make a difference either.  Brings to mind the last line of the 'rich man and Lazarus' story from Luke.

Luke 16:31 ...'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.' "

Survey the Supreme Court today; get some answers.  Survey the Supreme Court after a few more Liberal (or Conservative) appointments; get some different answers.  That's because we're not getting real answers.  We're getting real opinions....really varied opinions.  That's what really makes the Feud so difficult, so often.  The top answers aren't on the board.  The top opinions are there.

The real answer?  Discernment (or as John MacArthur pronounces it, "Dizzernment").  That's what I'm praying for as I study for the next 'faith test' (and yeah, the Family Feud too).  Sure I can usually come up with some answers to the questions.  But to get to the Fast Money; I mean if you really want to win the Big Money...you have to come up with the right ones.

So, what am I saying?  What am I asking?

Wish us 'discernment'!
("Good answer.  Good answer.  God answer!")

posted by Randy Whittern from his Blog - Randym Thoughts on 08/16/2010

"Good answer, good answer, good answer!" Subscribe To My Blog (RSS)(Click this icon to Subscribe)

Well it's official! The weekend of August 20th, the Whittern Family will be winging their way to Orlando, Florida to film the Family Feud.  The enduring show that made such phrases as "Survey says!" and "Good answer, good answer, good answer!" part of our every day vocabulary (well it's part of MY every day vocabulary) will indelibly carve its niche into our family's history.  For the next few weeks, I will try to give you a 'behind the scenes' look at what being on the 'Family Feud' is like.  We're excited, pumped and looking forward to experiencing this as a family.

And why not?  Our family loves to play games.  We love to compete; especially against each other, but against other families...BRING IT ON.  We are not just 'more competitive than most families'...that's too cliche.  We're more competitive than YOUR family!  And no doubt, that starts with me.  I'm not fond of losing.

I can truly say alot of this began with my mom.  As you've probably picked up from previous blogs, she was a little different.  When I was quite young we would play Checkers, Monopoly, Scrabble, Clue, you name it; but unlike some mothers, my mom played to win.  She was good.  And even though you might expect her to go easy on her only child...it didn't happen.  When ever she could (which was quite often), she would beat me like a rented mule! Then to rub matronly salt (not to be confused with Mortonly Salt) in the wound, she would smile innocently, and ask, "Want to play again?"  Unfortunately, I was a pretty sore loser as a child and her glee in winning made me even more frustrated and definitely less pleasant to be around.  However, it taught me a valuable lesson.

Don't lose.

I had roommate at OBU that would routinely go down to the GC (basically the student union) and play ping pong or bumper pool with me.  He never won.  Particularly in ping pong, I would drill him over and over and over again.  It never bothered him.  I didn't get it then.  But now, as I've matured and grown as a man, as a Christian, as a human being...I still don't get it!  It's like people who want to play basketball or cards or WHATEVER and don't want to keep score.  What's the point?  In my mind, that's why I'm playing...score it, judge it, rank me; give me some results.  Allow me to compete.  Then try and stop me from winning.

That's probably why I entered so many speech tournaments in high school, as well as singing contests and songwriting competitions throughout the years...score it, judge it, rank me; give me some results. Go ahead and sit yourself in front of a TV watching a sporting event and wait and see how long before someone walks up and asks, "What's the score?"  Only the Harlem Globetrotters have made a living out of playing a game where the score doesn't matter...but their games are more like Disney On Hardwood than a basketball game, so I can't count that.

So how will we fare on Family Feud?  Well, for one thing, I don't think it's part of the make-up, at least of OUR family, to say, "Good answer, good answer, good answer!" if one of us spouts out a questionable, marginal response.  I suspect that the producers of the show tell you to do it that way.  Maybe they instruct you to be enthusiastic and show support for your fellow family members and their feeble attempts.  I'll let you know.  But around my house if someone blurts out an iffy answer, you're more likely to hear, "Are you kidding me?"  A really stupid answer may get, "What are you smokin'?" or "Is that all you got?"  We try to avoid the 'idiot' word at all costs...but it can be so apropos.  Maybe we'll be the first family to actually shout at each other, "Bad answer, dumb answer, bad answer!"  Trust me...none of our bunch are willing to live with the ridicule involved with a truly 'bad answer'...or worse yet, NO answer at all ...followed by the dreaded XXX sound effect (annoying huh?).

To that end, we've been watching and playing along with the Family Feud each day (or in truth, we'll record several episodes and play them at one sitting on the weekend).  This has been going on for several months now.  In fact, we're starting to even see reruns (of the reruns).  We'll text questions to each other out of the blue.  We'll make random phone calls to Holly in Maui ("Name a place you go for a cheap date!")  We'll play on Facebook.  We'll talk strategy (play or pass?).  We are ready!  And one thing I can assure you...it might not always be #1, but we are prepared to give an answer!

1 Peter 3
15 Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Hopefully our lives demonstrate the 'hope' we have in Jesus.  When that happens, it should generate some curiosity, some interest, some questions.  I'm afraid we all should be concerned about the 'blooper video' awaiting us in Heaven for the lousy answers we've given here on earth (and maybe the lack of questions we were asked!).  And even when we've given 'good answers', if we didn't give them with kindness or 'gentleness and respect', then we don't want that video shown either!

Speaking of 'blooper videos', watch these two guys go for the "Not So Fast Money!"  Hopefully our family will do better than they did.  If not, when we return and you ask me about it, I may say, "I'm not really sure when that's going to air," and then quickly change the subject.  Or I may just not have an answer for you at all ...especially if that's what happened on the show!  More to come...

posted by Randy Whittern - from his Blog - Randym Thoughts on 08/03/2010

I've been so many places in my life and time... Subscribe To My Blog (RSS)(Click this icon to Subscribe)

My daughter Katie has determined that our family should be on the Family Feud. In fact, she's been tweeting the producers of Family Feud for months and is now on a first name basis with Gaby, one of the show's Executive Producers. So, a short video and a bunch of paperwork later our family is now in the 'active' file for Family Feud. The show is alive and well and is now being produced and filmed at Universal Studios in Florida!  I'll update you as soon as I know 'specifics' regarding this exciting event.  I'm sure it will be 'blog worthy'!

While filling out the paperwork, we were asked this very simple question: "Tell us an interesting or unusual fact about yourself." So while thinking about what I should write, I began to realize how blessed I've been to be able to do some really fun and unusual things during my life. I also discovered how many stinking contests I've entered (and I actually managed to win a few of them). But mostly it reminded me how fleeting accomplishments can be; not only for me, but for everyone in their "life and time", no matter HOW famous you are (or were). It only takes a few short years to change a "Who's Who" to a "Who's that?"  Nevertheless, for the record, here are some interesting events in my (not so famous) life that I vividly remember:

I remember first meeting Chad and Jeremy (who?). They were a part of the original British Invasion to America in the 60s and had several Top 40 hits. Some twenty years after their shooting star of fame had burnt out, they wound up playing the two leads in a show called Pump Boys and Dinettes here in Oklahoma City. I knew the director from some of my earlier days of theatre, told her I knew how to play bass, and wound up playing opposite of them (and learning to actually play the bass, electric and upright) for about an 8 week run in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. It was really a fun time in my life, it was a great show, and I can say that I starred in a show with Chad and Jeremy (who?).

