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Dr. Joe’s Blog On Hold

On May 12, Joe Wheeler took a terrible tumble down the stairs, resulting in a traumatic brain injury. We are hoping for a quick recovery, but it could be lengthy.

Dr. Joe’s social media and blog posts will be postponed while he focuses on his recovery. Thanks for your understanding, support, positive energy, and prayers for his full recovery.
Sincerely, The Wheeler Family
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Florence – Colorado’s Antique Capital




MAY 23, 2018

Connie and I have continued to speculate whether or not we should take a day off and visit this self-proclaiming antique capital for ourselves. Another influence is the Mountain States Collector, because it features a full-page ad celebrating Florence’s two dozen antique shops in every issue.

Finally, the perfect May day arrived, and we headed south on Interstate 25, stopping at our favorite Cracker Barrel restaurant, in Colorado Springs, for a late breakfast, en route. Then we took Highway 115 southwest through miles and miles of gates into Fort Carson military base.

At one of the antique stores in Florence I discovered that the May/June issue of Colorado Life was featuring the town, so I bought one to help flesh out this blog. The article was written by Matt Masich and photographed by Joshua Hardin, and titled, “Old Stuff Brings New Life to Florence, Antiques Capital of Colorado.”

In it, I learned that Florence was a boom town in the nineteenth century—not silver or gold driven, but oil and coal. By the 1890’s, it was producing up to 824,000 barrels of oil annually. But then, after World War I, the boom years came to an end, and the town began to die. But even the 1994 coming of a massive federal prison (the nation’s highest-security prison, dabbed the Alcatraz of the Rockies, housing the likes of unabomber Ted Kaczynski, 9/11 conspirators, Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols, etc.) didn’t help bring in new residents.

It took something unusual to save the town. In 1994, Patty and Dean Dixon opened an antique mall on Main Street. Peg Piltingsrud moved back home from out of state about the same time. She decided to open another antique store. Then, others were persuaded to gamble on Florence’s future: people such as Kit Lamborn, Martha Manley, Barry and Barb Brierley, Keith and Elsie Ore, etc. The biggest store in town is the Loralie Antique Mall, owned by the well-known quilter known as Loralie—Connie spent years making a king-sized Loralie quilt, so it was a special treat to wander through Loralie’s quilt shop.

These two-dozen pioneers have gradually brought life back to the frontier town. Judging by the difficulty we had finding an open parking space, I’d say those new pioneers have accomplished a near miracle.

Florence is now alive and well. Come and see for yourself!

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The Day We Lost Our Hymnals




MAY 16, 2018

Our most popular blog series last year had to do with favorite hymns—so many of you weighed in on your personal favorites. But more and more, it appears that hymns are becoming an endangered species in Christian churches.

My wife and I have certainly noticed tifference: more and more all those hymns that have been so beloved for so many centuries are being discarded by new generations who value them not.

One of my dear friends, Esther Brummett, just relayed an article that addresses the problem. We are so impressed by it that we are featuring it this week. Not least because we are beginning to realize that the demise of hymn-singing is but the tip of the iceberg: the church services the current generation is substituting for the old is, by extension, disenfranchising all those older generations and, in essence, leaving them with no church to call their own any more.

We’ll be most interested in your reactions to the concerns voiced in the article.


By Appalachian Magazine, April 3, 2017

Few memories are as synonymous with church in my mind, as the sight of my mother holding up a raggedy old red hymnal and singing to the top of her lungs the songs of Zion.

Sadly, the number of children who are privileged to such memories in today’s world is dwindling with each passing hour; partly because church is becoming an afterthought to so many and partly because many religious establishments are “moving past” the golden era of hymnals.

The following is an article written by Tim Challies, in which he seeks to remind church folk what they lose when they give up their hymnals:

If we were to go back in time twenty or thirty years, we would find that most churches had hymnals. They had hymnals because it was the best way of providing each member of the congregation with a copy of the songs. You’d hear it in every church: “Take out your hymnal and turn to hymn 154…” And then hymnals went the way of the dodo and we began to look instead to words projected on a screen. Here is some of what we lost along the way.

