Riding in Cars with Boys

70 camaro

My older sister, Pennye, was always more physically mature than other girls her age. She was tall and lanky, played basketball and ran track, and she was (is) very pretty.  As a result, there were always boys, older boys, hanging around our house.  When she was 14, there were 17 – 20 year olds driving to our house to pick her up. To his credit, my dad was congenial to these young men, yet protective of his daughter.  His normal course of action was to first invite them in for a cup of coffee.  If they declined, he then offered to show them his gun collection.  Much nonsense was nipped-in-the-bud by these two invitations.

This is a good place to point out that, like most fathers, pastors are very protective of their daughters.  Preacher’s daughters, however, usually feel a need to be “just like everyone else.”  That desire often ends up with some sort of over-compensation. Of course, a pastor does NOT want his daughter to be “just like everyone else.” These two  conflicting courses of action collided in our home, my father and my sister, the immovable object and the irresistible force.

The scenario usually went something like this: “Kevin,” a 6 ft. 4 in. lanky 19 year old pulled his bright yellow 1970 Chevy Camaro up to the house. My sister, who had just finished 8th grade, trots out of the house with a “See ya later; I’m going riding.” Two steps out the door, my father yells from the other room, “Pennye…PENNYE!” The door of the Camaro slams shut, and rubber squeals on the pavement.  My father was displeased about being ignored by his daughter and disrespected by her driver.  Not to worry, though. It was his habit to be in the good graces of local law-enforcement entities.  A quick call to the Sheriff’s office located Bonnie and Clyde, post-haste. Pennye’s return to the house was much less gleeful than her departure.  Her face was beet-red and contorted into something resembling “Chucky” from the movie Child’s Play.

Various versions of this event were played out more than once in our home. I have often seen my father and my sister face-off.  Pennye, mid-sentence, would spin around on her heels and walk away in a huff.  The only thing with worse consequences than getting in a man-boy operated vehicle was doing so with cut-off jeans that were rolled up. My father was not so much a prude about wearing short pants, but Pennye liked to roll them up very short.  She would leave the house, rolling them up as she walked out the door to a waiting car.  The consequences of this action led to what would now be considered child abuse. My father reasoned if she insisted on baring her upper-thighs, he would whip said thighs.

Now, with all that said, I would like to point out part of my sister’s rationale. There is some sound logic here. She wanted not so much to ride in cars, but she wanted to drive cars, which the legal system frowned on at age 14.  She wanted to drive, and she wanted to drive fast, so she used her innate feminine prowess to lure unsuspecting, car owning, adolescent patseys.  She would talk them into letting her drive, once departed from home-sweet-home. I made this connection one day when my sister talked my grandmother into letting her drive.  Mamaw was known in the family as a bit of a push-over. She just couldn’t find it in herself to deny her grandchildren.  When Pennye asked her to drive, she conceded.  After all, there wouldn’t be any police presence way out here on these country roads. That lasted only a few minutes before a state trooper pulled her over and asked to see her license.  She confessed she had nary such a thing, and he said something akin to, “Well, you look old enough to drive, but you aren’t very good at it.”

As I alluded to, we lived in the country. Shortly before this incident, we had to have a new septic tank dug. Therefore, there was a very large mound of dirt just sitting behind our back yard.  Of course, Pennye had no money to pay the fine for under-age driving, so my dad had to cough up the dough.  He assured my sister there would be a satisfactory  arrangement made to work off the debt.  She was given a shovel and assigned the task of making the mountain flat. Every day after school, bit by bit, she worked on that hill.  (Although, I remember her offering me a bit of money to take her shift a couple of times).

I don’t want to leave the impression that Daddy and Pennye were eternally at odds. In fact, they loved each other dearly, and she still grieves his loss. My dear sister isn’t quite as fond of driving these days, though.  Years of commuting, sprinkled with a generous helping of speeding tickets, have dampened her enthusiasm a bit.  She now seems to prefer being chauffeured by her husband of 40 years or one of her adult sons.  In addition, she still won’t go anywhere near a shovel.

Isaiah 40:4

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Published in: on December 13, 2017 at 1:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

Slumbering with the Saints

Proverbs 3:24

I was genuinely surprised at the response generated by a little blurb I posted on social media today.  I recently submitted my heavily guarded nocturnal processes to the scrutinous observations of a middle-aged man in a white coat. It’s called a sleep study, and they hook a couple dozen wires to your head, face, chest, and legs.  My public query was how anyone could be expected to sleep, much less have said sleep dissected, quantified, and analyzed.

