Archive for May, 2012


Thursday, May 31st, 2012

I began my entrepreneurial life at age 6 sitting on a big yellow school bus next to my childhood friend Craig Towles whose toothy smile was made even more expansive by a permanent scar inadvertently inflicted by yours truly when we were digging a foxhole to prepare for a Jap nocturnal assault on Guadalcanal and I neatly inflicted a friendly fire injury and five stitches on Corporal Towles with my army surplus trench shovel– when my 8 year old big brother, who was obviously Harvard Business School bound before he cut his rear molars–grabbed my left shoulder from the seat behind me–and said, “Jimmy I am loaning you a nickle to buy two McGehee Times.”. “Why, Bill,” I asked, “would I buy one, much less two, McGehee Times–I can’t read yet.” “Sell them stupid and double your money.” And so Bill was right on both counts. I bought two papers for a nickel and then sold them for ten cents! I learned an important lesson. I could sell something and double my money. Amazing ! Unfortunately though I also discovered another wonderful fact: Mr. Woodcock’s Dime Store. I took my dime and bought a bag of candy and a stuffed toy. Amazing! As I return from a business trip with money in my pocket I am grateful that the Dime Store is only in my memory. And I still owe Bill his nickel.

Blue Birds

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

My blue birds returned. How ironical that for all of my youth dad and I would look for blue birds. We never found one. Not one. Now, every spring my blue bird family returns. I call them Bob & Alice. They don’t seem to mind. They give me such pleasure each morning as I look at them gathering straw for their nest. Bob is a sloucher though. Lets Alice do most of the work.

Late Frosts

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

I planted my garden early this year. I was feeling wicked and extravagant so I put out the squash on May 10. I was careful to do so quietly and unobserved. Of course that is the best way to invite a spring frost. 21 years and can’t get used to May 15 frosts. It is worse–I have lost plants twice to a June 6 frost! Below 32 degrees in June! Seems immoral. Back to my point–frost predicted tomorrow night. Sigh!

Box Gardens

Monday, May 28th, 2012

Box gardens. What a god awful contraption! Knee killers! Two small to grow corn; too big to grow lettuce. But not too small to grow weeds, weeds, weeds. Especially in the corners where I cannot reach the renegade buggers. If I can’t roto tiller I don’t weed. Put old Betsy in Karen’s herb garden boxes and cilantro, basil, and lemon grass were churned to hell. The darn tiller chewed up herbs, the wooden frames, my neighbor’s cat, and any romantic plans I had for my upcoming birthday. I hate box gardens. What an oxymoron!

Handbook for Literary Analysis

Sunday, May 27th, 2012

Handbook for Literary Analysis: How to Evaluate Prose Fiction, Drama, and Poetry is a reference book (not a curriculum) that reclaims the metaphor, reclaims rhetoric, reclaims literary analysis. It has a high view of the reader, the critic, and the student. All three are invited to think critically, to discuss thoroughly, the great literary works of all civilization. Systematically, the Handbook defines, explains, and illustrates all significant literary terms in fiction, drama, and poetry. Along the way, readers explore copious, inspired examples, including biblical examples. Finally, readers read real literary analytical essays by high school students. An ideal resource for a novice or veteran literary critic. Will assist students who wish to begin with American, British, or World Literature without the preliminary work of Skills for Literary Analysis. 524 pages.

Twirling to Adulthood

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

From the azure heavens they caught a glimpse of a world that was beyond Ben’s Creek. They saw the distant Galleria Mall enticingly gracing the horizon.  They were taller than I, they saw more than I saw.  They were taller than any man. The moment that this revelation dawned on them they became rebels, iconoclasts. And they no longer needed my tire swing, and, me.

At first they relied on me to launch them into their dreams but as they matured and their legs grew longer and stronger they invaded the twilight below the tire. They took solo trips to the horizon. They differentiated themselves from time, and pushed away from certainly and poise into a reckless iconoclasm. They tried to twirl but could not. They still needed me to twirl them; that gives me silent pleasure. But they had seen the ephemeral Galleria a pristine mistress drawing them into adulthood and away from the Tire Swing.

It is my 59th birthday and I walked pass the empty chicken coup across the magic bridge and I am again pushing the tire swing.  But with no children shaking their feet at the fates.

