About RickThomasNet

Rick Thomas leads a training network for Christians to assist them in becoming more effective soul care providers. RickThomas.Net reaches people around the world through consulting, training, podcasting, writing, counseling, and speaking. In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology, and 1991 he received a BS in Education. In 1993 he was ordained into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s College in Santa Clarita, CA. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC). He also received certification from the International Association of Biblical Counselors (IABC). His organization is a training center for IABC.

Chad, Katie, and the Tallest Building in Bismarck

RMlogo Chad, Katie, and the Tallest Building in Bismarck

With much sadness, we left our three weeks, five-day visit with Lucia’s sister and family. We had to press on as there was much more to see and do. Our next stop was North Dakota to meet Chad and Katie, and visit the state capitol.

While we were at the President Trump rally, I posted some pictures of our trip and one of our supporters, Katie, saw what we were doing and said we should stop in and visit them since they were so close.

In the south, when someone says, “Y’all come see us,” we do not always mean it. It’s one of those southern expressions with more air than substance, but I’m a literalist, mostly. So when you invite me over for a meal, I might take you up on it.

And we did.

Chad and Katie have been supporting us for years and part of our “travel objectives” is to visit with our members. It took about three weeks for us to make the arrangements because we were not sure when we were going to leave the Colberts in Euclid.

We do “adventure driving,” which means we plan very little ahead of time. Our traveling is more on the spur of the moment because you never know who or what you might see, (i.e., Chad and Katie), so we keep our agenda open and loose, which is always a more exciting travel experience.

Fargo Again

So we finally made it to our members, who live outside Fargo. They had three girls, and appear to live out in the country, though most of western Minnesota and North Dakota is spacious. Chad and Katie have several acres on a hill that overlooks a beautiful lake.

Chad is in the military, so there was much that he could not tell me, though it was fun listening to what he could say. He did let us try on his jet pilot’s helmet, which was snug for my giant head.

Their girls were super-mature for such a young age. I was impressed with their demeanor, as well as their conversational ability. You could tell that they had been around older folks, as they were comfortable talking to strangers.

We had an excellent meal, and Chad had me sign my book that they just ordered. That was awkward, as I’m not comfortable doing that, and did not factor it into the book publishing process.

Interestingly, Chad emailed me a few days after our visit saying he wanted to enroll in our Mastermind program. Well, praise God. I need to visit more members.

He has been following our work for years. Chad told me that he listens to the podcasts all the time as he goes back and forth from work. It’s about a forty minute drive, which gives him ample time to take in a lot of our content.

Checkout our two podcast, here: Your Daily Drive and Life Over Coffee podcasts

Bismarck

Afterward, we left for Bismarck, the capital city of North Dakota. We had no particular reason for going there other than it was there. And there is not much in North Dakota, to be honest with you.

We got to tour the capitol building and the grounds. There was also a museum next door, which was nice. We love factory tours and museums.

The lady in charge of the guest sign-in asked us three times to make sure that we signed their guest book. She said they don’t get many folks from the south. One person did quizzically ask why we were in North Dakota. The vibe they gave was that there might be something wrong with us.

Of course, that’s not arguable.

Next stop: Badlands, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska.

Pigs, Preachers and Leaping Dogs

RMlogo Pigs and Preachers in Fertile

Where can you find pigs, preachers, leaping dogs, carnival rides, tractors, and food? You guessed it: the county fair in Fertile, Minnesota, next to Climax. These multi-day events happen all over the midwest during the summer. We attended the one in Fertile.

And it was great.

Because it was Sunday and they had “preaching on the grounds,” we decided to combine our Sunday church service with the country fair. I did miss the fine print that said the preacher would be a woman. At least she didn’t distort the gospel since she never talked about it. The music was good, though.

Foot tapping good.

The upside is that they transformed the preaching area into a parade route where everyone in the county with a tractor, old car, or trailer came through throwing candy at us. And for a bonus, they redid the area again into a demolition derby.

It’s amazing at what you can do to a church service if you have a pile of dirt and a few front-end loaders.

We Could Not Resist

Our goal was to mill around for a bit and then go home, but there was so much happening that our “milling around” turned into an all day, early evening event. It was that good.

The smell of pigs, horses, cows, chickens, ducks, hamsters, dogs, and cats was stupendous. It was a “full on” countrified event that entirely satisfied my inner-redneck. And then there were the rides, the petting zoo, all sorts of 4H displays, plenty of food, and four-wheeled everything.

