Two Different Men – One Common Theme

Being born into a very large family is a blessing but it’s hard at the same time. Having parents with many friends who love you like family is also a blessing but it’s also hard. It’s hard having to say goodbye and tomorrow, we will say goodbye to two men who mean the world to me.

Just about every memory I have has my Uncle Clark and Walter Johnson in it. These two different men, always treated me the same. Joking, laughing, loving and at times, correcting. 

Uncle Clark – Thanks A Million

Clark E. Wooldridge, had a way with me. I don’t know what it was but he could always make me smile and I especially liked getting to talk to him about many things. My earliest childhood memory of Uncle Clark came in Las Vegas, NM at the Hillcrest Inn Restaurant.

We were on our way to the mountains and I ordered french toast. (That was my favorite as a kid) When the french toast came, Uncle Clark told me not to eat it. It had powdery white stuff on it and he told me it was maggots. You can’t believe what that will do to a little kid. I not only freaked out and didn’t eat it then; I didn’t eat french toast with powdered sugar on it until well into my teenage years! That’s the kind of stuff Uncle Clark and I got to laugh about.

Uncle Clark was a great husband to my Aunt Barbara, a loving and correcting father to Ted, Tracey and Christy and a wonderful grandfather for his grandkids to look up to. He proudly served our country in World War II while in the Navy and loved being on the water. I can remember times at the lake in his sailboat and I always wanted to sail the ocean with him. What a time he’s having today sailing in heaven!

Uncle Clark also loved taking pictures and has quite a library of our family history in pictures. He and Aunt Barbara have so very greatly photographed our family and it has allowed us all to look back at easier times, harder times and loving times. Thanks for that Uncle Clark, you and Aunt Barbara have captured our family history forever.

You will never know how much you meant to me and those Yankee Dimes you and Elisabeth shared are still with her. As we told her of your passing, she, like all of us, was very sad. Elisabeth thought of you as more than an uncle. She and Garrett looked to you as a grandfather and someone who loved them very much. 

I will never forget our times together. Your pictures are here forever but more importantly, the lessons you taught us are with us forever. You’re already missed but we know you’re in peace. Thanks for everything and never forget we love you!

Walter Johnson – What A Damn Mess!

I was introduced to Walter Johnson as a very young boy and I was terrified of him. He was tall and had a deep voice that carried for miles. It frightened me and to tell you the truth, there was no reason for me to fear this gentle giant!

My earliest memory of Walter happened at Camp RYLA in Summerlife, NM. As we were leaving RYLA, Walter asked me what I had in my grasp. I had been given a ping-pong ball, I know, no big deal to you but a very big deal to me, by one of the campers. Walter took the ball from my grasp and put it in his mouth. Once again, I freaked out and as he gave me back a squished ball, he said, you’ll never forget this Denny. Well, as you can see, I didn’t forget it.

Walter was a jokester to all and always had a new story, new song to play on his harmonica or some sort of life lesson to leave with you. Walter was a sportsman and it still amazes me as to what he did in his life. He talked to everyone crudely and had a nickname for everyone. He called my dad Mudd, my wife, well, I won’t say and me, the ultimate rug rat!

He loved being around all people and it seems as everyone in the world knew Walter. He taught me life lessons and showed me enough love every time I saw him to leave my heart full. From frightful times like my dad breaking his neck and Walter driving 90 to nothing around the New Mexico mountains and just being there for my mom at times of need, we are forever thankful.

We will miss our friend but know he’s playing jokes up in heaven and walking from mountaintop to mountaintop he never got to walk here on earth.

Tomorrow will be hard as we say goodbye forever and celebrate the lives of these two different men. But my heart is full because these two men had a common theme in my life. Love, Love, Love. That’s all these men had and that’s all they leave with us.

Thanks Uncle Clark and Walter. This world has been forever changed by your lives and so I am. I love you both and can’t wait for our reunion!

I love you all!!

More than an Uncle

Over the past week, I’ve had a chance to sit and think about someone who’s really been on my heart. His name is Wayne Rivers, better known as Uncle Wayne to me. I have cried, laughed, pondered but mostly just thought about the great times we had with him and what he means to our family.

Uncle Wayne has always been larger than life to me, well, mainly because he’s a rather large man. But one thing that’s always been great to see is that while he is a large man, his heart has always surpassed his frame in size. I’ve remembered back this week to family reunions at Thompson Park, birthdays, times at lake Fryre, Thanksgiving and Christmas. To me, Uncle Wayne has been more than an uncle.