Something of their youth was captured in that old tire swing. It is there still. Something of them is resurrected as I walk to that tire swing and for one fleeting moment our halcyon souls kiss again. The grass grows wildly underneath the tire swing; there are no protruding appendages plowing my pasture. Where once pudgy starfighters attacked the cosmos caterpillars wriggle through worn tire threads.. I do not need the pasture but I still need the toes.

If you drive by my farm you will see the tire swing. Stop and listen. Think of my children and their father who twirled his children into adulthood.

My Tire Swing

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

I am 59 this week and I walked around my farm.  I own less of it now than I ever did.  I visited the old chicken coup where Uncle Roy lived.  Uncle Roy was our lazy rooster who lorded over a dozen hens.  Of sorts.  He was so lazy that I had to wake him up every morning.  “Wake up, Uncle Roy,” I chided. “And crow.”  And he did.

I took a left down through the pasture to walk across the “magic bridge,” a wonderful lane that my six year old granddaughter Aaralyn and I built so that we could cross the muddy creek that crosses my farm. Now this overweight, late middle aged grandfather walks it alone on his birthday.

Yes, I visited my children’s tire swing this morning. Now empty of bouncing children, this discarded tired surrogate mistress was once a wild bucking horse, a twirling UFO, a charming Timbuktu prince. Its shredding manmade plastic rope twirled and charmed our world.  It hangs from a massive sugar maple tree that a lumber company once offered me $3500 if I would let them cut it down for maple kitchen tables with faint marks of maple tapping scars.

The tire swing was an old Michelin radial that is the home to nefarious yellow wasps. Every June I attack the tire swing with Black Flag wasp killer and respectful trepidation.

My children, though, mounted the Michelin like seasoned rodeo riders.

My children invaded the universe on this old Michelin radial. They learned that they could soar to the end of the sky and yet return safely back to the sedentary loam. The enjoyed the thrill of infinity and the caution of chaos.

They depended on me.  Always.  Tire swings are not like playground swings.  One cannot pump hard enough, push away energetically enough, to break the confides of gravity.  They always needed their dad to break forth into the heavenlies.  I liked that.  I liked the fact that they needed me.

From that old tire they moved into history. They moved beyond the mendacity of their restricted world and found their way into Middle Earth where there were new beginnings, new hopes. They gracefully wriggled their toes at passing mourning doves and plowed furrows through sensual alfalfa pasture. They laughed at passing thunderstorms and frowned at interloping grasshoppers. They dodged maple leaves and smiled at rainbows. From my tire swing.

Wicked Pine Trees

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Today, in the backyard of my childhood home is a forty foot pine tree. Forty-Five years ago this fall, next to an in ground concrete pond of mongrel fish bred from dime store gold fish and leftover fishing minnows, beside a generous apple tree and a pink dogwood tree, Dad, my older brother Bill, and I planted three pine trees. My mother watched us and wondered why, I suppose, we would put another obstacle in the ground to make Aubrey’s mowing job more difficult. But we did, one late fall morning, we planted three pine trees.

One died during our neighborhood football game—heartlessly crushed under an eight year old Dallas Cowboys’ sneaker. Aubrey accidently mowed down another the next summer. But one–the one now standing—grew and grew and grew. The interloper overshadows the apple tree (out of protest I’ve heard that the old tree gives sour green fruit), poisons the beautiful dogwood tree and gold-minnow hybrid fish with its deciduous toxin saps. And the darn thing continues to grow about a foot a year!

That pine tree intrudes itself into my soul. I saw it the last time I went to Arkansas—it reminded me of my 49 year old father in the last moments of his life gasping for breath, in mortal agony and pain.  Terrible things were happening to that man.  Things he did not deserve. He did not even live even one half of a century.

Sticky, brown, ageless, untouched even by the coldest Arkansas winter, the pine tree still quietly stands, smirking at all of us dying human beings. It was birthed 25 years after my dad was born and has lived 30 years after he died. For 55 years it has lived,  haunted my soul.

Flaunting its immortality, the venerable tree postures itself in silent mockery of the rest of us who are struggling to deal with the many vicissitudes of life.?? I wish that pine was dead too. As it overshadows my old yard, robbing all other life of light and sustenance, so also it overshadows me.

