The Winter of Life


Antonio Vivaldi was an Italian composer of the Baroque Period (1699-1750) who wrote over 500 concertos during his lifetime. Granted, some say he wrote one concerto 500 times but I digress (I also disagree). One morning this week as I was getting dressed I was listening to his most famous work, “The Four Seasons,” and I began to think about my life. The average male lifespan in the United States is 78.74 years as of 2015, and if that, in God’s providence, works out for me than I am officially in the “winter” of my life. I entered it when I turned fifty-nine.

The Bible speaks in general of the length of a man’s life in the old King James language as being “threescore and ten” years and “if by strength, fourscore” years. (Psalms 90) On my next birthday I will be sixty-four so the shadows are beginning to lengthen for me. So how should I face these wintry years?

First of all, I should be grateful to God for the years that I have already experienced. Every day is a gift from God that I didn’t earn and didn’t deserve; yet, He, in His grace, has chosen to bless me with almost sixty-four years of these “days of grace.” As I look back I see all the joy and love that I have experienced and I have much for which to be thankful.

Secondly, I need to live my life now to the fullest for the glory of God. The Westminster Shorter Catechism reminds us that “man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever,” and that is true whether I am in my thirty-third year or my sixty-third. Yes, “my back is a little stiff and there are some lines around my eyes” as Randy Stonehill sang, but I can still love, pray, worship, grow, serve, etc., maybe not at the same level as I once was able, but I can do what I can in the Lord’s strength.

Last of all, I need to look with joy toward the future. It is true that my body cannot do what it once did, and I sometimes have to struggle to remember a name, or a word, or a…what was I talking about? Anyway, I need to remember that God is in control, and that I can trust Him to guide me through the possible difficult days of what President John Adams would call my “dotage” just as He did the difficult days of my youth; and that He is also the one in charge of bringing me from this “present evil age” into the “age to come.


“It’s time to grow up!”





As I peruse Facebook and the network news I am mystified by the idiocy that I see played out before me: People breaking windows (not their own, mind you), attacking others, burning cars, and various and sundry other acts of stupidity, and I might add, evil; all because of the results of a Presidential election. This just doesn’t make sense to me.

I have two sisters, and I don’t know for sure (my Dad was really big on that whole “secret ballot” principle), but my guess is that the three of us all voted for a different candidate in this election. And, guess what: We haven’t unfriended each other on Facebook, we still love each other (and even like each other), we haven’t called each other names, they haven’t thrown a brick threw my window, I didn’t yank one of their grand-kids out of a car and beat him senseless, etc. We just went on with our lives. Just the way we did four years ago, and eight years ago, and 12 years ago,…well, you get my drift.

America, it is time to grow up.

Common Sense

common sense

Merriam-Webster tells us that common sense is “the ability to think and behave in a reasonable way and to make good decisions.” I look around me in this world in which I live and it seems that this particular character trait has gone the way of the dinosaur and the bag phone. The latest evidence of this obvious lack of mental prowess is to be found in the Plano High School hierarchy. The powers-that-be of that fine educational institution north of Dallas, Texas, has decided not to allow the National Honor Society students to wear their NHS stoles at graduation because as one report stated, “it is not inclusive of all students.” (See  Of course it isn’t inclusive of all students because all of the students did not earn the recognition. I suppose that they also will not give out diplomas this year, because that is not inclusive of all students; because not all of the students finished their course work, or passed their tests, or turned in their homework, or came out on top in their STAAR exams.

Well, I suppose when one lives in a country that can’t even seem to figure out which public restroom to use, this is to be expected.

“Heil Schicklgruber”?


I am about halfway through William L. Shirer’s classic work entitled “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” (all 1280 pages of it). I remember reading a very condensed version of it when I was in Jr. High School (I think it was a Scholastic Book Service paperback) but it lacked the arduous details of the original version. It has been a fascinating read for me.

I found out that if Hitler’s grandfather wouldn’t have come forward and publicly acknowledged that he was the father of Hitler’s dad (and very late in life no less) Hitler’s father would have continued to use his mother’s last name, Schicklgruber, and Adolf Hitler would have been known as Adolf Schicklgruber. Somehow, “Heil Schicklgruber” doesn’t have the same ring to it as “Heil Hitler” did.