Let me first say, I have never felt I had trouble sleeping. In fact, my sleep is very predictable.  I usually get quite good rest during the third quarter of the Dallas Cowboys’ football game.  After all, it’s the fourth quarter that really matters.  I often take a short snooze about an hour before the evening news.  At my desk, around 2:30 or 3:00 in the afternoon, I am more than moderately comfortable in my ergonomic chair.  Perhaps, most importantly, my sleep habits are a fairly reliable measure of a preacher’s effectiveness.  If I miss my usual nap during the second point of a three point sermon, that fellow is quite the pulpiteer, and that is the station where my train-of-thought dropped me off, sleeping in church.

The afore-mentioned verse promises sweet sleep for the follower of God. Many a saint has enjoyed the fulfillment of that promise during the pastor’s sermon. While most servants of God take offense to this reality, it can be easily explained.  Those sleepers may have been up all night, ministering to the lost, the needy, the downtrodden.  Perhaps the sermon soothes the aching conscience for the wayward sinner.  I remember one dear old saint asking whether or not I recorded my sermons. I told her I thought that was the case, when Henry at the sound board remembered to load the cassette tape into the machine.  Then, I waxed humble. “I’m glad you have found my messages meaningful.”  She replied, “Well, actually, my husband has been having trouble sleeping, so I thought that might help.”  Yes, I walked right into her trap.  She grinned broadly, and we both had a good laugh.

For youngsters, sleeping in church is treacherous. For me, the end result was usually a sound thumping on my cranium or a stinging pinch to my fluffy love-handles. This particular issue is addressed in Acts, the church handbook.  In Chapter 20, we find the story of  Paul preaching to the believers at Troas. Paul talked long into the night, and a young man named Eutychus was sitting in the window.  Young Eutychus drifted off to sleep and fell out of the window and down into the street, killing him.  Paul runs outside and lays down on Eutychus, raising him from the dead.  More than once, I have taught this passage of Scripture, when someone interrupts.  “See what happens when you preach too long?”  I simply respond, “See what happens when you fall asleep in church?”

I am thankful I have not died in church, and I am thankful no else has died while I or my father were preaching.  They tell me sleep apnea can actually lead to death, though.  My family members strongly encouraged me to explore whether I might be suffering from this condition.  After my sleep study, I am relieved to report I slept quite soundly in between my average 86 “episodes” per hour.  In fact, the lab technician informed me that on their official snoring scale, I am categorized as “heroic.”  Well, it just doesn’t get any better than that. At any rate, I plan to placate my loved ones by letting the doc prescribe an anti-apnea, anti-snoring machine. They call it a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure). I call it a CRAP (sorry if I offended you little ones). Sometimes, I am a DIY guy, so I may just hook a garden hose to a 5 horse Honda air-compressor.  We shall see.

sleep study

Published in: on December 5, 2017 at 3:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

Celebrating the Sloth

Proverbs 26:14

“As the door turneth upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed.” (KJV)

“The English word ‘sloth’ (a derivative of the adjective ‘slow’) is recorded as meaning ‘laziness,’ ‘indolence”‘ from the twelfth century onward, and is considered one of the seven cardinal sins” (“Sloth,” Wikipedia).

In an unfair stereotype (preachers only work one hour a week) the uninitiated assumes the Sunday morning sermon is the sum-total of the pastor’s labors. Preachers are lazy. I heard it in my ministry, and I’m sure my father heard it in his.  One fellow, attempting humor, once said that to me. “You preachers only work one hour a week.” I dryly responded, “And even that is too long for you.” Any serious deliberation of the matter leads to the realization that even a 30-40 minute sermon requires hours of preparation. The Sunday night message requires no less.  Dare we mention committee meetings, hospital visitation, and personal prayer and Bible study.  No doubt there are indeed lazy preachers, but that’s because the clergy is comprised of people, all kinds of people, not simply because they are clergy. One does not equal the other.

Part of the stereotype is imagined as valid when a parishioner can’t locate the pastor. Surely, he is sitting there waiting on my phone call. After all, he doesn’t have a real job. (Actually, I usually had a part-time gig of some sort, just to make ends meet.) If a parishioner looks in the church office, the pastor should be there.  Of course, if he is in fact there, he should instead be out visiting the church members.  If he is out visiting members, he should be available in the office. What’s a pastor to do? It’s a true conundrum, a quandary, a catch-22.