I see my simple, caring, innocent father, kneeling and gently placing that ungrateful pine tree into the Arkansas delta. Lovingly pouring water among its selfish, grasping roots, he squats in silent hope. He really expected to live to see that tree tower above our farm house.  So did I.  So do we all.

That tree gives me painful thoughts of what was and will never be again. What might have been but was not. What I want but what I have instead. He will never meet three of my children.  He will never know any of his great grandchildren.

He is not here when I need him.  Even today I reach for the phone to tell him something, to ask him something. As God or cancer or whatever it is that unmercilessly, slowly, torturously stole life from Dad, I similarly would like to kill that tree—slowly painfully stripping it of life until every evil, uncaring, nasty pine cone and needle joins my poor dad in his grave.

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, I bring you good News of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you…” (Luke 2:10)

To those of us who wake up in the morning and reach for an absent dead spouse, the angels bring good news indeed. To those of us who despair on Christmas Eve as we peer into the bright lights of our Christmas tree and only feel the anger of our divorced husband or wife, the coming of the Christ child is real, much needed hope. To those who quietly grieve through absent birthdays and anniversary, there is still hope.

Let the ancient pine trees in our lives grow, and grow, and grow! We are not afraid. Someday I hope to show that old pine tree to my grandchildren, dad’s great-great grandchildren. To tell them about times that once were and shall never be again. About their great grandfather and Great grandmother and all the faithful saints who loved Jesus Christ and are waiting for them in heaven.

Let the pine trees cover the sky! Let their arms reach beyond the world until they fill our souls, for, you see, we fear not. Our Savior has come.

Online Degrees–Bargain? Think again.

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Online College Degrees—Pray About it!

The best approach to going to college is to present a terrific SAT/ACT score and offer a great transcript (Obtain a free download @ Click on “free downloads.”). A few weeks ago I talked to you about SAT/ACT. Without a doubt, in public school, private school, or in home school, the SAT/ACT is by far the most important credential that you bring to college admission and college scholarship determination.  Absolutely.  In an age when schools are so different—schools even in the same zip code—when an A somewhere would be a C in another place—colleges MUST rely on the ACT/SAT score to determine admission. It has been that way for a while. It will be that way for years to come, if not forever.

Take the SAT and/or ACT junior year.  And then apply during your senior year. That is the ticket!

One question that I’m often asked, is, what about an online degree? Should I do that? Perhaps. But not usually.  If you are forced to do so by life circumstances, an online degree is acceptable.  But two things are clear: an online degree is perceived by employers as inferior to a resident degree and it is not cheap.

Online college students stay at home and take most course work via the computer.  Sometimes the student is required to attend a two week on campus class or two. Normally an online degree includes a lot of CLEP credit. The course work plus CLEP credit equals an online degree.

This is different from taking some course work online.  A lot of people do that.  A lot of people get AP or CLEP credit. But most do not complete a degree that way. Taking a few courses is fine. There’s no question that you may take one, two or three courses online—or get some CLEP/AP Credit–but you should know that many colleges—the best colleges—will not give you credit for any online courses. Usually they’re basic courses that are essentially the same everywhere. Most general online course, or CLEP credits, are not in your major area, and, they might save you some money.

Or not. Remember if you have a high ACT/SAT score the university/college that admits you will give you a nice financial package. Let them pay for your education. Besides, as I said, colleges that I attended will not give you credit for online courses. Period. No credit at all.

I have some real questions about an online degree. You should too. If you don’t, call a few employers and ask them if they prefer online degree employees or employees who went to Vanderbilt or the University of Texas in Austin. Ask them if they would rather have an online degree graduate from an online program or a four-year, resident graduate.

Another reason I have questions about an online degree, is that the best graduate schools, will not admit online degree students. And what good is a degree, online, if you can’t use it, to go where God is calling you?

Another thing is, online degrees are terribly expensive! I know one online program that costs about $15,000 and you have nothing when you finish. If you don’t believe me ask people who have online degrees.  Ask them if they were able to go to graduate school.  Ask them if their degree is viewed the same way as a degree from the University of North Carolina or Messiah College. Ask them if they would do the same thing again.

