Tony A. Smith

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Building Presidential Consensus

bill-clinton-envelope-letter-april-17-1993

bill-clinton-letter-april-17-1993

Twenty-four years ago I had written a few letters concerning some of the issues of the day to our new President at the time – Bill Clinton.  I actually received a letter back from him.  I guess he got tired of all of my letters.  It was kind of him to actually acknowledge my concerns.

His first few months of office were very busy after being inaugurated as the 42nd President of the United States on January 20, 1993 three months prior to the time I wrote my letter to him.

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On January 25, 1993 Bill Clinton announced that Hillary Clinton would lead the task force on National Health Care Reform.  The President hoped to reform the National Health Care system so that all Americans had health insurance. It would ensure what he called “Universal Coverage” which would hopefully control health care costs which were continuing to rise out of control.

On February 5, 1993 President Bill Clinton signed the Family Medical Leave Act that requires companies to provide workers with up to 3 months of unpaid leave for family and medical emergencies.

Then on January 26, 1993, six people were killed and more than one thousand suffered from injuries after a bomb was placed under the World Trade Center in New York City. This explosion marked the beginning of threats against the United States by both domestic and foreign terrorists.  Who could foretell the dark days ahead relating to terrorism?

April 19, 1993 the day my letter was postmarked – In Waco, Texas Federal Law officers under the orders of Attorney General – Janet Reno fought a 51 day stand-off with a religious cult led by David Koresh.  The battles resulted in terrible fires that destroyed the cults compound and killed 75 people.

Our country faces issues today, just like we did during Bill Clinton’s presidency 24 years ago. Although there are many things I did not agree with President Bill Clinton on, I can agree that we need to have a consensus to work together as a country and a people.  After all, we are all in it together and we need each other.

Love Triumphs

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“Meanwhile, I was in a place of clouds.  Big, puffy, pink-white ones that showed up sharply against the deep blue-black sky.  Higher than the clouds-immeasurably higher–flocks of transparent orbs, shimmering beings arced across the sky, leaving long streamer-like lines behind them.

Birds? Angels?  These words registered when I was writing down my recollections.  But neither of these words do justice to the beings themselves, which were quite simply different from anything I have known on this planet.  They were more advanced.  Higher.

A sound, huge and booming like a glorious chant, came down from above, and I wondered if winged beings were producing it.  Again thinking about it later, it occurred to me that the joy of these creatures, as they soared along, was such that they had to make this noise–that if the joy didn’t come out of them this way then they would simply not otherwise be able to contain it.  The sound was palpable and almost material, like a rain that you can feel on your skin but that doesn’t get you wet.

Seeing and hearing were not separate in this place where I now was.  I could hear the visual beauty of the silvery bodies of those scintillating beings above, and I could see the surging joyful perfection of what they sang.  It seemed that you could not look at or listen to anything in this world without becoming a part of it–without joining with it in some mysterious way.

Again from my present perspective, I would suggest that you couldn’t look at anything at that world at all, for the world at itself implies a separation that did not exist there.  Everything was distinct, yet everything was also a part of everything else, like the rich and intermingled designs on a Persian carpet……or a butterfly’s wing……….. A warm wind blew through, like the kind that spring up on the most perfect summer days, tossing the leaves of the trees and flowing past like heavenly water.  A divine breeze.  It changed everything, shifting the world around me into an even higher octave, a higher vibration.

Through the Orb, Om (GOD) told me that there is not one universe but many–in fact, more than I could conceive–but that love lay at the center of them all.  Evil was present in all the other universes as well, but only in the tiniest trace amounts.  Evil was necessary because without it free will was impossible, and without free will there could be no growth–no forward movement, no chance for us to become what GOD longed for us to be.  Horrible and all-powerful as evil sometimes seemed to be in a world like ours, in the larger picture love was overwhelmingly dominant, and it would ultimately be triumphant.”

Thousands of people have had near-death experiences, but scientists have argued that they are impossible.  Dr. Eben Alexander was one of those scientists.  A highly trained neurosurgeon, Alexander knew that NDEs feel real, but are simply fantasies produced by brains under extreme stress.  

Then Dr. Alexander’s own brain was attacked by a rare illness.  The part of the brain that controls thoughts and emotion–and in essence makes us human–shut down completely.  For seven days he lay in a coma.  Then, as his doctors considered stopping treatment, Alexander’s eyes popped open.  He had come back.

Alexander’s recovery is a medical miracle.  But the real miracle of his story lies elsewhere.  While his body lay in a coma, Alexander journeyed beyond this world and encountered an angelic being who guided him into the deepest realms of super-physical existence.  There he met, and spoke with the Divine source of the universe itself.”

