Strict//EN" ""> EAGLES' REST: December 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

"Cel-a-Bration Time ... Ya-HOO!!"

By now, I figure most folks know Jesus wasn't born on December 25, 0000. Or December 25 of any year. And that December 25 is the date we've chosen to celebrate his birthday.

I'm betting He's not upset, at all, that we're celebrating His birthday.

That's what we do at the Cleveland home every Christmas. Tomorrow morning, at some yet-to-be determined time, our family will gather together and we'll give presents to each other .. present we've bought for them because of our love for them, and this is just one of the two (usually) occasions during the year, that we do that.

I'm betting Jesus likes it when we buy something for someone that they'd like to have, just because we love them.

If you'll note the tree, it's the artificial one I bought a couple years ago, in a fantastic demonstration of the cumulative effects of discounts. And it's festive, with 1000+ lights, plus lots of decorations various folks have made, many of which were, themselves, gifts to us.

I rather think Jesus likes the fact that we see the celebration of His birthday as being a festive occasion. But still keeping others in mind, and involved, via the gifts we give, and get, and show, like some of the decorations.

If you'll notice, there are a bunch of stockings hung on the mantle. Peg made those. When our kids were infants, my Sister-in-Law Joan made them each a Christmas Stocking for their first Christmas. And we've hung them up every year, ever since.

Now, when they got married, Peg did a couple extra things; she gave them each the original, and then made another one for us to hang up at Christmas, which we started doing when we moved into a house with a mantle upon which to hang them.

When they got married, and when grandkids came into the family, she made up one for each of them, too. And, finally, if you'll note the one at the far end of the mantle, it's just labeled "Grand Dogs". Peg doesn't want anybody left out, you know.

SECRET: Tomorrow morning, they'll each be stuffed with treats like apples, oranges, M&M's, Doggy-Treats for the dogs, etc.
Somehow, I think Jesus would approve.

We've got a new tradition this year, even. When someone tell me "Happy Holidays", I always wish them the same, and tell them it's even OK to wish me "Merry Christmas!". Which they always do, without exception! WOW .. what a neat opportunity to bring up what we're celebrating, and the merchants and the clerks and the like are even bringing it up so we can mention Him.

We stopped sending cards out some years ago. We have a lot of friends here, and it's easy to mention Christmas, and extend our wishes to them, when we see them during December. I'd rather have someone do that, any day, in person, than send me a card that I never know what to do with on 12/26 or thereafter.

Or, come to think of it, once I've read it......

Oh, we don't neglect folks. Peg is an avid fan of Cable Telephone .. she calls all her sisters and their families, and other friends she keeps in touch with, all the time. I'll take keeping in regular touch, over an almost-anonymous-card in the mail once a year, any time.

I have to think Jesus approves of keeping up friendships. He sure did when He had supper with Levi and his friends.

Do merchants cross some lines in "using Christmas for profit"? Sure. And we may not like that, but you and I cross our own lines, too, and we're holding ourselves out to be followers of the Saviour; Disciples of the Most High God.

At least Wal-Mart doesn't do THAT.

We celebrate Christmas. And if it's too much work, or too much expense, or too hectic, well, so what? Can you think of a better cause, than the celebration of the one Whose name we claim?

Bring it on, world. We're ready.....

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


The following is a brief chapter I wrote about our first Mission Trip, to Haiti, for my book "IN THE FOREWORD OF THE BOOK OF LIFE" .. which was just a collection of all the memories I could think of to write about. I did it 6 or 7 years ago, and many of the things I wrote about were 'way back there in the sludge of my memory. But this one was crystal clear, and still is:

On Saturday, April 11, 1970, I went with my friend Dave Van Veld, to a Men For Missions International breakfast in Indianapolis. Downtown at the Howard Johnson’s, in fact.

At the close of that meeting, Charlie Spicer announced they had 4 places left on the Haiti Family Crusade scheduled for July 1970. Instantly, I felt as if everyone in the room was looking at me. I even recall looking up and around the room, to see if they were. They weren’t. I did know, however, that something was happening. I told Charlie, on the way out, that I’d just mailed in my tax return on the way to the Breakfast, that if I got the return back by May 1st, the deadline for the $100 deposit, we’d go. Our tax refund was $105, and we would not have the money without it.

As Dave and I got into the car to go home, he said he had felt the same thing. My opinion, I said, was that we might ought to apply to go; that I would discuss it with Peggy when we got home. He said he’d talk to Diana.

I talked to Dave Monday and told him that Peg wasn’t at ALL interested in going. She said maybe I was called, but she wasn’t. Dave told me he’d talked to Diana and she wasn’t thrilled about it either, but he’d called MFMI headquarters to inquire, and they’d told him they’d already put the Clevelands and the Van Velds on the list, filling it, simply on faith.

