Thursday, June 26, 2008

TITANIC Thompson

A few weeks ago I wrote a story on the Titanic. If you didn’t get a chance to read it, I would like to shamelessly plug the Brewer’s website where you can go to our Blog and check the archives. It’s Today’s cup from this highly caffeinated Christian is about an all-together different Titanic. This Titanic wasn’t a boat but a person.

Odds are you never have heard of Titanic Thompson, who sailed through life as the greatest poker playing, golf gambling, horseshoe hustling, skeet shooting, womanizing, rake-hell, con man of all time. That doesn’t mean he didn’t leave his mark.

Titanic Thompson was America's most famous gambler, card cheat, and sharp dressed man for decades. His celebrity status was so great Houdini himself followed him trying to find his secrets to swindling people. Thompson was actually the model for Damon Runyon's character Sky Masterson in the Broadway play Guys and Dolls. Marlon Brando played his part in the movie.

It was only at Titanic’s insistence that the writer called his gambling lead man by another name. Titanic was already more famous than he wanted to be. So Runyon christened his romantic lead, "Sky Masterson," for the ‘master’ Titanic, whose ‘sky's the limit’ response was a sure thing whenever a bet was on the table.

His skills got him personally invited to a party by Al Capone and he had the guts to cheat Capone in a bet, which he did, and got away with it. He often played pool with Minnesota Fats. He was a professional golfer and actually good enough to shoot a 29 on the back nine at Fort Worth's Ridglea Country Club where he beat Byron Nelson by one stroke.

Always An Angle
He was the Arizona State trapshooting champion four consecutive years. He was a quick draw pistolear and somehow got away with at least five shootings and some say six in which all men were killed. It was said that he could throw a baseball from dead center field 400 feet to home plate without the aid of a bounce and he would challenge professional base ball player in throwing matches. One time, he challenged the horseshoe throwing world champion to a high stakes game and beat him out of $2000.

Titanic, who was naturally left-handed, played Golf just as well right-handed, and he would often hustle golfers by challenging them to a game where he would switch hands. But being good at golf was all about getting him into country clubs from coast to coast. Once inside, Titanic could always find rich men and take them for all they had in much more lucrative poker games. It paid a lot better than those tiny golf purses. This was way before Tiger Woods.

In 1972, Titanic as an old man, agreed to do a rare interview with Sports Illustrated. They offered to pay him a much-needed $5000 for the story. In the two weeks Bud Shrake spent with him putting it together, Titanic made a huge impression. Shrake wrote, "Ti's mind was so sharp that I am convinced if he was born in Princeton, N.J. instead of Nowhere, Ark. and went to an Ivy League college, he'd have spent his life giving advice to world leaders”.

As a ladies man, he could just as easily talk a woman into loving him as he could talk a man into a bet. There was something about him people thought they could tame. He counted on that underestimation and used it frequently. Titanic married 5 times and all of them teenagers. When he died at the age of 81, his last wife of 19 years was 37. This guy was something else.

One of his abandoned offspring, Tommy Thomas, caught up with him in San Antonio at the age of nineteen. 1964 was a good year for Tommy and he rolled up into the driveway in a shiny jaguar. Always hoping to someday impress his dad, he himself was quite an accomplished card shark.

Over the next several years they paired up and racked in millions from unsuspecting wannabes. I know all this not just because of the books I’ve read on Titanic Thompson but because Tommy Thomas, Titanic’s son, [SA1] is a friend of mine.

Today, Tommy is a Preacher and has a TV show called How to Beat the Odds. I’ve been on his show a couple times and know for a fact it airs all over the world. One time, my wife and I were visiting our orphanage in Uganda and Tommy’s show was airing and it just happened to be the show that I was on. It was a hoot to bring in the staff at the little hotel and all of us watched it together.

The one thing Tommy will tell you that he really wanted out of his dad was to hear the words, “I love you” In all those years, Titanic’s pride wouldn’t allow him to bless his boy with the affirmation he desperately needed. Finally, and literally the day before he died of a stroke, Ti Thompson put his arms around Tommy and said the magic words he had wanted to hear.

