Four Appeals to Christians Embracing Gay Marriage

Excellent article…


I was not particularly surprised by the Supreme Court’s decision last Friday. Nor do I feel alarmist about it. Some Christians are responding to it in doomsday tones, but to my mind that attitude is at odds with the basic tenor of the gospel. Panic and pessimism are out of order for a worldview anchored in belief in an omnipotent God, irresistible grace, and an eternal heaven.

On the other hand, how a society defines the institution of marriage is important. For me, it is too important to remain silent—particularly because so many Christians I know are joining in to celebrate the Court’s ruling. My Facebook news feed has been lit up over the last several days with two basic types of articles, coming from various different circles of friends that Esther and I have made over the years: some disappointed and basically asking “now what?”; others exultant and proclaiming…

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Into the Black Hills …

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Once again we’re travelling upward into them thar hills. The trip in was not bad. We selected US 16 and not 16a due to the number of squiggles on the map. Great call! IMG_5394The only grade we had been coming into Custer and it was a short one.

Now…following the advice of the locals, we took the Iron Mountain Road to get to Mt Rushmore. Sheila drove so I could look. Boy are we glad she did! She has a thing for heights and concentrating on the road helps her work through the sheer drops and climbs into the clouds.The roads were bearly two lane, very curvy and graded. In several areas they were repaving the road and we had to wait for escorts due to many large trucks coming the other way.

We had several one lane tunnels, 14 feet high by 12 feet high,


that at the end of one of them, the tunnel perfectly framed Mt Rushmore IMG_5336

and several corkscrew, over and under, wooden bridges IMG_5342that eventually got us to the national monument.

Wow! All that rough travel way well worth the effort. It was a glorious achievement in the 20s, 30s and 40s to carve a national treasure out of the sacred granite of the Black Hills.

.facebook_1433257627220To honor America and principals foremost to the founding of our nation, thousands of local men, tons of equipment and supplies and myriads of precision blasts of dynamite and the pounding of punishing jack hammers created the busts of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. An stupendous achievement even by today’s standards, and we ( and my new hat) were there! GOD bless America!

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More recently and locally (about 2 miles away) the Black Hills are once again being carved to create a tribute to Crazy Horse who led the Sioux nation to glory and struggled to keep them independent in the face of insurmountable odds.


A Journey begun … the road to Wall Drug and the Badlands


On the road again…

After spending 10 glorious days in Chicagoland seeing relatives who have not all been together since 1966, .facebook_1433257830574we began our westward journey a day early. We stopped for the night in Marion, Minnesota, a good friend’s home town, near Rochester, home of the Mayo Clinic. We’d great weather but this travel day was full of rain and, in a nearly empty park, we got our pull through site but ended up sitting in a 3″ puddle the whole time (Thanks KOA!); that’s why I keep grungy flip-flops in  a close compartment.

We stopped the next day in Brandon, South Dakota  near Sioux Falls, to see the falls  for which Sioux Falls is named for and take on some scenic adventures. .facebook_1433257804141 We saw the Falls and the beautiful open park that surrounds it. The next day we venture out to Devil’s Gulch (did Jesse James really jump the gulch?), the Palisades State Park and lots and lots of open land. The wonder of this area of the country is all the open land; sight lines that go for miles and miles with nary a city or barn in sight.

The next day we left for Wall, South Dakota. WHEW…talk about a day we should have hunkered down and waited it out. Rainy and windy, with 15 -20 mph crosswinds…not fun for your hands nor shoulders. I switched places with Sheila about halfway to our destination and got to experience 25-30 mph crosswinds as we were crossing an unprotected bridge (no guard rails) crossing the Missouri River/Sharp’s Lake at Chamberlain, SD. I changed lanes w/o moving the wheel and praised God no one was to my left. It seems the locals knew to hug to left lane as it provided some protection from the crosswinds…I saw it happening but was so focused on keeping Classy in a straight line it did not register until later. Live and learn!

Wall SD is a very touristy town, the Wall Drug store covering three city blocks and a myriad of tiny specialty shops nestled under it sheltering eaves. The main street was very pretty, old west themed and small enough to walk through in 20-30 minutes window shopping. We made the obligatory spoon and postcard purchases and some special presents for friends but I got an early birthday present from my honey, a leather chapeau (to be seen in a later post.)

But the wonder of Wall is its proximity to the Badlands National Park. OMG…OMG! SO beautiful! We ‘made a move’ early and drove into the park about 9am before the crowds and pretty much had the park to ourselves for a while. .facebook_1433257767110 .facebook_1433257722084You enter the park and drive 24 miles to the other end, viewing God’s beautiful nature that is the Badlands. We saw prong horn sheep and scads of prairie dog towns dotting the landscape. Sadly the signs tell us that the Prairie Dogs carry the plague so any possible contact with people or animals is  strictly forbidden; photos from the safety of your vehicle only please!.


