Memories (Part 3)

This section of my personal memories deals in large part (not exclusively) with ministry-related memories rather than personal ones, and covers a period of some 20 years from 1995 until the present. I include it because, number one, these are special memories in my life, and secondly, they testify to the faithfulness and leading of God as Judy and I endeavored to be obedient to our calling as believers, spouses, parents, and missionaries.


Russia

We were in the process of completing our fourth term of service in Panama when a phone call came from Brother Eugene Waddell, director of the Foreign (now International) Missions Department. Would Judy and I consider transferring from Panama to Russia? After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, God had opened doors to Russia and all the former Soviet Union countries, and there was the possibility of Free Will Baptists partnering with the Russian Baptist Union, most of whom were very close to us doctrinally. This was the spring of 1995.’’

As we finished up that term and came to the states, with plans to visit Russia with someone from the mission that year, our feeling was that we would be transferring. I picked up some Russian grammar books, a traveler’s course, and other resources, thinking that would help prepare me. By the time we went in October 1995, I had learned several phrases and lots of individual words.

The trip was unforgettable. We traveled with Jimmy Aldridge (Overseas Secretary with FWB International Mission) and Galen Dunbar (board member). We met Brother Nicolai Sobolev, pastor and leader in the Russian Baptist Union, and what a wonderful host he was! We traveled from Moscow to Chelyabinsk, and then to Yekaterinburg. We attended a conference in Moscow with many Russian pastors and leaders, and a number of expatriates. What a humbling experience to listen to Russian pastors relate their experiences of time spent in prison, torture and isolation. Their faithfulness to our God came through in their testimonies. Through impossible situations, they labored to keep the church alive in Russia.

As a result of that amazing conference, and through an extended season of prayer and reflection, we reluctantly told Brother Waddell that we didn’t feel the Lord’s leading to go to Russia. At that time, we did not know why God said no. A year or so later, Mike and Cathy Corley where appointed to do what we were asked to do and they did it so much better than we could have!. He knew Russian and could begin ministry without the years of language study. Don’t second guess God. His ways are always perfect.


Director of Field Operations

In not choosing to go to Russia, we opted to return to Panama for a fifth term. That concluded in the middle of 1999, and we moved to Nashville to be near our oldest two sons (Michael was married and Phillip was a senior at Welch), and to enroll David in Bible College. Stateside assignment usually lasted a year or so, and involved visiting churches, speaking in mission conferences, attending associational meetings, and other mission-related opportunities. I was in western Missouri in an area-wide mission conference when one unusually warm November afternoon I received a call from James Forlines, who had become General Director of the Mission in 1998.

Bro. James told me he was considering me as a possibility for the Foreign Missions (now International Missions) administrative staff. Was I interested and willing to be considered? I could take some time and think and pray, talk it over with Judy, etc. We prayed earnestly, considered the possibilities and implications as to what it would mean for us, and in early January 2000, I called and told Bro. James that if he selected me for the position, I would accept. In mid-January, I became the Director of Field Operations.

It was my role to supervise and coordinate the efforts of our field personnel. I had an office in Nashville, and from there traveled to approximately 20 countries over the next eight years. It was truly a great adventure, a challenge beyond anything I could have imagined. Thanks to the Lord’s enablement, I was a part of several initiatives that enabled us as a people to have a greater impact around the world: partnership with Bible Mission International in Central Asia, the creation of the position of Regional Director which served us well for a number of years, although it has now been eliminated, the creation of the Hanna Project, and ongoing efforts with our international Free Will Baptist family. One of my most special memories was going to Bulgaria with Clint Morgan and Tim Awtrey to survey that country as a potential field of service for our mission, and later making that recommendation to our Board. The Board approved opening Bulgaria, and today, nearly 15 years later, God is working there in a mighty way through four missionary couples and a growing number of Bulgarian believers.


The International Fellowship of Free Will Baptist Churches, Inc

In 1992 a historic event happened for Free Will Baptists around the world. Panama was host to a consultation that would bring representatives from a number of countries where our missionaries served. Spearheaded by Dr. Melvin Worthington, Executive Secretary of the National Association of Free Will Baptists, USA, the consultation became the catalyst for an international movement.

The International Fellowship of Free Will Baptist Churches, Inc. was officially organized in 1995 in Brazil. They decided to meet every three years. I missed the 1995 and 1998 meetings in Brazil and Uruguay, respectively, but starting in 2002 (we skipped 2001 because it was so close to the terrorist attacks of 9-11), I attended every meeting through 2010, plus a number of executive committee meetings on off years as a translator-advisor, or as a member of the committee. Bro. Worthington decided to postpone the next session until 2002, and we met near Nashville, Tennessee at Camp Garner Creek. We met in Panama in 2004, France in 2007, and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in 2010.

We’d basically meet every three years or so for a general assembly. The other years I would help coordinate an executive committee meeting, sometimes as a liaison and sometimes as a member of that committee. Working with men like Gerardo Acevedo (Uruguay), José Manuel Parrón (Spain), Luis Felipe Tijerina (México), and others remains a joy I can’t adequately describe and has led to some treasured friendships as well.