I am currently in the process of reading this remarkable book called “Proof of Heaven” by Dr. Eben Alexander.  This is an outstanding book written by one of those previously doubting skeptics that has to have everything proven by scientific facts.  If you have never read this book, I would certainly recommend it.  You will never be the same after reading this one.  The statement that evil is necessary kind of threw me a bit… I suppose we would all just be robots in life if we were not allowed choices by an all-knowing, all-powerful GOD. And GOD knew that if we did choose evil instead of good that he still loved us and would forgive us.. But he wanted us to want him, to want to come back to him, to turn from the evil choices of this world, and to follow him.  Love is stronger than any amount of evil that can be thrown at us by the little god (Satan) who controls the world we live in for now.  If you get a chance to read this book, let me know what you think.

Have you ever known anyone that has had a similar near death experience.  I haven’t but my sister used to go to church in Pasadena, Texas with Don Piper (her Sunday school teacher) who wrote “90 Minutes in Heaven”, and who died in a car accident and came back to tell the story of his own encounter with heaven.

There is an unseen dimension, an unseen world that is as close as the breath we breathe.  A world more real than the physical world that we can see with our eyes. A spiritual battle rages on day in and day out, and we will not know how many times we have been saved from terrible accidents by our own guardian angels until we get to the other side of heaven. I have had personal experiences with angelic beings myself which I have written about in some previous blog posts.  On this side of heaven, our prayers and our words are ever powerful. We can choose to speak words of evil or of love. Remember to pray always for your family and friends for protection from the evil forces of this world that fight against us, and let love win out in the end!

Lawnmowers

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Kids say the funniest things sometimes and most of the time they just say what comes to their mind.  Especially young kids.  Sometimes they say things that make you fall over laughing.

One time while I was visiting my mom in Texas, I took my little four-year old nephew Zach for a walk to the park which was just across the street from mom’s house.  It was early in the summer and a beautiful day to go for a walk and play on the slides and swings together.  The humidity in south Texas can be brutal in the summer but on this day, it was near perfect.

I was holding his hand as we walked and I bent over to tie a shoelace that had come undone.  When I did, he must have seen the top of my head that didn’t have much hair on top at the time.  He glanced at my head which was pretty much in his face, and said “It looks like the lawnmower got the top of your head.”  I almost fell over in the street from laughing so hard.  I guess he was right though.  My head had certainly been mowed down to the nub.  There wasn’t much grass on the top, and there still really isn’t much to speak of now.  Someone said you can use coconut oil tablets to make it grow back, but I’m not so sure it will work.

Kids just say what comes to mind and they really don’t mean anything by it.  I will never forget that day we walked to the park and found out that the lawnmower went off track and got the top of my head!

A Place Called There

A Place Called There

Half A Bubble

Level

My step-dad had his own construction company in the southeast Texas area for many years building forms for houses, installing post-tension steel cables for the slabs, and doing miscellaneous carpentry work.  I had the good fortune of working in the summer with him starting at the age of fourteen.  It was hot, brutal, and sometimes dirty greasy work.  Even with all of the negatives I really enjoyed making my own money and working for him over those summer months.

One summer when I was sixteen years old Dad gave me some work to do on my own.  He actually contracted with me to build a total of 10 – 12 x 14 patio forms for several homes in a residential development we were working on in Pasadena, Texas.  I was going to make some good money at a flat rate of ten dollars per patio.  I had built several patio forms before and one of the primary rules was to make sure that the water drained good once the slab was poured.  To accomplish that we dropped the wood form down on one side by placing a level on top and lowering it just a bit on one edge with the level on top to half a bubble.  That would ensure the water drained properly and that the homeowners didn’t have to go out after every rain and sweep the rain off the patio before they could use it.

I scrapped around trying to find enough 2″ x 4″ lumber on the site that weekend to build all of the forms for the patios I needed to and finally came up with enough to accomplish the task.  I worked hard and was real proud of being able to build all 10 patio forms in one long day.  Dad paid me the money in one big check and was I ever excited to have that much money at one time.  When I went back to school two months later, the construction superintendent for the subdivision mentioned to Dad that there were 10 patios that ended up being perfectly level and all were holding water.  Guess what?  Those patios were all of the ones that I had built!  I had forgotten to drop the patio forms the half a bubble which was a very important part.  I am not sure why I did it or how I forgot.  Maybe I was too busy dreaming of what I was going to do with all of that money.