More talks with Peg reached a sort of consensus that we ought to look into it, no promises, but let’s see what develops.

I talked to my boss, and told him I’d like to have that week in July off for vacation, so I could go on a mission trip. He said no.

We called my mom and dad. Our kids were 10 and 7 at the time, and they’d needed to be 12 to go on the trip, so we needed my Mom and Dad to keep them for the week. A couple days later, Mom called Peggy and “read her the riot act”. It seems there had been an “Insurgent Army” (actually 3 unhappy soldiers) which commandeered the entire Haiti Air Force (an old relic of a DC-3) and had bombed the Dictator’s Palace (pushed out a partially-full barrel of diesel fuel, which bounced harmlessly on the Palace yard), and didn’t we realize that revolutionaries always kill missionaries first and here we have these 2 kids who are going to be orphans?

Peg said as Mom was talking, she could envision “SATAN TALKING” written on the wall. Mom and Dad had no evident spiritual leanings at the time, had not evidenced any previously, and Peg figured if they didn’t think we should go, then we should.

So: we had no money to go; the cost was about $475 and we didn’t know where it would come from. We also had nobody to watch the kids, and my boss said I couldn’t go.

A few days later, we got a letter from Mom, and she apologized and said they’d be happy to come stay with the kids. And, oh, by the way, here’s a check to help pay for the trip.

Then, the Friday after I had mailed in the tax return .. a total of six days later .. we got the refund from the Government. That, after mailing it a few days before the deadline!

My boss called me in and said he knew there was something good about going on that trip, and I could have that time off, after all. And, by the way, here’s a check to help pay for it.

In early May, I got a birthday card from my brother, Art. He said he didn’t know what to get me that year, so he sent me a check. The ironic part of that is had never sent me a birthday present before that May. In fact, I don’t believe he ever did, again.

We had to have the final payment in by July 1st, and we were still $175 short. At the time, I was the Secretary-Treasurer of the Madison Avenue Businessmen’s Association. That entailed collecting the dinner tab from the members on meetings nights once a month, sending the bulletins out, receiving the reservations, and paying the restaurant every month. About the middle of June, the President of the Association called me about some Association matter. He then asked “Have you written yourself a check yet?”. I asked why I’d be doing THAT, and he said “On .. they didn’t tell you .. we pay the Secretary-Treasurer for the work you do”. I asked how much, and he replied “$175 a year”.

I was dumbstruck. My next question, as I wanted to do everything just right, was “When is that normally paid?”. He replied “Our fiscal year is July 1st through June 30th, so write it before the end of the month.”

God had provided, to the dollar, just what we needed.

Our church, now, promotes many mission trips every year. We’ve had several to Peru and Guatemala and Honduras. The usual format is to encourage people to put down the deposit, which is usually around $100, and then write letters to church friends enlisting their help in paying for the trip. I guess that’s ok, but I think it was Brother Andrew, in God’s Smuggler, who called that “Faith by Feelers”. I don’t personally believe in that, as I’ll trust God to provide the funds and wouldn’t want to pass up the miracle of seeing God provide, where there seemed to be no way.

We went on the trip, and it was a life-changing event. I had anticipated a call to the mission field, and I didn’t get one. But, I learned that missionaries were happy, well adjusted people. Teenaged kids there were like teenagers everywhere. They were just in a different place. The evening we got to the missionary compound, a Haitian came to the Picazo home with a Boa Constrictor, fairly small, for sale. Daniel Picazo bought it for 50 cents and put it in the attic to kill mice and rats. Some days later, it crawled into the garage and squeezed a can of turpentine. It popped open and the snake was drenched in it. Daniel found it writhing on the garage floor, in pain. He took it into the bathroom and put it in the tub; the only soap he could find was bubble bath, so he dumped some in.

OMS International has a radio station there, 4VEH, broadcasting over Haiti and the Southwest North Atlantic. They carried a story the next day about the Boa Constrictor who got a bubble bath.

Another Haitian came to the compound one evening. As I recall, he was led by his young daughter, as he was blind. He’d borrowed some money from the missionaries to buy supplies so he could make some whisk brooms. This evening, he came to sell the whisk brooms to the missionaries so he could buy food for his family. I asked our host, Dave Graffenberger, why he just didn’t take the money he’d borrowed to buy the food (since he never did repay the loan for the supplies) and Dave said they were too proud to borrow; they wanted to earn the money.