Panamá, Part II

God is truly a God of surprises. I had served as Director of Field Operations at International Missions, truly loved it, and was able to visit around 20 countries during those years. However, I was having some health issues (turned out to be sleep apnea at the time, and later some more problems), and I also began to sense some unrest in my spirit that perhaps it was time to leave and find a different ministry. The Lord graciously opened doors. I would leave the position of DFO, but stay on with the Mission. The original plan was to stay involved with the International Fellowship of Free Will Baptist Churches and help countries that had received the gospel from Free Will Baptist in the United States develop plans and strategies to begin sending out their own cross-cultural missionaries. At the same time, it was felt that Judy and I should have a field ministry somewhere, so we decided to divide that role between Panama (helping the Bowermans at the seminary) and Uruguay (teaching Bible institute classes). However, by the end of 2008, Eddie’s health had deteriorated, and he was going to have to return stateside immediately and go on a liver transplant waiting list. We made a trip to Panama in early January 2009 to meet with Eddie and LaRhonda Bowerman getting a crash course in the operations of the Seminary in Chame. Someone would need to assume leadership of the seminary, and it seemed that the Lord had brought us back to Panama for that hour. We served the next five-plus years in Chame, which turned out to be some of the most rewarding years of ministry. But it was not easy. The daily schedule was exhausting, on call 24/7, readjusting to the heat and humidity of Panama, and responsibilities without number. My undiagnosed health problems also left me extremely tired most of the time. Only God can be credited with giving us strength for each new day.

Judy had some flowers planted around the porch of the dorm where we were living. The beautiful small purple flowers bloomed every morning and then faded away in the heat of the day. Judy said they reminded her of Lamentations 3:23, “They (God’s mercies) are new every morning. Great is thy faithfulness.” It was a reminder every morning when we walked out the door, that God is faithful and His mercy to us is new and refreshing each day.

Another blessing to us was how God sent us Ariadna and Lazaro Riesgo from Cuba to help us in the seminary! “God sent” is putting it lightly! They came and stepped in immediately relieving us of many of the duties we had.

Also, the churches in Panama were seeing the importance of the seminary and taking ownership. Pastors were willing to dedicate two days a week to teach classes and this was essential. We had students in three different years so it was necessary to have three classes simultaneously. Not only was it a great help to us but the students learned from seasoned pastors. Another benefit was the pastors caught the vision and shared it with their congregations.

It is hard to believe that we’re talking about nearly 20 years here. From a middle-aged couple with children still at home to watching those same children grow up, go off to college (all went to Free Will Baptist Bible College, now Welch College), meet their future spouse, get married, and start their own family. Now we’re grandparents, several times over, but “greatly blessed, highly favored.” As the old saying goes, “how time has flown!”


Bethany

A highlight of 2014 for us was our trip to Peru to see David, Bethany, and their three children; Isaac, Jude, and Naomi. Peru is a beautiful country, Lima is a fascinating city, and being with the kids was special. We actually had them to ourselves for a few days while David and Bethany went away to have a short vacation and celebrate their 10th anniversary. The next time we saw them was just before Christmas 2014 when they flew in to spend their Christmas break with the Lytles Bethany’s family in the Huntsville Alabama area. How could I ever forget the night Bethany told us she might have cancer? She didn’t feel well from the time they arrived, and kept getting worse. Judy and I were to have gone to Panama on January 7 for a special “Passing the Baton” meeting that weekend in which International Missions was turning the work there over entirely to the National church. Because Bethany was feeling so bad, Judy decided not to go and went down to Huntsville, AL with Sheila Sass. I was to go on to Panama, but that very morning David called to say that cancer had spread throughout Bethany’s body. I got the message en route to the airport, so I canceled my trip, went down to Alabama that morning straight to the hospital. Bethany went home to be with Jesus the next morning around 2:30.


Epilogue

I told one of the editors of Rambling Ever On that the Epilogue would be relatively short. We left Panama as missionaries assigned to that field in 2014 and retired from the Mission in June 2015. Growing health concerns led to an MRI which revealed that I have Intracranial Hypotension, a spinal fluid loss, which causes the brain to sag and, in my case, led to severe headaches, especially when preaching, lack of balance which caused me to not be able to walk a straight line, and even speed up, trip, and fall. To that, we could add lethargy, slurred speech, and delayed reactions that at times made it dangerous to drive. God has been merciful, and though it took a while, we’ve learned that getting horizontal and resting every day has helped tremendously.

Judy and I have both had a number of health issues, mostly minor, and for that we praise the Lord. It’s all part of the aging process. Speaking of aging, our pastor at Cofer’s Chapel, Allen Pointer, asked us to serve on staff at the church part time and work with the senior adults and to begin a ministry to internationals. God has allowed us to start a Hispanic ministry, and we now have around 30 Spanish-speaking folks to whom we minister, and whom we’re seeking to fully integrate into the life of our church. It’s also exciting to get to know our seniors better, especially since we are a part of the group!