Recently, I was challenged by a friend when I referred to my work habits as “lazy.” I have often found it easier to embrace that stereotype than try to rebut it. That is a remnant of my earliest days. My father was rarely in a hurry. He moved slowly, but with purpose.  His experience in higher education portrays a man more interested in learning than having a framed document on the wall.  He only enrolled in classes that interested him. After a decade, he had well over 120 credit hours, but no degree. That was often misunderstood. He wanted an education, not a diploma.

I don’t know if it’s genetic or if I just mimicked what I saw as a child, but that’s where I am most comfortable, moving slowly and with purpose.  I think my dad was somewhat self-conscious about being characterized as lazy because he tried to prevent any sign of it in me.  He would make comments to the ilk of, “Son, you only have three gears – slow down, back up, and stop.” Other times he would say, “Boy, you are the first one to the dinner table and the last one to leave.” I never quite figured out why that was a bad thing. Nutritionists sing the praises of eating slowly.  A period of three years passed between my first date and second date with my late wife, Kimberly.  I moved slowly as I waited for her to come around, but I ultimately won her (Sorry Brett, Tim, and John). I took six years to complete my undergraduate degree, but I went on to finish two masters and a doctorate. Yes, I move slowly, but I accomplish my goals.

The sloth gets a bum rap in Proverbs.  Not to argue with God, who created the sloth, but that lowly mammal is under-valued. The sloth is a wonderful study in slow, methodical processes. Undeterred by onlookers and nay-sayers, he goes about his business, making sure and steady progress.  Progress is the key in our spiritual lives as well.  There is no prescribed time-table when it comes to sanctification. (Thankfully, Aesop’s Fables was kinder to the tortoise. His steady but slow method was extolled over the quicker hare.)

Recently, the sloth has found more favorable reviews, thanks to movies like Ice Age. Sid the Sloth is a bumbling but lovable character who occasionally stumbles into success, in spite of himself.  In Zootopia, Flash works at the DMV; now there’s a stereotype for you. YouTube is rife with videos of the  lovable little furry fellows. I will take advantage of this climate and encourage you, dear reader.  Keep moving; don’t give up; don’t let others who are in a frenzy distract or discourage you.  All hail the mighty sloth.  Sid_Flash_Zootopia

 

Published in: on November 28, 2017 at 12:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

B.O.G.O.

Hebrews 13:2

That’s right, folks, this week is a Buy-one-get-one-free sale; two blogs for the price of one, and you don’t even have to wait until Black Friday.  What’s more, if you are not 100 percent satisfied, just send me an email, and I will gladly double your money back.  You just can’t find a deal like that anywhere else.

The truth is, I have one more Thanksgiving story I wanted to share. I toyed with the idea of waiting until next year, but there are a couple of problems with that. The main issue is, I might forget between now and then.  Also, due to rising overhead costs in blogging, there could be lay-offs in the staff.  Thus, I decided to extend this Thanksgiving day anecdote.

I was in my early teen years, soon after my father had died.  My family took the opportunity to get out of town and spend the holiday, as we often did, with Mammaw, Uncle Glen and Aunt Sue, Eddie, Darrell, and the other cousins, in the scenic destination of Post, Texas.

Thanksgiving day had come, and the food was all ready. We were just about to bless the food, when the doorbell rang.  If memory serves, Sue went to the door and looked out to see who was there.  She immediately walked away and said to Glen, “You need to get this.” At the door was a person who seemed to be a bum, a hobo, the kind my father often brought home to dinner.  Glen opened to door to greet the surprise visitor.  The man gave his name, said he was hungry, and asked if he could share Thanksgiving dinner with our family.  Glen, being a man of the Word and of the Gospel, invited him in.

I think the fellow introduced himself as Andrew. Of course, it’s been years ago, and I can’t remember for sure. I feel positive one of my relatives will refresh my memory. That’s a service our kith-and-kin gladly provide each other, correction.  At any rate, it was a common name, and the name I will use for the sake of the story.

