Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Scrap of Scripture

Yes.  It’s absolutely true; taking any statement, particularly scripture, out of context, is dangerous.  I encourage each of you to read and study as much of the Bible as you possibly can.  That being said, there are those among us who insist that, in order to be of any value, the Bible must be read in its entirety, with each word taken literally, and nothing taken figuratively. And these people are willing and able to defend their view loudly, passionately and unequivocally, till the cows come home! That’s their prerogative.  I wish them well. However, not even the most foolhardy among us, if confronted with eating an elephant, would embark on this endeavor by attempting to swallow the entire pachyderm whole! To do so would be extravagantly imprudent, unquestionably lethal, and almost certainly ruin ones taste for elephant! If an entire elephant is to be eaten without discombobulating ones pallet, it must be taken one tiny bite at a time. Each bite must be methodically chewed and vigorously washed down with something equal to the task, in moderation of course.  The same holds true for the Bible.
   I’ve been a Christian for over fifty years. Christianity works for me.  It doesn’t make everyday a picnic. When you truly care about Christ’s message, life breaks your heart. But daily applying Christ’s message to my life has given me hope, faith, charity, and occasionally joy. I’m not just messing with you. It actually has.  If you believe something else works better for you, knock yourself out, but if you see anything in my life that suggests to you that Christianity works for me, and you’re interested in trying it, I have a suggestion.  My favorite scripture is Micah, Chapter 6, verse 8: “He has showed you, O man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” That verse has served me well throughout my life. Take it and make it yours. Plant it in bright, sunny corner of your memory.  Water it with your tears; feed it daily with your contemplation, and encourage it with your most persuasive smile. See if it doesn’t take root and reveal new verses. Try that for awhile and let me know what you think. If it doesn’t work, go ahead and swallow the elephant!  S. T. Casebeer

Ol' Hangtown

No!  I didn't take this with my cellphone! This is Placerville, California, alias Old Hangtown , alias Old Dry Diggins, my hometown, circa 1900. It seems somehow appropriate to slip this in at the point. When this old glass negative was exposed, about 110 years ago, my ancestors had already been on the scene in Hangtown for over fifty years. In another fifty I'd arrive. 

Below are selected excerpts from 
Obie's Quest

"You’d barely recognize old Hangtown. One by one the old hitching posts are vanishing along Main Street, and just the other day I drove from upper town through lower town and never once saw hide nor hair of a horse! Placerville’s old landmarks are fast disappearing, and palatial cinderblock atrocities rise up like the phoenix from their ash.  Progress beckons like a siren in the night, and ol’ Hangtown answers spellbound to the call.  The boon of electricity has illuminated our little metropolis, and steeds & buggies are fast replaced by Fords.  Despite the growth and conveniences, I prefer to recall her as she appeared in the undignified days of her misspent youth, back in ’49.  In my mind’s eye, she still exudes the uncivil scent of sawdust floors and canvas; the rustic, rough sawn facades glow hospitably in the crimson shades of long spent sunsets, and rows of tents glow pleasantly, flickering with myriad lamps.
   Reminiscing now, from this lofty vantage point, I’ve been blessed with a first rate life, with only a few regrets. As a young man, life afforded me all variety of opportunities.  Those that I pursued I occasionally regretted the next day; the rest I regret now. Having said that, one thing that I’m proud of, is that in all the blissful days of my misspent youth, I never once led a young lady astray. I followed several, but I never led any.  
   I remember sitting by a crackling fire, high in the Sierra Nevada’s, and listening to the ill-tempered Jerseys filing past, with their cowbells clanking and their babies bawling, and the old bull curling his lip and looking for work. I remember standing on the rough plank sidewalk, outside the Ivy House, inhaling the aroma of grilled ribs sizzling, over Manzanita coals, and watching the massive freight wagons lumber by, with their oxen lowing, their hames bells jingling, and the iron-clad rims of hickory spoked wheels smashing the gravel to dust, beneath their cumbersome tonnage of crocks of butter and barrels of fragrant cheese. I remember believing that my whole life would be a long and wondrous adventure.  And it was.  
   Standing here on top of the hill, with the setting sun casting a warm glow on the canyon’s crimson foliage, inevitably brings to mind those golden autumns of long, long ago.  Closing my eyes with the soft warmth of sunset on my face and the murmur of the crick in the distance, my memory reflects a shimmering image of overnight outings long ago, when summer was perennial and I was a barefoot kid.  I remember the goose bumps and satisfying shivers as Grandma prepared me for bed, and washed my summer-hardened feet from the rocky banks of a brisk, babbling brook. I recall my Granddad’s twinkling eyes and his pleasant, raspy chuckle, as I hugged his neck and he rubbed his whiskery chin against my face.  Here on the hill where I raised my family, I revisit my time of parenthood, and recall priceless memories of my own mom and dad, ages ago when life seemed simple, and childlike faith assured tomorrows joys. Treasure your memories, keep ‘em fresh, and never take ‘em for granted.  Even our memories can fade with the harsh glare of time.  
   Looking back, our lives whiz by before we know what hit us.  We spend our first thirty years thinking about our future, the second thirty thinking about our past, and our last years wondering what the hell we were thinking!  The older I get, the more adamant I become in my belief that we should start out old and grow younger every year.  On each successive anniversary of our birth, we could assemble all our friends and family for a truly heartfelt celebration, and joyously remove one candle from our cake. What could be better than to spend the first fifty years of our life, looking forward to becoming a little boy, and tormenting little girls?  "
Obadiah Jeremiah Hezekiah Camp 