At this stage of life, watching our grandkids be born and grow is truly one of life’s greatest blessings. We have nine, with another on the way.




Chick-Fil-A Introduces “The Self Loather” Chicken Sandwich for LGBTQ Patrons Who Hate Themselves for Eating CFA

Atlanta, GA– Giant, gay-hating, fast-casual chain, Chick-Fil-A, has just unveiled their newest culinary creation – “The Self Loather.” It is a standard CFA chicken sandwich topped with a slice of Monterey Jack cheese and Carolina Reaper pepper infused garlic aioli. Dan Cathy, CEO and President of the homophobic restaurant describes it this way, “We wanted to have a chicken sandwich for all the LGBTQ people out there that love our food, but feel guilty about eating it. This new sandwich is the best of both worlds. It’s an incredibly delicious sandwich, but due to the extra spicy additions to our traditional, and incredibly bigoted sandwich, it leaves a burn that will remind any LGBTQers that partake of it that their taste buds have placed them firmly on the wrong side of history.”

Chick-Fil-A is also planning on unveiling a second gay-friendly chicken sandwich in the fourth quarter of 2018 they are tentatively calling “The LGBTBBQ.” We will report any updates on that story as they become available.




REO Exclusive! Chipotle Announces Groundbreaking “No cups. No straws. No waste.” Beverage Dispensation Policy

Denver, Colorado: In its continued efforts to combat the rise of Global Warming and environmental devastation, the popular Mexican cuisine restaurant chain, Chipotle, has made dramatic changes to how it serves beverages to its customers. Read the press release here first:

“The science is settled! We have long known how damaging and horrible plastic and Styrofoam cups are to the environment. We now know the terrible toll that plastic straws exact on our oceans and waterways. Chipotle has always been at the forefront of social and environmental improvement, which we have proven with our ahead-of-its-time switch to biodegradable paper cups and our strong support for all disenfranchised communities. We believe our latest initiative is just further proof of how innovative, progressive, and dare we say it, inspiring we are. Starting in the Fall of 2018, we are unveiling our new “Communal Drinking Spout” at all our locations nationwide. Our new policy, “No Cups. No Straws. No Waste” is as follows: As customers get thirsty, we ask that they come to the front counter, tell us what drink they ordered, and we will spray said drink directly into their mouths. “No cups. No straws. No waste.” Just thirst-quenching, environmentally clean deliciousness. We trust that our loyal customers will see the benefits of this new plan and adapt their eating and drinking habits accordingly. We see it as a true win-win scenario for our customers and for Mother Earth.”

 




Five Classic Toys of Our Youth

Ah, the days of youth, how quickly they flew away. They were the days that we spent hours of fun enjoying our toys of choice to the fullest. Here are five classic toys members of REO loved in the days gone by.


Slip’N Slide

South Carolina is insanely humid in the summers and while I was blessed to have a local public pool to go to and regular beach trips, some days you just wanted something cheap and convenient to help keep you cool (when you weren’t working out in the field, that is). If whatever this was also happened to be fun, then you had done the impossible.

Enter Wham-O’s Slip’N Slide, a marvel of an invention that millions of kids all over the US have enjoyed for decades now. The set up is so simple: water, a garden hose and a thin sheet of plastic a few yards long. Yet it felt like you had your own water park in your own backyard. Hours and hours of fun were to be had, changing up the way you slid and watching and cheering on others and they did the same. The very name conjures up images and memories that bring nothing but the joy of youthful innocence to this middle-aged heart. (Gowdy Cannon)


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

I’m still not sure exactly how much of my childhood fascination with the Ninja Turtles was fueled by how much I actually liked the show. I tried to go back and watch some of the original cartoons a few years back, and it hadn’t held up in my mind exactly like I remembered it. The hype at the time, though, was real. And the toys that I played with gave an added physical dimension to the cartoon. One where I created my own stories and added to the lore that was already there.

My favorite toy of them all was the 1989 pizza thrower tank/van. You inserted little plastic pizzas into the top slot, and then a big grey button on the side would launch a pie right out the front, knocking down whatever toy was in its path. The poor foot soldier figurine that I had took regular pizzas to the face, only to be then pummeled constantly by the turtles and friends. Shredder usually put up a better fight, if I recall correctly. I would string zip lines up around my bedroom and have them slide down and crash into the enemies below.

For a kid my age, they were spot on. The toys articulated enough to show lots of expression. They came in tandem with a show that was marketed directly toward my demographic, and they were bigger and bulkier than the G.I. Joes…but in a good way. I probably earned half of my collection by not crying when I had to get a shot at the doctor. My mom always promised me a new toy if I was tough. And for a brand new ninja turtle? Not a speck of moisture would dare pool up in the corner of my eye. (D. A. Speer)


Transformers

It’s cool that the Transformer toys have come to the new generation. It really is. But the new vision has yet to become the bulwark of awesome that is the 80s transformers toys. Although I ever only owned one. It was Jazz – the greatest toy I’ve ever owned. Took me about two months to perfect the transforming process though.