Andrew sat and ate with us, commenting on how good the food was and how glad he was that we opted to share it with him.  After the dinner, we all gathered in the living room, waiting for the football game to begin.  Andrew made some small talk, then asked if we might have a guitar.  We had one and brought it out.  I believe Darrell may have been attempting to learn, so he had a rather cheap guitar in his closet.  Andrew informed us he had a song he would like to share, a song about Jesus.

jasmine-by-takamine

As he started to play, it became obvious there was no rhythm or rhyme, no detectable pattern.  Andrew “played” and sang his song.  Friends, it was, by all accepted musical standards, bad – no… terrible…horrible…awful.  We kids gave each other a knowing glance and snickered as he sang. He played and sang for a bit, then put the guitar down.  At that point, an uncomfortable silence fell on the room.  Andrew somberly looked around the room, then said, “You kids didn’t think that was very good, did you.” We hung our heads, like kids caught with our hands in the candy jar.  No one responded. He continued, “It wasn’t very good, but it wasn’t for you. That song was for God.  Be very careful that you don’t judge people by the quality of their performance, but by their heart.  God loved that song because it was from my heart.”

Now, he turned his attention to Glen.  His comments were something to the effect of, “I know you are in a tough situation here as the pastor of this church.  There are a lot of obstacles in the way of what you are trying to do, and a lot of people are opposing you. God wants you to know, he is with you. Keep up the good work.”  Then, Andrew stood up and asked if someone could take him to the hotel where he was staying.  Eddie had just received his driver’s license and was anxious for any excuse to use it.  As his younger kin, David, Darrell, and I were more than happy to ride in the car with him.

We all loaded into Eddie’s new (old) 1965 Ford Falcon (Or maybe it was the lime green AMC Rebel).  We put Andrew in the front seat and headed off.  He directed us to the dumpy little hotel in town and the room he occupied.  Andrew thanked us again for our time and our hospitality, got out of the car and entered the hotel room.

We drove about three or four blocks away, when one of the bunch noticed he had left his knit toboggan hat in the back seat.  It was pretty chilly, and we thought he might like it back, so we headed back to the room.  One of us got out and knocked on the door.  No answer.  For a few minutes, we knocked, but there was no response.  We drove up to the office and took the little toboggan hat in, explaining the situation.  Would the manager please make sure Andrew in room number so-and-so got his hat back. The fellow at the desk furrowed his brow with a questioning look on his face.  To his knowledge, that room had not been occupied for a couple of weeks.

I’m not going to offer possible explanations for that scenario, other than something that sounds like an episode of The Twilight Zone. I will say, however, I have been since been reluctant to criticize anyone who offers to God a musically sub-par performance.  A couple of blogs ago, I talked about Leonard and guardian angels.  In Scripture, there are also messenger angels, and this fellow seemed to know a lot about teenagers and struggling pastors.  His message to Glen was spot-on. There were indeed struggles in the church; Glen did persevere, and he spent the better part of a decade seeing a church transformed.

Not all strangers are angels, to be sure. The author of Hebrews warns us, though, to be careful to entertain strangers. They don’t come much stranger than Andrew.  Sometimes, they actually are angels. The point of that passage is we may never know.

Published in: on November 23, 2017 at 12:56 am  Leave a Comment  

Peanut… Peanut Butter…(Jelly)

Psalm 107:1

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday; it always has been, and I suspect it always will be. Please, Christmas lovers, I mean no disrespect. I know as soon as Halloween is done, you love to start hanging tinsel and humming “Oh Tannenbaum.” I just can’t steamroll over the day that highlights humility in favor of elaborate excess.  Perhaps my prejudice is based in the memory of Christmas being a bit stressful.  Children don’t always understand why there just isn’t enough money for a bicycle, even though all your other friends have one.  Often at Christmas, the parents grieve over what they can’t do for their children, as much as they wish they could.  The children learn not to ask, as much as they wish they could.  But Thanksgiving…Thanksgiving is laid back and happy….Family, food, and football, and lots of each.

My childhood recollections bring mental pictures of “the kids table,” casseroles galore, cans of red-gelatinous cranberry something-or-other, Mamaw’s pecan pie (made with ribbon-cane syrup), and at least one moderately scorched dish that we agreed to set out anyway because you never ever waste food.  After the meal, we all sprawled around the living room television, moaning and groaning and rubbing our bellies, waiting for the Dallas Cowboys to start.  For the next couple of hours, various ones in turn dozed off, yelled at the referee, or went back to the kitchen for “just one more bite of…” (fill in the blank). After the Cowboys beat their foe for the year, it was time for us boys to go outside and re-enact the game.  We chose up sides and played another football game for another hour.  All these memories make me wane nostalgic, but I think my favorite Thanksgiving memory is much more recent.