We toured the barns first. They had scores of prized animals, big and small. I had no idea that there were so many brands of rabbits. Or chickens.

After the barnyard, we went to the petting zoo where we saw birds, camels, llamas, potbelly pigs, goats, and more. (We have since talked about getting one of those little pigs. They were so cute.)

Be a Kid at the County Fair

Later, we could not resist the rides, or at least two of my children could not. Tristen seems to be in the later stages of her childhood.

Now, I’m sad.

But I’m dealing with it, though I have not come to terms with her growing lack of desire for kid things.

Fortunately, the two other children are clinging to these wonderful years, but the clock is ticking for them too. In the meantime, they got their “fix on” by riding most of the rides. Multiple times. I was so happy for them.

The biggest draw was the dog jumping contest. The fairground folks had filled a large pool with water and then had the dogs jump from a platform into the water. Each trainer threw a “bone looking thing” way out in front of the dog as it was leaping from the platform. The judges had a laser that measured the dog’s jump distance.

Step Back in Time

It was a great opportunity, and we can check it off our list, though I’m game to do it again. And again.

It did appear that many of the folks took the county fair seriously. The 4H kids were the most serious. Pig and pie competition is big business as it sets the youngsters up for future college and vocational choices.

The country residents were also into it, which I suppose it is because there is not much to do in the area. The towns are small, and the endless fields are massive. And the work is hard, a far cry from a lot of my fellow Americans.

I did appreciate the simple life in the breadbasket of our country. I was also grateful for the lack of civil discord and nonsensical noise that seems to be accelerating at warp speed everywhere else.

There was also a tent meeting with an old-timey preacher doing his thing. Nine people were attending. All of them except for one teen was over sixty years old. I’m not sure what to think about that. They seemed out-of-step and disconnected from our culture. It was an innocuous echo from another era. Nobody was interested in what they were doing. Sigh.

Where the Mississippi Begins

RMlogo The Headwaters of the M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I

We knew it had to begin somewhere. But where? Katherine told us about the headwaters of the Mississippi River being two hours away. When you travel 10,000 miles, two hours from anywhere is no big deal. So off we went.

It was Lake Itasca at Itasca State Park. Explorers back in the day found it and others affirmed that this is the place where the Mississippi River begins. It ranks as the fourth-longest and fifteenth-largest river in the world by discharge.

No doubt it’s surreal to think about how small it begins when you consider the massiveness of the river at other places. We saw it recently in Davenport, IA. We have seen it many other times, and it’s always impossible to keep your head in your devices when you cross one of the many bridges that take you over the mighty river.

There is a lake in Itasca as well as a lot of reading material. There were trails to hike and a store to buy stuff. And, of course, the mosquitoes. Oh, my.

“Dear Jesus, deliver me from these little menace bloodsuckers.”

We did drive partly through the park and dashed out to see a few attractions like the biggest tree in the park. I say, “dashed” because that is what we had to do in our futile attempt to dodge and outrun the mosquitos.

Futile it was.

Chick-fil-A Day

The day we were in Itasca was also Chick-fil-A Day, so we donned our cow attire and made another dash; this time to the only Chick-fil-A near us, which was several hours away in Grand Forks.

Come on, Chick-fil-A. We need more stores up north.

With our suits adjusted, we went in only to find out that they changed the rules: they stopped the free giveaways at 7 PM. We were there by 8:30.

Shazam.

(I did share this story with my friend in Laredo, TX, who happens to own a store. He sent us some coupons. And, no, I did not tell him my sad saga to “work him” for some coupons. I wanted to know if the Grand Forks store had a new rule or if it was company-wide. It was company-wide.)

Next stop: The County Fair in Fertile, near Climax, Minnesota

The Drive-In and Fireworks Show

One of our bucket list items was taking our children to a drive-in to watch a movie. As (sovereign) luck would have it, they just happen to have one in Warren, Minnesota.

This drive-in was between cornfields outside Warren. We took three of our cousins with us: Caroline, Hannah, and Maddie, and the experience was as great as we anticipated. The “big kid’s movie of the summer” was Incredibles 2.

Most of the movie had the typical feminist slant as they kept the husband at home taking care of the kids while the “incredible” wife was “dragon slaying” in the city. The husband did come around at the end of the full-length feature presentation to help with the mop-up of the bad guys. Hollywood’s worldview was subtle enough to indoctrinate but not overt enough to tick-off middle-aged “privileged” white men.

