Friday, October 28, 2011



Here we go again! Grandchild number 16 had an awards day today at the Bleckley Primary School here in Cochran. They called it the ‘Best of the Best’, with children winning everything from reading awards to attendance awards.

Our little five year-old Graycen Elizabeth Phinazee got the art award in her Kindergarten class. Since her dad Robert is an artist, the old saying is confirmed, “The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

It looked like hundreds of kids were present in the school’s gymnasium and I was told by Mrs. White, Graycen’s teacher, that children from all the other grades would be coming throughout the day for their awards as well.

I had to laugh when one little boy’s name was called for his class’s ‘Perfect Attendance’ award. The little boy, whom I won’t name, was absent. How ironic is that?

Last summer when attending a Little League ballgame and watching Eli, grandchild number 14 out of 19 total, I remarked to Charlie, “When the Lord comes we may have to ask him to wait until the game is over before we take our final flight!”

It seems there’s always another ballgame, awards banquet, school play, band festival or something else going on that Grandma and Grandpa are required to attend. All kidding aside, we love every minute of our crazy lives when it comes to those grandchildren of ours.

I wish you could have seen the eagerness in the faces of all those kindergarten children today. Winning their special award, whether it was an art pencil or a colorful document to frame, was an exciting event for each winner. As proud parents and grandparents snapped pictures with cameras and cell phones, the children holding awards in front of the crowd were just beaming with pride.

I couldn’t help wondering what had happened to the little boy who missed out on publicly receiving his attendance award. Was he sick or out of town? Was there a family emergency? Did he forget that today was the big day? I’ll probably never know.

Someday the roll will be called up yonder and I sure want to be there, don’t you? Since I’m now securely forging ahead in my seventies, I think more and more of that day when I will stand before a holy and awesome God.

Recently I took a plane trip to California and had a very interesting conversation with a fellow passenger about ‘just making it to heaven’. I know some folks say they will be happy to ‘just make it’ to heaven, however I believe God wants us to aim toward a higher goal.

Sometime during our discussion about the things of the Lord the young man told me that he had experienced a dramatic encounter with God ten years prior. In the ensuing years and he had grown cold to the things of the Lord. Working, going to school and life in general had crowded in. He wasn’t even sure if God listened to anything he had to say anymore.

An hour and half into the flight the lights were darkened and people started going to sleep. As I was adjusting a pillow under my head I heard him sniffling. Thinking he was fighting a sinus problem I started to offer him an allergy tablet. However, he was quietly weeping and so I just turned toward the window and let God do His thing.

When the plane started to land I asked him what had happened. “I don’t know. God just came down like He did 10 years ago and I couldn’t quit crying.” We were both rejoicing over this display of God’s grace in his life.

I told him that he had a choice now. He could either be a thirty-fold, sixty-fold or one hundred-fold Christian. Sure, anyone can ‘just make it’ to heaven. With Jesus in your heart you’ve got your fire insurance policy, but isn’t there more to the Christian life than that?

On Awards Day at the Judgment Seat of Christ, we will be glad that we haven’t settled for less than the best. The commendation of Jesus, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant’ will be the best award ever. Be sure you’re not like that little boy who completely missed out on getting his reward. When the roll is called up yonder, will your name be called?

Saturday, October 15, 2011



Once again all eyes are on the Middle East; as avowed enemies, Israel and Hamas, are going through a prisoner exchange. Original plans called for freeing Sgt. Gilad Shalit in exchange for 1,000 male and 27 female prisoners. 450 of these were to be released in the first phase and the rest within two months.

Of the prisoners on the Palestinian side, 315 were serving life sentences. The maximum sentence suggests they were possibly convicted of attacks that caused the death of Israelis.

Shalit, the one prisoner being exchanged for this disproportionate number from the other side, was captured in June 2006 by Palestinian militants. A small tunnel was burrowed into Israel from Gaza. Shalit was captured, while two other Israeli soldiers were killed in the process.

For the past five years the Israeli government and private citizens have worked ceaselessly for Shalit’s release. During his captivity, in violation of international law, his captors have refused to allow the Red Cross to visit him. His physical condition has been largely unknown.

Although Israel has been tough on their prisoners, up until June of 2011 when peace talks stalled, Palestinian prisoners were allowed to earn degrees in prison. This perk allowed hundreds of them to acquire educations at various levels. I wonder if Shalit furthered his education while under Hamas control.