I remember the rush of standing on stage at Joker's Comedy Club (where?) long before Last Comic Standing, trying my hand at stand-up during a big contest they had one year. I took first place that night, came back for the finals, and lost out to a guy I had beaten that first night, who had entered another weekly round and won HIS way into the finals.  Punchline to the story?  If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try, try to quit stuttering.

I remember auditioning for the producers of You Can Be A Star (what?) in Nashville. Long before shows like American Idol came into existence, the brand new network TNN (The Nashville Network) had a show called You Can Be A Star. I auditioned for it and made it onto the show. The problem: it really WAS a show for Country and Western singers; and although I can actually tackle that genre now, Elton John's song 'Country Comfort' was not what the judges (or the audience) thought of as 'country'! But at the time it was about the only 'country' song I knew (not counting Okie from Muskogee). So I lost out to some Loretta Lynne sound-a-like from the Louisiana Hayride (I knew I should've sung the 'gospel song' I had prepared for 'the finals').  Still, I can say that I sang on National TV on the show You Can Be A Star (what?).  I'm not aware of anyone from that show making it 'big' (including me).  It was hosted by Jim Ed Brown (who? who? who?)

I remember the dry mouth of nervousness that I had always heard about, but had never experienced until that very moment. I was in Nashville (once again), back stage at the Grand Ole Opry getting ready to walk on stage to sing 'Cream of the Crop' (a song I wrote that won Song of the Year from the OHA) . I had seen an ad in the newspaper (what's a newspaper?) about a Nashville Starbound Competition (once again, this was many years before 'Idol' appeared). On a whim, I sent them a tape, wound up going to Nashville, to the Grand Ole Opry, and out of about 120 contestants that performed over the run of the contest, I won the Grand Prize (which was a big trophy and a free recording at Dottie West studios there in Nashville). Truthfully, the rush of singing on the Grand Ole Opry stage was far better than the rush of winning first place (and Dottie West's 'studio' turned out to be less than impressive).

I remember sitting in the Green Room, getting ready to sing in front of hundreds of fellow singers/songwriters at the Loghouse (where?) at the YMCA of the Rockies (get all visions of the 'Village People' OUT of your mind). It was the late 90s, and I had gone to the Christian Artists Seminar (a really top notch Christian event always held there at the YMCA, a really beautiful resort just outside of Estes Park, Colorado).  At the last minute, I decided to enter the Southern Gospel Vocalist contest (even though the deadline for entry had passed). Since it was so last minute, my name was kind of 'written in' on the schedule without filling out all the paperwork or even paying the entry fee. As I was getting ready to go on stage to perform for the finals (with the other two Southern Gospel singers/finalists), Cam Floria (the founder of 'Seminar in the Rockies') came over to me and whispered, "We probably ought to go ahead and get the entry fee from you, in case you win this thing." As it turned out, I did win it, and got 40 hours of free recording time at Gaither Studios in Indiana. Plus, I got to return the following year to be a 'featured performer'.  So, there I was, feeling really 'privileged' to be sitting in the Green Room, chatting it up with folks from Avalon, some famous preacher dude, and a couple of recently signed artists. All that being said, the week I spent in Alexandria, Indiana at Gaither Studios recording my 4th CD was the most memorable part of the whole ordeal.

Searching back through my mind, I can remember winning over a dozen speech tournaments, both in debate and acting, both individual and in duets; and even placing first in the state finals of Humorous Interpretation my senior year in high school.  Interestingly, one judge (from OBU) graded me down in a preliminary round, calling my piece 'sacreligious'. Luckily I got two firsts and a second from the three judges in the final round. The very next year, I won a drama scholarship to OBU...but by then that teacher had left the school, so I couldn't give her a piece of my mind. I remember doing dozens of Godspell performances over a two year span at OSU (I played John the Baptist/Judas, the same role I had seen Jeremy Irons play a few years before that in London). I remember being the lead singer for a darn good band during those years in college and screaming Top 40 till I was hoarse hundreds of gigs all over Oklahoma (the proms were the most fun!).  I still wince in exhaustion from doing over 150 shows at the State Fair of Oklahoma over a three year span.  I shiver when I recall doing an outdoor show with Bryan White in front of a stadium full of people in December (brrrrrr).

I remember way back where it all began...standing in front of large crowds many times while still a young boy (attending Willard Elementary School) in Ada. I was Annie's little brother in Annie Get Your Gun; a featured soloist with the East Central State College's production of Elijah; and I even won a talent contest at a John Haggai tent revival (I won an oil painting of myself and a really cool camera that I carted all over Europe and used until I got into college).  All of this before I ever entered Junior High. I especially remember the very first time, back there in Ada, standing in front of several hundred people waiting for my name to be announced. I slowly walked out to the center, and with the cameras rolling, I answered a couple of questions in the general direction of the mic; then grabbed my nose as the pastor lowered me in the water. THAT moment, deciding right then to let Jesus Christ be in charge of my life, has had more of an impact on my life than all the other crowds I've stood in front of since; and was certainly worth more than any trophy, any contest or any 15 minute chunk of fame. It has had and will have a longer and more lasting effect on me than any of those other 'memories' I have recalled here.  It is that spirit, His Spirit, that has guided me and influenced nearly every aspect of my life.

You can take the rest away, but leave me that one life changing decision...that one moment in the Son.  There is no other 'interesting or unusual' event in a life that can top that! 

Galatians 2:20
...it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.


The opening line from A Song For You by Leon Russell seemed an appropriate title for this Blog...so I used it.  All good Okies should love Okie native Leon Russell ;)

posted by Randy Whittern - from his Blog - Randym Thoughts on 07/24/2010

HALF MY LIFE (Part Deux) Subscribe To My Blog (RSS)(Click this icon to Subscribe)

As I look back at the half of my life spent working for the 'phone company' (aka: Ma Bell), I suddenly realize that I now have more seniority than anyone else with the 'directory department' (aka: AT&T Advertising Solutions). This wasn't true a year ago, but one by one, retirement party by retirement party the boys and girls that were working here when I started, those same men and women have left the company (either through voluntary or forced retirement) leaving me as the old man on the block (aka: crock o' the walk).

Each retirement party brings many of the same faces, gathering once again to talk about old times, to reminisce about the way it was and to pontificate the future (or lack thereof) for the printed Yellow Pages directory. Will it go the way of the pager? Will it go the way of the 'land line' (aka: DIE'L TONE)? Do kids today know what we mean by 'let your fingers do the walking'? Most of them let their fingers do the talking!

Often the topic of conversation turns to pensions as we delicately pry or flat out ask how those who have gone before us have chosen to invest. Lump sums, partial lump sums, T-Bill rates; boring discussions that have a huge bearing on quality of life once the retirement door hits you in the financius maximus. All in all, as in so many things, we all complain; but we are all grateful for what we've gotten (or what we hope to get).