We lost an established body of songs. Hymnals communicated that a church had an established collection of songs. This, in turn, communicated that its songs were vetted carefully and added to its repertoire only after careful consideration. After all, great songs are not written every day and their worth is proven only over time. Therefore, new hymns would be chosen carefully and added to new editions of the hymnal only occasionally. Churches would update their hymnals, and, therefore, their established body of songs, only once every ten or fifteen years.

We lost a deep knowledge of our songs. When we removed the hymnal, we gained the ability to add new songs to our repertoire whenever we encounter one we deem worthy. And we do—we add new songs all the time. As we add new songs with greater regularity, we sing old songs with less frequency. This reduces our familiarity with our songs so that today we have far fewer of them fixed in our minds and hearts. Few congregations could sing even the greatest hymns without that PowerPoint screen.

We lost the ability to do harmonies. Hymnody grew up at a time when instrumentation took a back seat to the voice. Hymns were most often written so they could be sung acappella or with minimal instrumentation. For that reason, hymnals almost invariably included the music for both melody and harmonies and congregations learned to sing the parts. The loss of the hymnal and the associated rise of the worship band has reduced our ability to harmonize and, in that way, to sing to the fullest of our abilities.

It often seems like all we want from the congregation is their enthusiasm. We lost the ability to sing skillfully. As congregations have lost their knowledge of their songs, they have lost the ability to sing them well. We tend to compensate for our poorly-sung songs by cranking up the volume of the musical accompaniment. The loss of the voice has given rise to the gain of the amplifier. This leads to our music being dominated by a few instrumentalists and perhaps a pair of mixed-up vocalists while the larger congregation plays only a meager role. In fact, it often seems like all we want from the congregation is their enthusiasm.

We lost the ability to have the songs in our homes. Hymnals usually lived at the church, resting from Monday to Saturday in the little pockets on the back of the pews. But people also bought their own and took them home so the family could have that established body of songs there as well. Families would often sing together as part of their family worship. It is easy to imagine a family singing “It Is Well With My Soul” after eating dinner together, but almost impossible to imagine them singing, “Oceans.”

It is probably too late to go back to the hymnal. I am not at all convinced we ought to. But it is still worth considering what we lost along the way and how congregational singing has been utterly transformed by what may appear to have been a simple and practical switch in the media. That little change from book to screen changed nearly everything.

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First Lady of the Greatest Generation, Part 2




MAY 9, 2018

In all our nation’s history, only one other President’s wife, Dolly Madison, ever gave birth to another President. The May 4 issue of This Week titled its obituary:


It begins with these words, “With her brilliant white hair and trademark fake pearls, Barbara Bush was viewed by many Americans as the nation’s kindly grandmother. But within the Bush family, she was known as ‘The Enforcer. As the matriarch of one of the nation’s most powerful families, Bush employed her own considerable political skills to help her husband, George H.W. Bush, and her eldest son, George W. Bush, rise to the presidency. When George H. W. Finally reached the White House in 1989, their Christmas card list had grown to more than 10,000 names. Throughout her husband’s career, she meticulously maintained an index-card library detailing the family’s social and fund-raising contacts.

Through all her husband’s perigrinations (Ambassador to China, CIA Director, Ambassador to the United Nations, Vice President, and President), she remained the rock of the family. In her own words, “This was a period, for me, of long days and short years, of diapers, runny noses, earaches, more Little League games than you’d believe possible.”

Those were heady years, not least the eight years as Ronald Reagan’s Vice President, four years as First Lady, and eight more years as First Matriarch during her son’s presidency, with the ever-present danger that her five living children would be wrecked by all the media attention and adulation.

When you see photographs of the wall of Bush people (including grandchildren and great grandchildren), it’s kind of overwhelming, just thinking of how she found time to be family “Enforcer,” to this throng, and keep all these far-flung families intact, it boggles the mind—especially when you compare them to other recent dynasties such as the Kennedys.

But perhaps the most poignant photo of the funeral weekend was the one titled “Last Respects” (Mark Burns/Office of George H. W. Bush via AP), in which the now widowed President, in a wheelchair, is attended by his faithful daughter, Dorothy, and he drinks in the sight of the flower-bedecked casket in Houston’s St. Martin’s Episcopal Church. His bride of 73 years. A romance for the ages. Sixty years after their wedding, she described her husband as “That 80-year-old whirlwind who makes my life sing.”

Mark Burns/Office of George H. W. Bush via AP