Monday, December 27, 2010

New Year's Resolution January, 2011

I’ve been accused of being a hoarder. Guilty as charged! I have odds and ends of stuff, stored away in every crack and cranny of this old house; things that are completely useless to anyone but me.  I have my great granddad’s worn-out old straight razor, and my great grandma’s gray graniteware coffee pot, not because I ever intend to use them, but simply as mementos of people I’ve loved and lost.  Sadly, there are occasions when I even try to horde God’s love.  Sometimes I feel like, if I could just soak up enough love, I’d be happy.  It never works!  The more I try to hoard love, the emptier I feel.  This is the time of year when we all make resolutions.  I’ve made mine. This year I’m bound and determined to spend less time trying to hoard God’s love, and more time trying to share it.  I’m going to try and dispense God’s love, faster than He can fill me. And we’ll just see what happens.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


By the time we’d waded out to the preacher, the water was chest deep on me and almost up to Mariah’s quivering chin.  I stood beside the deacons as the preacher took Mariah’s hand and quoted several lines of scripture. I could hear Mariah’s teeth chattering, and her eyes were wide as fruit jar lids!  It took every bit of her determination, and she never took her eyes off mine, but she repeated that scripture line for line, held a hanky against her face, and the preacher plunged her head and all, into that swirling torrent!

Mariah was still fighting desperately to catch her breath and part her drenched hair from her eyes when the preacher turned to me.  By now we were all near the point of hypothermia, and the preacher abbreviated the process considerably.  He was still a tad long winded for my taste, but he was a preacher after all, and you had to admire his sagacity.  My teeth were chattering till I couldn’t hear a thing he said, but when it came to my part, he nodded, I nodded, and he plunged me backwards into that arctic bath.

I hadn’t had very high expectations for this experience.  I’m not really certain what I expected.  There were neither doves nor angels, but somehow a load was lifted, and something deep inside was changed for good.  It wasn’t that my path seemed clear, but I knew which steps felt right and which steps didn’t, and I was brimming with the boundless exuberance, which comes of a youthful faith.  Mr. Mac Gregor played his bagpipes as we headed for the shore; the sun came out and the whole crowd joined in song. We didn’t loiter long on the banks; everyone was frozen half to death!   I can’t really explain it, but as we trudged up that hill, hugging, slipping and shivering, with those Baptists praising God, I experienced a peace down deep in my heart that would temper the rest of my life.    From “Obie’s Quest “      

Two Threads

I originally wrote this poem for my wife, Robin, 
who has generously allowed me to use it in my novel.

If I envision my life as a painting, it’s captured in two entirely different scenes,
One of deep discouragement, in dark and somber tones,
And one of blessings in warm and happy shades,
Each depiction accurate, my life has been a tapestry of both.
My attitude depends each day, on which depiction I’m able to reflect.

Through each of these depictions, over all years that we’ve shared,
Run two threads, one being Christ, the other, you.
Those two threads have made my life worthwhile.
The best of my achievements and all I cherish most,
Have come to me through our covenant with Christ.