One recent retirement party, a gentleman came up to me, introduced himself as "Joe" and started the 'looking forward to retirement' talk, the required 'what is up with the stock being down?' lament, along with the gratefully honest appreciation of the pension that lay ahead. I didn't recognize the guy, but often those that retire started out in different departments, and often the 'first boss' or the BFF (Bell Former Friend) shows up to celebrate the endurance and dedication necessary to make it to the 'final party'.

I picked up pretty quickly that Joe hadn't retired yet and he and I spent several minutes near the punch bowl swapping stories on what we were going to do with our 401Ks. As we moved towards the cheese squares our stories about 'how it was going to be' got a little carried away and by the time I was lapping up the hot sauce and the guacamole I realized there was no way my 'retirement' was going to be nearly as glorious as Joe's was going to be. I decided he must have been a Regional higher up or maybe even a VP of something good to have been able to sock away that much pre-tax dough for his use and pleasure once he left the 'working world'. Being the professional fact-finder that I am, I decided to do some secondary probes and find out what good old Joe's position with AT&T was (perhaps he could put in a good word for me).

"Joe, I started selling yellow pages back in '83, but I'm not remembering you. Did you work for directory?"

"No," he replied. "Never did. I've met a few of you off and on, though. I hope we can all hang out some after we retire. Y'all are a fun bunch!"

"Yeah, salesmen tend to be somewhat extroverted. So I guess you weren't in sales?!?"

"Oh no. I'm not really the salesman type. But it doesn't seem to matter. AT&T has SUCH a good retirement that even if you didn't do the sales thing, you'll be able to live comfortably!"

"That's probably true," I replied. "So what part of AT&T do you work for?"

"Oh I don't work for AT&T! I'm self employed. I work for myself!"

I nearly dropped my finger food into the cocktail wienies. "You NEVER worked for Bell?"

"Can't say that I have! But I've always had AT&T phones and AT&T long distance. Here, have you seen the new iPhone?" Sure enough, he had the latest, greatest model, a 32 GB iPhone 4.0.

"But if you've never worked for AT&T and you've never been a part of this company, why do you think you've got a retirement package waiting on you?"

Not the least bit deterred, he continued, "You said you sold yellow page ads. I use the AT&T Yellow Pages all the time. Now, I can't get U-Verse where I live, but I would if I could; so that's hardly my fault! Plus, I've been going to several of these retirement lunches lately; always a bunch of good people just like me. In fact, I'm not so sure some of them have worked nearly as hard as I have. Why wouldn't I be included?"

I quickly deduced that finding my employee benefits hand book probably wouldn't do any good. But a couple of things Jesus said in Matthew suddenly seemed appropriate.

Matthew 7:21 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven."

Matthew 19:24 "And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

However, before I could quote from the hand book or the good book, Joe blurted out, "If I don't have a pension to look forward to then what's the point? I might as well die right now, go straight to heaven and skip these stupid parties!" He seemed more than a bit miffed as he whirled around and walked across the room then out the side door to join some folks who actually had quit Bell (but hadn't quit smoking) to share a Marlboro moment with them. In his haste to leave (and to light the leaves), I saw he had inadvertently knocked his name tag off and it had fallen to the ground (those things never do stick worth a darn). I picked it up and for the first time I noticed that it read: HELLO, my name is JOE C.

Oh my goodness I thought...surely his last name wasn't CAMEL...

I was tempted to talk to him further, but as poorly as I had handled the 'pension' discussion, I figured now wasn't a good time to enter into a 'heaven' discussion (hey, he brought it up, not me).

Besides...I felt like I had basically already had one.

You're tellin' me I need to be changin' my ways.
Is that what you want me to do?
Well, the fella that lives down the street, around the corner,
   claims to be a Christian, too.
I see him in the checkout line at the supercenter,
   buyin' cigarettes and beer.
I promise you, I'm as good as that guy
   so I don't know what you're sayin' here!

Lyrics taken from GOD'S HEAVEN

posted by Randy Whittern - from his Blog - Randym Thoughts on 07/11/2010

HALF MY LIFE (Part One) Subscribe To My Blog (RSS)(Click this icon to Subscribe)

An interesting landmark in my life just passed and it almost went unnoticed. I started working for AT&T (Southwestern Bell Yellow Pages) when I was 27 years old (and five months to be exact).  July 3rd marked my 27 1/2 year anniversary.  That means I've been an employee of, associated with, devoted most of my waking hours to AT&T for over half my life!  More of my life has been devoted to selling yellow pages than to NOT selling yellow pages.  To quote the classic old Tennessee Ernie Ford song (that came out the year I was born), I feel like  "I owe my soul to the company store."  And maybe the saddest thing about that, is in 10 years or so, there may not be a yellow pages directory (at least in a physical form).  It will cease to exist.  It will become extinct.  Poof!  Nothing!  I've poured over half my life into...nothing!

Certainly it hasn't been fruitless (or pointless).  It's provided for my family very well.  I've learned outstanding sales and marketing skills.  I've been able to help hundreds of businesses grow.  As the company has adapted I've been forced to learn countless computer skills.  I'm highly proficient at Microsoft Excel (until the next version comes out ;).  Most memorably, I've made several life-long friends there.

But then I look at all the data I've stored in my brain that is now (or will soon be) totally useless (the data AND my brain). Information on products we no longer sell.  Systems we no longer employ.  All those countless sales presentations I had to memorize and be able to regurgitate ad nauseam that are no longer the latest and greatest way to present the product.  The devotion and dedication to being a top salesman, to developing my abilities, my knowledge of the product, and pouring myself into my job.  Not to mention all the addresses and phone numbers that are still rattling around in my head pertaining to old offices from where we've long since moved (909 S. Meridian, 205 NW 63, 879-5000, 949-...uh, I think I finally forgot that one).  So much stuff.  So much importance.  So temporal.

Fortunately, about twelve years ago I started leading worship.  First one church, then another.  Part-time positions; but the full time worship leader.  Pouring my life into other peoples' lives through music and through relationships.  It was a definite turning point in my life.  If I retire from AT&T soon (and I plan on it) and can lead worship for another fifteen years or more (and I plan on it), I can surpass the nearly three decades of work with AT&T with three decades of being a Worship Pastor.  So much stuff.  So much importance.  So eternal.

Music is nothing new to me.  I've always done it.  Singing, performing, writing.  That's been going on for over forty years.  But the devotion and dedication to being a lead worshipper, to developing my abilities, my knowledge of the music, and pouring myself into the 'job' of music didn't happen until I stepped up to be a leader.  It was all kind of a fun hobby until that time.  Until I applied myself; until I made up my mind to make it something more; until I got serious about it...only then could I call myself a worship leader.  Only then did my outward actions match my inward desires.  Only then could I fulfill that calling.

I believe God calls everyone to some level of service.  It's not always to be on a staff, and certainly not to preach or be the 'music guy'. But the calling is no less significant.  And God's expectations of you and His plans for you are just as important as any He has for me.  Put quite simply, when we look back at our lives, into what have we poured the 'majority' of our time and efforts.  Has it had any eternal significance?  If not, what are we waiting on? How long do we let the things of life get in the way of life?

