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Lyndon LBJ Johnson: His very tough attitude

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“And the LORD said unto Joshua, ‘Fear them not, for I have delivered them into thine hand. There shall not a man of them stand before thee.’” Joshua 10:8 KJV

I can still remember my first day working in the plumbing field. The boss had crates of very heavy cast iron fittings he needed moved. For the entire day I carried those fittings, one on each arm, across a hot, dusty field. But I was determined that I wasn’t going to let him or it beat me.

It was just a summer job at the time, but my stubbornness kept me employed that whole summer and each summer, until I eventually decided to become a plumber myself. My boss was tough and no nonsense. There was no mistaking our roles. He was the czar and I was the peon.

One of my father’s friends had a son who also needed a summer job. My Dad asked me to ask my boss if he might be willing to give him a job, too. My boss was willing to give the boy a try. When the young lad, who was about my age, reported to work, he was somewhat caught off guard by the boss’ rigid regiment. Let’s just say he didn’t have the same determination as I did about not letting it get the best of him.

He just wasn’t working out, so the boss fired him. As he was leaving, under his breath, he told me, “I didn’t want to work for that slave driver anyway.” Off he went, over the horizon, to wait for one of his parents to pick him up.

My Mom told me, later that day, that she saw him in the median of the road and wondered why he was there. I guess that was where he was waiting to be picked up. I told her that he was fired earlier. I will never forget her response. She said, “I was wondering why he looked so happy.”

Chances are, you have never heard of Henry Haller before. Henry was born in 1923, in Altdorf, Switzerland. He was French from his mother’s side and German from his father’s side. His father was a manager of a factory.

Henry’s father loved to eat. Henry’s mother would fix the family feasts. She would also plant a large garden, so she would have fresh produce for her cooking. One day she asked young Henry to help her in the kitchen. It was the beginning of a lifelong passion for Henry.

Henry’s father loved Henry’s cooking. He thought his son had so much talent that he encouraged him to become a chef. His father would say, “Henry, why don’t you be a chef? You can travel all over the world. And you will never have to worry about a job. People everywhere have to eat.” Henry took his father’s encouragement and ran with it.

Henry would enroll in an apprenticeship program in high school. After graduation he would he would enlist in the Swiss Army. He would serve two years and then he would be discharged. Now he could get back to his cooking.

After his discharge, he would go to work at Hotel Des Balances in Lucerne and enroll in their Training School. Des Balances was considered one of the best cooking academies in the world. He worked at a couple of other hotels before one of the hotel owners asked him to go to one of his other hotels in Canada. Henry quickly agreed.

One day Henry was finally able to emigrate to the United States from Canada. The United States was the dream spot for young chefs. He would work at several hotels, including the Ambassador Hotel in New York City. It was at the Ambassador Hotel that his path would cross this future President. The future President loved his cooking.

We are very lucky in the United States. We have countless freedoms, not the least of which is the freedom of choice. I think we sometimes forget just how lucky we are with our freedoms. Other countries and other times have not treated its citizens so kindly.

Such was the case in most Biblical times. Usually freedom was what the people wanted, not what the people had. There were even some Biblical children who really didn’t even have a choice about their own future. Sometimes their destiny was determined by their parents.

It is here where we step into the life of our Bible character. God, through his parents, told him that he was to be a lifelong Nazarite. “Oh, great!” he probably thought, “Wait, what’s a Nazarite?”

If you were the average person in Biblical times you might think of a Nazarite as one of those crazy religious people that didn’t need to speak a word and you would know they took their religion very seriously. Think of a monk, a priest, or a Jewish person with a Kippah, but multiply that by one hundred. You may remember another famous Nazarite in the Bible by the name of John the Baptist.

A Nazarite would usually live on a strange diet. They would eat some things you and I would probably never consider eating and they wouldn’t eat some of the foods we just couldn’t imagine living without. They weren’t allowed to be around dead bodies. That included human beings and animals. They were not too worried much about their looks. This often meant that their hair was unkempt or never cut.

Yes, being a Nazarite sounds like a real fun time, especially if you have no say in the matter. So you might see why our Bible character had just a little bit of an attitude. Can you imagine some of the kidding a Nazarite got when he was a kid? “Johnny, come over here. There’s a spider crawling up the wall. Maybe you can have it for lunch,” might have been some of the teasing.

This future President was as tough as they come. Maybe it was his upbringing. When he came into the Presidency, he was one of those Presidents who wasn’t too short in the money department. He got it the old fashion way, he married into it.

The future President was elected to the House of Representatives in a special election. He would serve as a Representative for twelve years. While he was a Representative, he also served in the US Naval Reserve. He was called to active duty, even though he was a Representative, three days after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

He would eventually report to General Douglas MacArthur in Australia. His roommate and he were assigned to a bombing mission of the Japanese airbase at Lae in New Guinea. They would each be assigned to different planes. His roommate’s plane would be shot down. None of the eight aboard that plane survived.