Thank you for your patience and your love throughout the years,
Thanks for being one of those two threads.
Thanks for being optimistic,
And reflecting the bright warm shades,
And for loving me on those dark days when I can’t.

Thanks for the tedious thankless tasks you perform uncomplaining each day,
Thanks for forgiving when I fall short, and the comforting words you say.
Thanks for not laughing when I misstep and I’m sprawled there in the dirt.
Thank you for smiling when I need your smile most,
& for holding me close when I hurt.
          All My Love, Obadiah    From, Obie’s Quest

Monday, November 29, 2010

Be Happy

In all things, promote liberty for all, and justice tempered with mercy.  In this country, everyone has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Celebrate ethnicity; take pride in your heritage, but value the traditions of others.  Our country’s greatest strength is diversity; honor diversity and keep America strong. While I am generally conservative in my own actions, I am passionately liberal in defense of the choices of others. Personal choices, that’s what freedom is. Remember always that you are as good as any and better than none. Be just, merciful, humble, and be happy. From "Obie's Quest"


A Testimony

 Back in the mid fifties, even I was a youngster.  Following a horrendous spinal tap and the heart stopping diagnosis of Poliomyelitis, I spent several weeks convalescing at Kaiser Hospital in Vallejo California. During a two week confinement in a hospital with dozens of other crippled children, a five year old has worlds of time to pray! One night, all alone in my hospital room, scared half to death and miles and miles from home, I called out to Jesus from the depths of my little soul.  Days later the hospital ran some tests, and told my folks to collect me and take me home. When I finally tugged my cowboy boots back on, and Dad and Mom headed for home with me in tow, I began a walk with Jesus that has lasted to this day. When my family and I arrived in Missouri in 1978, I became a member of Dry Creek General Baptist Church, where I was baptized under the bridge at Indian Creek in 1979.  Twenty years later, in 1998, I became a member of Pomona Christian Church, where I maintain my membership today. I live in the Ozarks now.  Suffice it to say, the majority of my church family are lifelong, staunch conservatives. I love those folks dearly, and so far they tolerate me.  As someone who has considered Jesus Christ my personal Savior for over fifty years, I believe in doing justly, loving mercy, walking humbly with my God, and enthusiastically supporting the rights of others to walk with theirs. I believe freedom is all about personal choices. I cherish my own freedom; I make my own choices, and I passionately support the freedom and choices of others.  If that makes me a liberal, so be it.  I prefer to consider myself an American.   

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Holiday Season, 2010

For many, particularly as we grow older, the Holidays are too often a melancholy time,
Haunted by unfulfilled dreams, empty chairs, and unrealistic expectations.
This season can be the very best Holiday Season ever,
If we'll lavish our love for those we've lost,
On those who still surround us.



We, the People

I was having my coffee at my bench out on Reservoir Hill this morning, when I became aware of the distant but unmistakable sound of migrating geese.  Craning my neck to peer up into a brilliant, autumn sky, I spotted something creating vast, sweeping circles in the sky directly overhead.  It had an impressive wingspan and was easily distinguishable by its dark wings and stunning white head and tail.  It was an eagle.