.facebook_1433257700898The Badlands National Park with its amazingly colorful rock and stone formations and surrounding area are named for the outlaws who hid out in that area. Driving it, you can see why if you did not want to be found, you hid out in the Badlands. Lots of up and downs, canyons and crevasses and many, many little slot and dead-end canyons. As we were leaving, the park having seen its glories, we noted that we had not seen any Bison. We took a side road recommended by one of the ranger that supported advice from one of the locals and after about 10 miles into the grasslands and going ‘off pavement,’ we saw 6 Bison grazing alongside to road. Awesome!  .facebook_1433257740283



It’s so interesting to talk to my aunt and discover more insights about your family. I discovered, I think, why I am middle named Allen…for a favorite uncle of my mom’s whom my brother Scott is also named for. George Walter Johncock, ‘Scotty’ to those who knew him (from Scotland, think Star Trek) changed his name to G.W. Allen.

I went by my Grandma Z’s old house, no pictures, it had changed so much I wanted to remember it as I remembered it. It lives best in my 9 year old’s memory.

Lots of cousins driving and flying in to have a reunion, a Z Force reunion ( grandma Z’s force) on Saturday. Many already here, growing up and living in the area still. We have not all been together since 1966 at our grandfather’s funeral.

And we ‘youngsters’ did not attend that. My Aunt tweaked up an old memory of mine and confirmed it telling me of my uncle Carl packing up all us kids in the back of his pick up (heavens, someone could get killed) and took us to the local DQ for banana splits. Ah the memories…

As we gather, we all have our questions about each other, how we all fit together in this clan and how our ancestors all fit together in the scheme that is life between 1900 and 2015. Some of the story is earlier, is revealing these mysteries out of the smoke that is memories lost and remembrances forgotten.

Across oceans they came, from many countries with a widely diverse skill set to forge a new life for themselves and, us, thirty progeny. Best of all, some is still happening… our reunion on Saturday will bring together three or four generations. The Z Force lives on!

Flexibility ….


Flexibility to the point of fluidity … The ultimate in flexibility, being so flexible you are fluid-like, akin to water.

Bluff View

We had planned for the last two years to look closely at some bluff property in Eastern Tennessee after we retired.  We’d seen it on line and it seemed perfect for us; 1.1 acres-small enough to put a casita (small house with an RV barn); the price was manageable and had even dropped over the last two years from ~$40K to ~$30K and the views were absolutely spectacular.

The drive through Northern Alabama was gorgeous. We decided to forgo the FAST route and take the more scenic, we prayed, back roads to the Chattanooga area to find our piece of bluff heaven. Talk about being in wonderland, rural farm land as far as the eyes could see and the most beautiful small towns of the south greeted us over every hill and rolling dale. ALWAYS TAKE THE SCENIC ROUTE!

2100 foot drop into valley

Reality is REAL! The view at the top was spectacular. The views (and the road) on trip up and down the mountain…NOT SO MUCH! With 14-15% grades and multiple switchbacks w/o guardrails, Classy was not going to make that trip too many times … neither were we. Those two trips (up/down) took years off both of our lives and, as I told a friend, I do not have that many years left to give some away every trip up and down the mountain as often as we would if we lived up there in the clouds. Additionally, since I last looked(60 days ago), the price for our little casita lot had added a little number to the front ($130K) making it now WAY out of our budget even with a big Spring Sale 10% off offering.

On to Plan B … Do we ever REALLY have a Plan B?

The day we moved in to our campground site in Hale’s Bar Marina and RV Resort in Tennessee, a family moved their mom in next to us in a fifth wheel. After the move was completed, she was drawn in by Bella’s mesmerizing cuteness and as we were talking, she told us about an RV Resort she just retired from.  She told about all the amenities and gave us the name of the place but as we had just to have our own mountaintop experience it was filed away under “Hmmm.” NOW, after we had both feet firmly planted on level, low ground, Sheila remembered the conversation and remembered a different RV Resort from our drive north.

RV Port Home

We drove down to Guntersville, Alabama … one of those small towns surrounded by water and charm to check out the Blue Heron RV Resort. WOW! Casitas with RV Ports … large pads with side pads already poured and plumbed for additions, most with RV garages covering their RV. Some sites had just screened enclosures attached to the RV port, some had outdoor kitchens, some had small casita (bonus sun room w/bath and wet bar) and some have full sized homes attached to their RV Port. We would have the easy access to the water (Lake Guntersville and the Tennessee River are a lot of water) we both LOVE and we have the mountain to view behind us.