His plane had to return to base. There were conflicting reports as to why. Later, he would claim that one of their engines had been shot by the enemy. Other reports claim that the plane lost a generator and they were told to report back to base. He would receive the Silver Star, which MacArthur personally presented to him.

In 1949, he would run for the US Senate. He would win the Democratic primary by a total of 87 votes out of 988,295. The Committee to certify the vote, voted 29-28 to grant him the nomination. Charges of fraud abounded. It was here that he acquired the nickname: Landslide Lyndon.

Despite thinking it is a curse, God really does bless people like the Nazarites. Sometimes he even instills special gifts inside them. Our special Nazarite was given one of those special gifts. He was given the power to rise up in almost impossible situations, and grab victory when victory was nowhere to be found.

One day our young Nazarite’s path was crossed by a lion. With his bare hands he would kill the lion. Sometime later, he would come across that same path and he would notice the bees had built a nest inside the carcass of that lion. Seeing the honey dripping from the combs, he would reach inside the carcass and take the honey. Do you remember the rule about the Nazarites being near dead things?

Another time he came across a group of thirty Philistines who were making fun of him, just before he was to be married. To try to ease the situation, or to just try to fit in, he offered them a riddle. If they would answer the riddle, he would give each man a sheet and some clothing.

The riddle stumped the Philistines, so they threatened the newlywed’s wife to get the answer from him. She pleaded with him for the answer, which she promptly relayed to the Philistines. The Philistines proudly presented him with the answer. He was so mad that he went to another town and slayed thirty men and took their sheets and clothes to pay off his debt.

Then his wife was taken from him by his father-in-law. He got mad again and rounded up 300 foxes and tied their tails together. They he lit a torch between them and sent them out into the corn fields of the Philistines to set them on fire. Then he ran back home.

The Philistines threatened the Israelites with destruction if they didn’t turn him over to them. The Israelites convinced him to turn himself in. They even tied his hands up and turned him over to the Philistines. When he arrived back at the Philistine camp, he snapped the ropes, which tied him up, like they were putty. He then slew 1000 Philistines.

What is it about this Nazarite and death? I didn’t say he was a very good Nazarite.

Lyndon Johnson would go on to easily defeat the Republican Jack Porter in the election for the Senate. Johnson would eventually become the Senate Minority Leader and then Senate Majority Leader. He was known as a very tough leader. He often twisted arms and bullied other Senators in order to get the votes he needed for the bills he wanted passed.

When Johnson became President, White House Executive Chef, Rene’ Verdon resigned in a dispute with Johnson. Our chef, Henry Haller, applied for the position. He had served Johnson, as chef, on some of the trips Johnson made to the Ambassador Hotel in New York City, while Johnson was Vice President. Haller applied for the newly open position at the White House. He was given a probationary period of sixty days to see if he had what it took to be the White House Executive Chef.

I’m sure Haller was very excited about his new job, but, like any job, there were mistakes along the way. On one dinner, Haller served Johnson string beans. Johnson summons Haller out of the kitchen. To Haller’s surprise, as he approached Johnson’s table, he found the President holding some strings from those beans and a frown on his face. The President then lectured Haller and told him that he never expected to have strings in his beans, ever again.

The dejected Haller returned to the kitchen with his head down. He thought of all the wonderful, creative meals he made, and here he was being chewed out for a few strings in some beans. As he went through the kitchen door he was surprised by his coworkers’ response.

Haller looked up and he saw that his fellow employees all had smiles on their faces. There were also a few giggles in the crowd. Before he had a chance to respond, one of them spoke up. He said, “Join the corps. We have all been bawled out by this president at one time or another.”

Probably the most remembered story of our Nazarite, Sampson, is his famous haircut. Sampson fell for a woman, who was not his wife, named Delilah. Exposing that the secret of his strength was in his hair, she relayed the information that eventually lead to his imprisonment and forced blindness.

We all come across those really tough people in our lives. Henry Haller had his LBJ. I had an old tough boss, and the Philistines had their Sampson. It is really hard at the time to realize, but even in those very difficult times, God still has everything under control.

By the way, when I went to get my Class A Contractor’s plumbing license, I had to have three references. I went to my former, very tough boss to ask for one. He said he would be honored to help me. Henry Haller went on to serve as White House chef for twenty-one years and he proudly will tell you how he survived LBJ. Sampson, now extremely humbled, would have one final act. He would, with his strength restored, pull down the main pillars of a building. The Bible would go on to say, in addition to his own death, this collapse would lead to more Philistine deaths than he had caused in his entire life.

Prayer: Dear Mighty Father, Thank you for helping me survive those very tough people who cross my path. Thank you, that through those experiences, I have grown stronger myself. Amen.

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