Live! From Greenville, SC! It’s RickThomas.Net

I have thought for a while, and now toying with the new app that came out last April called Periscope https://www.periscope.tv/. Their competitor is MeerKat http://meerkatapp.co/.

What do they do?

They allow you to live stream any content from any place around the world that has access to the Internet.

Why would anyone want to do that?

I suspect for mostly self-gratifying reasons if you come from a doctrine of sin perspective. If you come from a “how can I get the Gospel out” perspective, then it may be one of the most redemptive pieces of technology to come along in a while.

Twitter bought Periscope before it was ever launched. That’s what they thought about it. They perceived it would be a big deal. They are right. It will be huge to the unregenerate world.

The question now becomes how soon and how often will the Christian world tag along?

This is Periscope’s 1.0 iteration, so there will be many upgrades, though it works somewhat flawlessly now. I can’t wait for the enhancements.

There will also be legislation, i.e., streaming live events where they don’t want the event to be streamed. I can see that as a big problem. Or, recording people live, who do not want to be recorded. They will have some issues to work through, no doubt.

I have used it three or four times. I do like the process, though I’m still not sure of the best way to make it a piece of encouragement for God’s children.

As for use, it is super-easy to use, which means I don’t have to worry about “one more thing to do”, which would be a big problem for me, because discretionary time is one thing that I do not have.

Today, I recorded a trip home from school, where I picked up the girls from high school (my girl, and two other girls who are carpooling with us). I also live-streamed a podcast that I recorded for future publication–Sunday night.

That may be a good benefit–to let others into our ministry world. I’m not sure. We’ll see.

For now it’s another tech-toy, so I do (must) give it a spin around the block because if it is a Gospel-asset, then I will add it to the collection.

I do not ever want to stop exploring new ways to put the name of Christ in the top of people’s minds.

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Our first family fun day

Yesterday was our third Sunday church meeting. We are fitting in nicely. They had one of their family fun days later that day. Tristen and Haydn left the church meeting to help them set up the park. I took Lucia and Ansa to lunch with Fred and Pat.

We left them and did some shopping for Lucia’s birthday, though we did not find anything. Yesterday was her birthday. She ended up ordering the pants she was looking for through Kohl’s.

Deborah Ford sent her a very nice chime thing. Everybody loved it. The kids wanted it in their room. TBD. Julie Rawlings also bought her a few things, i.e., towel, popcorn, tea, and chocolate. That was nice too.

We had a wonderful time at the fun day. I went; I sat; I did not move for 2.5 hours, except to get some food. Several people came by, so I was talking non-stop. That was nice too. Lucia did the same thing by going the mobile route. She could flutter around talking to people. It was way easier on my buttock to sit, not walk.

God is kind.

I had maybe a dozen or so conversations, and all of them were beyond superficiality. That is exactly what we have been longing for for years. Parents talking about marriage failure, parental failure, kid failure, church failure—yada, yada, yada. It was so refreshing.

Lucia had the same experience.

And the children had a blast. Tristen posted this on her Instagram account, along with a bunch of other pictures: “Church picnic was tonight. I had a great time. Can’t wait for the next one. #RedeemingGraceChurch”

That was a kindness from the LORD. The kids did not want to make the church move when we talked about it at Whattaburger in Fort Worth. It was the “I don’t want to change” thing that all kids feel. They were honest with their thoughts, which I appreciated, but we believed they would be okay.

Well, that did not take long. They are loving it.

There is more interaction, more talking at a level that matters, more transparency, more vulnerability, and less “hung up on themselves” that so many people experience.

It feels good.

You can’t have everything in a church, so you have to identify what are the most valuable things to cherish. Biblical fellowship is very high on my list. I’m tired of the superficial BS.

It’s a good start.

I’ve been everywhere, man!

Here are a list of cities, towns, and places where we stayed–in order.