There were 20 of us on the trip. It was a real culture shock going there. They’d told us that nothing they could say to us would really prepare us for stepping off an airplane and into the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. And they were right. The first night, in a small hotel in Petionville, 1500 feet high overlooking Port-Au-Prince, we were served Pumpkin Soup for starters. We didn’t even know there was such a thing. Then, they put a plate before us, which had a whole fish on it, eyes and all. We were really not used to that, but it was delicious, nonetheless.

After a couple days on the trip, folks started getting sick. They had something like the stomach flu, nauseous for a day and then it’d pass. Sometimes they’d even lose what they’d eaten. Myself, I felt somewhat sick one day and was lying on the bed; I recall praying ‘God, if you want me down, you’ll have to knock me down, as I’m not going to lay here feeling sorry for myself”. I got up and went on with the activities and worked through it ok.

Of the 20, 19 of us were sick to one degree or another. Peggy was the exception. Miraculous exception would be an even more apt description, as she’d been suffering from diverticulitis for several months. Her diet had been baby food for quite a while, and when she was unsure she even wanted to go, she appealed to the doctor. She said she figured he’d say not to go, and she’d be “off the hook”. His response, however, was “You can’t live your life in a bubble … go ahead and go”.

She did, and she was the only one who wasn’t sick a minute on the trip.

At the end of the week, as we were leaving, a man came to the bus as we were loading luggage at the hotel outside Port-Au-Prince. He wanted to shine our shoes. Dave had told us a quarter was the going rate, so that’s what I offered when he asked for a dollar. As the man was kneeling at my feet, shining my shoes, God intervened and I felt so ashamed for asking him to chop his price, so I gave him the dollar he asked for. I’ve never forgotten how that made me feel, trying to “win”.

The story even continued after we came back home. Two folks on the trip who’d touched me were the Dentist and the Mechanic; we’d had dinner with each and they had shared their needs with us.

The Dentist said he always needed dental needles. The dental situation among Haitians was pathetic, and his office was said to be the best-equipped dental office in the nation. But he couldn’t get enough needles.

The Mechanic said he couldn’t get shock absorbers for the Land Rover. He said the roads were so bad, and the shocks so worn, that it was tearing the Land Rover, slowly, to pieces.

When I got back home, I had about $56 of the money we’d saved to spend in Haiti. I went to Washington Auto Parts and asked if they had shock absorbers for the Land Rover, and they did!.
The price just happened to be $56 for the set of 4.

I'd also mentioned the dental needles to the dentist who occupied the office next to ours. That was before I bought the shocks, and I told him I had $56 to spend on needles (since I never thought I’d find the shocks).

A week later, he walks into our office and plops a huge box onto my desk. He said “Here .. this will be my good deed for the year”. And, with that, he walked out. The box was marked “Contents: Dental Needles. 5000 count.”

Yes .. I learned a lot. Before, during, and after.

It’s amazing how much God will show us when we don’t try to make it into what we want to see.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


We've patronized this restaurant many times over the past few years, and never once has an employee offered to wash my hands.

I've complained to management, but they've never fixed it.

I feel so neglected....

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


I forget what day it was, but I was outside playing, near our home in Calumet City, IL. A strange dog came into the neighborhood .. there were lots of houses and lots of kids there .. and started chasing kids around. He nipped me on the heel, but I'm not sure he broke the skin. I ran into the house yelling for mom and dad, and dad asked what had happened.

When I told him, he flew down the back stairs,to the basement, grabbed a pair of long welder's gloves he had there, and ran out the back door to find the dog. And, as the article says, he did.

I recall we got into the car and took the dog to the police station, where the police took the dog from us and destroyed it. Its head was sent off for analysis, and it did, indeed, have rabies.

The police told us while we were there, that they'd had several reports of people being bitten by a mad dog, and they thought this was probably it. As it turns out, it was, and we had no idea of the havoc he'd wrought in 2 cities and 2 states.

By way of explanation, Calumet City, IL, and Hammond, IN are one metropolitan area split in two by the State Line, which happened to run down the middle of State Line Avenue. In fact, South of town there'd been a tavern which straddled the line; only half the bar was open on Sundays as Liquor sales were legal on Sunday in Illinois, but not in Indiana.

Or vice versa. I was, like, five at the time.

The article Mom clipped out was from the Chicago Sun-Times, and Mom made a humorous note on the bottom for Dad's benefit. He hadn't been bitten, but the doctors thought he should take the shots anyway, to be safe.

It also made me feel a lot better to go there every morning for one or two weeks (I forget which) and get the shots, which I recall getting in the part of me that faces north when I'm southbound. IF you get my drift here...