I don’t get to see free flying eagles very often, and I rarely spot an eagle, that the sighting doesn’t bring to mind a poem that I wrote many years ago:  “Freedom is a wild river rushing to the sea. Freedom is a monarch butterfly.  Freedom is an eagle at its perch high in a tree, and its never-ending circles in the sky.”  
During my lifetime I’ve seen eagles brought to the brink of extinction, and I’ve seen our national bird saved.  Do you know what saved this country’s most recognizable symbol?  Our Government.  What do you think of when you hear the word, government?  There is a movement today, a very loud, provocative, misinformed, increasingly popular movement, which seems determined to cast the current government of The United States of America, as some demonic, self-serving enterprise to be hated and overcome.  They’re wrong! Those of you who’ve received some degree of education are familiar with the words “We, the people”.  Those words are from the Preamble of The Constitution of The United States of America
“We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, 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.”
Whether we choose to participate or not, we, the people, are responsible for our government.  In a very real sense, we are the government. Those of you with an education will also be familiar with the phrase, “And that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth” from President Lincoln's Gettysburg address.  For me, those words,along with many other inspirational phrases found in this country’s historical documents, sum up why our country is the greatest country on earth.  It’s because of our government, or more accurately, it’s because of all those who are willing to vote, serve, contribute, or participate in, the governing of our great Nation. Do you do any of those things?
During the early days of America’s experiment in “Liberty and Justice for all”, there occurred an event known as the Boston Tea Party.  That event occurred when people of this country rose up in rebellion against what they considered to be the unfair tax practices imposed on them by a foreign entity. No one enjoys paying taxes, and our current system of taxation could undoubtedly benefit from some tweaking, but our taxes today are not imposed by a foreign entity. The United States of America exists today because of our Nation's Founding Fathers, our Historical Documents, and all those who subscribe to the American dream, dedicating themselves to the cause of freedom and investing in the dream. We, the people determine the course of our government today, when we vote. Taxes paid today in the United States of America represent our investment in the country that we love. 
Some of you will complain that taxes represent class warfare and the redistribution of wealth. We no longer wage class warfare in our society today. The war is all but over.  The Bernie Madoffs have won. Our financial problems today are not the result of taxes and the redistribution of wealth.  This country’s wealth has been stolen, exported, exploited, unwisely invested in warmongering, and relentlessly drained away, by powerful, deregulated corporations and self-serving, greedy individuals, who invest our money overseas, avoiding their fare share of taxes, and manipulating public opinion through fear, deception, a horrendous manipulation of religious and social values, and ungodly amounts of cash.  
We've been told for the last fifty years that if we'll continue giving tax breaks to huge corporations and billionaires, eventually that money will trickle down.  Well it trickled down all right!  It trickled down in India and China, where all the jobs have gone.  While we've waited for trickle down, the rich have gotten richer, while this country's middle class and most of our economy have been allowed to shrivel and dry up. 
Taxes in America today support infrastructure, our freeways, healthcare, education, National defense, and all the invaluable services that freedom and American ingenuity provide. Taxes and all the worthwhile things they support are why we still enjoy a degree of freedom, justice, prosperity, and uncorrupted media in this country. Taxes are why we still enjoy National Forests, pristine waterways, incomparable parks, unsurpassed cities, and free flying eagles. We have a choice to make.  We can continue supporting policies that make the rich richer at the expense of our country, or we can support policies that invest in America, restore our economy, and bring jobs home.   

Shannon Thomas Casebeer

A Note Regarding Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, families all around the world will gather together in prayer.  Many will be asked to give an account of why they are thankful.  While this year finds me surrounded as usual by undeserved blessings, 2010 has been a difficult year for me. Throughout my life, I've been blessed with an extremely close relationship with my mom and dad.  I've been blessed to spend time with Mom and Dad, almost every week, for almost 59 years.  This year I spent much of the summer watching my dad slowly succumb to cancer.  I began this November by sitting prayerfully at Dad's bedside, holding his frail, purple-veined hand in mine, and literally watching as his last breath slipped away.  So the seasonal question falls to me; why am I thankful?  I'm thankful that, even in times of tremendous loss and sorrow, the Lord has provided His Word to give us hope.  I'm thankful for every minute that I spent with Mom and Dad. I'm thankful that, despite polio, 30 years in the workforce, and two cervical surgeries, I'm still able to walk and live a productive life.  I'm thankful for a wife who loves me despite all my faults.  I'm thankful for my son and daughter and their new families.  I'm thankful for the compassionate people who provide hospice care.  I'm thankful that I have health insurance, and I'm prayerful that someday everyone will.  I'm thankful that the Lord knows my heart, my needs, and my sorrows, and that, according to God's Word, the Lord knows me right down to the number of hairs on my head. The Lord knows what I believe, why I believe, and why, on occasion, I can't, and the Lord loves me anyway. There's a wide variety of professed Christians in the world today.  Some feel called to reach out to sinners in love, as God intended.  Others feel called to wave the Book, and shake their fists in hatred and contempt.  There are professed Christians in this country today who gather like vultures at the funerals of fallen soldiers, denouncing freedom, deploring tolerance, and deriding the country I love.  There are people who hate others because of who they love.  I'm thankful I'm not filled with hate, but by the love of a compassionate Savior. 

 Shannon Thomas Casebeer