  1. Memphis, TN
  2. Oklahoma City, OK
  3. Albuquerque, NM
  4. Grand Canyon, AZ
  5. Scottsdale, AZ
  6. Las Vegas, NE
  7. Salt Lake City, UT
  8. Bozeman, MT
  9. Powell, WY
  10. Idaho Falls, ID
  11. Reno, NV
  12. Folsom, CA
  13. Fresno, CA
  14. San Francisco, CA
  15. Off the PCH, CA
  16. Los Angeles, CA
  17. Escondido, CA (San Diego(
  18. Scottsdale, AZ
  19. Santa Rosa, NM
  20. Clarendon, TX
  21. Fort Worth, TX
  22. Oklahoma City, OK
  23. Coffeeville, KS
  24. Branson, MO
  25. Poplar Bluff, MO
  26. Greeneville, TN
  27. Greenville, SC

Here is a list of states we were in and/or traveled through–in order. (It was 30 states, counting the ones we went in twice. It was 21 unique states.)

  1. South Carolina
  2. Georgia
  3. Alabama
  4. Tennessee
  5. Mississippi
  6. Arkansas
  7. Oklahoma
  8. Texas
  9. New Mexico
  10. Arizona
  11. Nevada
  12. Utah
  13. Idaho
  14. Montana
  15. Wyomyia
  16. Idaho (2)
  17. Utah (2)
  18. Nevada (2)
  19. California
  20. Arizona (2)
  21. New Mexico (2)
  22. Texas (2)
  23. Oklahoma (2)
  24. Kansas
  25. Missouri
  26. Illinois
  27. Kentucky
  28. Tennessee (2)
  29. North Carolina
  30. South Carolina (2)

Here is the list of towns that were the most intriguing and enticing to live in. I put a positive and negative beside each one. They are in order of first important to least important. The list above are towns we stayed in, while this list has a few towns we went through, though not spending any time there.

  1. Prescott, AZ – It was between Scottsdale to the south and Flagstaff to the north. It was a near perfect climate location, which is a main driver for me. I’m not fond of rattlers or scorpions.
  2. North Lake Tahoe, NV – Totally awesome. The tree huggers have done them a favor. Tons better than the touristy South Tahoe. But too cold in the winter. However, gorgeous.
  3. PCH (Pacific Coast Highway), which covers nearly any town from San Francisco to San Diego. Lots of options, including the next three in the list, but the drawback is no water. The PCH is amazing.
  4. San Diego, CA – Near perfect weather and the traffic and other moving around conditions were easy. Of course, they have no water like the rest of CA.
  5. Los Angeles, CA – There is a lot to do, but the traffic is horrible. Living outside of LA would work, which would make this area–north or south of it appealing. But, of course, there is no water. Venice Beach was a hoot.
  6. Carmel By The Sea, CA – Totally awesome. Near perfect weather. Too touristy and too tight/crowded. Drop dead gorgeous in many ways, i.e., homes, ocean, environment.
  7. Jackson Hole, WY – With the Grand Tetons for a backdrop, this very tiny town had a ton of character and sex appeal. The cold weather and too many tourist were drawbacks.
  8. Scottsdale, AZ – A beautiful and clean town. For a large town, it seemed nearly perfect. The drawback was that it was too hot in the summer, plus the rattlers and scorpions.
  9. Bozeman, MT – Laid back, low-key, tree hugger in a good way (they take care of the place), but it would be too cold for me in the winter, which comes early and stays late. It also gets dark late and light too early during the summer.
  10. San Francisco, CA – Ton of character and a million things to do. This town had all kinds of appeal. Of course it’s too small for all the people and a bit too foggy.
  11. Salt Lake City, UT – The Mormons, I suppose, have done a good job there. Other than the religion, the place seemed clean, friendly, and the landscape was really beautiful.
  12. Greenville, SC – Great place to live for a lot of reasons: location, four seasons, conservative, water, Atlanta/Charlotte nearby, beach nearby, mountains nearby. I really disdain the religion here.
  13. Grand Canyon, AZ – Was beautiful, but not a place that is made for year round living. They have no infrastructure for such a thing.
  14. Fort Worth, TX – Too hot.
  15. Oklahoma City, OK – No appeal. It was hot and the weather man is the most important person in town: lots of tornados.
  16. Branson, MO – A great little town and a significant improvement over its competitor (Las Vegas), but too touristy.
  17. Greeneville, TN – The next eight towns were all small towns that provided a place to stay, but no appeal to live. Too small, too out of the way, too little infrastructure, too little to do, etc.
  18. Twin Falls, ID
  19. Santa Rosa, NM
  20. Wichita Falls, TX
  21. Folsom, CA
  22. Coffeeville, KS
  23. Poplar Bluff, MO
  24. Powell, WY
  25. Fresno, CA – It came across as maybe a better version of Albuquerque. It was not and too inland. Plus, I think I was told there was high crime.
  26. Albuquerque, NM – Total armpit stuck in the desert. No appeal other than Old Town–the original town.
  27. Las Vegas, NE – The least favorite of all. Would not want to be put in that drying up place in the middle of the desert.