Like I say, heroes come in all sorts of configurations. This one was Rescuer and Comforter of a five-year-old kid.

The paper got that part wrong, too.

Monday, December 13, 2010


Christmas is a really neat time to be an old curmudgeon. You can speak your mind about stuff and, if somebody disagrees, they can just dismiss you as an old fuddy-duddy.

At my age, I'll take all the escape routes available to me, thank you very much.

This rant is brought to you courtesy of the church's seeming upset at merchants who tell you, or who instruct their employees to tell you, or even just people who tell you "Happy Holidays". Some thoughts:

First, when someone says that to me, they're expressing the hope that I have a happy holiday season. I'm supposed to be upset about that?

Not gonna happen.

Second, merchants are in business to make money. Particularly someone like a major chain store operation is charged with making as much money for their owners, as possible. If using the phrase "Happy Holidays" is less offensive to some, then they're really only doing what they should.

Next, it's not the merchants of this world who are supposed to "keep Christ in Christmas". It's you and me, the church. Blaming the stores for not doing that really indicts us, ourselves, if we're doing the usual present buying for friends & family, and not giving the birthday presents to the One Whose birthday we're celebrating. He told us how to do that, you know......

Then there's the fact that "Happy Holidays" is in no way an insult to Christians. Period. It's no more an insult to Christmas than, as you leave work, telling a Jewish friend to "have a nice weekend" is an insult to the Sabbath.

Last, when someone wishes me a "Happy Holidays", it's a wonderful opportunity to say what I do believe. That's it's OK to wish me "Merry Christmas". Every time I have said that to someone, they've brightened up and returned the favor.

I can't help but think that's constructive to the cause of Christ. Much moreso than the church in Texas that started a "Grinch" website, taking to task those stores that don't wish them the best in a manner they like.

So .. anyway, here's hoping your holidays are happy ones, indeed, this year. And you know which ones I'm talking about. If you don't, just ask and I'll be happy to fill you in.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010


That's Svetlana over there. She was my Tech .. technician who tended my requirements that didn't require a nurse, while I was in the Intermediate Care Unit, at Shelby Baptist Medical Center. She was there Saturday and Sunday, 7am-7pm.

More about her later.

When I was first taken to the ER, I was, as Jeff (the nurse on duty) said, really, really sick. He mentioned that nothing added up, with me. I was somewhat of an anomaly.

Before they trundled me off to SICU, where I spent the next 2-1/2 days, they made sure everything was in order, I'd been checked for bedsores, linens clean, etc; that the nurse who'd be tending me was quite protective toward her patients. And, indeed, she was.

About 4:30-5:00am on Thursday .. I'd slept from 3:27 to 4:05 .. she came into my room again to check something. She'd been walking around softly singing things like "Go Tell It On The Mountain", and when she came into my room, she started in on "I Surrender All". So I started singing a little harmony with her.

She heard me and sang louder, and I heard her and sang louder.

Folks, we had us a duet.

In fact, a couple people stopped by and said it was great (speaking non-musically, I presume).

Next few visits were a wonderful time of ministry for me. It was God-ordained, as I don't know of a lot that will cheer up a sick patient like doing some Heavenly work, despite earthly woes.

When Peg came in just before shift change, she spoke to Peg and said "Your husband has blessed my soul". You and I both know it wasn't me; God just let me in on the goodies.

A little later, a lady came in to run a test on me. We got to talking about spiritual things .. her name was a clue .. and she said "I have learned the most important thing in this life is "I AM"."

Amen and amen.

Shortly she asked if she could ask me a question. She had questions as to how a small church that grows huge can maintain "ministry". I told her of what I'd observed, and she thanked me for it. Then she asked what I thought was happening when someone says "I'm being led to leave here" .. speaking of the church he's serving. I again gave her my observations, and her comment was "I knew you were a man of God, and now I know why He sent you here".

More chills & thrills.

There was a further episode with a lady who came in to draw blood. We had a wonderful time rejoicing in the Lord.

Still more thrills & chills.

Then there was the pleasant young lady Chaplain who visited me in SICU, too. When she came in, she introduced herself and we said the usual hello's. Then I asked her to tell me about herself. She described her education .. perhaps wondering why I was questioning her .. and at the end she said she'd attended SWBTS. So, I asked her if she was there when Dr. Klouda was there. She brightened up and said yes, she was, albeit she hadn't ever taken a course from her. That led to a discussion on women in the ministry, the "Official SBC position", some of the actions that had taken place. She asked my opinion and I told her.

We talked for nearly an hour. It was a fascinating time for me, to think that I might have something to say of interest for a Hospital Chaplain, rather than vice-versa.