The owner of the drive-in was a talker, who was happy we showed up for the movie. He made sure we knew that it was acceptable to write on the concession stand building, so we obliged.

The only difference between this drive-in and the ones of my youth is that there was no speaker to hang on the windows. Today’s technology lets you tune into your radio so you can play the sound over the car speakers.

The highlight for me was talking to six guys and gals who were parked next to us. They were intrigued by our summer travels, which opened the door for about thirty minutes of conversation. It was awesome. After the movie, one of the guys came to the van window and asked for my website address. I gave him my “throwaway card.”

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Fireworks in Grand Forks

On July 4th we went thirty minutes west to East Grand Forks, Minnesota/Grand Forks, North Dakota. A river separates the two towns. You would not know where they separated if there were no river running between them.

The towns had a big party near the river. It was cool, albeit only a handful of vendors and a small town band playing loud licks from three generations ago. We milled around a bit, which took about thirty minutes before we settled on a hillside to watch the big show.

It was essential for us to find some fireworks for the fourth. In 2015 we were driving out of San Francisco, hoping to see a fireworks show, but it was too foggy, and we were so tired, that we chose to drive to LA using the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway).

We missed our fireworks show that year, which disappointed Tristen the most. Since then, we’ve tried to make sure we found some fireworks during our travels. The Grand Forks show was pretty good. It lasted thirty minutes.

Since we were a couple of hours early, we ate snacks and chilled out while the kids played card games. I was chatting up a lady with an angry teen. She observed how we were the family wearing the hoodies. To them, it was not cold. For us southerners, we felt the need to wrap up. It reminded me of being at Santa Monica in 2015, the only folks on the beach shivering in hoodies.

I was growing a bit weary of being cold all summer. I’m missing our wonderful heavy blanketed humidity.

The President Trump Rally

While in Euclid, visiting Lucia’s sister, we learned of the President Trump rally in Fargo, North Dakota. All we had to do is text, letting them know that we wanted two tickets per phone. We asked for six.

I wrote this article, I Went to a President Trump Rally Last Night, on our ministry page. Click the link to go there and read it.

This event is a “historical bucket list” for our family. It’s rare to be able to see your President, and Fargo was only two hours away, so it was a no-brainer for us to go. And we needed to be in Fargo for a van repair. Thankfully, the Toyota dealership did an excellent job. It was the starter that needed replacing.

The dealership finished the van by 1:30, but the President’s rally was not going to let folks into the building until 4 PM. Our first instinct was to go downtown Fargo to check out things on the main drag, but we decided to swing by the Scheels Arena to get a feel for the “lay of the land” so we could mentally prepare ourselves for what we needed to do for the rally later that evening.

We arrived at Scheels by 2 PM, and the folks gathered were already wrapped around the parking lot. It was something to behold. We decided that if we went downtown, we would not be able to get into the rally, so we parked the van and got in line at 2 PM for the 7 PM rally.

A fellow told us that where we were in line was about 5700 of the 6000 people they would let into the event; he was guessing. When we finally got in around 6 PM, there were about 200 more who came in behind us. The fellow was correct.

Standing in line for four hours went fast. We made friends with our new line-mates, and we chatted with various sellers and politicians who came by selling and shaking hands. I did meet a black lady from Columbia, SC, about 90 minutes from where we live, who was selling t-shirts, hats, and other stuff. She follows the president around, setting up her tables to sell all sorts of Trump paraphernalia. I was impressed with her entrepreneurial work ethic.

We had food and water, which we carry with us at all times. We don’t eat in restaurants, due to the expense, choosing rather to shop in grocery stores around the country, buying bread, peanut butter, lettuce, and so forth. We had plenty to eat and drink while waiting for the event to begin.

The President’s Rally

After getting into the arena, there was no place to give our printed tickets. When I asked about them, the lady said she did not want them. I asked why, and she said that all they needed was our phone numbers so they could do security checks on who is in attendance. I appreciated the proactive security, especially with my family being near the President.

The music was loud and eclectic–rock, opera, jazz, country, et. al. It was too loud for us, be we could bear with it. We waited over an hour for the President to come out and speak to us. They had other speakers, plus there was time to do the wave, go to the restroom, and take some pics.

