Community Choir Concert

5Tonight we attended the spring concert of the Lakeland Choral Society. The title of the program was “Music of the Continents,” and we had a delightful time. My brother and his wife were visiting from out of town. They happen to be members of a community choir where they live, so we invited them to go with us.

Another reason we wanted to go was to support a friend who sings in the choral society. The music was really good, but the fact that we knew someone in the choir made it even more fun. Rachel is a literature teacher at a local university, but turns out she’s been singing in choirs for years. When the choir filed in, we noticed there was another friend in the choir, too, a friend named Daphne.

The music included songs from many nations: New Zealand, Germany, Korea, Italy, England, the United States, and others. It included folk song as well a poem of Pablo Neruda that was put to music.

1We knew from the start that there’d be music from around the world, but the surprise came when we discovered that some of the music was Christian, even though it was a performance by a community choir.  In fact, the program featured a song titled “Ukuthula,” which is a traditional Zulu prayer. In 1981, United Nations designated September 21 to be the “World Day of Peace.” Last year, a choir director in Nairobe organized hundreds of groups from around the world to sing the song as a statement of solidarity and international peace. The beautiful part of the story is that the song itself says peace, redemption, and comfort can be found in Jesus Christ.

6The event took place in the local Presbyterian church. The same church where we often attend the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service. The acoustics are excellent, and the choir did an outstanding job. What a delight to be able to enjoy some great music in a wonderful setting with the right message.

Afterwards, we went out to dinner with several of the singers in the choir. It was a fun evening. During the performance, I leaned over to my wife and whispered, “I want to join the choir.” To show you how much she knows me, she responded with, “I thought you might be thinking that.”

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Can We Please Ignore Our Racist Past?

Chris Linzey posted a blog that upset some people. It is worth reading. Interestingly, the people of God in the Old Testament routinely established memorials specifically so they would not forget their past — both positive and negative.

The Bible Blotter

I didn’t think I was being controversial. I wasn’t trying to be inflammatory. But this past week I saw a video that gave the statistics of the top 10 lynching states over a span of 8 decades. I shared the video on my Facebook page and added the message:

2,751 confirmed lynchings over 8 decades in ONLY 10 states. There’s NO WAY the Civil Rights Movement can undo all of the damage to race-relations. We have a lot of work to do…

Here’s the video…

While everyone who saw it agreed that the content was horrific, a couple people chastised me for sharing it, saying that I was stoking the fires of hate and that I should allow people to forget and move on. One said:

Absolutely disgusting….and tell me what purpose you serve in playing a video like this? Show me in the Bible what you are teaching? Sometimes…

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Fresh Pineapple, Fresh Marriage

img_9600Three or four years ago, my friend Steve gave me the top of a pineapple his family had eaten. He told me, “Plant this in dirt and it’ll grow. It sometimes takes a few years, and doesn’t even need a whole lot of water.”

So I put the thing in a plastic grocery bag, put it in the garage, and forgot about it. A year-and-a-half later while cleaning the garage, I found the parched pineapple top and assumed it was dead. Then thought, “Oh well, why not put it in a pot and and see what happens?” I even started watering it once in a while. After a few months, it sprouted. When it got about 20 inches tall, I transplanted it out to the back yard. Now, there’s a pineapple growing in the center of the plant. Amazing!

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There are times when it seems like your marriage is dried up or dead. It might have been months or even years since you’ve paid attention or invested in the relationship with the one you used to love and care about the most.

But it’s not necessarily over. It’s not too late to plant new seeds of love and kindness, to offer a timely word of encouragement, or to start watering the pineapple.

pineapple-636562_1920If you decide to start fresh, you’ll need to be patient. My pineapple had been dried up and discarded for over a year, and when finally planted, it took months to begin to sprout, and then another year or more before the fruit appeared. My wife and I are still waiting for the fruit to ripen. It just takes time. Sometimes a lot of time.

It is just as likely that when you begin to express loving, healing thoughts and words, it might take a while before you start to see new life in your marriage. So be patient. Keep on investing in your marriage. Continue loving. Be genuinely interested in your mate’s well-being. It’s going to be hard at first, but if you are willing to hang in there and continue treating each other right, your marriage can be restored.