The question uppermost in my mind I as read the book, however, was the same question that Spencer Tracy’s character, Chief Judge Dan Haywood, asked in the movie “Judgement at Nuremberg,” “How could the German people have allowed someone like Hitler to come to power?” It was interesting to me that Hitler had never won a majority of votes in his favor until he had such control with the ruthlessness of his Brown Shirts and the SS that everyone was afraid to vote against him.

There was one opportunity when several of the German generals were ready to seize power and arrest Hitler, which would have saved all of Europe from the devastation of war. They had decided that at the moment the British and French declared war against Germany for Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia (a war that they were convinced that they could not win), they would rise up against him to save Germany; but, lo and behold, Neville Chamberlain and the western powers instead, capitulated and gave Czechoslovakia to Hitler, making him a hero in the eyes of the entire nation. The generals were afraid popular opinion had turned in his favor and they were afraid a coup d’état would not succeed.

It happened there. It could happen here, but for the grace of God.

That’s “Our church”

Last Thursday we had to place our eighteen year old son in a psychiatric hospital in Houston for the second time in the last year. Needless to say, our hearts are broken, and we are praying that God will give us some answers to learn how to help him. Because this next week will be filled with meetings with diagnosticians, psychiatrists, and therapists, I took a much needed week off. Whenever we are home on a Sunday and I have no “church responsibilities” the question always arises, “Where shall we go to church?” I was thinking about just going to church in Sour Lake before we headed to Houston to see our son. However, my wife said, “We need to go to RPC (Reformed Presbyterian Church)!” She continued, “That is our church (‘our,’ in terms of being a part, not in terms of ownership); I need to be with those people; I need to hear what comes from that pulpit; we have made vows to God and we need to be there.” [I always hate it when she is right…]

So we went. I heard a message from God’s Word about the power of God to answer prayer from Joshua, chapter 10, I was encouraged by many of my brothers and sisters in Christ who reminded me that they were praying for us, and we sang songs of praise that I needed to sing even though it was somewhat of a “sacrifice of praise” for me because of the emotions that I was experiencing. All of that went hand in hand with a hymn that I read early this morning while everyone else was getting dressed for worship by John Newton (Yes, that John Newton. “Amazing Grace” is not the only hymn he wrote). It is entitled, How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds.”

How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds
In a believer’s ear!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear.

It makes the wounded spirit whole,
And calms the troubled breast;
‘Tis manna to the hungry soul,
And to the weary rest.

Dear Name! the Rock on which I build,
My Shield and hiding place,
My never-failing Treasury filled
With boundless stores of grace;

Jesus, my Shepherd, Brother, Friend,
My Prophet, Priest, and King,
My Lord, my Life, my Way, my End,
Accept the praise I bring.

Weak is the effort of my heart,
And cold my warmest thought;
But when I see thee as thou art,
I’ll praise thee as I ought.

Till then I would thy love proclaim
With ev’ry fleeting breath;
And may the music of thy Name
Refresh my soul in death.

The fifth stanza particularly spoke to me when Newton cried out, “Weak is the effort of my heart, And cold my warmest thought; But when I see Thee as Thou art, I’ll praise Thee as I ought.” Although my heart is weak, it is good to know that He is strong. His grace will always be sufficient and will enable me to “praise [Him] as I ought.”

Education = Instilling the Joy of Discovery in the Student

I am about two-thirds of the way through T. David Gordon’s book, Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns: How Pop Culture Rewrote the Hymnal, and came across a paragraph that really resonated with me. The book itself is not about education, but in his chapter on contemporaneity as a value, he touched on the unrelenting trumpeting of the latest technological “gadget de jour” which always is touted as the future of education. His comment, I believe, speaks to the key of all real teaching and learning:

Not one of these ingenious gewgaws addresses the fundamental reality that many educators since Socrates have recognized: namely, that the barrier to education is the student himself—his parochialism, his laziness, his resistance to disciplined intellectual effort, his complacent self-satisfaction with his present attainment and understanding. Nearly every capable educator in the history of the human race has realized that the least important thing we educators do is disseminate information, which is (especially now) widely available in less expensive formats. What capable educators have always attempted to do is to infect their students with a love of learning and a hatred of parochialism. The goal of every good educator is, and always has been, for our students to rediscover what they all knew intuitively as young children: the innocent and thrilling joy of discovery and understanding (a joy ordinarily crushed by compulsory education). At best, tools can assist those who already possess this love of learning, but no inanimate tool can or ever will infect a human with such love.