What it always comes down to is whom you love and who loves you. For those of us that cling to Christianity, we know this to be true. Whatever exploits you’ve lived, good or bad, mean nothing the last few days in the old folks home. The only real legacy any of us have is a testimony of whom we have loved and who loved us.

Let it be said of the Brewer, that I loved God and God really loved this ol’ knucklehead. If that’s true (and I know it is) the love of God will outlast all of my history, no matter how titanic my sin may have been.

"And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." Matthew 3:17

Contact The Brewer @

Friday, June 20, 2008

TITANIC Dramatic

Since I’m a Christian, I believe in the prophetic, which means I think God lets us know some things before they actually happen. Now just the mere mention of the word Prophet conjures images of mystic sages, supernatural thunder and Charlton Heston with a long grey beard.

That’s not really what I’m talking about. I think some of the most powerful ways the supernatural side of God is seen is so natural and casual that we tend to miss it altogether. I think God is naturally supernatural.

For instance did you know that there was a prophetic word that went out through a novel in the late 1800’s? I don’t know if the guy who wrote it knew it was but if you’ve got an eye to see, its all right there in bold print.

Morgan Robertson had penned a novel called “Futility” about the largest and grandest ocean liner of its time. It was considered to be unsinkable because she had multiple watertight compartments that could be sealed in case of an emergency. In his fictitious story the grandest ocean liner in the world sank after striking an iceberg and most passengers lost their lives because the liner did not carry enough lifeboats. The name of the ship was called “The Titan”

Fourteen years later on April 14th, 1912 an ocean liner called the TITANIC struck an iceberg and sank to more than 13,000 feet. The huge majority of the passengers on this ship died in the icy waters without a lifeboat to accommodate them. This wasn’t a fictitious story but a real life sinking that took a lot of people down with it.

The publishing house of the book wanted to cash in on the amazing coincidence and republished the title as The Wreck of the Titan. Thousands bought that book thinking it was a true account of what had just happened but a closer examination would show it was actually a novel and was first published in 1898.

As my late grandfather would say, “How about them apples?”

Retro Reel
If you have heard that, you might not have heard this. A much lesser known but still incredible coincidence is that at the very moment the Titanic struck an iceberg, the film The Poseidon Adventure was being shown aboard the ship.

Now it’s a little hard to wrap your head around what a big deal this is but let me fill you in on how people thought about movies back then.

In 1912 movies were still brand new. You couldn’t download “Jumper” to your iphone like my bass man did last week. Movies were usually seen through crank devices called Kinescopes. Cutting edge technology was just allowing images to be projected onto a silver screen and the White Star ocean liner would debut this technology onto the Titanic.

Sparing no expense for luxury Titanic carried its own projector and rented several movies from a U.S. movie distributor. Now a problem they didn’t anticipate was that movies were mostly seen in Nicolodeans and was considered something akin to a bowling alley by the high class of the day.

To avoid offending the First Class passengers, movies were screened only in the Second Class dining saloon and not until after 11:00 P.M. By then, the orchestra would be finished with its evening concert for the First Class passengers and was free to provide music for the otherwise silent movie.

This movie, The Poseidon Adventure was an amazing 53 minutes long in a time when most movies were ten minutes. It was about a group of six passengers and crew members who struggle to stay alive after the ocean liner they were on was capsized by a tidal wave.

It’s the same movie that would be remade in 1972 and in 2005

This movie was actually being shown at 11:40 when Titanic hit the iceberg and the people in the theater were so into the movie they didn’t feel anything. After the viewing it was such a big hit that The Poseidon Adventure was immediately shown for a second time just after midnight.

By the time the second screening was finished after 1:00 A.M. a few hundred Second Class passengers filtered back out on deck and finally learned the Titanic was going down. Most of the lifeboats had already been sent off and nearly 170 2nd class passengers were left behind to freeze to death in the cold Atlantic.