Throughout this whole ordeal Hamas, a terrorist organization, has made it perfectly clear that Shalit has been a bargaining chip. Past history on prisoner swaps has proved the value of human ‘bargaining chips’ with Israel.

According to reports, “Over the last 30 years Israel has released about 7,000 Palestinian prisoners to secure freedom for 19 Israelis and to retrieve the bodies of eight others.” (Wikipedia)

Rabbi Jonathan Greenberg said, “Agree or disagree with the policy, we must have the moral clarity to say that this deal is painful to all people who love peace and justice.”

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, Founder and President of International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, said that “whatever our fears and apprehensions, it is a time to be thankful….welcome home Sgt. Gilad Shalit! The entire nation of Israel, and Israel’s friends everywhere, celebrate your return.”

An Israeli citizen put it this way: “Even though some might argue that by releasing 1,000 terrorists we are endangering ourselves, they don’t understand that the Jewish people rely on God for protection.”

The sad, cold hard facts of this prisoner swap will no doubt show that most of the terrorists will jump right back into doing all they can to drive Israel into the sea. With hearts further hardened by imprisonment, their resolve to finish the work they started will most likely have grown harder also.

The only true and good prisoner swap began just over 2,000 years ago when another Jew was traded for a bunch of wicked prisoners of sin. His name is Jesus Christ. Unlike Shalit, Jesus voluntarily sacrificed his own life in order to bring freedom for his enemies. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Like this recent prisoner swap in Israel, the exchange is done in phases. Each time a prisoner of Satan accepts God‘s only begotten Son an amazing thing happens. God does more than just open the prison doors…He also deposits within these freed prisoners a new nature.

No longer are we enemies of God, but now He calls us ‘friends’. No longer are we fighting Him, but now we are on His side. Where once we hated the things of God, we now love Him and want to do everything we can to share the good news of His exchange program with everyone we meet.

“And He died for all, so that all those who live might live no longer to and for themselves, but to and for Him Who died and was raised again for their sake.” (2 Corinthians 5:15)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011



I love reading John Grisham books. I’ve actually read all but one of his novels, but his latest non-fiction book, The Innocent Man, really got me to rethinking our justice system and especially the enactment of our flawed death penalty.

Grisham wrote about the case of Dennis Fritz, giving it various twists and turns in an effort to awaken the conscience of a nation bent on the death penalty. Whether you agree or disagree with the death penalty, the book is very thought provoking and one can hardly disagree that DNA evidence is conclusively proving that more than likely, some on death row are innocent.

Fritz was a high school science teacher living near Ada, Oklahoma in 1982. On Dec. 8 of that year a waitress was found raped and murdered in her apartment. Glen Core, a witness said that a man named Williamson was bothering the waitress in a bar. By association Fritz was also implicated.

Six years later Fritz and Williamson were found guilty and Williamson was sent to death row, while Fritz was sentenced to life in prison. Both men were exonerated and released in 1999. It turns out that Glen Core was the guilty man all along. DNA evidenced proved his guilt.

Oct. 4, 2011 another innocent man was freed from prison. This was a truly tragic case. Michael Morton had been wrongfully convicted of murdering his wife and spent 25 years in prison. DNA evidence pointed to a convicted felon.

Barry Scheck, Co-Director of the Innocence Project said, “This tragic miscarriage of justice must be fully investigated and steps must be taken to hold police and prosecutors accountable.”

Along with the conclusive DNA evidence that Morton was not the murderer, the courts had not allowed as evidence a taped interview of the couple’s three-year-old child who witnessed the murder and said she watched a man who was not her father beat her mother to death.

According to the Innocence Project the first DNA exoneration took place in 1989. A total of 273 persons have been cleared, 17 of whom were on death row. Although that’s only one of such statistics, each number is a person whose life has been turned upside down and in most cases ruined forever.

Amanda Knox, whom the courts said was wrongfully imprisoned for killing her roommate in Italy, was released a few weeks ago bringing national attention to the plight of an innocent person. Just prior to Amanda’s release the famous West Memphis 3 were also in the spotlight.

The three men in the West Memphis case, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, were convicted of killing three 8 year-old Cub Scouts in Arkansas in 1994. Through a legal maneuver that allows them to maintain their innocence, they were released. The men will continue to work to clear their names.

