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On the Road Again

Articles are sorted with the most recently posted at the top.

The End of the Road
Posted July 20, 2017

by Jim Browder

It was a sad day when Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus went out of business a few weeks ago. It made me think of Susie.

Susie was a nice girl...a little plump...but pleasant.

I first met Susie in downtown Fort Worth behind the old T&P Railroad Depot, on the other side of the tracks. She had a long nose, flat feet and wrinkled skin, but she was in show business--and that's all that mattered.

However, after a long walk together, I discovered that all Susie really wanted to do was drink a lot, and then hit the hay.

So I left her there with her friends...all of them drinking shamelessly.

Yep, they were drinking water out of 55-gallon drums and happily eyeing a couple of tons of hay on the other side of the fence. Susie, you see, was one of 18 elephants in town with the circus. I rode Susie from behind the T&P railroad station to Will Rogers Coliseum - a bumpy two and a half miles on a pleasant, but smelly beast.

What's it like riding an elephant? Well, it's dirty. The first thing elephants do upon being taken off the circus train is grab trunks full of local dirt and spray it on their backs. There is an odor, too, but after a while you don't notice it so much because you smell the same way.

You ride way up front on the elephant's head. The swaying motion can almost leave you seasick. The animal's lumbering gait keeps throwing your hips and pelvis into gyrations akin to Elvis Presley doing "Hound Dog." At the end of the trip you're all shook up.

It was a unique experience. Unfortunately, no one else will ever be able to enjoy riding a circus elephant like that. And no little kids can dream of running away to join the circus. You see, a group of activists forced the circus to stop using elephants.

Apparently, in today's politically-correct world it is unacceptable for elephants to be used for entertainment. So, when the elephants were gone, attendance plummeted and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus was forced out of business. Hundreds of people lost their jobs. Pray for these workers and entertainers.

Today if you want to see world-class clowns in action you must visit Congress.

Getting back to the subject at hand, I wonder: Was Susie still there when the circus folded its tent? Maybe I should have checked it out. Nah, some say elephants never forget. She'd undoubtedly remember that I didn't even kiss her goodbye.

One thing we know for sure. God never forgets one of his own and as noted in Hebrews 8:12, He will "forgive our sins and remember them no more."

On the Road to a Reunion More than 50 Years in the Making
Posted July 6, 2017

by Bill Burris

God often uses genealogy to bring long-separated family members together.

In the late 1950s my older brother was married with two children. But he and his wife divorced early, and I was never able to meet his son and daughter.

Fast forward over fifty years. In 2009, that same brother's ex-wife reached out to my uncle on a genealogy matter. That opened the door for me to learn where she and her family were living. I began following my niece Brenda on Facebook. Wanting to reach out to her in some way, I sent her mother my contact information. Sometime later, her mother indicated that Brenda was becoming interested in learning about the family she never knew. It was July 2016 when I received an email confirming that she was ready to start that journey.

Brenda lives in the Orlando area, so when Marcie and I scheduled our Destin trip for last year, I invited my niece to spend some time with us there. I was so pleased when she accepted. That October was my first time to ever see Brenda, who had just turned 59 in February. I learned so much about her in that short two-day visit. She's a widow with a son and is a licensed counselor for grief and mental illness, as well as having been trained in a new procedure to treat PTSD.

In March of this year I took Marcie to Cocoa Beach to spend some time with her long-time friend and husband. While in Florida, I arranged to meet with Brenda, her son Brendan, and her mother Edna (my brother's ex-wife) for a luncheon gathering. It was wonderful to finally connect with that long-lost part of our family.

Later that month my other brother and his wife were in Tampa spending time with family. They reached out to Brenda, who joined them for an afternoon with another part of the family she had never known. Brenda has now met four of her cousins, another uncle and one of my own cousins who lives in the Clearwater area.

After all that time, God brought Brenda and her family back into my life and into the lives of additional Burris family members from the Tampa and the Orlando areas. He has found a way through genealogy to bless long-separated family members by bringing them together after all.

Random Smart Thoughts
Posted June 21, 2017

by Kay Lea Scott

Reader warning: The following thoughts are not bright, intelligent or genius. They are smart because they are about Smart cars.

I've been fascinated by Smart car sightings since I first saw one in the early 90"s. It was parked on a street in the south of France. Actually it wasn't on the street. It was parked inside a row of cars parked bumper to bumper. Smart question: "How did that little bitty car get parked over there?" The obvious answer was that its driver and passenger stopped, picked it up and set it down over there.

A couple of years later as the German tour bus turned a corner a Smart car dealership came into view. There stood a glass silo with four floors inside. On each floor a gleaming new Smart car showed off its unique styling and color. All I could think was, "So that's how you buy Smart cars, in packages of four". It looked like the Hot Wheels packages that were all over Wal-Mart back home. Again I had to wonder how those cars got on those shelves. Did the dealership hire the jolly green giant or Babe and his blue ox to do the heavy lifting?

My travel buddies and I were standing at a quiet intersection in Hamburg when a Smart car with two people in it stopped in front of us. A pizza delivery sign was attached to its roof. As I looked at that sign I couldn't help but grin. The thought I shared with my companions was "Do you suppose we can order an extra-large pizza delivered in Hamburg?" We agreed it would be impossible to fit an extra-large pizza in that car. We were sure the driver and his passenger knew exactly what we were thinking because they smiled and waved at us as they drove away.

A few years after that Smart cars appeared on U.S. streets.