1200px-Peanut-Butter-Jelly-Sandwich

A few years ago, our family was in some challenging circumstances.  I had lost my job and was working at minimum wage as a security guard until our situation improved. Our daughters were in college, and our son was in junior high school.  There was a prevailing heaviness at that time that just kind of hung in the air.  My middle child, Alyssa, decided the remedy for this would be to change our focus.  We needed to serve those with less than we had.  I asked her what she had in mind, and she said she wanted to make up a load of sack lunches and take them down by the river, where the homeless crowd congregated.  Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches should be used because it’s cheap and nutritious. Within an hour, she had organized an assembly line. We were constructing sack lunches, complete with PBJs, granola bars, fruit, and water bottles.  I don’t remember just how many we made up, but they filled the back seat of the car.

As a family, we drove down to the river, unloaded, and strategized; two teams, meet back here in an hour.  The approach was simple. We walked up with our box, asked people if they were hungry, offered them free food, and told them Jesus loved them.  Being a researcher and a people watcher, I took mental note of the varied reactions we received. Most  recipients were pleasant and courteous.  Some politely declined. Some asked if they could take an extra for a friend.  A couple of folks were rather miffed. “Just peanut butter?” One lady started crying because she hadn’t eaten that day and she didn’t have enough teeth to chew much of anything.  PBJs were just right for her.

As I write this conclusion, I find myself getting a bit misty-eyed.  I am thankful that in spite of all the bone-headed mistakes we as parents make (and you know you do), our children somehow survive and even thrive.  That Thanksgiving, I saw my children not caring what we had or did not have.  They were re-enacting the first Thanksgiving by approaching hungry strangers and sharing their food.  I am, indeed, a blessed man.

 

Published in: on November 21, 2017 at 4:17 am  Leave a Comment  

One Potato, Two…No, Just One.

2 Corinthians 9:10

I have gone to great length in previous posts to communicate that many small church pastors live on a meager income.  When I was young, we were often unsure of whether there would be enough food to last the week, and sometimes the day.  We often survived a couple of days on a pot of beans and fatback with cornbread. Sometimes, bologna was the sole sustenance. My sister, Pennye, recalls one occasion I had forgotten.  She happened upon my father in the kitchen looking for something to use for lunch. There was a can of corn, but when he opened it, there was a worm inside.  She said, in his frustration, he threw the can against the wall. That kind of outburst was especially unusual for my father. Daddy often tried to lighten the issue by means of humor. He quoted one deacon as saying, “Preachers should be poor and humble. Lord, we’ll keep him poor if you’ll keep him humble.”  Normally, he displayed tremendous fortitude and faith.

One of my dad’s habits was to invite home “new friends” (interpret that “bums” or “hobos”).  That was often stressful for my mom, who agonized over how to stretch the groceries for a family of five, much less one more adult.  One evening, Daddy showed up with one of his new friends.  In the kitchen, there was some hushed back-and-forth between my parents about the issue.  My dad defended his position by stating this fellow had not eaten in a couple of days, and Daddy felt led to feed him. My mom’s retort was simple; there was only one potato in the fridge, nothing else. How many slices would he like? It was a fairly tense moment. Daddy simply looked at her and said, “God will provide.” In the middle of their conversation, the doorbell rang.  They delayed answering it momentarily, until they reached a stopping point.  When my dad went to the door, no one was there.  All he found was a very full sack of groceries, roughly one week’s worth of food.  I don’t even remember what we ate that night. The memory of that sack on the porch has outweighed every other recollection of the event.

potato

Having taken a similar career path to that of my father, I have experienced the angst of there being more week than check.  As a father, I know that empty feeling in the bottom of my stomach from being afraid of my children having that empty feeling in the bottom of their stomachs.  Through various means, God has always provided.  Sometimes, there was an abandoned sack of groceries on the porch.  Sometimes, I was offered an extra job on the side, which I always took.  Sometimes friends or family would send a card or note with some cash tucked inside.  Once, after my father died, mother opened the mailbox to find an envelope stuffed full of cash. Most often, though, my provision came from the blessings of a healthy body doing a fair day’s work for a fair day’s wage. While these seem less spectacular, they are blessings none-the-less. Just ask anyone who goes without these things.

To this day, no one in the family has any idea who our benefactor was that night.  However, the entire family understands this concept: when God calls you to some task that requires personal sacrifice, giving out of your lack triggers a spiritual outpouring of his blessing. God provides what he calls you to give.  Unlike many of my fellow Bible teachers, I cannot and will not make guarantees on God’s behalf. Scripture does a sufficient job of that. Nor will I minimize God’s miraculous responses.    What I can guarantee is you will come away from the experience different than you went in.  Scripture does promise, in many places, God knows our need, God meets our need, God does more than we need, so we can, in turn, bless others.  Now, I think I’m hungry for some french fries.