From as far back as I remember, Uncle Wayne has been the guy who has given me a hard time about stuff but always said he loved me when I left. He’s always been the loud, large uncle who may have yelled at me for doing wrong but the first to give me a hug after explaining to me why he was so upset. Uncle Wayne was the first to give each of my kids a taste of coke and you know what, I didn’t mind because it was his way of showing the kids they could come to him for what we wouldn’t give them. He’s the type of family member you wish everyone had and then when I sit and think, he’s my uncle, you thank God for him.

As much as he means to me as an uncle, he’s always been much more than an uncle. He’s a son, brother, husband, father, grandad, uncle, friend and just full of God’s love for everyone to see. God has definitely used you Uncle Wayne and our family is so much better off for it. Upon the death of Grandad, you filled in so gracefully as the patriarch and you have done an amazing job in Grandad’s shoes.

You and Aunt Eveline together raised 3 amazing children and poured your love and knowledge into 7 amazing grandkids. You have touched so many’s hearts in our family and in this community. Our family and community will be forever touched with your generosity and love.

We will never have another Uncle who will give the “Wayne Balance Test” to our kids when they are just a few months old. Your time on earth may be short now but your memory will last forever. You have done the job God had for you and from my point of view, you did it well. Thanks for everything and know you are loved and your memory will live on in our hearts and minds. I love you Uncle Wayne!

Love you all!!

Worth Every Tear

From as far back as I can remember, I have cried. I came into this world crying, somehow showing the doctors I was normal, and I’ve cried for many reasons throughout my life. Tears are proof that we do have emotions and we need  to release our emotions somehow. Tears are cleansing and come out for a variety of reasons.

I can remember the tears of sadness and pain when I learned of my dad losing his job at the bank and again when he got injured at work. Then after finding out he would never walk again, more tears. I cried when losing people in my early life like Uncle Bob, Bart Flenniken (my best friend), Scott Greever and Casey Angel. And more recently losing 3 friends in their thirties to cancer like Andrea Dobbs.

But I’ve also experienced tears of anger. Like when I was so angry because I had screwed up a relationship or when I was so angry at a friend for breaking my heart. Tears of anger on September 11, 2001 because of what was happening and also tears of worry on that day because I knew my brother could be in the Pentagon and I couldn’t reach him. 

Tears of confusion and frustration over job, church and family issues and just not knowing where to turn or how much worse things could get. But finding out in the long run that it was always God’s plan and getting to see the growth that came from it.

I’ve also experienced tears of joy in my life. When Christy said yes to going out on a first date, then more tears when she said yes to a second date, even though I had forgotten her name on our first date. Joyful tears when she said yes to marry me and on our wedding night. Again when we found out we had a baby on the way and tears of worry when I found out our first would be a girl. Tears of excitement when we found out we had a second baby on the way and tears of a proud dad when I realized I would have a prince to go along with my already perfect princess. More tears of happiness and worry when I realized they would be looking at me every step of their life as to what to do and what not to do. I hope I’ve not let them down and I pray that I never do.

As I sit back and think, I realize that God intended us to have tears for cleansing and release. I’ve learned it’s okay to just let the flood gates open on my emotions because without them being open, I have a tendency to get down and be depressed. I’ve also realized that with every tear, there’s growth. No matter how happy or sad, when I look back at every tear, I see a lesson learned. I see the things my dad was able to teach me while not being able to walk. I learned from my Uncle Bob that the bonds of brotherhood are meant to be solid no matter what and that you can show someone love just by squeezing their hands while in a coma. I’ve also learned that no matter what age, you’re going to lose friends and family and it’s all in God’s plan. I’ve also learned that tears of joy are just as releasing as tears of worry, pain or sadness.

But through every tear, I’ve found that if you could bottle every tear from either pain, sadness, worry or joy, you would have one heck of a story to share. Don’t be afraid to share your story. I have many more tears to come for a variety of reasons and know my tears over the years have been worth it. I pray that you also see your tears as worth every tear.

I love you all!