That’s how it is in life too when we forget about GOD’s words and his ways that are best for us.  When we forget him and his words, then our lives tend to be in a state of constant uncertainty and turmoil.  We end up having to constantly sweep the water off the back patio after a rain.

“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shall meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do all that is written therein.  For then thou shalt make thy way prosperous and then thou shalt have good success.”

Joshua 1:8 KJV

Ringling Days

Ringling Oklahoma Mural

A week ago I had to travel to Ringling, Oklahoma to attend the funeral of my great-aunt.  She was married to my uncle for more than fifty years and lived in Ringling most of her life.  I have many family members that still live either in Ringling or little towns nearby.

John Ringling

Ringling is a small town with a population at last count of 1037.  The main industry in Ringling is cattle ranching with the secondary industry being gas and oil.  Ringling was named after John Ringling who was the founder of Ringling Brothers Circus.  John was one of seven Ringling brothers and was the fifth of the seven sons.  Five of the brothers eventually merged with Barnum & Bailey Circus.  Ringling Brothers Circus first started in 1870 and the first show cost the grand total of one penny for a ticket.  Ringling Brothers spent some of the winter months in the town of Ringling and often gave away free tickets to the townspeople.

 

Ringling Oklahoma Moore Drug

Probably one of the biggest places to hang out in Ringling is Moore Drug.  There just isn’t a lot to do in the small town of Ringling.  My mom said that back in the day when she was a little girl that she and her relatives used to come to town and just hang on the street to visit with each other – just to have something to do.

Ringling Oklahoma street scene

Ringling is located about thirty miles north of the Texas border and thirty miles to the west of Ardmore, Oklahoma.  It is situated just to the north of US Highway 70 and State Highway 89.

 

Ringling Oklahoma Water Tower

Ringling does have a pretty good football team with state champion teams in 89, 92, 03, and 2012.  I suppose football gives the locals something to cheer about on those lonesome Friday nights when you want to get away from those oil derricks and cattle farms.

I had an opportunity while I was in Ringling to visit with some family members who I had not seen in more than forty years.  A lot can change in forty years.  I was able to spend some time with some of my cousins prior to the funeral and to just generally catch up on life.  One of my cousins asked me if I had a family and what I had been doing with my life.  I told her what I was doing career wise and a little about my family who she had never seen or met.  I asked her about hers.  It really made me stop and think about life, as funerals do sometimes.  We step out of our day-to-day routines and look not at life in the present, but at the conclusion, or the summation.  The preacher tries to say all the good things about a person’s life during a memorial service, where they’ve lived, how many children they had, grand-children, and great-grand children.  Maybe they say something about where they worked or the things they liked to do for hobbies, or what church they attended.  They might even try to get those in attendance to laugh by saying something funny about you.

I wonder how it will be at the end of it all for me?  I don’t mean what the pastor will say or what other’s will say about what I did in my life.  Sure that would be kind of fun to attend my own funeral just to see what happens – like Mark Twain wrote of Tom Sawyer in “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”.

What I really want to know is, what GOD will say about me at the end of it all.  Did I do the things he wanted me to do in life while I was living in the body he gave to me?  What did I do in relationship to what I knew to be right or wrong in life?  Did I do his will?  Could I have done more? Could I have served him more?  What about you?

 

 

Trilemma Decisions

Where is my wallet?

Where is my wallet?

Are you one of those people who are constantly forgetting where you put your keys?  Or, are you one of those people who tend to lock your keys in the car from time to time?  I have to admit that I am the latter. There has been more than one time that I have mistakenly locked my keys in the car.  I don’t know if I just get in too big of a hurry or what.

When my daughter was still in diapers I had taken her to the community mail box to pick up mail with me one hot summer day when we were living in Sugar Land, Texas.  It had to be at least 99 degrees that day with the temperatures rising in the late afternoon. I pulled up to the pedestal mail box with my little one year old daughter sitting next to me with nothing but a diaper and a big smile on.  You know the type of mail box I am talking about! The ones that are all congested together for the entire neighborhood, where you have to try to remember which mail box is yours and hope you can find the right key on your key chain to open the dad gummed thing with.  I unwrapped the little munchkin from her car seat, shut the car door with the car still running, hoisted her to my shoulders and then shut the door behind me.  I did not want to shut the air conditioning off since in the blazing heat and humidity we would return to a closed in box from the lower depths of molten earth.  The little rascal grabbed a few crops on the top of my hair like someone would do to a horses mane and we were off to the our mail box  just a few feet from the car.