 

Published in: on November 13, 2017 at 12:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Near Miss

Hebrews 1:14

Have you ever thought about what guardian angels do when they are off duty?  I imagine mine is named Leonard. Leonard is not one of the top-tier angels, not like Gabriel or Michael, but he takes his job seriously and he is pretty good at it.  I can see Leonard, sitting at the bar after work and having a couple of cold ones with a good cigar. He looks kind of beat up, and his robe is torn.  Franklin sits down beside him and lets out a laugh. “Man, what happened to you? Rough day?” Leonard lets out a long sigh. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

Through my half-century-plus of living, I have had numerous near misses, and I am very appreciative of Leonard and his colleagues.  Yesterday, I had cause to reminisce over those occasions.  Some of those near misses came early in life.  My father was told by medical professionals he would never be able to have children, and if, by some miracle, he did, they would most likely have serious birth-defects. Some of my closest friends just realized, “Ah. That explains a lot.” To the contrary, my siblings and I are all relatively healthy and past middle-age.

As a child, I remember our family having near misses.  Once we were delayed by car trouble for an out of town trip. Once we were on our way, we encountered a terrible accident in a remote area.  It had just happened, and we were first on the scene.  One man was in particular danger. Realizing how long it would take an ambulance to arrive, my dad had us wait by the wreck to comfort the other un-harmed passengers until help arrived. He loaded the badly injured man in the back seat of the car and whisked him off to the hospital, likely saving his life. I’ll never forget when he returned, and we kids sat in the now-blood-stained back seat.  We were all silent. After a very long time, my father said, “If we had gotten away on time, that likely would have been us.”

On another occasion, my father had gone for late-night coyote hunting with a buddy. From my bedroom window, I could see the headlights as he pulled into the drive.  He sat in the car for a minute, then suddenly, he left again and in a huge hurry.  A couple of hours later, he returned.  He was now on crutches!  As the family met him at the front door, bewildered and shocked, he explained.  He was unloading his gun when it discharged into his leg.  He drove himself 40 miles to the hospital emergency room in Pecos, where the doctor removed the bullet and patched him up.  He brought the slug back as a souvenir.  When we voiced how remarkable it was that nothing worse happened, he chuckled. “The doctor thought so too.  He said, ‘Preacher, if that had gone in your belly, we would never have found it!'”

One of my father’s favorite tales was how he got rear-ended at a red-light. In his eyes, it was a miracle, because no one was hurt, and he had a revival meeting coming up, for which he needed a new suit. The insurance money promptly funded the purchase, and he received a nice love offering from the other church.

Time after time, too many to mention here, I and members of my family emerged unscathed from potentially deadly situations.  A friend reminded me of the lyrics to the 1984 Amy Grant song, “Angels.”

God only knows the times my life was threatened just today.
A reckless car ran out of gas before it ran my way.
Near misses all around me, accidents unknown,
Though I never see with human eyes the hands that lead me home.
But I know they’re all around me all day and through the night.
When the enemy is closing in, I know sometimes they fight
To keep my fight from falling, I’ll never turn away.
If you’re asking what’s protecting me then you’re gonna hear me say:

Got his angels watching over me, every move I make,
Angles watching over me!
Angels watching over me, every step I take,
Angels watching over me

I believe God’s servants are especially vulnerable because there is a true enemy who wants to steal, kill, and destroy. That enemy specifically targets those with potential to thwart his evil plans.

Yesterday, on my way to work, Leonard was called to duty.  I was on the road I have traveled hundreds of times, with a bite of breakfast burrito in my mouth. I saw a dark shadow in my left periphery.  With a loud bang, my windshield instantly shattered. I had no idea what had just happened. I pulled over as safely as I could and parked the car.  I looked around for the other car…nothing.  Another lady pulled up behind me and got out to see it I was alright.  “I saw the whole thing!” She exclaimed.  I said, “What was it?”  She said, “A deer!” as she pointed to the carcass in the median about a quarter mile back.  Upon closer examination, I had my explanation.  As you can clearly see from the picture below, the deer had been drinking. Let that be a lesson kids, and thanks again, Leonard.

windshield deer

Published in: on November 8, 2017 at 10:52 am  Leave a Comment  

A Requiem for the Sanhedrin

Matthew 3:7

As I write today, I am in a far-away, large city for a professional conference.  I always enjoy the opportunity to have a break from my normal routine for a few days, and I always enjoy getting back to my routine.  As I attend educational conferences and their respective seminars and presentations, I often mull over the denominational conferences I attended for so many years. I like to compare and contrast in my mind the similarities and differences between these two groups of professionals and how they conduct themselves when away from home.  The presentations themselves aren’t really all that different. We are going to take this new and novel approach to teach ancient knowledge and skills. We are going to change the world!