I largely enjoyed every other Transformer toy through my friends. At my elementary school, Transformer toys were huge. Classmates were constantly bringing their newest robots in disguise to school to show the masses. If I was lucky one friend, in particular, would invite me over for a slumber party where we could play with his armies of Autobots and Decepticons all night long. My favorites of my classmate’s toys included Optimus Prime, Megatron, Sound Wave, and all of the Dinobots.

It may be me just glorifying them in my mind, but the T-toys of that era seemed so much cooler, more durable, and way more complex than the cheap stuff you see at the store now.

I also loved the cartoon, but somehow in my mind, I was able to keep the two separate. That is, I would have liked both just as much if the other never existed. But if I was forced to choose one, it would have been the toys. Truly, my friends, they were worth more than all the gold in Erebor. (Ben Plunkett)


LEGO

I grew up in Panama. The country. Not the city in Florida. Naturally, things were different for me as a child than for someone who grew up in the United States. With that said, I had access to pretty much all the popular toys. My brothers and I played with G.I. Joe, Transformers, He-Man, and anything else we could get our hands on. And we got our hands on a lot of toys. I probably owned as many as 70 different G.I. Joe action figures at one time.

When I was in the third grade, we spent half the year near Asheville, North Carolina and the other half in St. Louis, Missouri for what was called furlough at that time. (The name has been changed to “stateside assignment” for missionaries because “furlough” sounds like a vacation.) While in St. Louis, I attended a Christian school. My classroom had the largest collection of LEGO bricks I have ever seen in one place – outside of a store. Inspired by years of watching cartoons like Voltron – where five robot lions join together to form the giant robot Voltron – I decided to create my own giant robot made out of smaller robots all constructed using LEGO bricks. I spent hours working on it – every recess, every break. Each robot had the same design, though some were bigger than others depending on what part of the body of the giant robot they were to become. It was glorious.

I never completed the giant LEGO robot. I arrived at school one day, with just a few more parts to finish, only to discover that all of my robots had been dismantled and placed back in the bin used to store the bricks. To this day, I have no idea who decided to destroy my work. Why had they waited until I was this close to finishing? Why did they hate all the good things? It left my third-grade spirit broken and miserable. It was okay though as I learned an important lesson that day: Bad things happen and when they do, the best way to deal with the sense of loss and disappointment is to go obliterate all competition on the dodgeball court. A nice dodgeball to your opponent’s face is a healing balm. And trust me when I say this, I healed so much that day in recess playing dodgeball. So much. (Phill Lytle)


BRIO Railway

From 1985-87 my family and I lived in the St. Louis, MO area (across the Mississippi River on the Illinois side), and one of our favorite things to do was visit Union Station. My favorite part of Union Station (besides eating chili dogs at the now non-existent O. T. Hodge Chile Parlor) was visiting the toy train store. I enjoyed watching the model trains running all around the store; but, most of all, I loved playing with the BRIO wooden train sets. My parents could’ve dropped me off there and left me all day, and I would never have noticed they were gone. I’m pretty sure they never actually did that…

When I was a kid, those wooden train sets were exotic; and, as far as I knew at least, only BRIO made them. Now, of course, they are very commonplace and affordable. Many children own their own train tables and multiple sets of tracks and trains. I, however, had only the trains at the train store in Union Station, which I had to share with strangers and only got to visit once a month or so. Until…

It was either Christmas of ’86 or my birthday in early ’87, I don’t remember which, I was absolutely shocked to receive not one, but two BRIO train sets of my own. I’m not sure how my parents were able to do it, but it was probably my favorite present of all time. One set was a figure eight track with a small bridge and a small station with little wooden passengers waiting on the train. The other set was a larger bridge.

I have played with those trains for countless hours, possibly more than I’ve played with Legos, possibly more than I’ve played video games. I’ve cared for those train sets with much love. Even the original packaging lasted until just a few short years ago. Yes, I still have them, 31 years later. I’ve passed them on to my own children, adding on some cheap generic trains and tracks from Ikea and many, many trains from the Thomas the Tank Engine stories. All of the original pieces from my childhood are still there, surviving the many purges of moving. And, now, I think I must dust off the conductor’s hat and go play… (Nathan Patton)


In the comment section below, tell us about your favorite childhood toys. And if you enjoyed reminiscing with us, feel free to share this article with your friends.

 

 




Ranting Ever On: Bad Drivers

I am an angry driver most of the time. It is something I have to work on constantly. I wouldn’t even consider myself an angry person most of the time – though I do have a very angry resting face. (That’s an article for another time!) I am not even an impatient person in my day-to-day life. But on the road behind the wheel, I am all those things. Plainly put, most people have no business driving a vehicle. They have no idea how to control their own vehicle, let alone be aware that there are other vehicles on the road around them. This is all very annoying. It is also dangerous. I could live with the annoying part, but when you factor in the dangerous aspect of bad driving, that sets me off. I never took Driver’s Education in school. My small school didn’t offer it. (To give you some idea how small my school was, I was in a graduating class of one.) My parents taught me when I was 17 years old and it made a world of difference. They taught me to pay just as much attention to those around me as to my own driving. They taught me to follow the laws of the road – novel idea it seems. They taught me to be a “defensive” driver. I have done my best to take their lessons to heart. I don’t speed. I use my signal lights. I do all the little things we are supposed to do when we are drive our vehicles. And it bothers me that from all appearances, most other drivers do not do these things.