Paul & Linda Linzey

Several years ago, we went through a pretty rough time in our marriage. We didn’t like each other. We were pretty unhappy. Things weren’t going well. I came home from work one day and my wife asked me out of the blue, “Are we ever going to be happy again.”

“I don’t know, Sweet-heart,” I answered. And I really didn’t know. “How ’bout if we just try to be nice to each other, don’t do anything that we’d come to regret, and see what happens.”

Six or seven months later, we could tell that the joy had returned to our lives. We could smile at each other. We could laugh together. We enjoyed being in the same room. But it didn’t happen automatically, and it didn’t  happen fast. We had to invest in each other, and we had to be patient.

Perhaps you’ve discarded the idea that you can be happy, or that you can have a good marriage. That pineapple in my back yard is a good reminder that even when things look lifeless, there’s still hope. You can reignite the love and the joy in your marriage too.

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By Wisdom a House is Built

treasure-chest-619868_1920The theme verses for the Biblical Principles of Marriage are Proverbs 24:3-4: “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.”

The house in this proverb refers first to the marriage, and second to the family: the people residing in the home. The building, its furnishings, its decorations, and its treasures symbolize different aspects of the relationships in the home, or perhaps the character of the people in the home. It speaks of the lives, the relationships, and the happiness of the people who live together in the home.

The writer of the proverb demonstrates an understanding that in the same way people desire nice homes and nice “things” inside the home, people also desire good relationships. He uses the home as a metaphor for the kind of marriage and family that are worth striving for. In reality, the quality of our relationships is worth far more than the homes we live in.

That is why there are other proverbs that say it is better to live in a hut or in a corner where love and peace can be found, than to live in a huge mansion with horrible relationships. When the interaction between the husband and wife is good, it results in long-lasting happiness for everyone in the home. When the marital interaction is negative or painful, it doesn’t matter how nice the home is or how much money the couple has. Life gets ugly, and the relationship is headed for disaster.wood-1629185_1920

Californians in Boston

third-seatThe station wagon with the third seat facing the rear pulled into Boston and stopped at the traffic signal. My two younger brothers and I rode that seat from California to Massachusetts, watching where we’d been, rather than where we were going.

3,177 miles backwards. For a while I was dizzy, car sick, nauseous, but after a while I got used to it.

The ’59 Dodge was a big car. It seemed like Mom and Dad, and whoever else was sitting up front with them, were in a different county. The actual dimensions of this monstrous car? Just over eighteen feet long, six-and-a-half feet wide, weighing about 4,200 pounds. The advertised top speed was 120 MPH, but I never saw my parents drive faster than 115. Mother liked to drive fast. I remember my turn to sit up front and help her “stay awake” one night driving through the Arizona desert while Dad got some sleep. It was scary.

We got about nine miles per gallon if one or two people were in the car. Seven or eight miles a gallon when all ten of us went somewhere together, like we did on this cross-country trip. Nobody had seat belts back then.

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As we pulled up to a traffic light in this strange city far from home, suddenly, my dad was yelling and talking excitedly. Someone outside was shouting and talking just as fast. From way back in the third row, I tried to see what was going on. Were my dad and the stranger mad at each other? Why were they yelling? I looked out the side window of our car and saw that the driver of the car next to us had dark skin and black curly hair. Why was he yelling at my dad? And why was my dad yelling back at him?

As I listened, it seemed to me that they were not angry with each other. No, I’m sure they were not upset. Rather they were excited and happy. They were yelling for joy. But why?

As I kept on looking at the man in the car next to us, I glanced down to see the license plate on his car. We had played the license plate game all across the country, keeping track of all the license plates to see who gets the most states. There were a lot of variations to that game. Riding backwards made it easier if the cars catching up to us had front license plates, because looking backwards I could see them before my brothers and sisters in the middle seat could see them. But if we were passing the other cars, then they got to see the license plates first. The way my parents drove, nobody ever passed us, so I never won the game.

traffic-lights-686041_1920At the red light in Boston, the license plate on the car next to us looked familiar. Was it? Yes! It was orange and black, a California license plate! We hadn’t seen one of those since we left home. Was that why Dad and the other guy were hollering? Yep, sure was.