My dad rarely attended conferences, with one exception. He and Uncle Glen always enjoyed attending the annual Evangelism Conference, sponsored by the Baptist General Convention of Texas.  He loved the testimonies, songs, prayer times, and preaching. He always seemed refreshed and energized after that meeting.  We, his three children, liked it too.  He never forgot to visit the exhibit hall, where vendors gave lots of free samples: pens, pencils, bite-sized Tootsie Rolls, and little plastic trinket toys.  We would mob him at the front door when we saw the car pulling into the driveway.  He would laugh as he parceled out the little nothings for us.  It was sort of like…Christmas!

In contrast, he did not care much for the annual Baptist General Convention of Texas (the meeting, not the organization), or the Southern Baptist Convention (the meeting, not the organization)…you know, the one where they take votes on officers and resolutions and committees.  (For God so loved the world, that He didn’t send a committee.) Although they too had exhibits and freebies, he usually came home frustrated. He would trudge in the front door muttering something about, “They act like a bunch of Sanhedrin.”

Sanhedrin2

To refresh your biblical knowledge, the Sanhedrin was the body of Jews who would pass judgement on issues of disagreement.  They were much like the Supreme Court, although distant communities could have their own, smaller Sanhedrin, for minor issues.  The group usually consisted of influential leaders like the Scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, all the folks Jesus was especially fond of.  Eight times in the New Testament, Jesus referred to the Scribes and Pharisees, prefaced with “Woe to…” That’s not a good thing. When he mentioned the Sadducees, he usually said, “Beware…” Also, not good.

My father’s instincts were right on target.  In the 1980s, a decade after my father’s death, the Baptist Sanhedrin self-destructed.  The fundamentalists, conservatives, moderates, and liberals engaged in a bloody theological war with many casualties.  Some of those casualties were the lost, the un-saved, and the un-churched.  They really don’t care which side of these ecclesiastical issues we take.  (Of course, I was always on the “right” side.) As my father said, “We just need to show them Jesus.” And Jesus just wasn’t very fond of the taking sides thing.  He usually managed to rile up all of them.

My educational conferences also have exhibit halls, full of vendors with give-away gadgets. None of them are toddler-friendly, though, so I can’t get mobbed at the door for a couple more years. My conferences don’t usually include shouting matches and name calling as part of electing officers.  It’s all done in a fairly congenial tone.  It’s a shame that denominational meetings aren’t that way.  Maybe the problem is, there are no vendors treating the attendees to a free wine-tasting. (Just a thought.)

Published in: on November 1, 2017 at 8:50 am  Leave a Comment  

In This Corner…

Ephesians 6:12

GeorgeForeman

Football was my dad’s favorite sport.  His second favorite was boxing.  He regularly kept up with the status of champions and challengers alike. Jersey Joe Walcott, Rocky Marciano, Floyd Patterson, and Sonny Liston were boxers of his era. I watched with him as Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier rocked the world on three separate occasions.

Fisticuffs is certainly a manly endeavor; it is simply part of how we are built, and many, if not most, brothers regularly engage in pecking-order disputes. My brother, David, and I were certainly no exception.  We didn’t need much of a reason to duke-it-out. Being brothers was reason enough. One or the other of us was prone to agitate our sibling until the bout was on. The main problem was that Mom had a firm rule, no fighting in the house. Even as young grade-schoolers, we had the ability to reduce coffee tables, chairs, and lamps back to their basic elements as a result of a scuffle, kerfuffle, or row.

Often, our fights were the result of some dispute. Sometimes, however, they were mutually agreed upon multi-round engagements.  We would empty the sock drawer, put four or five socks on each fist, then have at it. (Remember, we were poor.) That would soon be remedied, however.  We carried this practice with us to Uncle Glen’s house and included Eddie and Darrell in our tournaments.  Or maybe they came up with the sock idea first, and we stole it from them. I don’t quite remember.