Complaining about bad driving is too general to make a good rant. If I want this rant to stick, it needs to be more focused. With that in mind, let’s look at the art of driving conscientiously. Little things like letting cars merge, not following too closely, slowing down and moving over a lane when there is a stalled car on the side of the road, acknowledging when another driver lets you merge. These are the little things that make driving better and safer for everyone on the road. Too often though, these are the first things that are thrown out of the window by most drivers. Comedian Brian Regan has a really good bit about acknowledging other drivers that is not only funny, but also makes many valid points. You can watch that clip here if you so desire. Warning: Some might find the advertisement before the clip offensive.

I have had many similar experiences. One in particular stands out. On my way to work, I was in the right turn lane and I could tell that the car to the left of me was going to need to get over. They did not have their signal light on, but I could tell. How? It’s just one of those things you learn to recognize when you pay attention when you are driving. Naturally, I slowed down and gave the driver a chance to switch lanes. They didn’t. I thought for a brief moment that perhaps I was mistaken that this driver needed to change lanes. My faith wavered. I doubted my skills. Not for long though, because finally, at the last possible moment, the driver flashed their turn signal once and then quickly swerved in front of me. That last-second signal light was both infuriating and laughable. It was pointless but I’m sure it made the driver feel like they had done everything correctly.

So, I had allowed the driver to merge – and believe me, it was not easy. The very pleasant and patient person behind me was not less than thrilled that I slowed down. They showed their displeasure by honking at me and then giving me a friendly hand gesture. (Maybe they weren’t angry and were trying to tell me that I was Number One?) Even after all of this, I had a faint hope that the driver I had allowed to merge would acknowledge my help and perhaps wave to show their appreciation. Nope. They did not wave. They didn’t even look in the rearview mirror to see the kind man who had made their turn possible. They continued to do the thing that had put them in the precarious position from the very beginning: They talked on their phone. How did I respond to this ugly and distasteful display of incivility? I waved at them like an idiot and continued to wave (with a giant, completely over-the-top grin on my face) for the next three or four minutes. I have no idea if they saw me. I don’t really care. Actually, I do care. My secret hope is that they saw me and realized what they had done and when they got to work, felt so bad about how they treated another human being that they curled up in the corner of their cubicle and cried themselves to sleep. No big deal – just total and abject shame and guilt.

Moral of this story: Be nice to other people when you are on the road. Or, in the words of the famous fictional rock band, Wyld Stallyns, “Be excellent to each other.”  Bill and Ted believed it. Jesus did too. Driving would be less stressful and the roads would be safer if we just listened to Bill, Ted, and Jesus.




Schick Introduces Powerful New Razor – “The Nuke”

In the weapons race that is the world of razors and cutting-edge shaving technology, an industry veteran has thrown down the gauntlet. Where other shaving supply companies are satisfied with 5, 6, or even 7 bladed razors, Schick has unveiled their newest creation – “The Nuke*” – a 37 blade razor that will literally destroy every hair follicle it touches.

“When we looked at the market and what our consumers are really wanting, we quickly realized that just upping the ante a little was going to get us nowhere. We had to “drop a bomb”, pun fully intended.”

Director of Product Design, Natalie O’Harra, further explains the process, “We asked ourselves a few fundamental questions. First, ‘What is better than seven blades?” Second, ‘Can we invent a razor that will make shaving a more comprehensive, robust, and effective activity?’ We firmly believe that “The Nuke” is the answer to those questions.

“The Nuke” is armed with 37 stainless steel blades, each sharpened to an edge that is capable of slicing through a shoe. But the secret weapon in “The Nuke’s” arsenal is the nuclear-powered burst of focused heat between each blade that sears the hair follicle to its root, rendering it dead and useless.

“Most men hate shaving” Ms. O’Harra adds, “They hate having to repeat this process over and over. “The Nuke” recognizes that aggravation and it makes it a thing of the past. Once you use “The Nuke” you will never need to shave again. Ever.”

Lofty goals for sure, but Schick is convinced that this is the best path forward for their company. The price tag is high since this is literally the last razor you will ever need to buy with a suggested retail price is $499.00. Is the efficacy and finality of this shave worth it to consumers? We’ll have to wait and see.