Sitting in the car at the red light on our first day in Boston, we didn’t know a single soul in the city, or in the entire state of Massachusetts. But that first traffic light placed us right next to another human being from California. It was his first day in Boston too.

That was the first time I remember seeing an African-American, and the thing that stuck in my mind more than anything else was the connection that he and my dad made with each other. It wasn’t age; my dad was forty-two and the other guy seemed to be younger. It wasn’t family circumstance; my dad had a wife and eight kids in the car, while the other guy was single. It wasn’t that they had similar careers; my dad was in the Navy, and the other guy worked in a factory. And it wasn’t that they looked alike; my dad was a balding white guy, and the other guy was black with a full head of hair.

No, the connection they made with each other was simply that they had something in common. They were both from California, and that was enough. They were both more than 3,000 miles from home, and friendless – until that moment. But they had found someone from home.

ut-friendsI often think about that experience, and why people who are different despise each other? Why do people of different color, nationality, language, gender, religion, political party, or economic status hate each other?

Why can’t we be like my dad and the stranger in the car next to us, that day back in 1962?

I was seven years old when we drove into Boston. Over the past fifty-plus years, I have tried to focus on what I have in common with other people, instead of our differences: marriage, kids, jobs, sports, music, food, weather, fears, dreams, movies, faith, or our human-ness. There’s so much we share, it’s a shame people choose to fight over their differences.

Something powerful and amazing happens when we connect over something we have in common.

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Giant Springs, Montana

dscn8486In the spring of 2004, I was in Montana on business when I heard about Giant Springs State Park, so I drove over to take a look. What I discovered captured my imagination, and I vowed that someday I’d return to investigate more thoroughly, perhaps to use the springs, the river, and the water process as a parable or a metaphor for what happens in a person’s life. That “someday” happened in the summer of 2016.

I had some free time before starting a new job, and decided it would be a good time to go back to Montana. However, I needed help. So I called my brother to ask if he’d go with me. Gene has a tremendous understanding of science and engineering, and I wanted him to help me make sense of the underground water system in preparation for the project.

When I mentioned that I’d like him to take a trip to Montana with me, his immediate reply was, “Are you looking for grizzlies, moose, bison, or what?”

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“Gene, I need you to become an expert on the underground water system in Montana, you have four months to learn it, and I want you to go there with me.”

He listened to what I had to say, asked a few questions, and told me he was intrigued and would consider going. Then, because he lives in Arkansas and I live in Florida, he asked, “How are we going to get there? A road trip?”

“No, I think it’d be a better use of our time to fly up there, do what we need to do, then fly home.”

Having worked for Boeing, Rockwell, and McDonnel Douglas for many years, Gene enjoys airplanes and flying. Yet, he wasn’t sure he wanted to spend that kind of money on some harebrained idea from his younger brother.

So I said, “Would you go with me if I buy the plane tickets?”

“Well, now! That makes it easier to decide. Yes, I think I would.”

Once my brother accepted the challenge, he dove into the project wholeheartedly. He read articles, searched online, and called from time to time to tell me what he was learning. I was doing much of the same reading, but his comprehension was keener and broader.

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The focus of our project was the water that gushes out of Giant Springs and forms the Roe River. Up until 2006, the Guinness Book of World Records listed the Roe River of Montana as the shortest river in the world. Guinness no longer includes “shortest river” as a category, but the Roe is still there – 201 feet of pure, crystal clear water.

The western sliver of Montana is west of the Continental Divide. On the other hand, Helena, Great Falls, and the Little Belt Mountains are immediately east of the Divide. Ironically, this means that the shortest river in the world flows into the longest river in America – the  2,341-mile Missouri.

The first English speakers to describe Giant Springs were Lewis and Clark, who explored Montana in 1805. The people of the Blackfeet Nation, however, had been using the springs as a winter water source long before Lewis and Clark arrived.