Home again, home again

The trip home was short and sweet, as they say. We packed and was in the van before noon, and at home in the afternoon. It was a great way to finish the trip–with a short road trip.

Home was bittersweet. It was great to be home. It was great to see the house still standing. It was great to sleep in your own bed. It was great to put all your stuff where it belongs, w/o giving any thought to packing it in a bag to transport to the next place.

During the trip I was reminded often of the tabernacle in the wilderness and the 40-year journey of the Hebrews. Pack up, move on, unpack, settle down, pack up, move on, unpack, settle down, etc.

It was nice to be home.

Mike, et. al. did a fantastic job taking care of the place. It looked great. We had three interns that came to the church for the summer to stay in our home. One of the interns did not work out, so two were there most of the time. Everything seemed to be okay. That was a relief, though I did not give it a lot of thought while we were on the road.

Out of sight, out of mind.

The part that was sad was coming off the road. I did not anticipate that I would like it so much. The whole family felt the same way. We like each other and travel well together, so being together was not a burden on anyone. Ansa was the primary one that began to long for home, toward the end of the trip.

The turning point for her seemed to be when we took a left turn in San Diego, heading east. That was a seminal moment for all of us. We all felt, to differing degrees, the trip was coming to an end, even though we still had several weeks left.

The other big drawback in my soul was coming back to “Greenville religion”. Lucia felt the same way. The legalism and inculturated religion that has been recycled over and over again for 200 years has created a kind of fear-based legalism that can be stifling to the soul.

Coming back to extra-biblical preferential conservatism has not been hard (hyperbole), but it has been something I have not looked forward to.

I have said for years, even decades, that I want to die in Greenville, SC. I have never considered any other option for nearly three decades now. That has changed. This trip has done that for me. I’m no longer Greenville-centric. To move to another part of the country has appeal to me.

To be in a different religious environment has a refreshing sound to it. We’re not going anywhere, that I am aware of, but to move is an option that appears to be on the table for the future. I consider this a positive development.

Lucia loves people and loves to travel. She is amenable to this new option for our future.

For now we will hit the grind. There are children to educate, lives to live, and needs of the day.

It is good to be home.

Off to see the Johnsons

We left Branson, MO and drove for 2.5 hours to get us closer to home. We were about 12 hours, according to how we drive, from Greeneville, TN, where our long time friends, the Johnson’s live.

We drove to the edge, almost, of MO and camped for the night. It was a brand spanking new hotel, one of the nicer ones we stayed at during this trip. We got in around 2AM. Took a shower or two and went to bed.

We were up by the crack of noon, pretty tired from the drive.

We then packed, left by 2PM and made the last long leg of our trip to eastern TN. It was kind of a sober death march, as we made our way home. At least it was that way to me. I did not want to go home. The rest of the family was okay with going home because it was home, but they, too, also fully enjoyed the trip.

Part of us wanted to be home and part of us never wanted to go back. It was bittersweet.

We crossed the Mississippi, where the Ohio and Missouri were also nearby. That was cool to see. We went from MO to IL to KY to TN all within about an hour.

We rolled in to the Johnson’s around 10PM ET. We also lost an hour somewhere in this process as we went from central to eastern time.

Dave and Isaac were up. The girls were also up–in their bedrooms. We grabbed our bags, and Lucia and I went to bed.

The kids stayed up to about 5AM, from what I understand. I appealed to them to go to sleep, but also knew they had not seen each other in a year, and only see each other about once a year, so I was okay with them wearing themselves out. There’s always another day to sleep.

The boys had a hard time keeping their heads from bobbing at the church meeting on Sunday. Tristen and the two Johnson girls seem to do fine. Haydn gave up and just went to sleep. I kinda appreciate his lack of fear of man.