*Warning: The Nuke is a one-time use razor. Once you open the package, you have 10 minutes to complete your shave before the heated bursts render the razor a melted lump of char. DO NOT attempt to use it for longer than 10 minutes. DO NOT attempt to use it more than once as it will cause major damage to your skin, your ligaments, your bones, and your soul. Blindness will occur if The Nuke gets too close to your eyes. Avoid contact with any hair that you do not wish to permanently remove. Women should not use The Nuke as it will permanently sterilize anyone with XX chromosomes. Children should avoid all contact with The Nuke as they are weak and prone to bouts of unspeakable foolishness. Weak-willed men should avoid using The Nuke as its singular goal in life is to crush its enemies, see them driven before it, and to hear the lamentations of their women.




Ranting Ever On: The Five Edition

There are days when you just need to rant and rave about stuff. Moments when you need to get it off your chest. You know the drill. If there is something that is bothering you or getting under your skin, this is a safe space to vent. But keep a few things in mind. First, do your best to keep the object of your rant as illogical and pointless as possible. Nobody has time for a rant about something serious and important. Second, try to keep it short and sweet. Long rants wear out their welcome very quickly. Finally, be honest and transparent. Nothing is worse than a ranter ranting about something that doesn’t really bother them that much. It’s plain to everyone around that it is an empty rant, devoid of purpose and passion. Mean it or keep it to yourself.

In our ongoing effort to be helpful and generous, we here at REO have decided to give you, dear reader, a short collection of rants to help guide you in your future ranting. A primer, if you will. Here are five mini-rants about five different things that are deserving of the best we have to offer. We hope you will enjoy this Ranting Ever On, Friday Five style. And please, feel free to add your own rant in the comment section below.


How Pluto has been Dismissed As Not an Actual Planet

Back in grade school, we learned the acronym My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas to remember the planets. The truly awesome thing about this acronym is that we were getting nine pizzas. Nine! But now…now our innocence is lost. No more carefree hours of staring at that pizza planet in the sky (I don’t think we can actually see it, but we can imagine its there). Now It’s just My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine…  And that’s it. Nope, nothing, nada. But there is hope. In recent years there has been a movement afoot to include all of the dwarf planets with the regular planets. If this dream transpires it will be Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Cerus, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake, and Eris. I have seen a number of suggested acronyms if this does, in fact, become reality. Unfortunately, none of the suggestions I read have included pizza, which makes me think many people are missing the important point here. Let me suggest My Very Educated Mother Christine Just Served Us Nine Pizzas Having Mucho Everything. So I say its high time we take back our childhood. Let’s take matters into our hands and put that pizza back in the acronym as it so justly deserves. (Ben Plunkett)


Wendy’s “Fresh-Never-Frozen Beef”

Why does Wendy’s now advertise that their beef is fresh and NEVER FROZEN? It is in every commercial they do now. Freezing beef is now up there with being a Nazi as one of the worst sins you can commit in 21st century America. People freeze meat all the time. They buy giant deep freezers just so they can buy a lot of meat and freeze it.

Now Wendy’s has decided that it is horrible to freeze beef. WHAT IS NEXT, WHERE WILL THIS END!?!?!?! (Mike Lytle)


Why Does Carey Elwes Have to Be So Much Cooler Than Me?

Yeah, Carey, I get it. You got to be Westley in The Princess Bride, getting to kiss Robin Wright, hang out with Andre the Giant, have the greatest sword fight of modern times and make women all over the world fawn. And you got a turn as the Dread Pirate Roberts, as if being a pirate isn’t a lifelong fantasy of mine. Yeah, you got to actually be on the set with, run lines with, and act in the same scenes with George Costanza and other characters from Seinfeld once. No big deal. Not like I wouldn’t light myself on fire to have had that opportunity. You got to match wits with Shawn and Gus as the mesmerizing, out-of-the-park home run recurring villain Despereaux in Psych. You even got to prove that when your role is a lame character, like Jerry on Liar, Liar, that you still make it totally unforgettable and quotable! You have the perfect looks, the sublime accent and the filmography I would die for.

And yet all of that apparently isn’t enough, as you have now signed on for Season 3 of Stranger Things. Why do you do this to me, Carey Elwes? Why do you take my perfectly content life and make me yearn for more? (Gowdy Cannon)


Clipping My Fingernails

I hate clipping my nails. It’s boring. it’s tedious, and it seems like I am having to do it more often these days. My nails just won’t stop growing! Why do they have to grow so fast? I’ll admit, I would hate NOT having nails because then my fingers would look like little fleshy protrusions growing out of my hands, but all this nail clipping is just a complete headache. Sadly, there is no good answer here. No nails and I’m a mutant. Long nails and I’m a creep. So I have to clip them. Fine nails! I’ll clip you on a regular basis but don’t expect me to be happy about it! (Phill Lytle)