Casitas already on property

We spoke with a representative of the resort who showed us many open sites for sale and several examples of what people had done with their site. These sites are purchased and belong to you the ‘land owner’; they can be rented out while you travel and you get 100% of the rental fees. We liked several so much that we are eagerly leaving our bluff dreams behind tomorrow to go back to Alabama and spend the next week on what may become our site (see FB for the photos.) We’ll talk to the resort’s primary builder about what our casita options are and the possible costs involved in creating our Sweet Home in Alabama. We have also asked the representative to contact the lot owners to see if we could spend the month of October on the lot to see the colors change and get to know the area better.

Alabama Fall Colors
Alabama Fall Colors




Bye the way … we’ve learned over the years to never to pass up an opportunity to “check things out,” so we went out to the aforementioned neighbor’s former workplace, the ‘to remain unnamed’ RV Resort … not so good(cue the banjos) and it only solidified our decision to investigate Blue Heron RV Resort further. Hey, any place whose address is listed as CONVICT CAMP road is PERFECT for me … right!BH3



Day Two …

Awesome day!

Over my first cup of coffee this morning, Facebook, and friends posts, notified me that our friends Martin and Annette Manley had been married 38 years, so her sister says, today. They are such a blessed couple, both AWESOME teachers in the Christian church (she also retired from the JAX public school system.) Martin is a great big bear of a man; he will give you the shirt off his back and a hand up without a moment’s hesitation; a man’s man who truly loves deeply and if you are truly blessed, loves you enough to unhesitatingly call you to task if he sees you straying. Real deep faith Christians with a Jesus’ heart for teaching the Word, and gifted for ministering to couples and marriage. They initiated, and instigated, many, many marriage retreats at our former place of worship that blessed so many of us over the years that it inspired some of us to do the same. They also counseled many other struggling couples through the years and, sacrificially utilizing their many God given gifts, encouraged and inspired others to do so professionally.

NEVER say NEVER! Today I watched my 80+ MIL learn something new. Jeannine is very self-effacing, she is not good at anything she says, due to her age infirmities and with her growing up as a singer/dancer in Nice, France during WW2 the stage was her world. She claimed to be inept mechanically (Sheila’s dad was a mechanic for PepsiCo) and now is visually challenged. This task came hard for her … it was a real challenge as it had to be done not only very precisely and also very quickly but she persevered and made herself step up to the task and get it done.

Bob & Jeannine Taylor
Bob & Jeannine Taylor

She can now, by herself, change her cable input and watch the 100+ home-made and purchased VHS tapes she carried with her when she and dad down-sized and made the move to assisted living a while back. She beamed like a school girl when she realized she’d gotten it right! 30 minutes later, as we were leaving, she started to denigrate her new skill saying she’d probably already forgot it and I challenged her … with fear in her heart but a gleam in her eye, she unwaveringly picked up the remote and did it again, forward and backward without even the slightest hesitation.

Day Two ends with us relaxing at the camp site. I took Bella to the fully enclosed dog park here at the Bella groomedcampground and tossed her ball to get her started. After refusing her beloved tennis ball, she nosed around (like terriers are wont to do) the shady grassed-in area for 45 minutes, climbed on top of the picnic table I was sitting on and sat next to me like … ‘Ok dad; I’m done. Let’s go!’ and walked to the gate. Play time was over!

My soulmate is playing a game on her new kindle, I’m (obviously) on the computer writing the blog and Bella’s curled up asleep next to her mama. We have an early day shopping with mom and dad tomorrow and on Saturday, easing up the road to Kissimmee to see Thad, Lexi and Emma.

Sweet Dreams…

Day One…

A journey of a million miles begins with the first step. We are now gypsies.

Great start. Not without some anxiety but the good kind of anxious, REALLY ready to get this party started!

Classy our Class C


Tear down parking site…drive 4 hours…set back up in a new location. Different but the same; familiar yet new. Adventure of the highest order!

Refreshed memory on toad hookup, travel courtesy, and mooooving slower. Passed most challenges, saw several things I hope I NEVER do on the road, and over all, was mightily blessed.

Picked up Sheila’s mom and dad and brought them to near Brooksville to see Classy and do dinner, crock pot beef stew with French baguette. Sweet! Our first family dinner in our travelling home was a huge success.


My love currently asleep on my shoulder…priceless.

Both brothers and scads of decades unseen relatives lining up for the Memorial weekend Z-Force reunion…so Blessed!

Living the dream …

Here we go!

We get on the road tomorrow. We check in with the family over the next week, get some hugs and then north to Chicago and a family reunion I’ve not been to in 40 years.

We’re stopping in Tennessee to look at a 1.1 acre  bluff property that we’ve had our eye on for several years.

In Kentucky we’re going caving and looking into our family’s Berger (Blair/Virgil) roots near the Mammoth cave complex.

We’ll meander for a few days and then we’re at Chain of the Lakes State Park May 21-27.