We came home and had a surprise birthday party for Kyler, who turned 18 a week or so earlier. I have known Kyler since he was about 5 years old. He is an amazing young man. He has a lot going for him, and it’s been so good to see him grow into what he has become.

We hung out with their friends all afternoon. I had some awesome conversations with some of the men at Dave’s church, one in particular. He was very transparent about life, marriage, and ministry. It was refreshing, which is one of the reasons I don’t want to go home.

Religion in Greenville is at a near stifling status. There is so much non-transparency and game-playing, people scared to death to be authentic. And then all the backbiting and downright mean-spirited things that go on. Sigh.

We’ve had some amazingly refreshing conversations with a lot of people on this trip that has created a longing for more of it, while a growing detestation for all the superficial, game playing back home. (I must guard my heart, I must.)

Later in the evening we went to Becky’s side of the family for an evening meal. We went back “into the hills” so to speak. The roads lost their painted lines, while becoming narrower. We were officially in the backwoods, where being a regular or being with a regular was a plus.

We were with the Johnson’s. Yay!!

It was totally throwback.

Banana pudding, dogs, cats, guns, overalls, covered wagon, old home place, small white-frame church building, homes with add-on, plus add ons, plus add ons, and where nearly everyone was related to everyone.

It was awesome.

We sat around and shot the breeze, ate a lot of food, told big stories, and laughed a lot. One old guy walked in with a 8’ stalk of sugar cane that he was gonna make into molasses. Don’t see that every day. He cut a piece from the shoot and we all had a chew.

We came home later in the evening, sat around some more and talked, and then went to bed.

We awoke in the AM and left around 11 to make the final leg of our trip.

We were less than three hours from home.

Branson, MO

Branson, MO was fun. It was good to be there, and quite different from our time in Las Vegas. Both places have shows and other amusements, but that is where the similarity ends.

We went to the Dixie Stampede and Silver Dollar City.

There were “Jesus saves” shirts being prominently sold in SDC. There were stores setup just to sell Christian stuff. There was a magician, who gave one of the clearest presentations of the Gospel that you would ever hear. He did it with a deck of cards.

The Dixie Stampede was a dinner theater that had a large arena in-between. The blue north and the gray south competed. That was surreal in light of our PC culture. I’m not sure the PC groups are aware the north and south are still fighting in Branson.

Then there was a Dixie Outpost, which sells every kind of Confederate flag known to man.

I’m perplexed as to why the PC people have not raided this town and “corrected” it, but it was nice to be in a place where freedom of speech was truly free.

We did check out a wax museum. I talked to the kids about Madame Tussauds on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood, but we were too buys and time limited to stop there. I’m glad they could at least look in one, though we did not take the over-priced 30 minute tour.

The stampede was fun. We ate with our hands. They had about 1000 people yelling at each other–the north v. the south. We had chicken, pork, potatoes, iced tea, and some kind of sweet thing. It was way too much.

The entertainment was great too. The kids had a blast. Ansa also got to pet some horses. That made her day.

SDC was tons of fun. We rode some intense roller coasters. I took my iPhone on one, thinking I was going to record. That did not happen. After the first 162′ straight drop, I gripped my phone so tight that it turned off. My main objective after that was to hold on for dear life.

It was intense, and the double corkscrew was all I could take.

And there were two more coasters.

This was the first year Ansa could ride one. She has passed the height barrier. And she was a trooper. Amazing. She wanted to do more. And she/they did–mostly with Haydn. Tristen has nearly passed into the adult barrier, where such things lose their appeal.

SDC was a lot of fun and well worth going to. I’d do it again.

Plus, I bought a motorized golf cart thingy to ride around on. That made all the difference in the world. The pain in my backside was excruciating, which has been like that the whole trip. It was the best $40 I spent the whole trip.

I sucked down my arrogance, self-righteousness, and other pride-related things and rode the cart. It was amazing relief, which released us to go anywhere in the park, rather than me cutting things short due to the pain. I was very glad about this.

We stayed from about 10 AM to 10 PM. A total blast.

We left and drove 2.5 hours to get us closer to Greeneville, TN, to be with our friends in our old small group from Greenville, SC.