What continues to captivate my curiosity, though, is the decades-long process the water takes to get from the mountains, 60 miles away, to Giant Springs. I can do a lot of research online and in the library, but I wanted to see the springs, the terrain, the mountains, and the streams. I wanted to take pictures. So I had to go. And, I wanted Gene to go with me.

I drove from Florida to Arkansas and spent the night at Gene’s home. The next day we drove to Oklahoma City, and from there, flew to Salt Lake City, changing planes, then taking the jaunt up to Helena. Flying over Wyoming was the first time Gene saw the Grand Teton mountain range from the air, but with their majestic peaks jutting straight up, he recognized them immediately.

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After landing in Helena and checking in to the Super 8 hotel, we took some time to drive around Helena and get acquainted with the town. One of the highlights was seeing the beautiful Cathedral of St. Helena. Another was driving by Carroll College. Then we went out to dinner to go over our game plan.

The next morning, we drove 91 miles to Great Falls, MT, which is known as the “Electric City” because of its numerous dams and power plants. Along the way, we talked, sang, and laughed. We took pictures of mountains, rivers, geese, squirrels, and waterfalls, including the Black Eagle Falls, one of five waterfalls on a ten-mile stretch of the Missouri River as it runs through Great Falls.

When we got to Giant Springs State Park, we took pictures and read all the literature and signs we could find.

After a couple of hours at the Roe River, we headed east. I’d heard about a town called Stanford about an hour’s drive from Great Falls. My grandfather was Stanford Linzey, my dad was Stanford Linzey, Jr., and my brother is Stanford Linzey III. So I thought, “Hey! We’re already in Montana. Why not drive a little out of the way and have lunch in Stanford, in honor of my grampa, my dad, and their namesake – my brother?” So we did.

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We had a delightful time in Stanford, which has a population of about 400. We ate lunch in the Basin Trading Post, learned some of the history of the area, and saw the infamous White Wolf in the display case. Then we toured the town, taking more pictures, of course

From there, we drove up to the Little Belt Mountains to see the source of the water that flows underground to Giant Springs. On the way, we discovered a breathtaking gorge, carved by the Belt Creek. It was named Sluice Box State Park because the geographical structure looked like the sluice boxes used by miners to remove dirt, rocks, gravel, and sand. From the 1870s through the 1930s gold, silver, zinc, and lead were mined from these hills.

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We passed an old farm house that had burned to the ground, and imagined together what might have happened there. Then we continued driving deeper into the mountains, taking note of the many streams and creeks. At one point, Gene mentioned he’d read somewhere that for all the water you see above ground, there’s much more than that underground.

“Sort of like the iceberg principle?” I asked?

“Yes, similar. But not the same ratio.”

We drove south through the towns of Monarch, Neihart, and Showdown. Then, going down the other side of the mountains the road was being repaired, so we got in line and followed the Department of Transportation vehicle into the town of White Sulphur Springs and stopped for gas. After pulling back onto the road, a pickup truck sped dangerously around us, slamming on its brakes right in front of us. The driver got out and marched over to our car.

This representative of the great State of Montana was quite angry that I hadn’t waited for the escort before getting back on the unfinished road, and decided to make sure I understood what she thought of me and my driving. Screaming at me, she asked, “Didn’t you learn anything at all in high school drivers training class? Or are you blind?”

When I told her that yes, I did learn how to drive in high school, and I was not blind, but I just didn’t see any escort trucks anywhere, she escalated the discussion to yelling, berating, and cussing at me.

“I hope you have a fine day, too, ma’am,” I said as she stomped back her truck, climbed onto her throne, and slammed the door.

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After returning to the flatlands, we headed north and drove along a wide place in the Missouri River, stopping outside of Winston to photograph a lone pelican on the water. Then we came full circle to where we started the day, pulling into the Super 8 parking lot in Helena. We had driven over 350 miles that day in an effort to experience the setting and context where the water parable takes place. We had to see the springs and the mountains in person, get a feel for the distances involved, and take the pictures. Just as importantly, we needed to talk about what we saw while we were there, which brought the project to life in a new dimension.