Here and Now

Do you get it? There were people so caught up in the drama of something that wasn’t real they actually failed to take action for what really was real. I have never been on the Titanic but I have been in that same boat.

May God help us to not get caught up in what’s not real so that we have enough strength to fight battles that are. If my ship is going down I want to know it. But it’s hard to be aware of what really does matter when you are so caught up into what doesn’t matter at all.

"For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light." Ephesians 5:8

Contact the Brewer @

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The BIG Easy

This week is Father's Days and it's gotten me thinking about how grateful I am for my dad, my step dad and my grandfather.
In searching for some good fathers day stories for my Sunday sermon, I thought I would go to and make sure these stories were real. While looking around, I came across a few I had never heard of, and this one is one of my favorites.

Way up North and a long time ago, there was a no good opportunist the neighborhood called "Easy Eddie." He had run numbers in the rackets and eventually put himself through school to be an accountant. While there, he took an interest in counseling and found out he had a knack for twisting the law in the favor of his clients.

In the mid twenties, Easy Eddie starting cooking the books for a few shady people and before long he was hired by none other than Al Capone. Al Capone virtually owned the city of Chicago and his favor on Eddie's life opened up doors he had only dreamed of. Capone's money from fear, fraud, prostitution and bootlegged booze was poured over Eddie like the whiskey he peddled.

His skills with the law and legal maneuvering kept Big Al out of jail for a long time. He also went into several business ventures with Capone and through fraudulent enterprises cheated his way into living the life of the rich and the privileged.

To show his appreciation, Capone paid him very well and had Eddie's whole family occupy a fenced-in mansion complete with live-in help that took up an entire city block of down town Chicago. While Eddie lived the high life - others were being murdered and lives were being ruined. It was something else.

In the midst of all that, Eddie was raising a family and his son was a jewel. Butch O'Hare was a little boy tough as nails, yet innocent. Eddie really loved that kid and wanted him to have the best of everything. He often wondered what kind of legacy he would pass down to his son.

When Butch got old enough to ask questions about the source of his daddy's money so did the Federal Government. A man by the name of Elliot Ness was bound and determined to throw Capone under the jailhouse and he decided to use the teeth of the IRS to do it.

When approached and cornered by the Untouchables he was point blank asked if he had ever considered passing down a good name to Butch. After consideration, easy Eddie did something not easy at all. That month he told Butch and his wife that he was going to testify in court against none other than Scarface himself and that their lives would never be the same.

Eddie and his children got closer than ever before and Elliot Ness told young Butch that his daddy was "a good guy." He even came to see him graduate from the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, in the summer of 1937.

Butch had grown up to see his daddy make a stand and it had a profound effect on him. Several years later on November 8th, 1939 he also saw his Daddy pay a terrible price for it. Edward O`Hare was caught by Capone's henchmen and murdered a week before Capone was released from Alcatraz.

Alls Fair

The day after Pearl Harbor-December 7, 1941, the then-28- year-old Lt. O'Hare was pulled from the arms of his young bride and sent west to the shooting war in the Pacific.

About ten weeks after the "day of infamy," Lt. O'Hare was flying his single-engine Grumman F4F fighter in the area of the Gilbert Islands. At that crucial moment, only O'Hare and his wing mate were aloft. The rest of the Lexington's fighters were aboard the carrier refueling and reloading, when nine enemy bombers attacked the Lexington.

One at a time, Butch O'Hare flew at the heavily armed Japanese aircraft, and one at a time, he began killing them off. The airborne shootout that followed took place within sight of hundreds of Lexington crewmembers. O'Hare was being fired on with machine guns and cannons from all angles, but he "just kept moving," one report said.

For his inspiring exploits on that fatal day in February 1942, Lt. Edward H. (Butch) O'Hare was designated the U.S. Navy's first "Ace" of World War II. He was immediately promoted two grades to Lieutenant Commander.

President Roosevelt called Lt. O'Hare's outstanding performance, "One of the most daring, if not the most daring, single action in the history of combat aviation." Years later, when Chicago's airport was renamed for Butch O'Hare, President Roosevelt's tribute was engraved on a plaque and included in an exhibit that stood for years in the International Terminal.