Happy trails…

Busy, busy, busy…

Wow, over two weeks since we retired and we have not slowed down for more than a few hours. Getting ready to vacate the Class A and preparing for the move to Classy, getting things moved into and out of storage, donating ‘stuff’ to Goodwill, or piling discards in the trash keeps you hopping. Throw in a last-minute trip to Lakeland to see the grandgirls dance in a competition and the simple retired life seems very hectic.

We thought we were going to be busy this weekend paying bills and doing bank business but the pension office did not come through as promised so we had an unexpected weekend free to see the girls dance. It was magical to see them dance and sad as it may be the last dancing we see until Christmas.

The pension fairy finally dropped off my DROP check yesterday (wrong address by the way after many, many assurances by the pension office that the address was correct) and today we spent half of it and paid off all our bills. We will keep a few cards for future reservations and possible emergencies but they are ALL paid off and essentially closed. Once the credit ratings rebound they will be actually closed.

The DL and DMV address changes to our mailing agent (see previous blog post “Mail Call”) went smooth as silk and we’re officially ‘living’ in Green Cove Springs. It’s funny though…we’re TRULY nomads. We’re parked in Duval County, get our snail mail in Nassau County, are official residents of Clay County and worship in St. John’s County. Awfully glad gas prices are dropping. Also, we got up WAY too early and I applied for my free CWP (retired LEO) today too. We were blessed to enjoy an early Senior’s discounted breakfast at Denny’s until the rush hour blew by and the banks opened.

We sign the papers and officially get Classy on Thursday noonish. We’ll park in Camper’s Inn’s campground and shuttle bins until we’re all moved in and settled then move our new mobile home to our old site for a few days. We’ll plan our visitation schedule to say so long & visit family and friends before we head out for the next six months & 8,000+ miles.  We BEGIN THE ADVENTURE early next week. It’s REALLY, REALLY here!! GOD is sooooo good to us!

THE Last Week ….

WOW!!! THIRTY-FIVE Years! Ok … 34 years and 10 months. It is really coming. This Thursday will be my last day working for the City of Jacksonville. Yes, I’ll be at work Friday to ‘check out’ and turn in all of my equipment and stuff but on Saturday morning March 28, I will wake up retired from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

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I have really enjoyed the ride. it has been bumpy at times but always challenging and fulfilling. The more challenging the better. After bouncing around for the first 5 years after high school, the Department of Corrections had been diversified enough to provide me with a change of scenery every few years. From a rotating seven squad schedule (new shift every month) at the Prison Farm to MCC’s Commissary then to the DOC Commissary and subsequently into ‘the new Jail’, in 1991 I became a shift sergeant (still rotating) and then shift FTO Sergeant in 1995 until I got my true blessing in 1996.

I spent 17 years doing what I loved to do unofficially for the previous five years, training and teaching new employees and my new position as FTO Coordinator honed my skill set to train and teach those who trained our new employees …Training The Trainers in the vernacular.

It was an enjoyable and rewarding career, building the future of the department by ensuring that our new employees were trained by the best trainers. Doing everything in my power, and relying a lot on His Strength, to ensure my FTOs had the best equipment and the best training to allow them to do what came best to them … taking their vast wealth of professional corrections knowledge, skills, and abilities, adding in their awesome training experience to package it into an easily digestible training plan that would turn raw recruits into new professional corrections officers. My mantra to the recruits was (in reference to their charges (the inmates) for the day)  “There but for the grace of God go all of us” and to the FTOs, “The recruits do NOT know how to do IT until they can TEACH you to DO it!”

I was so blessed to be able to serve the recruits and their trainers for so many years. If you know me, you know I live by Colossians 3: 23-24 …

23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.(NIV)

It was a joy to see the ‘lights come on’ so many times in those years … in not only the FTOs and the recruits but especially in the ‘Old Timers,’ nay-sayers and doubters who living breathing positive examples that what we were doing was actually making their jobs infinitely safer, way more efficient and purely a lot easier by ‘producing’ a better trained officer and ‘raising the bar’ of professionalism for them and those around them.

I finished my career back on the shift working with a great group of people, and a few challenges, but it was getting back to my roots…working with people to take care of people. I am ending my career, doing the one thing I swore I’d NEVER do, and very vocally threatened to TAZE anyone who suggested I do,  work as the watch administrative sergeant. It was VERY rewarding, kept my OCD dragon down to a dull roar by keeping me busy over the last year.

Vaya Con Dios my Brethren … It was enriching and rewarding and I was soooo blessed to have traveled this road with y’all.  As always, y’all will continue to be in my prayers daily. I am leaving before my dear friends and repsected supervisors, John Rutherford and Tara Wildes but they are shortly to follow where I will lead this time…into retirement and onward with their lives.  I’ll go now and leave you with a saying the most respected leader in my career had posted in his office …

'Yup...bout sums it up.' 2015-03-23 11.34.07