From Individuals to a Family – My LAC experience

September 2008 kicked off a 9 monthprocess that would challenge everything I knew and begin a change in the way I looked at my community. Those few hours I spent with a new group of people at CetaCanyon left me wondering what was this all going to be about? Was I here for networking, learning, sharing or just because I wanted a day off work each month to hang around some new people? Well, what I would find out in the next few months is that I was there for so much more than anything I could have imagined.

Our time together actually started off at Gray’s Studio on 6th Street in August. A meet and greet event so we could mingle, eat, drink and listen to our guest speaker. It was also a time where we could get our feel for this class and see what the heck this was all going to be about. I was excited about this but really couldn’t tell you why. I just knew I was supposed to be there at this time and really wanted God to show me what He had for me.

As our opening retreat got closer and closer, I started to get anxious about all of this. As many of you know, when I get anxious, I start asking questions and thinking about everything. I also like retreats because it takes me back to my childhood I guess. But being in a retreat atmosphere is great and I was just ready!

I was still wondering how this would turn out and why I was so anxious but as I arrived at Ceta Canyon, my anxiety turned to excitement. The only thing I didn’t was a snoring person in my room! Our first few minutes together was great because like in any new place, people were allowed to hide behind a light breakfast and a coffee cup or juice glass. This little “ice breaker” time allows people to get a feel for the retreat and to me, it’s the best part. Looking around the room at everyone, you can get a feel for who is ready for the weekend and who is ready to get out and run away.

But as the morning turned to afternoon and then to evening, I started seeing this whole experience in a whole new light. I knew at that point, this group was going to be special to me. After a few bumps and bruises, the opening retreat ended and we all went our own way. But over the next few months, something bigger than any of us was going to take place and it was going to be a change in our hearts and minds that would transform us forever.

Over the next few months, we found out what it was like to be a member of the House of Representatives, from election to re-election. We got to hear from Secret Service agents, FBI agents, Congressman Thornberry and have an Amarillo Police Department ride a long. We got to be broke, I mean dead broke and lose everything. We toured the prison and gained a whole new respect for the men and women guards who work there. We learned that walking behind a horse won’t make him kick and neither will pulling his tail. As a matter of fact, we learned that you have to treat some people like that horse; pull it’s tail just enough to get it’s attention and eventually, he will go where you want him to go. We learned most of us couldn’t build a home out of paper and tape if we had to. We also learned more about each other on a culture walk. When you are asked about gay marriage, religion, music and politics and have to be honest about where you stand, it’s hard and it hurts at times. We learned that the teenagers in this town are amazing and just want our support in everything they do. We learned that white people are colorful, not black people and that no matter where you come from, we all have some prejudice in us. We learned more about this city and the businesses in it. From Boys Ranch to Bell Helicopter and every place in between. This city is great and it just needs us to support it any way we can.

But through everything, we learned about each other and how if we come together through the building of relationships, we can accomplish anything. I am very glad for the opportunity I had in Leadership Amarillo & Canyon and I appreciate everyone who made it possible. Sharon, Liz, the LAC board, many volunteers and especially my mother in law, Susan Wenger.

People look at what they think life is too seriously and don’t look at what is seriously needs to be done in life. We have to come together for the betterment our community.I am better for what I’ve been through the past few months and it makes me smile when I think back on our time together.

From Gail’s first bruise to her last, we grew together. First out of necessity, then out of a common goal and finally in friendly love for each other, even though we only saw each other a few hours a month. We came to our opening retreat at CetaCanyon as individuals and left our closing banquet at AQHA as a family.

So, my question is, why can’t this be done on a daily basis? I believe if we put all our differences in work, schools, religion, church homes and culture to the side and build each other up for the common good, Amarillo and Canyon would be a much better place that would change Texas, then the entire nation and then finally, the entire world. Give it a chance people and remember we are all in this community together so let’s get to work to build up our community, not tear it down.

That’s what I learned in LAC over the past few months. If you are interested in knowing more, please feel free to contact me or visit: www.leadershipamarillo.org.

I love you all!

It’s America!

Driving is a huge part of my job as many of you kn0w. It gives me time to think, listen to talk radio and find new songs on the radio. Well there is a song that as I listen to it driving across the Texas Panhandle, I can’t help but be proud of where I’m from.