Occupations change and certainly the importance of them do also.  A year ago I would have been 'king of the world' as the CEO of BP.  Now that ship has sunk in Titanic proportions (I hear now he's running for Mayor of Atlantis ;).  Looking back, did the 'do do bird' expert suddenly just become a 'do do'?  When did the telegraph operator finally 'STOP' or cry out for help ...---...?  When does an old salesman finally quit putting all his efforts and his life into a dying book and devote his days to a living book?  When do we start focusing on 'important' things instead of 'impotent' things? There's no better GIFT or TIME than the PRESENT!

"St. Peter don't you call me, 'cause I can't go..."
I've done a few things, but I need to do mo'e!

posted by Randy Whittern from his Blog - Randym Thoughts on 07/05/2010

SHO SH'D SHO Subscribe To My Blog (RSS)(Click this icon to Subscribe)

I've got great childhood memories from the six years that my family lived in Ada, Oklahoma. We lived in a little addition on the northeast side of town on Linda Ave (I had two Aunt Lindas so I always liked that street name). Our house was just a few hundred yards from the railroad tracks. What a great place to PLAY. Countless pennies were flattened on those tracks. Pieces of coal could be readily found. It was always fun to walk down the tracks as a means to explore. The side of the 'train track hill' was perfect for sliding down on old cardboard boxes. Other than adjusting to the noise during the night, I highly recommend growing up near a train track.

We were also around the corner from the Catholic church. The church had a big steeple looking thing in front of it with bells that tolled on the quarter hour. Those bells could be heard throughout the neighborhood, and even though I portended to have lost track of time when I was late for dinner or bedtime, I was always keenly aware of the time of day.  Can't say that I ever stepped foot inside that little church.  Didn't have a reason to...

Just up the hill from the church was another landmark: the local Tastee Freeze. All in all it was a short bike ride away and to this day, I can barely pass a Dairy Queen without stopping (like so many things, I'll say I'm stopping 'for the kids' but when it comes to ice cream, it's pretty much all about me). Each day, the Tastee Freeze had a 'Shake of the Day'(at a reduced price), which was pretty cool since they claimed to have FIFTY flavors of shakes! Definitely some odd and unique flavors were featured on the TF marquee. I'll never forget the day I pedaled around the corner and past the church to the Tastee Freez and saw that the flavor of the day was 'Grasshopper'. Even as a little boy, I wasn't all that into insects (some bad experiences with red ants and wasps), so I had to make a decision...go home disappointed (I only had enough money for the 'special of the day' price) or go into uncharted frozen milky waters. I chose the latter, paid my two quarters and was handed a greenish-looking dairy concoction in a cup. It was summertime, it was hot, so there wasn't time to hesitate...I pretty much had to grab that straw, suck hard, and hope that I was the only one doing the sucking...and you know what...it was GOOD! I recall it having a 'spearmint' taste...kind of like a Wrigley's Spearmint Shake. Plus I found no 'legs' or 'antennae' to speak of so I was in 'non-locust heaven'. Throughout the years, shakes, sundaes and other ice cream treats taught me to enjoy a myriad of tastes and they were my first introduction to various fruits like Pineapples and Strawberries, and reinforced my love for Cherries and Bananas as well. In fact, about any fruit with ice cream is just plain 'Tastee'! Blizzards, Blends, Mixes, Freezes, name 'em what you want, when Fruit is combined with ice cream (or CUSTARD), it's good fruit.

In the book of Galatians, the Bible talks about fruits...both good and bad.

22...the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22

The Spirit is God's Spirit. It's better than ice cream, sweeter than custard, and it is what should ooze out of each one of us that claim to be Christ-like. We sang a song at Kids Camp last summer that listed all the things that WEREN'T fruits of the Spirit (like Kumquats!?!). The Bible actually gives some better examples (than Kumquats) of 'fruits' not on the list, like: "21...hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy;"

In fact, in this passage the Bible lists the NON-fruits first; and let's face it, those are the easiest to spot and the most obvious traits that that don't belong in a Christian's life. From the World's perspective it's much easier to identify WWouldn'tJD than WWouldJD even if you don't know that much about Jesus. When (and if) we (in the 'church') exhibit those fruits, those characteristics, those emotions that are NOT of the Spirit, that are NOT of God, we insult God; and the intelligence of those around us. Then no matter how much religious ice cream (or Sunday S'Cool Whip) we try to heap on top, it ceases to be 'special'; it cease to be a treat. In fact it ceases to be anything ANYONE would want; it's a 'shake' with bad ingredients....like getting a 'grasshopper' shake with REAL grasshoppers. Sure it would look nice and creamy on the outside.  But that first slurp would make you run down the hill, past the 'church', around the corner and back home screaming to Momma, "those shakes are awful; they're not what they're supposed to be; I don't ever want to go there again!" It would give new meaning to the phrase "I scream for ice cream!" and could be the 'bad shake experience' that would keep you out of 'Tastee Freez' for a very long time.


This BLOG shares its title with a song from my RED LETTER DAY CD and succinctly sums up my thoughts on this subject.  "It sho should show if you're a child of the Father".  Give it a listen!

posted by Randy Whittern from my Blog - Randym Thoughts on 06/01/2010

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I've been short all my life. I only weighed about 6 lbs when I was born and nothing much has changed. I was always the shortest guy in my class. My whole life as a young boy, my one wish, my consistent prayer was that I would get that 'growth spurt' in high school, and reach 6 feet tall (later amended to 5'10" when I realized 6 feet was completely out of the question). Needless to say, my wish...fell SHORT. Even my friends in school who were about my height seemed to slowly (but soar-ly) outgrow me and left me behind in their shadows ("How's the weather down there?") I hit the ceiling (figuratively of course) at 5'7".

I loved the disco era. I liked the music. I liked that it usually included horns and keyboards. But mostly, I liked the platform shoes that became extremely popular during that time. I regularly wore them...to market, at home, eating roast beef, etc. Everywhere my little piggies went, they were adorned in platforms. Since most pictures don't include the feet, I probably can't provide you proof or fodder so that you can poke fun at my platforms...but trust me, they were there...evening the odds...leveling the playing field...lifting my spirits.

It's always been PC (even when PC wasn't PC) to give people a hard time for being short (or tall for that matter). Of all the physical things in the world that might be a source of jokes or ridicule, height remains the one constant. I'm not sure that the 'thorn' in Paul's side wasn't his stature. "Shorty Saul" kind of has a ring to it. "Three foot Saul", or "Small Saul" could have been shouted across the Jewish playgrounds of the day. In today's modern world of cosmetic surgery, the classic childhood name calling of 'Fatso' and 'Opie' or more grown-up taunts like 'Carpenter's Dream' or 'Cue Ball' have become archaic. Even 'horse teeth' and 'hawk noses' have disappeared from the faces of young kids. You can have your body altered, your nose fixed, your teeth straightened, your face cleared up, and your cellulite removed; not to mention having your hair color changed, wearing a wig/toupee, or even having hair implanted. Girdles and gels, spanks and wonderbras to the rescue! But with the death of platform shoes, the escape from my reality vanished. Yes, I am a now model husband (a small miniature version of the real thing).