The President showed up, right on time. It was impressive. The man is an entertainer, no doubt about it. He knew how to work the crowd, and the crowd did not mind him working them.

He was irreverent, funny, condescending, and foul-mouthed. I did not expect or appreciate the cursing. Honestly, I did not think that attending a rally for the President of our country would have curse words. It gave our family something to debrief about after the meeting.

Hating Image Bearers

I would say that it was a pep rally more than anything else. The President was “preaching to the crowd.” It appeared that it was a huge boost for him, as I can’t imagine how hard it must be to read or hear folks cursing you out all day, every day of your life.

I get hate mail, as folks say all kinds of horrible things about me. It’s part of being a public figure, but the President’s “target” is in another orbit compared to mine. I’m sure being with 6000 people who appreciate what he’s doing had to feel good. I know it would motivate me to do more rallies.

Unfortunately, too many people do not know how to critique ideas while refraining from demeaning the person with the ideas. And Christians can be some of the worst in doing this. God created all people in His image, which should govern how we talk about people, especially those who have agendas different from ours.

I have many friends, in ministry and my regular life, who have criticized Presidents Obama and Trump as persons. It’s unfortunate, and I don’t respect them for it. This problem is unique to our age because of social media; everyone has a platform and a voice today.

I don’t care for the President’s crassness, but I do like a lot of his policies. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how he is leading our nation. I hope that he will continue to lead in conservative ways; it’s been refreshing in light of a political culture that works hard to make things harder on those that they are supposed to be serving.

Wrapping It Up

After the event, we stayed later than everyone else except the security, which gave us time to thank them for taking care of us. We also had time to take some pictures down on the floor.

And we found a hat, umbrellas, and potato chips in the parking lot. We could have picked up twenty camping chairs, and a bunch of other stuff. Typically, these events are like this, and we have learned that hanging back after everyone else has left can be a bonanza for our family. And it was.

I’m glad our children got to be part of this event. They were appreciative and impressed that God would arrange our agenda in such a way that we could do this. It was a good day.

Euclid, Minnesota – A Green Sign by the Road

 

As the saying goes, don’t blink when you go through this town or you’ll miss it. Euclid, Minnesota is less than that. There is no town, as we understand such things. There is a silo or two, plus the green sign that says, “Euclid.”

That’s it. And that is where we spent the month of July. Between two cornfields. And it was awesome. There is something about wide, open spaces and low hanging clouds that help you forget the noise in a chaotic world.

And Lucia had not spent real time with her sister in more than twenty years. We hung out with them in Shannon, Illinois in the late nineties. That was 21-years ago, a day or two before their third child, Rachel (pictured above in glasses), was born in Rockford.

We dropped by the hospital then to congratulate Katherine and to say goodbye as we headed back to South Carolina. Now we’re with them again, and we all had an amazing time. Our intention was a week and then off to the next place. But my children have not spent extended periods with their cousins, and they were bonding, which made leaving undesirable for all.

So we talked about staying another week. Then another. And another, until it was almost four weeks. Even after all that time, leaving was not fun. Imagine family liking each other. Weird, right?

Where in the World?

Euclid is more northern than the cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul). It is also above Fargo, North Dakota, which is two hours away. When you have to drive south to get to Fargo, you’re too far north. It’s thirty minutes from Grand Forks, ND, which is on the North Dakota and Minnesota borders. And it can get to forty below zero. Yippee.

The closest town is Warren, which has no chain stores of any kind. They do have a drive-in theater outside of town, in a cornfield, of course. My children had their first outdoor movie experience. It was almost as good as my childhood experience, but there were no speakers to hang on the car window; we tuned into the radio to hear the movie: The Incredibles 2.

We went to East Grand Forks, Minnesota and Grand Forks, ND several times. The church we attended was in Grand Forks, which was an excellent church. I bonded with Stacey and his wife, one of maybe three black families in the church. We had superb conversations. I miss him already.

Branching Out

In addition to the drive-in, we also went to the President Trump rally in Fargo, which is where we had the starter replaced on the van. We went to the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Itasca State Park. Then there was the county fair in Fertile, MN, which is right next to Climax, MN. (Not sure how they got their names, but I have some ideas.) And Rachel got us in on a DigiKey tour, which is where she works. That was interesting.

We went to the big Fourth of July happenings in East Grand Forks/Grand Forks. Those two towns are contiguous, as you cross a bridge, which separates them. East Grand is in Minnesota and Grand Forks is in North Dakota.