I fumbled for a few minutes with one hand holding my daughter and the other in my right pocket trying to find that little mail box key that would fit.  After a few seconds I found the key, opened the mail box and headed back to the car with Val playing patty cake on top of my head.  When I went back to the car I realized that I had locked the car keys in the car with the car running.  I did not know what to do outside of trying to break the glass or try one of those coat hanger tricks to unlatch the lock which was near impossible to do in the car I was driving at the time.  It was then I  placed my little diapered daughter on top of the pedestal mail box and contemplated in frustration how I was going to get out of this little jam.  Fortunately, one of my neighbors across the street had seen what occurred and had some kind of a special device for GM cars that quickly unlatched the door. Boy, was I ever glad he was nearby that day.  I am not quite sure what I might have done next, outside of finding a rock to throw thorough the glass.

Are you one of those people who can’t seem to keep track of your purse or wallet?  Please don’t ever give me a wallet to try to hold on to for you.  I have lost track of how many times I have lost my wallet in my lifetime.  I have lost my wallet in McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken,  Olive Garden, and several other locations.  I have only had to go to the police station one time to pick it up, and of all the times I have always gotten it back. Someone has always returned my wallet, and there has been only one time that they took all of the money out of it before turning it in.  I have finally solved my issues by never carrying it with me in my back pocket. I always place it in my jacket or coat and am constantly checking it to make sure it is in the pocket.  I know the feeling of losing your wallet and I don’t want to go back to that place again in my life if I don’t have to.  I carry everything in my wallet; driver’s license, credit cards, money, pictures of my family, health insurance card, and a whole lot more that I certainly can not afford to lose.  I don’t want to spend the time trying to replace everything in my wallet along with my possible identity if someone chooses to be such a vicious thief.

So here is the trilemma if you want to call it that.  “You find a wallet laying in a field one day as you are going for a walk near your house.  The wallet is loaded with 100 dollar bills, there is a Visa and American Express Card inside. There is a driver’s license with an address so you know the name of the person who owns the wallet, and there are several pictures of family members inside along with a voter’s identification card.  No one is around when you bend over to pick up the wallet.  You have been out of work for 3 years and you could sure use some of this money to pay your bills.  The electric company has threatened to turn off your electricity in the next few days if you don’t come up with the money to pay the past due amount.  You have no food in your fridge and your cupboards are bare.  You have even thought about eating the crab grass and dandelions in your front yard you are so hungry.”

So the question is – “What would you do?”  Would you take a few hundred dollars before turning in the wallet to pay your bill to keep the lights on and maybe buy yourself something to eat?  Who is going to know if you took the money out of the wallet or not?  If you turn the wallet it, at least you have done something that is good even though it might be bad to take the money for your own use.

Is it better to just let it lay on the ground to let someone else deal with the situation?  Should you take some money for your own use before turning it over to the owner?  Should you give everything back to the owner intact and remove nothing.  What do you think?  What would you do?

BONDING YOUR WORDS

250px-JPMorganChaseTower

 

Some people call this building the “keyhole building” since it has a six story opening near the top that kind of looks like a keyhole. This is actually a 55 story tower located in Dallas, Texas know as the JP Morgan Chase Tower. It is 738 feet tall and was developed by Trammell Crow Company in 1987.

At one time Trammell Crow Company was the largest private developer in the nation.  Trammell Crow was responsible for the development of the five million square foot Dallas Market Center, Ebarcadero Center in San Francisco, and the Chase Tower in Dallas. I had the good fortune of working for Mr. Crow in Houston as a Construction Manager back in the 1980’s. Trammell Crow Company in Houston was responsible for developing more than twenty million square feet of buildings.

The very first building that Trammell Crow developed was a warehouse in 1948. Trammell leased the majority of the building to Ray-O-Vac Battery Company and the remainder to Decca Records. At a company meeting one year in Dallas, Trammell conveyed the story of his first building and the relationship he had with his general contractor.

When I built my first building in Dallas I didn’t have any plans to speak of.  All I did was draw on the back of an envelope the dimensions and shape of the warehouse building that I wanted my contractor to build. I paced it off in the field that day and marked where I thought each corner should go on the lot.  After that we agreed on a price. We looked each other in the eyes and shook hands. We had no paper contracts.  Our handshake was our contract and our word was our bond.  The construction went remarkably well. Could you do that today?  The answer is most likely not since we live in such a litigious society now.  Everyone is trying to take advantage of each other and are more interested in their own interests.  The contracting business is a hard business and I believe we should pay a fair price for what they do.”

As you can see things were a bit different back in 1948.  Honoring your word is still the best bond we could ever hope to have.  I suppose though that we have drifted so far in society that we need lawyers to keep us in check when our handshakes don’t.