On one of our travels we pulled into a motel parking lot only to find an 18 wheeled car carrier parked in front of us. There was one Smart car on this fully loaded carrier. It was the very last car on the top level of the carrier and looked like it was hanging on by its finger nails. I could just hear the guys loading that truck. "Hey, Sam, bring your tape measure. I think we've got just enough room for one of those roller-skate cars right here." They must have pulled a ramp up to the truck. Then one of the guys drove the car up the ramp and the other attached the bungee cord that had to be holding it in that row of grown up BMWs.

On our travels Scotty is very conscientious about observing speed limits. Every so often on multilane highways we'll have a conversation that goes something like this.

"It's your turn to get out."
"You want me to what? How can I get out now? Why?"
"Well, somebody has to check to see if our wheels are turning."
"The way cars are passing us on all sides. We must be stopped"

We were on our way home from Dallas on Highway 35 one night when I noticed a car passing us on the left side. It seemed to be taking it's time going by us. Then I realized I couldn't really see the car. When it reached our front bumper, I started to chuckle. It was a Smart car! I was still giggling as I teased Scotty about being passed by a Smart car and its taillights faded in the distance.

On our last trip we went by a strange sight. Two large blue dumpsters were placed at a right angle to each other. Parked in that angle was a Smart car. It was almost exactly the same color as the dumpsters and looked like it might be hiding. I asked Scotty, "Do you suppose the owner has parked his car there to camouflage it so no one knows he's at this business?" After we'd traveled a couple blocks it hit me and I said, "Oh no, that poor little car is about to be thrown away. The owner is probably just waiting for someone to help him lift it into the dumpster. There's sure to be plenty of room left over for the rest of the week's trash."

With a little luck and a few more miles, there will be more Smart sightings in our future.

Just when you least expect it God will answer prayers, put a smile on your face and give you memories that will last a life time. The more you are aware of Him the more you see of His works all around His creation.

Dear Reader: My thoughts are not bright, intelligent or genius. They are certainly not full of wisdom as were the thoughts of the writers of Proverbs. Thinking Smart thoughts is God's reminder to me to turn to His Word for true "smarts".

Visiting One of God's Wonders
Posted February 16, 2017

by Bill Burris

In March of 2004 my company scheduled me for a week-long training seminar in Phoenix, AZ. While making my travel plans I remembered that I had two cousins living in the Tucson area. I reached out to them to see if the timing allowed for a weekend visit before the seminar. They agreed and said they would make it a special weekend.

Little did I know that the special part was to be my first visit to the Grand Canyon. My cousins Vicki and Carol are regular visitors there and have spent many hours hiking in the canyon. Talk about having a great tour guide, I had two and got to see so much in just a short time.

When these gals take someone to the Grand Canyon for their first trip, they have a very special routine. Once there, they ask you to close your eyes as they walk you to the rim so that when you open your eyes, the beauty and grandeur before you is beyond belief. Only God could create such a magnificent wonder. This routine should be a standard for anyone visiting the Grand Canyon for their first time.

The following weekend I was treated to a round of golf at the Tucson Country Club followed by a great meal at a local restaurant. I had a truly great time with family while seeing the Grand Canyon to boot!

The following year Marcie and I returned to the canyon along with my two cousins, their husbands and their brother Terry and his wife. The goal was to ride the mules to the bottom and spend two nights at the Phantom Ranch. Marcie and I both soon learned that we didn't like riding mules for a variety of reasons.

We only went part way and the others went on to the bottom. The ride was causing tremendous pain in Marcie's back. Another group that was returning from a day trip picked us up for the return to the rim. The lady wrangler in charge was very instrumental in helping Marcie return to the top in less pain. Knowing Marcie's problems with her back, I should never have arranged that part of the trip and she should have said "no" to the ride. We both learned a lesson that day.

Because of those trips to the Grand Canyon, I have learned to look at our world through different eyes. God has given us so many beautiful things in his creation. We just need to take the time to stop, look, and listen for His quiet voice. He has created innumerable magnificent and majestic wonders for us to celebrate His glory.

Discovering a Christmas Surprise
Posted January 5, 2017

by Bill Burris

In early December 2016 Marcie and I were invited by dear friends to join them for dinner and attend a Christmas program at the Homestead Heritage in the Waco area. I'm sure most of you have visited this location many times over the years. Most likely you've attended their Thanksgiving Weekend celebration.

When we arrived, it was about 20 degrees with a strong wind. We were so thankful it was inside their sanctuary. The host opened the event with a powerful message and story about how his nephew, born with a severe case of MS, affected the entire community. He compared what that child had done for the community in his four years of life to what Christ has done for the world. It was a very moving experience.

While we pondered his message, the members of the choir and orchestra began warming up for the night's event. It was amazing to realize that the choir contained over 100 people and the orchestra contained about 60 members. To think that all this talent came from one small community was a big surprise. They did not allow pictures to be taken so I can't share what we saw that evening.

It was interesting to note how so many members moved to different parts of the ensemble between singing, instruments and choir directing. They are truly a very talented community. You could see in their expressions as they played and sang that they were solidly into the music and its message.

Then to top it all off everyone was invited to their Fellowship Hall for an amazing amount of food with hot coffee and cider. Weather permitting it would have been held in a large tent.

There was not a moment that we were not in awe of the performance. Marcie and I both counted this night as a very wonderful Christmas gift. It was an evening that we will never forget and will try to attend their Easter and Thanksgiving concerts in the future.

Matthew 18:20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.

I'm sure that most of those in attendance felt His presence.

See prior "On the Road Again" articles.
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