That night, we went to a steakhouse to celebrate our time together and to discuss what we had seen and done, the places we visited. In the hotel later, we shared our pictures so we’d have duplicates, just in case my computer crashed or Gene were to lose his camera. If either were to happen, the other would still have a photographic record of the experience, which brings us back to the parable of the hidden waters and the invisible forces.

Using the story about the Madison Aquifer and Giant Springs as an allegory, we want to explore some of what goes on internally in human beings, and examine some of the invisible forces at work in each of us. Hopefully, the result will help us – and our readers – more effectively manage the things that have happened in our past, how we respond to them, and how we relate to the people in our lives. Please go with us on this journey. As we discovered, it’s a lot more fun to travel together.

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God’s Plan for Marriage?

Paul & Linda Linzey

God’s plan is for marriage to be full of beauty and glory, happiness and harmony, each partner thinking of the other. But it doesn’t always start out that way, or if it does, it doesn’t always stay that way. People become self-centered, wanting their own way. Or, they are so fragile or bruised from their past that they are afraid of being hurt again. Some couples mean well, but don’t have a clue as to what it takes to grow the kind of marriage they really do want.

Linda and I met at a Christian college. We were preparing to enter lives of ministry. Shortly after meeting in the cafeteria, we started talking about dating. One of her classes was a psychology course in which her professor gave the students a list of one hundred questions to talk about if you were in a serious relationship and wanted it to work out long-term. W’d go to a local park and talk about the questions and issues identified on the handout. This started shaping our relationship, and within five months we were engaged.

PD_0333During the months leading up to the wedding, married friends from our church tended to say things like, “You guys are in love now, but wait ‘til after the wedding!” It made us wonder, “What’s going to happen after the wedding?” After we’d been married a few months those same friends would say, “You guys are in love now, but wait ‘til you have kids!” “Uh-oh! What’s going to happen when we have kids?” After we had three children, those same friends said, “You guys are in love now, but wait til they’re teenagers!” By that time we figured out that those friends, while they meant well, simply didn’t know how to grow a good, healthy, happy, Christian marriage and family.

In our early marriage, my wife and I meant well. We loved each other and wanted what was best for each other. But both of us came from families that modeled poor relational styles, and we began to automatically reenact the marriages of our parents.

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Knowing that we wanted something better than either of us had witnessed, we read books on marriage, attended seminars and couples retreats, talked with our pastors and several marriage counselors. We had our share of tough times, especially during the years after our sons were born, but on our twentieth anniversary, we had some friends over to the house to celebrate. I was in the living room with some friends, and Linda was in the kitchen when I heard someone ask her, “So, what’s it like being married to the same guy for twenty years?” I waited for her answer, and then heard my wife say, “You know, in twenty years we’ve had seventeen good ones.”

At first I got mad. What do you mean we’ve had three bad years? But then I realized that if a baseball player went 17 for 20 at the plate, the batting average would be .850, which isn’t bad. I think I can identify the years she had in mind as not being good ones. I came home from work one day, shortly after our second son was born, and Linda asked me if we were ever going to be happy again. I was twenty-four and she was twenty-two. We had two young sons. We weren’t getting enough sleep. We were dirt poor. Life was just hard. I answered, “I don’t know, Sweet-Heart. I think so, but I don’t know. How ’bout if we stay faithful to each other, treat each other right, and see what happens?”

Things did get better. Eventually we were happy again. We could tell when it got better because we could laugh together again. We were no longer angry all the time. We could look at each other and smile. We liked being in the same room again. It would have been real easy to call it quits during the tough times. It would have been easy to mistreat each PD_0227other, or to give in to the temptation to have an affair. But we didn’t. We stayed faithful. We treated each other right. We made the decision to honor each other.

On our thirtieth anniversary, I took my wife out to dinner. While talking at the restaurant, Linda said to me, “You know, in thirty years together we’ve had twenty-seven good ones.”

Hmmmmm. Next August we’ll celebrate our 40th. I wonder what the count will be.