Internet Lists

Do you know what we need a lot fewer of on the internet? Lists. Some lists are cool, such as this fine websites weekly list of musings from various contributors. I have benefited greatly from sitting down in the morning and creating a daily to-do list But I think the internet has really gotten out of hand and we need to stop. Every time I turn around someone is publishing some inane list of something and they are usually way more than just a few items. “Twenty-five reasons why the number two is cooler than the number eight” or “99 reasons that 1999 was the best year ever!” or “22 reasons that Barb from Stranger Things is the greatest character in the history of fiction”. I haven’t always felt this way. I remember when they celebrated 100 years of film with the top 100 movies of all time. I enjoyed watching that because it was compiled from years of cinema and it made me want to watch some movies that I had never before thought of watching. Now, however, we are just using lists willy-nilly as if they are some magic device that makes our opinion more valid. Why do we like making lists and looking at the lists of others? Is it because we like ranking stuff and seeing if others agree with us even if the things we are ranking aren’t that important and/or really don’t require any sort of ranking? Are we not content to have a group of stuff that we like that isn’t broken down somehow? Do we have to catalog every single aspect of our life and share it with other people and then find ourselves arguing over the ways their list is different than ours? Maybe it annoys me so much because I’ve caught myself ten points deep into a 35 point list that I saw on the internet and realized that my life will not be improved by knowing all of the times that Hurley from Lost proved himself to be the smartest person on the island. Lists are not bad. Lists are fine if used in moderation. But can we please show a little restraint on our usage of lists.

I hope you will revisit the site next week when I publish my list of 19 reasons why I believe that The Walking Dead is all happening inside Jack from Lost’s head. (Jonathan Postlewaite)




BREAKING: Donald Trump Issues Comprehensive Apology

Washington D.C – In an impromptu moment of transparency, one that is without precedent in modern politics, President Trump spoke to the nation last night and issued the following apologies:

“I would like to apologize that my economic initiatives have produced record low unemployment for 14 states, and near record lows for many, many others. Not to mention how many new jobs were created in my first year in office. I feel terrible that so many more people are having to work for a living. I would further like to apologize that my racist policies have created the lowest unemployment rate for the African American and Hispanic communities in the history of our country. My bad. That’s on me folks. Also, it’s totally my fault that the stock market continues to break record after record in gains. If there was something I could do to slow it down to Obummer level numbers, I would. This I can tell you.”

The President continued with off-the-cuff frankness.

“I feel terrible that for the first time in decades, my administration has actually pressured North Korea enough to bring them to the table to discuss denuclearization. Personally, I would love to live in a world where we constantly had to worry about that little guy (Kim Jong Un) having nukes at his disposal, but you can’t have everything you want. Well, I can but I’m super rich. But most people can’t have everything. Because they are not rich like me.”

President Trump closed his address with a few more moments of candor and self-reflection.

“I’m really sorry about the tax cuts. It was a great idea because it would be letting so many people keep more of their money. But the results were not that great. Not that great. Your average middle-class family will only get about $1,000 to $2,000 of benefits from this tax cut. San Fran Nan (Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi) said that these cuts are like crumbs to most people. I am rich so I agree with her on that. Obviously. I was hoping it would be a lot more but people in this country make so little money they couldn’t get a bigger tax break. People just need to do a better job of being rich. It’s not that hard to be rich. Just inherit a lot of money. DONE! You know what I’m saying? Anyways, that’s all I have for today. I can make this promise though – I will continue to do everything I can, as long as it doesn’t interfere with my tweeting and golf, to make America great again. We’re getting there. We are winning right now but we will win even more in the future. Just so much winning we are all going to get tired of it.”




On Brotherhood, Inside Jokes and Built-In Best Friends For Life

Michael: What comes before anything? What have we always said is the most important thing?

George Michael: Breakfast.

Michael: Family.

George Michael: Family, right. I thought you meant of the things you eat.

 

Last Saturday night, as the clock struck 11:00 PM in Chicago, meaning it was midnight in South Carolina, I posted seemingly random lyrics of a 1990s Blackhawk song called “Postmarked Birmingham” to my brother Jeremy’s Facebook wall. The following morning, I texted him different lyrics from the same song. He was not confused by any of this, because it is sort of a tradition between us. The reason it wasn’t random is that the song, which is about a man who gets a letter from a woman who left him and he has no idea why she’s writing from Alabama, mentions the date April 22. So every year on that date, we share a childhood memory, a song we bonded over. And also of the CD that I desecrated by listening to before giving it to him as a Christmas gift. Which he will never let me live down.

I love inside jokes. I realize they are annoying if you’re on the outside so I try to keep them to a minimum in public. And while I share them with all sorts of people in my life, there is no doubt that the deepest versions I have are the ones that I share with those who were there every step of the way from the time I was old enough to have memories until the day I departed for college in Nashville: my four siblings.

Quite often when my brothers Jeremy, Ashley and I are texting, if two of us disagree about something, the third one will reply, “I’m with you fellas”. Because we have laughed together at O Brother Where Art Thou? several times together. (Sometimes there doesn’t have to be a disagreement and it just gets worked in the conversation anyway.) Similar are the phrases “Seven Bushes” and “No more questions” from My Cousin Vinny. And I’m pretty sure when each of us turned 33 years old, one of the other two was there to text, “Today…he is…33 years old!” from Three Amigos.