I think the Texas Panhandle is truly entrenched in what America stands for. There are many places like this across the country but since I’ve never left our region to live elsewhere, I can and will only talk about our area. I have found that no matter what, people genuinely care about other people and will at the drop of a hat, give them what they need. Kids still play in the front yards, baseball fields and football fields at the schools like I did. You can always find a number of lemonade stands all across the Panhandle during the summer. Staffed by kids for their summer fun and a way for moms to get a break from them!! The Texas Panhandle also has some of the coolest buildings you’d ever see and each building has a history that’s amazing. Our area of the country may not be the prettiest but I can guarantee there’s no weather that will keep you guessing more than here. Our so called desolate land produces many crops for the rest of the country and it allows us to produce about 40% of the country’s beef. Without us, people might actually starve.

But with that, let’s talk about America. America was started as a place of refuge. A place where people could come and worship their God freely or not worship any God. It was a place with peopel who offened Great Britian and I don’t see why that was a bad thing then or now.

The founders of this great nation spent many years working on building something that made sense to them and in the true essence, their ideas make total sense to me. I think they did a great job and we should look back to then to see how it was done and follow what they did. Let’s not reinvent the wheel people, it works just fine. It took perservance and the knowledge to build this great nation. It also took courage because they knew if they were caught going agaisnt the King, they would be hanged for treason. Now that’s patriotic.

What started as a few people wanting freedom has been built into the greatest place on earth to live. I’ve never been jailed for sharing my convictions and I only pray this continues. I think to really see the true essence of America, we have to read the words of the great men who started this country. The following is Preamable to the Constitution of the United States of Amercia:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The next thing I think we should all read again is the beginning of the Declaration of Independence:

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. –Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

These words are the most important words that were penned by anyone in this country. Remember, it was written by many type of people, from teachers to doctors and farmers to lawyers. But remember also, it was NOT written by politicians! It allowed us the freedom to choose our political leaders but gave the power to the people through the vote. It allows our kids to run freely, sell lemonade and for us to work where we please. It allows us the freedom to disagree and offend others but not harm each other. But the problem I see here is that too many Americans have forgotten this. Forgotten we the people run this country, not they the government.

Yes, I’m proud of my country. And this is not something that is new to me, like it is for others. I still believe in the American dream and what America has stood for over the years. I believe in the vision that many brave men and women had to build this great nation. And if we are not careful, it’s cowardly people who will tear it apart.

America is not the enemy of the world. In all it’s beatuy from coast to coast and every person who has lived in America, America is one of the helpers of the world. All we want is a much better place for everyone, if they want it.  God has blessed this country and we have allow Him to get pushed out of it. I know most Americans want our country to continue to flourish but we have to be ready to stand up and say we are proud of her.

It’s America by Rodney Atkins is the song that inspired this writing and I think it’s time we stand up and say it’s not only America but say, it’s our America. We’re not Democrats, Republicans or Independents. We are Americans. Be proud if you will and allow the following generations be as proud of America as you are. Be blessed everyone!!

I love you all!!

Recession, Depression & Baseball

Recession, depression, the economy, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, elections, credit crisis.  These are all words we have heard in the news within the past few months. Yes, there have been many things said but none more than those words above. I don’t know about all of you but I’m a bit tired of them all.

I’m smart enough to know we are in a recession and many are depressed about it but I’m also smart enough to know that we can’t just sit around and dwell on it. The other day, I finally had something pop into my head about how to handle all of this while playing catch with Garrett and it made total sense to me.

Over the years, this country has gone through recessions, 1 great depression, 2 world wars, many other wars, 9/11 and other major things in our country’s history. But through all of this, I notice one thing is very constant. Baseball. Yes, baseball.

Baseball has been played for what seems like forever in this country and this is where America seems to turn when things get bad or depressing. Yes, baseball has it’s problems but so do other sports. Growing up in a home where football was king, I’m not sure how I fell in love with baseball. I have always loved playing the game and I think it’s the hardest sport to understand. But it’s the one sport anyone can play. For many years, baseball has been played on sandlots, streets and just wherever you can throw, hit and run around homemade bases.

Baseball is the American past-time and I only hope people can get back to baseball in life. I think people should look at their day to day life like baseball. It takes strategy and you have to have enough determination to take the chance to be great. Nobody ever got great by looking at only their present. But by taking a look down the lineup to see who’s left to hit and pitch. You build strategy for the next inning and for the next inning. And if you’re lucky enough, you can set yourself up good for the next game. Baseball and life both take team efforts to put together a winning franchise. Baseball is the one sport where one person can’t make all the difference. It takes everyone going in the same direction to get to the final goal we all share.