In the same way that I was born short, some folks are born large...they're big people. But I've learned throughout my life (and was reminded again just recently by my friend Keith Mohr) that you don't make fun of a person's size (OhMyGirth!!!). One of my favorite friends at the Rodeo Opry is Darlin' Darla. When she was younger, she looked like Florence Henderson (I've seen video). But since I've known her, she's been a big gal; and most of her repertoire of jokes revolves (like a planet) around her weight. It's funny. SHE'S funny. She can talk about it. She can have you in STITCHES over it. But take it from me...don't join in the frivolity. Too many folks are really sensitive about it; unless you're fat too. Then, as with most things, you can always poke fun at yourself.  Here's Darla and I being fools together; performing Guitarzan at the Rodeo Opry!

And while we're on the subject of eating (or should I say eating too much); I'm not a big fan of buffets (except for Jimmy). Too many people coughing, hacking, sneezing on, drooling in, and touching my food (same thing with potlucks). But the main thing is, I feel like I'm enabling (and financially supporting) every over-weight over-eater in this county (and their relatives from the next county) to 'all-you-can-eat' their way to a heart attack; or at a minimum to store up fat for the winter. Ever wonder why they call it a 'Corral' (albeit Golden)? It's almost cannabalistic with all the cows eating steak and the pigs eating pork chops and Bar-B-Que. I feel out of place there...everyone seems to be eyeing me wondering, "what's Shorty Small doing here?" Maybe instead of a Senior discount, they should offer a Junior Discount?  There's no way I eat enough to pay full price.  Do they give out Handicap stickers for 'hollow legs'?

I don't want to beat a dead Shetland but the media's no help in this department. Don't expect any television shows anytime soon called "The Shortest Loser" or any celebrity endorsements for Little Jenny Craig. After all, the 'Tom Cruises' of the world hide their shortness. Why do you think Tom jumps on couches? It's because it makes him six feet tall.  Why does Little Jimmy Dickens sing May The Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose ???  It's just a list of comebacks for all the short jokes he's heard all of his life.  There does happen to be a pic in the Muskogee Highschool yearbook where I'm standing on a chair, feeling six feet tall; long before Top Gun thought of it!

I don't think me being vertically challenged was a factor in my love for comedy (or being a smart aleck). I'm really not sensitive about it. But I do seem to notice (or take note of) others and their challenges (especially those horizontally challenged). How can you NOT notice? (Did someone say something about the elephant in the room???)  Whatever Paul's physical challenge was, he summed it up best in Philippians, when he wrote "...for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content."  The long and short of it...that's a statement we should all live by!

So, the next time you see me feel free to ask, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" But don't be surprised if I reply, "Golden Corral called; they want some of their buffet back!"

P.S. Here's another song for you to check out...and the inspiration for this BLOG title! SHORT PEOPLE ("They wear platform shoes on their nasty little feet") (and one I listened to over and over on my EIGHT TRACK player back in the day)

posted by Randy Whittern from his Blog - Randym Thoughts on 05/20/2010

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I've decided that if I could just stay off of the highway, my life (and my temperament) would improve immensely. Driving crosstown every day during rush hour traffic is a horrific way to start and end each work day. It's not that I necessarily mind bumper to bumper traffic or even a long commute. If I'm listening to some good tunes or immersed in John MacArthur I don't even notice what's going on around me...that is until that idiot beside me veers over, having waited until the last second to merge. My uncle Ricky used to read those yellow warning signs along the side of the road when a lane ends as: Murdering Traffic; and for me, it isn't far from the truth.

You see, when it comes to merging, everyone seems to have their own set of rules. And so even though you may be playing by YOUR set of rules, if it breaks MY set of rules, then of course I'm horribly livid. It's kind of like my 'roast' example...everyone thinks THEIR set of rules is the correct one. Some folks out there have one set of rules (we can call them the 'A' rules), and I have a set (that we can call the 'B' rules). For example, when two lanes merge into one lane...most of us follow the 'B' rules (as in 'B' considerate) and go ahead and get into the 'surviving lane' long before the 'merging' lane ends.  Shoot, if you believe what the signs say, there's even a STATE LAW that says to do it that way! But there's always those few folks that don't feel like they should have to fall into place, and they drive as fast as they can, as long as they can, as long as their asphalt lasts and then they whip into whatever 'hole' they can find (usually right in front of me, since I usually try to leave a car length or so of bumper room between myself and 'happy tappy break feet' ahead of me).

Sometimes I will amend my 'B' rules and use the 'C' rules (let's 'C' you try that now) and park my obstinate auto in the middle of the highway when there's less than two lanes left, but more than one lane available; so that when those aforementioned 'A' drivers come flying into my rearview mirror looking for a hole to pull into, I've blocked the 'A' holes (so to speak) that they were hoping to squeeze into and force them to find a 'B' hole to merge into in front of the 'B' folks 'B'-hind me ('C' what I mean?). So whether you're talking about the 'A' holes or the 'B' holes, what it comes down to is that we pretty much 'merge' our rules to fit the 'hole' we are in and to justify how we got there.

The whole world is becoming more and more like this. We have a set of rules we're supposed to follow, but those rules have been deemed 'out of date' and not in vogue any longer (aka: not PC). So, if I'm Tiger or Jesse, Elton or Ellen or any of the other 'first name famous' people, (or even if I'm Tom, Dick or Harry met Sally for that matter) I can play by my own rules or at least have a double set of them. A prime example of this is what the Pope is dealing with right now.  But it's not restricted to the Catholic priests...the politicians do it, their constituents do it, the teachers, the preachers, the folks in the bleachers, the speakers, the hearers, those guys in the mirrors ("if you want to make the world a bettuh place, take a look at yourself and make that...change!"). Everybody's doing it. But it's nothing new...ask Bathsheba (or her first husband...or her second husband).

What's just as frustrating are the ones out there that actually do have a single set of rules, but they're so busy applying the rules they see as important to everyone else, they don't notice all the ones that they're obliterating. It's the old 'get that speck out of your eye' from Matthew 7:3 that I paraphrase in one of my songs this way: "We're busy pickin' up specks of sand, meanwhile we're trippin' over piles of wood", aka: the pot calling the kettle black, the overeater calling the smoker unhealthy, the early riser calling the night owl lazy, the adulterer calling the slanderer names, the unhappy people trying to bring down the king of the Happy Meals ("Love You, Ronald"), and especially anyone who is critical of the poor Hippopotamus and any Christian not showing grace (both of the last two make you Hippo Critical).