It’s not all TV and movies either. When we were very young, I once chased Jeremy through the house, angry at him. When we got to our bedroom he fell down so hard the whole house shook. He was completely still for a few seconds and I was terrified he was seriously hurt. Then he finally peeked at me and piped up, “I shook the whole house!” And I can still text him those words today and we laugh about it. On another occasion, Ashley and I were playing basketball with some friends and an older guy we knew, who was clearly out of shape, stepped on the court and said, “Let’s see if I can still get rim.” He clearly couldn’t and probably never could, which made the scene quite unintentionally funny. And so this quote has come up during basketball many times. And then there was the time in the 80s we were eating at our family’s favorite seafood buffet and another group got seated just after us. And one of the men boisterously and half-jokingly complained to the hostess, “We’re six miles from the buffet!” Except he said “buffet” the way it looks phonetically. That comes up every time we eat seafood even now.

My brother Tracy is ten years older than me and was in college by the time I was in third grade but we still share these moments. Over 20 years ago at the beach were staying in an oceanfront house. And an older lady was out sunbathing just in front, really close to us. As we stood there on the second-floor porch, Tracy dared me $5 to hit her with a tennis ball. I obviously declined. But later when the ball really did fall from the porch and I had to go down to get it, I threw it back up to Tracy and it hit the ledge of the porch, ricocheted back towards the ground and hit the woman, who for some reason got really mad about it. Tracy gave me the $5 and we still laugh about it in 2018.

My sister, Kim, is the only sister but we still have our inside jokes, too. Once, not long after she got married I was hanging out at her house. She needed some meat from her freezer, which was in a separate storage room off of the house. I went out to get it and there were wasps. Being terrified of them I reported back with no meat. Kim, who is also terrified of them, decided the situation called for desperate measures. We put on raincoats and hats and gloves–basically, we covered every part of our bodies–and armed ourselves with brooms and mops. And we successfully procured the meat. And Kim loves telling that story to this day.

Another time we were sharing a room at the National Free Will Baptist Convention with her husband Mark and their daughter Camille. Kim bought three 24-count bags of sugar donuts for the week. At the end of the week, they were all gone. Camille claimed to have eaten zero. Mark said he had about six. So that meant between Kim and I, we ate approximately 66 sugar donuts in four days. We agreed to assume we both ate 33 so no one had to take the blame for eating the most. And to this day, we can’t talk about sugar donuts without laughing.

All inside jokes are not funny, though. Some are extremely meaningful in a more serious way. A few years ago when I was home for Christmas, Jeremy introduced me to a song that was a “Stopped Me In My Tracks” song for him, as Phill wrote about for REO. He had me listen to it. And after hearing it, he and I made a vow that any time one of us hears “Colder Weather” by the Zac Brown Band, we will pray for the other one. We text each other that title every now and then to remind each other of our vow. Jeremy even eventually made the song his ring tone so he would pray for me often.

The picture from above is from the 2013 Outback Bowl when Jadaveon Clowney knocked the Michigan RB’s helmet off on a spectacular play that has been viewed millions of times on Youtube. The Gamecocks won the game on a Steve Spurrier drawn up and dialed up bomb with 11 second left. But neither of those plays were what made the day truly special. It was getting to share those moments with my brothers and my dad. I don’t remember it but after Clowney made the hit and forced the fumble, Ashley says that I said, “Who was that guy?!?” As if it was to say that it was so amazing I had to ask, even though I knew. Like responding to a superhero moment. It was a special time to relive over and over.

 

When I got married in 2015, Ashley gave one of the best men speeches and said our mother always told us when we were fighting as children that our siblings would be our best friends when we were adults. She was right. Boy, was she ever right. Because Kim, Tracy, Ashley and Jeremy absolutely know what I think of them. That no matter what happens, or how far from South Carolina I am, that, “I’m with you fellas”. They truly are my best friends for life.

 

 

 

 




Young Boy Boycotts Company That Makes Boys Cots.

San Francisco – Tristan Moore, 10 years old, has officially announced that he is launching a boycott. His target? Cots and Stuff, a company based out of Johnson City, Tennessee, that makes, among other things, portable sleeping devices. Young Tristan chose this cot making company for his boycott when he heard about the other boycotts happening all over the country.

Says Tristan, “I didn’t know what a boycott was so I asked my parents and they said I’m only 10 years old and shouldn’t be worried about boycotts. I was still confused about boycotts when I remembered that Mrs. Riding (Tristan’s 4th-grade teacher) always tell us to break words down into smaller parts so that is what I did. Boy Cotts. So I looked around on the internet and found a company that made cots for boys. So now I’m boycotting a cot company that makes cots for boys. That made about as much sense as anything else.”

If that makes little sense, you are not alone. We pressed young Tristan for a better explanation on the boycott.

“Um… I don’t know. There was that lady on TV that people were boycotting and then there was all that Starbucks stuff. It seems like people love to boycott stuff. I thought it sounded fun. But I still have no idea what a boycott does. Maybe someone that has boycotted can explain to me what a boycott is supposed to do. As far as I can tell it’s just a funny word that gets a lot of people angry or excited and then it doesn’t really do anything.”

Maybe Tristan understands boycotts better than he realizes.