In one of my favorite movies, Field of Dreams, James Earl Jones says it best. “The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh… people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.”

Baseball is a HUGE part of my past and I hope to pass this along to Elisabeth and Garrett. I know many people don’t get baseball, but in learning the game, you learn a ton about life and yourself. After playing a bit of catch with my five year old the other day, I realized that baseball can be the release to all of the recession and depression talk. Do yourself a favor and find a kid to play catch with. Throw until the pain of the day has gone to your arm. Don’t let anything stop you from doing this. Enjoy the upcoming baseball season as it marks the beginning of spring. A new beginning for trees, shrubs and just maybe, if you’re lucky enough to enjoy it, a new start for you!

Have a blessed season and please, if you get the chance, go to a park and watch kids play or go to a stadium to watch men play like boys. But all in all, do it to help change your outlook. No, baseball can’t save you from anything but it can release you from everything if you let it!!

I love you all!!

My Thoughts

Over the past few months, many people have asked me my thoughts on God, prayer in school, politics the middle east, the pledge and many other things. Well, here are a few thoughts. If you don’t agree good, it’s America and you don’t have to.

I am not a perfect person but I am a saved child of God and I love the fact that I have been forgiven, even though I don’t deserve it. But that does not give me the right to shove anything down anyone’s throat if they don’t want it. The Bible strictly states that we are to be sowers of seeds. We are not to tend to the garden, the people we share Jesus with, in any way. We are to sow the seeds and prepare for rain. Only God can call a person to Him and only He can transform a life if we accept Him. If we do anything else, we risk turning that person away from God for eternity. That’s not something I want on me when I am judged by God himself in eternity.

I do believe in the fact that the Constitution does grant the seperation of church and state but nowhere does it say we have to have a Godless government. I do not like the idea that prayer was removed from school the way it was but you know, the way I see it is that only we can totally remove prayer from the school. Nobody can stop us from praying for our children and teachers in school. I think it should be fine for a teacher to pray with their kids without any fear, if asked. I know you are supposed to be able to but trust me, lawyers have made this very uncomfortable for teachers to practice. The school should have no say in any religion but I believe both creation and evolution should be taught for the sake of teaching ALL ideas. Remember, creation takes in account for ANY God people believe in, it’s not just a Christian teaching.

As far as the pledge goes, I don’t care. Take Under God out, leave it in. It doesn’t matter to me. The way I see it is I don’t have to pledge to God anything while staring at a flag, I’ve already pledged my life to Him. I respect the flag and think it should be saluted in an honorable way but I will NEVER put a flag above God.

I don’t know what the future holds for America but I can tell by Biblical reading, it’s going to get interesting. We are not mentioned in Revelation so that tells me something right there. I do believe that there will be an Anti-Christ but I can tell you there’s no way it’s Obama. Obama is nothing more than a politician and I don’t like politicians. I thought John F. Kennedy and Ronald Regan were as good as it gets in the past 50 years and Lincoln was probably the best we ever had. But none of them are God.

I also believe the government can’t fix the economy. Only Americans working together for the greater good can do that. It happened once in America and if we would just allow ourselves to succeed, we could. We can’t buy our way out of the mess we put ourselves in and I don’t think the government has or will ever give me a job or fire me from one. And yes, this includes the President. One man can’t fix everything but he/she can get enough Americans thinking in the right direction to get this place fixed. The middle east, as stated in the Bible, won’t see peace whlie I am alive on earth but I know we have to be on the side of Isreal. But I know at some point we won’t be.

All I want to do is love God with all my heart and share what He as done for me. I will follow the laws of the USA because the Bible says to follow the laws of the land, that’s reverence unto God. I will pay my taxes, as I believe churches, businesses and people should do, becasue the Bible says to. I will respect the office of the President of the United States of America because damn it, it’s right. The office should be respected but the President should not be thought of as a Savior but as a man who is going to make mistakes as we all do. I do not have to agree with every decision made nor do I have to sit and gripe about it either. I have been given a brian and the ability to share what I believe without bashing others or showing disrespect to anyone. I think before talking, I research before stating and I stand on my beliefs. Something I wish more people did. But oh well. 

May God bless you and your family. And please remember that sharing God’s love isn’t shoving it down people’s throat, it’s living it out daily.

I love you all!!