So no doubt you're wondering (as I've been wandering), "are there merging tips in the Bible?" Well, of course!  But I suggest you NOT use the King James Mergin' because "many there be which go in thereat," will just confuse you.  Using the New International Mergin' (some of my Blog readers ARE overseas you know), I can actually give you a few of them.  First of all, don't even attempt to merge until you Clear Your Blind Spot ("remove the plank from your own eye"). Secondly, always be on the look out for the Yellow Sign (aka: the Golden Sign - Merge Into Others As You Would Have Them Merge Into You!).  And lastly, the road to Heaven is a narrow one...so as the throngs of Christians maneuver their way, there's bound to be few that cut in front of you right before you reach the narrow gate.  Now before you're tempted to shout in your best King James voice, "Get thee behind me, Satan," I perhaps should remind you of a paraphrase from the New American Randym Mergin' that says: The last shall be first, and the first shall be...passed.  In other words, get over...and get over it.  I'll do my best to remember that tomorrow morning on my way to work.

posted by Randy Whittern from his Blog - Randym Thoughts on 05/03/2010

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I always encouraged my kids to go to college. Not because of the old accepted adage that "you can't get a good job without a degree" but because I knew that it would make them better writers, increase their vocabularies, and teach them concepts and curriculum never even approached in high school. Just as important was the maturing that I knew they'd get there. The REAL axiom that comes into play here regarding college is: "What doesn't kill you, makes you smarter". But above that, just being exposed to a vast melting pot of kids from all different walks of life, different parts of the country, and different socio-economic backgrounds is First Grade in learning that 'the way I grew up doing it' doesn't make it the right way (or the best way).

Now I'm not talking about the 'train up a child...he will not depart from it' Proverbs core beliefs and core values here (at least not in this post). I'm talking about the every day things like a shoe then a sock, or both socks then both shoes, or the above the roll or below the roll in each one of our lives, and how quickly our eyes are opened when we observe behavior totally foreign to our own.

My kids have all left home, gone to college, and then returned (for visits only, mind you) with strange habits, likes and desires that they never acquired under my roof; disgusting habits that I would had hoped they would avoid. Things like sushi, and coffee, pizza dipped in ranch dressing, Red Bull and enery drinks, not to mention bad language habits like, well like, you know, like, oh like this one, like you know what I mean?

Honestly, many of my famous Whittern home recipes are variations and deviations on what I learned from my college roommates. First year in college, you eat in the dorms. This of course is one of the first things that make you smarter, if you don't die from it. You learn during times of stress (like finals week) to order Hideaway Pizza, or head to the Town Talk Cafe at midnight. My first year out of the dorms about all my roommate and I had figured out we could cook were grilled cheese sandwiches (the old gas stove we had was equipped with a griddle in the middle of it). We soon learned that even cheap Buddig meat was edible between buttered and grilled bread surrounded by melted cheese. The next year I lived in a townhouse with two other guys, and we decided that each night, one of us would be in charge of the meal. Still being somewhat of a picky eater at that stage in my life (learning to eat new things is another thing you pick up rapidly in college), I would usually hang around to 'help' in the preparation of the food; mostly I was there to see what ingredients were going into the concoction I was going to be expected to eat. One night, my roommate (Boyd) and I decided we were going to fix up a roast. We went to the grocery store, bought cow, spuds and rabbit food (roast, potatoes and carrots) and headed back to the kitchen. As we prepared to start the process, I immediately grabbed our biggest pot (the one we used for spaghetti noodles) and plopped it on top of the stove. At the same time, my roommate grabbed the biggest and deepest baking pan he could find. In unison, we asked each other, "What are you doing?" Boyd added, "You put a roast in the oven, you fool!" I replied, "No idiot, you cook a roast on the stove!" We had lived together for three years, so we were pretty much in the 'too many cooks spoil the batter' stage of our relationship (and were familiar enough with each other to use pet names, like 'fool' and 'idiot'. For some reason after all these years my wife and I haven't become that familiar yet.)

You see in my house, my mom fixed her roast on top of the stove (almost like a stew, but without all the stew stuff, and simmered to perfection). Boyd's mom had always fixed a pot roast in the oven, like a turkey, baked to perfection. Each method was the only method we knew...the only 'roast' we understood...the only way to do it. And since every boy's mom was the best cook he knew, you didn't dare question her methods. (Girls, take note when you get married. Don't get between aáboy and his mom's cooking).

So what's best (besides "momma knows...")??? "A crockpot, stupid," you may yell at your computer screen. Shoot, I once ate a 'campfire pot roast' individually wrapped in foil and fixed beneath the coals of a campfire that rocked my culinary world (but when I build a campfire in the backyard, the Fire Marshall shows up). It's not up to me to diss (or dish) your pot roast. You know what you like. You know what fits your lifestyle. You know what particular preparation style takes you back to momma's table. We musn't be too quick to judge others and their ways. There is so much that goes into who we are that isn't apparent on the surface...and we are all SO different.

We in America are quick to point out rights and wrongs. We in the church are quick to point out rights and wrongs, too. The Bible is really clear about many things. But look around at the differences in Christianity, the differences in denominations and theologies, the difference between one Southern Baptist Church and another, and you can see the many offshoots and embellishments of those fundamental truths. Take that a step further, and you can see the difference in the people sitting in front of you and the ones sitting behind you in church on Sundays. One especially enjoys children; one is drawn to seniors. One is analytical and is great with computers; one loves to get dirty in the garden. One is uncomfortable in crowds; one asks people over to the house nightly. It's how God planned it.

1 Corinthians 12:14 For in fact the body is not one member but many.
:17 If the whole body were an eye, how could it hear?
:18 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.

Obviously, a well-rounded church should have lots of ministries, each one born of a specific need, desire or calling of someone in the church, thus allowing 'service opportunities' for each different part of the body. A Christian not involved in a local church ministry is somewhat of an oxymoron. Each of us has to follow our calling in that respect. If you don't like what ministries you see, then start a new one...but find something. Conversely, I don't believe you can be involved in every ministry of a church. Have you seen Undercover Boss? These guys are great CEOs, and obviously know how to run a major company...but when they get in the trenches, most of them are enthusiastic and they're available; but they're often inept. The other jobs just weren't their calling. In addition to that, I've seen way too many people come into the church, get involved in everything and then disappear into nothing.

Remember that a lack of caring and a lack of calling to a given ministry look exactly the same on the outside. Don't be too quick to judge someone's heart, because they don't participate or aren't drawn to your ministry. You can elevate or revere it so much that it borders upon becoming a sacred cow. So then what do you do??? Well, my advice is to slowly cook it on the stove (the way my momma used to cook her cow). Personally I think it gets too dry in the oven or the crockpot!

posted by Randy Whittern from his blog - Randym Thoughts on 04/23/2010

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My Grandfather (on my mom's side) was a very quiet man. "What are you doing boy?" is about the only thing I can remember him saying even remotely directed towards me...kind of the patriarchal version of "How's the weather down there?" He wasn't a tall man, but fat, and I can remember him completely filling the old Lazyboy style rocker that sat in the corner; and we kind of ignored him like he was actually a piece of furniture. His name was Orville but everyone called him O.W. which stood for Orville Wright. I thought it odd that he was named after the first man to fly, because other than the occasional tractor ride on the farm during planting season, he and that rocker seemed like they weren't destined to leave the ground anytime soon. I'm sure he enjoyed the farming season because it allowed him to get out of that chair (and out of the house - he and my grandmother had a somewhat tumultuous relationship). Perhaps he was just sitting there, rocking away, reflecting on the last farming season, and looking forward to the next one.