Online degree students do not take the SAT, ACT, or PSAT and therefore are ineligible for merit scholarships, ineligible for need based scholarships, ineligible for scholarships period.

$15,000 is a lot of money. You could spend $15,000+ and then need to pay for 2-3 more years in another college (if this college will accept your CLEP credits) because all you have is a bunch of CLEP credits (which are much less respected than AP credits).

If you really feel God is telling you to get an Online Degree don’t hire an independent agency to help you.  Really, the entire Online Programs can easily be replicated by your own efforts.  Online agencies (except colleges—colleges do help you sign up for online courses) do nothing more than what you could do for yourself—FREE.  I could pay someone to get my social security for me. I see Ads on television all the time.  But why would I?  For a little bit of effort I could write and get one for myself FREE.  Don’t pay someone $15,000 for something that could cost you nothing if you would do it yourself!

Texas A & M costs $7,500/year tuition. The University of North Carolina $5922.  You might spend $15,000 only to find that you need to spend another $28,000 because you do not really have a college degree!  Unfortunately, too, you might have taken yourself out of the running for scholarships because typically four year students do not give scholarships to transfer students.

CHELifeline is proprietary about the evangelical leadership emerging in this country.  We do not want you to be distracted by smoke and mirrors.  We do not want you to pursue Quixotic delusions that sound too good to be true because they are too good to be true!

We have nothing to fear in the American university.  Nothing. CHELifeline believes are more than conquerors in Christ.  He has favored us with the great opportunity to lead our sad country into the next millennium.  Let us stay focused on this task.

We don’t have the time and resources to waste on something that will not advance the Kingdom of God.

 Just pray about it, and make sure you know what you’re doing, before you enter an online degree program.

            I talk about this at length on some YouTube videos—visit

Changing History

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

It is clear that all our information in regard to past events and conditions must be derived from evidence of some kind. Some evidence is better than other evidence.

To that end I do not expect students to be completely neutral about historical sources. While I know that my students can never be completely

neutral about history, scholarly historical inquiry demands that they implement the following principles:

1.  Historians must evaluate the veracity of sources.

There must be a hierarchy of historical sources.

Primary source material, for instance, usually is

the best source of information.

2.  Historians must be committed to telling both sides

of the historical story. They may choose to lobby

for one view over the other, but they must fairly

examine all theories.

3.  Historians must avoid stereotypes and archetypes.

They must overcome personal prejudices and

dispassionately view history in ruthlessly objective


4.  Historians must be committed to the truth no

matter where their scholarship leads them. At

times historians will discover unflattering infor-

mation about their nation/state.

5.  Finally, historians understand that real, abiding,

and eternal history ultimately is made only by

people who obey God at all costs.


After everything is said and done, historians are only studying the past. They cannot really change the past. Theories about the past come and go, and change with each generation. However, the past is past. It is over. Historians will debate about history, but they can never change history. Only God can change history.

God alone can change history. When persons are reborn in Christ, their present, future, and, yes, even their past is changed. History is literarily rewritten. They are new creations. That bad choice, that sin, that catastrophe is placed under the blood of the Lamb, and everything starts fresh and new. A new history for new people.

Let me illustrate. 150 years ago my great-great-great- grandfather, whose passion was to kill Yankees, was a slave owner in Eastern Tennessee. With that

inheritance, like most white Southerners who grew up in the 1960s, I grew up to mistrust African-Americans. Like so many people captured by their history and culture, present and future became my past. However, when I was a senior in high school, I was saved. Jesus Christ became my Lord and Savior. My attitudes

changed. It took time, but prejudices disappeared.

Ultimately, I married my New Jersey wife, Karen, and we adopted three African-American children—whose ancestors, by the way, may have been owned by my great-great-great-uncle!

Three of my children are African-American. Imagine! Quite literally, my history was rewritten. It has been changed irrevocably by my decision to invite

Jesus Christ to be Savior of my life. In a real sense, family prejudice and death existing for generations ended in my generation. The destructive historical cycle that was part of my history has ended. No one, nothing can do that but the Lord. History has been rewritten!

My prayer is that if you do not know this God who can change history—even your history—these history texts might encourage you to invite Jesus Christ into your heart as Savior.