Other than reminding me once again that the answer to the educational dysfunction of our society is not to “throw more money at the problem,” it brought to my mind those teachers in my past who were able to “instill the joy of discovery” in me: Pinkie Reiss, my seventh grade Language Arts teacher who actually instilled a desire to use grammar correctly (those who read my blogs may say she failed miserably at her task, but I digress); Roy Parker, my ninth grade history teacher who fanned the dying embers of a love for history in a confused junior higher; Mr. Lambert, my world civilization and Russian history teacher at Lamar University who made me dig to understand “cause and effect” in history; Dr. Ralph Wooster, the nicest, classiest and most knowledgeable Civil War historian I have ever met (not that I have met a plethora of Civil War historians); and last, but not least, Dr. Winfred S. Emmons, the only literature professor since Mrs. Reiss that I both feared and respected. Sadly, as I think back on my seminary experience, other than Dr. Curtis Vaughn and Dr. Tom Nettles, none instilled that joy of learning in me (although I am sure that I was a difficult case).

I am grateful to God for those gifted teachers He providentially placed in my life down through the years, and I hope and pray, that as I teach God’s Word week in and week out, I can instill a love for the truth of the Scriptures in all of those who hear my voice. Thankfully, pastors have two advantages that school teachers do not have: the Spirit of God and the fact that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

Random Baseball Thoughts

There should be no replay allowed in Major League Baseball, because if one allows that, before you know it, they will allow someone to bat for the pitcher, have interleague play during the season, and baseball will be ruined forever! (Wait,… is there something that I have missed?)

“Happy 9th Anniversary, Pastor Mark”

He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit. (Colossians 1:7-8)

Yesterday this verse was in my daily Bible reading and my mind immediately turned to Pastor Mark Gibson. I have worked with Mark over the last four years and discover more and more everyday the fact that “he is a faithful minister of Christ” on our behalf. On April 1, 2001 God’s providential hand led him to Reformed Presbyterian Church in Beaumont from North Carolina (He jokingly notes that his first Sunday was April Fool’s Day), and he has faithfully ministered God’s Word to Christ’s flock ever since.

He understands that God’s growing of His church is done most often in the way that Jesus described when he said, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.” (Matthew 13:33) As he expositionally preaches through the Word of God, God’s Spirit quietly works within the hearts of people to grow them in His grace, and mold them into the image of Christ.

Thank you, Mark, for being the shepherd that God has called you to be at RPC over the last nine years. May the Lord use you there for many more (Deo Volente).

Happy First Birthday to The Rankin File

I was never one to remember birthdays and anniversaries very well since such things did not receive great fanfare in the house in which I was raised. Mom might have prepared our favorite pie (lemon meringue for me) or maybe given us a small gift, but no big production was ever made. That may be the reason why the first anniversary of The Rankin File came and went without my notice.

Last year, on February 27, I was convinced by Brent Fontenot and Mark Gibson to begin blogging (By the way, Mark, you haven’t updated your blog since January 14 [you see, I notice such things]). Finding time to think and write is always a challenge, but I have managed to post something one hundred and twenty-nine times (it seems like more if I spell it out). I wanted to take the time to say “thank you” to all of you who read these ramblings and especially those who have taken the time to write comments over the past year.

As I am now a third of the way through my fifty-sixth year on this terrestrial ball, I have learned, more than ever, that although life is filled with pain, disappointment, uncertainty, and frustration, that up in heaven a song is being sung to the Lamb of God, our Saviour and King, which reminds us that all is well:

 “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth…Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing…To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:9-10, 12-13)

So, I look forward to another year (Deo Volente) of Tuesday Hymns, sometimes incoherent ramblings, good quotes from theologically astute men, and, most of all, learning to glorify God and enjoy Him both now and forevermore.