Which brings us to Svetlana. When I moved into the room, they wrote the names of the Nurse, Tech, and Charge Nurse on an information board in my room. They listed the tech as "Lana". But when she came in, I saw her name tag, and called her by that name, of course.

Next time the nurse came in, I asked why she was shown as "Lana", and the nurse said Svetlana'd told them if they had trouble saying the Russian name .. she was from Belarus until 9 years ago .. just call her Lana.

Next time Svetlana came into the room, I asked her to do me a favor: please change her name on the board. I'd been to Russia, knew some folks there, and knew how to say her name. She acted so happy, and changed her name. She said she was really happy to have someone who could say her name.

I then told her we learned some songs in Russian, so I recited the parts of "Because we Believe" and "I Love You, Lord" in my now-13-year-old Russian. Again, she was so happy.

At that point, Brad walked in and I asked him to snap her picture, which you see above.

NOW: for years, I've taught that what the church really needs is not more programs or plans or outlines. We need its people to simply live as what we are. And happy to be so. We wear a wedding ring because we're happy that people will know we're married. We wear Alabama or Auburn T-Shirts or Sweatshirts or License Tags because we're happy for folks to know those things about us. But I don't see a lot of external evidence that we're Christians, which is the most important there IS, about us.

Why are we reluctant to have them know that about us?

The verse which says "He that winneth souls is wise" is normally used as an inducement for church folks to go out on a "witnessing visit" or some such. But as I read the original language, that verse says that it's wise to "gather" "living beings with vitality". Like making friends, building relationships, and being so happy in our faith that when people have a Spiritual need of which they become aware (whether lost or saved), well ... "Who ya gonna call?"

In the end, December 1-6 proved to me that what I've been teaching all these years is really true. Gee .. who knew?

Furthermore, those days shed a new light on what Wade Burleson blogged about, here. God put the desires to do those things recounted here .. to talk to people .. in my heart for reasons which run clear back to my childhood. But all of them have made me whatever it is that I am, now. And insofar as it lined up with Biblical principles, it wasn't just God's permission to act like that. It was my obligation to do so.

Delight yourself in the Lord and He'll give you the desires of your heart, I read somewhere. Let's act like it, OK?

Tuesday, December 07, 2010


Yes, I can, and NO, you CAN'T.

Monday, December 06, 2010


Short Version: Last week, on Wednesday, I developed a severe Urinary Tract Infection. Also, due to some sort of allergy to an antibiotic I'd taken, I threw up everything I drank that day. Upshot: dehydration, but no way to know it, as I never urinated all day.

Peg finally loaded me up and took me to Shelby Baptist Medical Center .. 7 minutes away in Alabaster .. where I spent the night in ER, the next 2 days in ICU, and then was in Intermediate Care until last evening, when I came home.

The dehydration was so severe that they ran four bags of fluids through me before anything came out of the catheter, at all! The ER nurse .. a great ex-paramedic named Jeff Ray, said "You're one SICK puppy", with a glance that let me know that I was lucky as all get-out that Peg had taken me in when she did.

And the infection was so severe, that every test they ran was abnormal. Liver enzymes, a slight touch of pneumonia, and a bunch of others I cannot recall and never could pronounce.

In the end, all the blood cultures came up negative, which meant that (apparently) the UTI was it; it'd just spread all around my considerable body in my bloodstream. And, after 5 days of industrial strength IV antbiotics in two flavors, they sent me home with an 8X10 envelope full of instructions.

Long Version: It was an incredible time of ministry for me, and a wonderful time of affirmation of some of the things I've been teaching for years (gee .. WHO KNEW? ... I was right!) Laying out all that happened will take a separate post, but you can get a glimpse of its essence by reviewing Wade Burleson's post, here.

All I can say simply is that it was an affirmation of his thoughts, as well as what I've been teaching, and has also connected some dots that I'd never seen before.

Peg just read me a line from our last church prayer letter; it says "Please continue to pray for Bob Cleveland and Shelby Hospital.....".

Amen. They did, and it worked.

Stay tuned. More details to follow.

Sunday, December 05, 2010


...a whole MONTH go by without posting SOMETHING but, as I am still in a hospital bed, this is all you're going to get.

The pic over there is me, last Wednesday night, in the ER. I asked #1 grandson Matthew to snap a pic of me with his IPhone, put it on Facebook, and tag me. When he showed me the pic, I said "Idon't feel THAT good", so that's what he put up.

Short version: severe kidney infection, bad (as in BAD) dehydration, and sepsis.

But I am getting better now. There have been some wonderful times of testimony and ministry, which have made it all more than worth it.

Stay tuned. Details to follow.