The Innocence Project was founded in 1992 by Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld as part of the Cardozo School of Law of the Yeshiva University in NYC. The private university has six campuses in New York and one in Israel.

Yeshiva U was founded in 1886 and has its roots in the Etz Chaim Yeshiva, a Jewish elementary school. It was founded by Eastern European immigrants that offered studies in the Talmud, the central text of mainstream Judaism.

As more and more innocent people are freed through the work of the Innocence Project, I’m evermore grateful for another court date ahead of me…the day when I stand before God and am also declared innocent. In my case, I’m guilty as sin. I’ve broken every law before a Holy God, but because of the One who died in my place, I will be set free.

I am more than ‘presumed’ guilty. I am guilty. I have nothing to boast of, nowhere to hide, no one to put the blame upon. I’m grateful for God’s Innocence Project. The innocent Lamb of God has taken away the sin of the world. (John 1:29). Who would knowingly reject this exoneration?

Thursday, October 6, 2011



Recently Charlie underwent yet another test to determine whether or not he would have to have neck surgery. Although an X-ray and an MRI showed he had arthritis in his spine, the Myelogram was clear and only revealed a misalignment. Supposedly, putting his neck in a weighted traction device three times a day should have him fixed good as new.

I still contend it’s all Martha’s fault! In case you’re wondering who Martha is, she is Charlie’s younger sister. Currently Martha lives in Indiana and would probably have a fit if she knew I was blaming her for Charlie’s structural problems.

Since we married 39 years ago, Charlie has had 15 major surgeries and nearly every single surgery had something to do with his bone structure. Replacement of both knees and a shoulder; several bone fusions in his spine; metal plate in his ankle…and the list goes on.

When Martha and Charlie were growing up in the hills of West Virginia they had milk delivered to their doorstep in the early morning hours. Martha would sneak out of the house and pop open the bottles and drink the cream, leaving the ‘blue’ milk for everybody else in the family.

I told you it was all Martha’s fault! Poor Charlie never got enough calcium to strengthen those bones of his. Wait till I see her next time. I’m going to give her a piece of my mind.

Blaming others is just part of our old nature. We get it honest from our first parents, Adam and Eve. Remember how they shifted the blame when God confronted them about their disobedience in the Garden of Eden?

“Adam, did you eat that fruit I told you not to eat?” He immediately passed the buck to Eve. It was that dratted woman. She made him do it. Yeah! Right!

“Eve, did you eat that fruit I told you not to eat?” Her response was real creative. She blamed the devil. Heard that line before? The devil made me do it. Right again.

Recently I read a column by blogger John Lott in which he did some research on how many times our president has put the blame for our depressed economy on people and situations. It was quite astounding. (John Lott, Blogger)

Naturally we’ve all heard about how this is all former President Bush’s fault, but did you know it was also the fault of the Arab Spring and the earthquake in Japan? Of course we know it’s also Congress, technology, Republicans, Oil Speculators, the Gulf oil spill and corporations, etc.

Lott says to… “do a Google search on it. "Obama blames" as a Google search term returns more than 490,000 hits. "Obama blames," no quotes -- just "Obama blames" -- returns 6,920,000 results on Google. Obama blames, Obama blames...” I don’t think he mentioned Martha on this list.

In October of 1945 one of our most famous Democratic presidents, Harry S. Truman had a sign made that said, “The Buck Stops Here”. In his farewell address to the American people given in January 1953, Truman referred to this concept very specifically in asserting that, “The President--whoever he is--has to decide. He can't pass the buck to anybody. No one else can do the deciding for him. That's his job.”

Family Circus, a cartoon strip, is in its 50th year. The cartoon runs in 1,500 papers and is a cartoon view of home life. One of the characters appears as a ghost who hovers nearby when the cartoon children do something naughty. When confronted they say, “Not me. I didn’t do it. It’s not my fault.” (Too bad they didn’t know about Martha!)

I guess it’s time that everyone, including me, begins to take responsibility for their own actions. Charlie should have gotten up earlier and beat Martha to the cream; after two and a half years and $479 billion in total stimulus funds, President Obama needs to claim ownership of this economy; and each of us needs to accept responsibility for our own sinful condition.

The old spiritual went something like this, “It’s not my father or my mother but it’s ME, O Lord standing in the need of prayer. It’s not my sister or my brother, but it’s ME O, Lord standing in the need of prayer.”