The highlight of most days was walking to the mailbox, which seemed to be about a half-mile down their long driveway. Sometimes we got crazy and walked down the road too. On some of the walks we encountered a car or two. Busy, it was.

And then there was the crop duster who seemed to get his kicks from flying low over the house. Maybe not, but he seemed to be a bit low to me.

Bonding Time

The best time was our kids spending their days with the cousins. They laughed a lot, played games, and worked in the yard. Haydn had his first John Deere riding mower experience. It’s true: nothing rides like a Deere.

The kids spent a solid week picking small river rocks out of the flower bed that was next to the house. (See picture) The Colberts were having some water leaking problems, so they needed to dig up the beds, rework the ground and the side of the house. It took the kids a long time to get all those rocks out of the beds.

I set up my “ministry base camp” next to our bedroom. And as (sovereign) luck would have it, Lucia’s sister, Katherine, had a zero-gravity chair like my “Walmart special” at home, so I was in good shape for multiplied hours of work.

There were some wifi issues out in the cornfields, so one day I went to the Starbucks in Grand Forks and spent the day and early evening there. There is much to be said for great wifi. Another day was spent in MacDonald’s, who also has excellent wifi.

Storms and Signs

Then there were the storms. Because the land is flat, there are no windbreaks, as the storms come roaring in and the lightening dances all over the place. As you’re driving down the long, straight roads, you’ll see a clump of trees by the road, in the fields. There was always a house inside the trees, which was the only way to break the wind as it comes howling across the plains.

And because the roads were so long and straight, it was hard to figure out the distances. You could see a traffic light at night eight miles away; I’m for real on this. Thus, you would come up on the stop sign “all of a sudden.” It’s as though you’re lulled to sleep because you’ve been looking at the sign for so long. And then it’s right in front of you. It was harder to drive on those long, straight roads than the curvy roads in South Carolina.

No doubt, the Colberts were the highlight of our trip. We’re not sure if we’ll be able to do this again, like that. It was a gift from the Lord; I’m especially happy for my wife.

Go Vikings

 

Because we do everything on the cheap, we visited the Super Bowl six months after it happened. We were in the “cities,” which is what the locals call Minneapolis and St. Paul, so we had to drive by the Minnesota Vikings Stadium.

It is a humongous, beautiful stadium, situated in the heart of Minneapolis. Totally impressive. After we found parking, which was not hard to do, we got some excellent shots of the facility and then went into the gift shop.

(I was surprised at how little traffic there was in the city. We could maneuver around without congestion. I thought Chicago was easy to get around, which it was, but Minneapolis was easier than the Windy City.)

A fellow was polishing the modern art “Viking horn” that was a corked screw formation at the front of the stadium. He was passionate about his job and loved telling us about how costly it was to polish all the glass on the stadium.

He spent the day polishing the Viking horn.

Wisconsin Cheese

Since we were close to cheese country, we bopped over to Wisconsin but did not find a good cheese spot. We did visit a lake to feed a few mosquitoes with our body parts.

And we stopped at Starbucks to get their “been there series” mugs. We try to get a mug from every state, though some states don’t carry the series. Sorry Idaho; you’re still important to us.

Upon leaving Starbucks, Ansa stepped on a small metal cover that was over a drain pipe and twisted her ankle. The lid was not fitted well, as it moved from side to side. Not good. Haydn carried her to the van, and she nursed her ankle for a few days.

We stopped in a nearby Goodwill, and Tristen and Lucia found some clothes, which was nice. Tristen needed some school clothes.

Leaving Minneapolis

On our final day in the Minneapolis area, I needed to stop by the Apple Store to ask a question. Afterward, I tried to start the van, but it made no sound. It had done that once before. I was hoping it was an anomaly, but now we knew we had a problem.

We called our insurance company, and they sent someone who eventually came by to jump it off, but it was not the battery. The man was not sure what the problem was, though I thought the starter was the issue.

Since we could not get it started, we called the Toyota dealership to see if we could get them to service it on a Saturday. Toyota was accommodating, so we made the arrangements with them and with a hotel for another night in the cities.

While waiting for the Toyota shuttle service to show up, I tried the van again, for the fortieth time in three hours. It started. Yay. We called Toyota and the hotel to cancel, hoping we could make it to Lucia’s sister to get it worked on at that time.

Next stop: Euclid, MN to spend some time with Lucia’s sister and family.