Butch O'Hare survived that battle but he didn't outlive the war. Somewhere he is buried at sea but his memorial is in Chicago O’Hare, known as the busiest airport in the world. So the next time you have to go through O'Hare think about the influence a daddy has when he leads by example and does the right thing. Even when it is not so easy.

"Honor your father and mother" which is the first commandment with a promise-
Ephesians 6:2

You can reach the Brewer at

Monday, June 9, 2008

Ugly Miracles

I think a lot of times people don’t recognize God because they think God only moves in beautiful ways. His hand can only be seen through pristine circumstances in sterile environments for most of us. We have learned this from going to churches that demonstrate God more as a surgeon that only works in complete silence and in a disinfected sanctuary. Sometimes we think God only moves in a church. Of course, that’s craziness.

I am here to tell you that some of the greatest miracles God is doing among us are just plain ugly. These confessions are of a highly caffeinated Christian that has never had the grace to be on the beautiful side of things. Born with a face made for radio and enough hair on my head to hide a small car, I have never won a trophy for GQ. The point is that God isn’t just in the beautiful things, sometimes God moves in a beautiful way in very ugly things.

Flip That House

When my wife and I were young she demanded we reproduce like jackrabbits. She wanted a house full of babies. I had seen babies and didn’t think it was such a good idea but Leanna had a vision for our home. So on vacation to Corpus Christi, we sat in the Water Street Oyster Bar discussing our options over lunch. I had fought a good fight for two years but her constant assault was wearing me down. So I pulled out a quarter and made her a deal. “If this is heads, you go off the pill today. If its tails we don’t have this conversation for a year.” Not stupid enough to agree but smart enough to win the bet she just said. “ Flip it.”

Nine months later I was in a torture session called “Lamaze Class.” Lamaze is an ancient French word that means, “You will never touch me again”. I listened while this teacher explained to us how beautiful the birthing experience was going to be. She also said that we could “coach” our wives and help her by developing a focal point. I knew she was crazy but to be honest I only heard bits and peaces. I was so distracted by the other husbands in the room. I thought, poor fools, how did you get suckered into all this? Then I would realize I was one of them. I was also distracted by the 50 or so outy belly buttons of all those pregnant women at once. It was Brewer hell.

What ever happened to the good old days when they would knock a woman out and she would wake up with a kid in her arms? The sixties and seventies are long gone. One encouraging thing I have noticed is that a lot of doctors will find any emergency reason to do a c-section and it tends to happen around 5:00 pm. This of course depends on if the patient has insurance and if it is chicken fried steak night at the doctor’s house.

One cold afternoon a few weeks later Leanna was having her c-section at 5:05 PM. They opened her up and out came the head of my oldest son. “My Goodness, he’s a twenty pounder!” I said. At birth, Benjamin had the hat size of a grown man. While they worked to clear his nostrils, I said “Hello Benjamin, welcome to Texas!” That baby boy opened his eyes and looked right at me. I had been singing and playing my guitar to his mama’s belly through the whole pregnancy and he was actually glad to see me.

With one good pull and some disturbing noises like pulling your boots out of the mud, Ben came all the way out. And to my shock, under that giant head dangled a little bity body. My first thought was that Leanna had committed adultery with the Jack in the Box man.

Over the next few moments everything went into a blur. No, I didn’t want to cut the cord. Please, I need some towels and some Armor-all for this little alien. I was seeing a side of Leanna I had never seen, the inside. Doctor, close her up. Nurse, I need an aspirin. Is all this normal? Can I lie down next to my wife?

And then as quickly as everything went blurry, everything became completely focused on the three of us. There we were, Leanna and I quietly talking to this little wonder and all three of us as close together as we could possibly be. The world went away. It was one of the greatest moments of my life.

See, not only is the beauty of God in the obviously beautiful. Sometimes God shows up in even ugly things and in that, He is just as beautiful.

Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined.

Psalms 50:2

Visit the Brewer at