Probably because of his name, I've always remembered the saying "Two wrongs don't make a right, but two Wrights made an airplane," or at least I thought it was a good dismantling of that old cliche. At one point I was determined to stick with 'one word' titles for these BLOGs, because too often I can get too clever with titles and give it all away before you've even started reading (kind of like the dreaded movie preview). But hopefully when you read this title you shuddered because it appears to break a half dozen spelling and grammar rules using only those two words.

When my daughter Rachel got married it was not without some consternation. She was only twelve at the time...well maybe 19, but the point is I wanted her to wait. Not because I didn't approve of her 'man' or because I didn't think that they were right for each other; I trusted her judgment there completely. Certainly part of it came from a father's perspective of how mature you think you are at that age, but how young you really are; but more importantly it emanated from something I preached to my kids from grade school. Enjoy the season.

I always warned my kids that when you're in grade school you can't wait to get to junior high (mid high). While you're in junior high, you can't wait to get to highschool; you can't wait to drive; you can't wait to date; you can't wait to graduate; you can't wait to go to college and so on and so on. Each stage in life can very easily be a holding cell for being released into the wild of the next season. I cautioned them to enjoy the trip and not to be so concerned with the next destination.

I think that's why I always preferred 'car vacations' versus 'plane vacations'. Sure, there's some enjoyment (not as much as it used to be) to boarding a plane, flying and landing, as well as being trapped in a small space with strangers, crying babies, loud talkers and fighting over the armrest with the largest person you've ever rubbed elbows with. But the car vacation, in addition to being way cheaper for a family of six, forces you to notice and pay attention to the ride, and makes the next phase of the trip that much more appreciated. Nice thing about a vacation is you get to go back home...in fact your house is usually somewhat frozen in time from when you left.

In life, you really can't go back. You think junior high, going from room to room to room is so hard compared to grade school, until you get to High School, and then you see how easy you had it and now High School is the hardest thing you've ever endured. But then, college comes along with its dorms, finals, term papers, etc. and you understand just how easy (and fun) High School was. For the most part my children listened to me about this, but I heard older brother reiterating that same message to younger sisters a few years ago and was reminded that you just don't fully appreciate the snow until it's 105 degrees outside.

Matthew 6:34 So do not worry or be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have worries and anxieties of its own. Sufficient for each day is its own trouble.

Rachel admitted to me years later that it was tougher than she thought it would be in those early years. I knew it'd be tough, but the first years of marriage are always tough at any age. That wasn't the issue (for me). I just knew that one year in college (before marriage) was not ideal. It's like a two day trip to Maui. Yeah, you went there, but your 'mahalos' were too close together. Rachel was 'right' to get married when she did. I was 'right' to want her not to rush through the college 'year(s)'. Two 'Wrights' made an airplane, and back then, two 'rights' didn't make a 'wrong', it just made for a bumpy take-off. But a decade (and three or four grandkids) later I couldn't be any prouder of her (and her family) or love her any more than I do as I hit this period.

posted by Randy Whittern from his blog - Randym Thoughts on 04/13/2010

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I'd have to say my father was a pretty good 'dad'. I think one of the top attributes of a good father is trust. In the very purest sense of the word, I always believed that my father never had ulterior motives, a hidden agenda, or any thought in his mind of anything but my utmost well-being. As a child when he spanked me for my own good, or uttered the dreaded, "this is going to hurt me more than it's going to hurt you," I admit I found it hard to trust him then. And when he chose not to allow me to do something or to go somewhere, and I would ask him, "Dad, why?" often the reply was, "because I'm dad," and in his mind he didn't need to give me the reason; just the answer. I certainly found it hard to trust that logic.

When trust is betrayed it can be devastating. Certainly this is a part of the 'sadness' of child abuse. The destroying of the trust that once existed (or should have existed) between a parent and a child is like a once strong ship being bashed against the rocks until it ultimately falls to pieces (or like singing "I Fall to Pieces" on the Idol stage as they are booting you off and then literally 'falling to pieces').

Recently during a Bible study, the subject of Adam and Eve came up, and the discussions drifted to the oft accepted reason as to 'why' Eve ate the apple as being the sin of pride (versus Eve having an apple fetish or 'an apple a day keeps the dogma away'). No doubt pride was an element of it. The allure of power perhaps; maybe even the excitement of the unknown. But there had to be a moment of sadness with Eve; suddenly a shadow of doubt had been cast on the sincerity of her Father. The trust she had experienced there in the Garden was being undermined. Would her Father, the only father she had ever known deceive her and withhold something from her? Would He be selfish and stingy? Did the One who provided for her every need not actually have her best interests at heart? Was He lying?

You look through the Bible and you don't really find God specifically telling us to trust Him but it'sádefinitely implied. God often warns of the consequences of trusting in ourselves, or trusting in weapons or gold. In Micah 7:5 we are warned even about trusting a friend (see previous blog ;). He often tells us of the rewards we can expect when we do trust Him, but you just don't see where he comes out and says, "Trust me." The fact is, when someone says, "Trust me," that's the moment I get suspicious. If something in their words, or actions or even the tone of their voice causes my countenance to change to the point that they feel it necessary to ask me to ignore what I'm feeling and/or seeing and just 'trust them', I immediately look for my wallet and the nearest exit (or for Ashton Kutcher).

God expecting us to trust Him and rely on Him is very real. It's implied in His actions and inherent in His very being. It's outwardly apparent as the world around us; yet it's taken for granted like the delicate balance maintained in the earth's rotation, the climate, and the seasons; it's inconspicuous and subtle as the beat of a heart or the moment of conception. When we err, when we doubt, when we show despair; those are the times we haven't trusted. I'm not even talking (blogging/rambling) so much about trusting for 'provision' like the 'lilies in the field' that Jesus talked about in the 12th chapter of Luke. I'm referring to Job saying, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him." It's the undying, never failing, it's for my own good type of trust that I have in my earthly father...to the omnipotent power. Once the serpent destroys that trust, then we'll usually feed ourselves the 'poison' apple.

I always know that when my life starts feeling like an old knock-knock joke and I hear "Knock knock," and I reply "Who's there" and then I receive the answer "God", that the minute I blurt out, "God who?" or "God why?"...I know that I've blown it. May in the future my answer be "I thought that was You!" or even better yet, "I trusted that was You!"

posted by Randy Whittern from his Blog - Randym Thoughts on 04/03/2010

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Both of my parents were born on a farm, so I never understood why they cared when I left doors open. "No I wasn't born in a barn, but YOU were!" They failed to see the humor or relevance in that, so to this day I shut doors (and turn off lights). My dad's parents lived on a farm (east of Shawnee, out in the country) until the day they died. There were always lots of cats and chickens running around and of course a dog or two. Not inside the house, but outside, in and out of barns and living beneath the sheds. To this day, I'm an 'outside dog' person, much to the chagrin of my kids, especially my son.