Coffeyville, KA

It was only a few short hours to OKC where we spent a couple of days with John and Christiana (Lucia’s sister), and their twin 5-year boys–the cousins. It was fun as always. We caught up, slept late, sat around, slept late, ate, played games, and slept late.

We were worn out.

Since San Diego, most of our time was on the road. SD was the turning point literally and figuratively. We turned east, with only a few more weeks left so we did a lot of driving.

San Diego to Scottsdale to Fort Worth to OKC to Coffeyville, KS to Branson to Greeneville, TN to Greenville, SC.

Coffeyville was also a short trip. It was nice to make a couple of three-hour trips to get to our locations. Most of our driving has been six to 12 hour trips, with 8 hours being the normal distance. None of our trips were hard, though the back-to-back days were the most challenging.

The kids rarely had an issue, rode contentedly, and kept themselves occupied. That was a blessing. I think without this kindness from the LORD, it could have made the trip totally different. They were an absolute joy to serve and to be served by them on this trip.

Coffeyville is where Harty and Barbie Blackert live. They have been there for many years now, coming from PA. Barbie and Lucia have been best friends for life. They met in the 8th grade, hit it off, and have been knitted together ever since.

They went to Bob Jones together. Barbie was in our wedding, and they went to Hawaii with us in 2000. We love them. They have stayed in our home in Greenville, which was nice to return the favor by staying in their abode.

Barbie is enthusiastically intense. That is about the best way to describe her. Full of joy and non-stop talking. During our first dinner with them, Ansa sat and stared at her. It was hard for her little mind to take in. Barbie is intense in a delightful way, but if you have not seen a lot of that, you just stare.

Ansa stared.

Tristen and Lena (their 17-year old) picked up immediately from where they left off the last time they were together. They began putting a play together for a presentation a week later. We stayed for eight days. They did the Phantom of the Opera. It was awesome.

The adults spent many nights staying up, one night till about 2:30AM talking. Harty was waiting for Nadia (16) to come home with her friend from a week at camp. They were getting in late, so we stayed up with them and talked.

We ate a lot. Barbie is an excellent cook. This was the first time on the trip where we ate more than what we should have. Our eating habits and weight gain/loss was going well until Coffeyville.

We went to their church meeting with them on Sunday. I spoke to their Sunday school class. That was nice.

Haydn and Ansa spent the week in the pool–the love of their lives. Ansa had two cats to play with all week. The other love of her life. She walked around cradling a cat for most of the week–when she was not in the pool.

We also spent a good bit of time in Coffeyville, famous for the Dalton Raid. The town has tried to really play that up. We went into the actual Condon Bank that they robbed. We walked down the street where they were gunned down. We went to the Dalton museum.

It was fun and interesting. It was also surreal to think we were standing in the very bank that they robbed and died shortly thereafter.

This was a good week for all of us, but mostly for Lucia. I’m so glad she could spend time with her friend. They chatted in the living room, in the car, in the pool, in the bedroom, in the kitchen, and any other place they found themselves.

We also went to Woolaroc, which is the retreat center that Frank Phillips–of Phillips oil fame–created to capture and secure an America that had passed. That was a great experience.

They had an amazing museum there, one of the most amazing museums that I have ever visited–so odd in such a remote place. It is really off the beaten path. Really.

There were paintings, ancient Indian paraphernalia, hundreds of guns, pistols, rifles, and other weapons.

There was an airplane, old oil trucks, and more animals than you’ll find in nearly any other museum. They also had an “old frontier life” area where guys, who have not grown up yet, wore frontier clothes, shot old rifles and threw hatchets. We did all of that.

They gave us a walking tour around the old pieces and paraphernalia that made up their camp. That, too, was amazing.

I did ask the old frontiersman about his leggings. As in, what’s underneath the loin cloth. He said the leggings were just for the legs, and the front and back doors are wide open. I did not fully understand what he meant until he lifted his loin cloth to reveal his upper quad.

Thankfully, that is all he revealed. I kinda like the legging idea, though wearing them anywhere, but in a camp like his, would be weird.

I would love to go back to Woolaroc again. It was really a cool place. It stands for Wood, Lake, and Rock.

We left Harty and Barbi after eight days, making our way to Branson, MO.