My grandmother always warned me to stay away from the hens because as she put it, "they'll flog ya!!!" I never knew what that meant, but it didn't sound good, so I stayed away from them (did that suddenly sound like Andy Rooney?). Their backyard was basically like the barnyard in Charlotte's Web, so it was a fun place to play. It was a safe haven for the animals, and other than that slight 'flogging' risk, a safe place to run around and be a boy.

When I think of Easter, my mind takes me back to that farm. My grandmother always bought Easter baskets. The kind you find at Wal-Mart and Walgreens now, but were found then at the TG&Y and the Woolworths five and dime stores. They were packed full of goodies and candy and I looked forward every year to that trip to the farm. I was her only grandchild for over a dozen years, so she didn't have to buy a bunch of baskets...just one lollapalooza sized basket that I got to enjoy. (Yes, you can call me spoiled. I prefer to use the adjectives 'privileged' or 'blessed'.)

The town of Shawnee always had a huge Easter Egg hunt at Woodland Park the Saturday before Easter. Mostly they gave out those nasty tasting, baby-powdered textured eggs that were hardly worth chasing after. But spread throughout the grassy field there at the park, were 'prize eggs' and one year in particular, the prize that awaited you when and if you found one was in fact a live, brightly Easter-Egg-colored baby chick. When the gun sounded, the kids spread out willy nilly across the park, trying to locate a 'prize egg'. Naturally, a large throng of kids headed right down the middle, and although there would be a certain amount of jostling and jockeying for position going on there, I followed, knowing that the majority of the eggs (both prize and otherwise) would be there and I was willing to deal with the eggs-tra resistance to get what I wanted (He who pries the most eggs gets the most prize eggs!). Sure enough, I found not 'one' prize egg, but THREE prize eggs, and left for home that afternoon with three baby chicks, a purple one, a green one, and a blue one (aka: Larry, Moe and Curly). Our small tiny bathroom in our small tiny house on East Wallace became the new home for those little chickens. What a mess! I honestly don't remember going to any more Easter Egg hunts after that, and I can only guess why.

I'll spare you the details, but before long it was decided that the best place for Larry, Moe and Curly was my Grandparent's farm. After all, they'd have more 'peeps' to mingle with (now c'mon, you gotta love that line ;), and would have lots of room to run and play. Besides, each day, new feathers were coming in, and they were quickly losing their color (and their cuteness); and my parents were quickly losing their patience.

What I didn't realize was the farm was not nearly as safe a haven as my young na´ve self had thought it to be. In fact, to my horror I learned (from my Grandfather) that the 'coons' had been 'getting' some the chickens. Now as a young six year old I didn't really know what the 'coons' were, but imagined them to be a cross between the 'big bad wolf' and the 'flying monkeys' from the Wizard of Oz; certainly not sweet little Rory Raccoon from Saturday morning cartoons! And alas, within a few weeks, I found out that Larry and Curly had indeed been snatched up by these mutant killer beasts, dying a horrific death that I could only imagine in my nightmares. To make matters worse (and to finally end this blog), I found out during one Sunday lunch at Grandma's, that when I asked for 'mo chicken please', I was indeed getting 'Moe Chicken'! The explanation was simple: rather than let the 'coons' get him, Grandma had gone ahead and fixed Moe for lunch; and in my strange 'lesser of two evils' mentality, having Moe for lunch seemed fitting (and darned tasty).

So I pose the Easter question: Feel safe in church? I look around at the number of pastors who have been devoured and the number of church splits and fallen members we see littered across the backyard of the bible belt and it certainly causes me to pause. Why does the raccoon head towards the henhouse? Why do the spoiled little kids head to the middle of the park? Why did the chicken cross the road? (Ignore that last one.) The barnyard is where the chickens are. The lush, grassy center of the park is where the prize eggs are. Here is the church. Here is the steeple. Open it up and see all the people.

1 Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

The devil wants to serve us up for Sunday lunch. No need for him to go anyplace else. He can head straight for the church, jump right in the middle of the flock and watch the feathers fly (like a roaring lion or a Rory Raccoon).

As Larry, Moe and Curly would say, "the NOIVE o' dat guy!!!"

posted by Randy Whittern from his Blog - Randym Thoughts on 03/23/2010

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Most of us haven't had the opportunity to study Greek. We will acknowledge that we know the word 'agape' but we will emphatically deny that we know the word 'pornos' (but I digress). Here's a word you probably don't know. The word is 'tilikum'. It means 'friend'. All of us have friends and they're pretty easy to spot. We hang around them. We text them. They pop up on our 'facebook' wall. Jesus in fact called us His friend (John 15:15). Unfortunately, in many of our lives, He's not that easy to spot (but I digress again). We have good friends and bad friends. In tough times, our friends will rally around us and support us. But during day to day living, we just hang. And it is during this most common, sharing of lives, when our friends affect us both positively and negatively.

As parents, we concern ourselves with the friends our children have. To quote the great old Coasters song: "Tell your hoodlum friends outside, you ain't got time to take no ride!" We try to put our children in the best schools, the best neighborhoods, and get them to church so that they surround themselves with positive influences so that their lives are filled with good 'tilikum'.

As Christians we try to do the same. Some of that is out of our control for example, like the jobs we take or even where we can afford to live (but I digress for the last time). Some of the 'things' we surround ourselves with don't start out as friends. In fact we know we "ain't got time" and shouldn't be taking a ride with them, but we figure we're strong enough and hip enough ("your daddy's hip he knows what cooks") to handle it (wow, I've covered about four blog topics so far). But before long, we're full blown 'tilikum' with them and these 'things' have become a part of our inner 'tilikum' circle and can really be a huge negative influence on our lives (finally I'm getting to the point).

Many of you may have figured out by now that 'tilikum' is not a Greek word at all (put the Strong's down and step away from the Concordance) but is actually a Chinook word (Native American). And if you're really up on your news stories, you'll know it's also the name of the Killer Whale that recently killed its trainer, Dawn Brancheau. Many of the more cynical among us has probably remarked, "There's a reason they call them Killer Whales, people" and with a 'that's what you get' attitude we watched the news stories in hopes of seeing the poor lady take her final swim. When we realized there was nothing to see, we switched channels. But let's wade in a little deeper (pardon the pun).

There were some basic rules (commandments). One of them was you don't get in the water and lay around with the 12,000 pound whales. (After all, "Where does a 6 ton whale sleep?") No doubt, early in her career, Dawn followed the rules. I'm sure she was also very cautious and felt like she could "handle the truth" (or handle the girth). But in the end, her guard was relaxed, her diminutive body cuddled up next to this huge danger and without warning, according to some reports, Tilikum grabbed Dawn's ponytail and drug her under the water.

Here's my point and it's pretty simple. Casual sin, habitual sin can easily become a friend. Familiar and comfortable...but still just as 'killer' as it was when we looked at it from the stands or were first introduced to it. Are you palling around with an old sin? Have you gotten really 'friendly' with something that years ago you wouldn't even hang with or were afraid of? Is there a 'Tilikum' in your life??

Maybe it's time to get out of the water!

posted by Randy Whittern from his Blog - Randym Thoughts on 03/19/2010