My dad showed up one day with not one, but two brand-new sets of boxing gloves. I think Mom had been complaining about all our socks being misplaced, stretched out, and having excessive holes.  We would go into the back yard in nothing but our skivvies. put on those gloves, and have a full 15 round competition.  Little did we know, Daddy had ulterior motives.  The next time we got into a for-real fight – no gloves, no kidding, no mercy – he pulled us apart then pulled out the boxing gloves.  “Go get in the back yard…now!” He pulled a chair outside and sat right between us. Then, he pulled his belt off and laid it in his lap.  “If you boys want to fight, you’re going to do it right.  Put on those gloves. When I say, ‘go’ you’re going to fight.  The first one to quit, gets a whippin’. Now…go!” For a moment, we just stood there looking at each other, all glassy eyed.  He popped his belt once, and we simultaneously started swinging.

I really don’t remember how long that fight lasted, but I’m sure it felt longer than it actually was.  No matter the actual time, we both swung, ducked, jabbed, and hooked until we were absolutely exhausted.  Our arms would barely move and we were fighting for breath.  Finally, we decided on a strategy.  We worked it out between gasps for air and pathetically inept punches. Surely, if we both stopped at the same time, he would not whip us both.  It was worth a try. “One, two, three, now!” As I dropped my arms to my side, I didn’t factor in that my little brother was in mid-swing. A half-second later, he landed a pretty good one to my jaw before he too dropped his arms.  I gave him a nasty stare, but opted not to return the favor. I was too tired.  As we glanced over at Daddy to discern whether our plan would work as intended, we saw he was doubled over in a futile attempt to hide his laughter. For that day, at least, Daddy was the clear winner.  We slept well that night.

A few years later, I hit a bit of a growth spurt, but David didn’t.  He was small but still an expert antagonizer.  His go-to incendiary act was turning his back to me, jutting out his rear, slapping it with his hand, and with a Cheshire-cat-grin on his face, yelling out, “Kiss it!  Kiss it!” If it had been only me he did this too, life could have been close to normal.  No. He would pick the biggest high school football defensive tackle and, without pause, employ this David-and-the-giant posterior pose. Many times, I had to make a spur-of-the-moment choice between mustering some feeble attempt to rescue my brother or watching with glee as he got beat to a pulp.  Most times, before I could intervene, he was quick enough to escape, saving us both from certain doom.  Perhaps, it was actually his adversary who got saved. Another practice David had was to quickly find an equalizer. Biblical David used a sling. My brother used whatever was in arm’s reach.  I have had scissors, hammers, wrenches, and dishes all narrowly miss my cranium.

As brothers grow into men, they often realize the folly of these ways.  My brother is now one of the meekest men I know.  I’m sure if he were pushed, that quick-moving, hammer-throwing, spit-slinging little fellow might reappear, but it would take a lot.  Now, we just have couch conversations about challenges our wives and children face and how cute our grand-kids are. As it turns out, our enemy was never each other at all. There is a real enemy, but we engage him on a different battle-field with different weapons, and I fight side-by-side with my brother.

Published in: on October 25, 2017 at 3:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Yellow Pages

book

Ecclesiates 12:12

Recently, a friend recommended a book to me. Normally, when that happens, I smile and say, “Thank you,” then promptly forget it.  In this case, however, because of who recommended it and because it was a fairly controversial book in certain circles, I decided I would give it a read.  I don’t particularly like to be in the middle of a controversy, but I do love getting to the source.  First, I want to know if those arguing have correct information. Second, I want to evaluate for myself whether the issue merits an argument.  Afterward, I may jump into a conversation here or there with my two-cents-worth, but I will have an informed opinion. As a pastor, many people would recommend their latest read as “life-changing,” but I rarely found anything new or different or that truly sparked my interest. Therefore, if I am going to read nothing new, I want to read something old, something very old.

That is where yellow pages come in. My father loved yellow pages. I don’t mean the phone book, of course. I am talking about books that have stood the test of time.  A classic book vs a best-seller is like classical music vs the Top 40.  If people sing and play your song for years, it’s a hit. If people sing and play your song for centuries, it’s classical. Those are the kind of books my father loved and the kind I love.  He would spend hours in a used book store, an antique store, or a garage sale, combing over the books. He only looked at the ones with yellowed pages though.  It wasn’t enough that the content was classic; he wanted to find the earliest volume of the work that he could.  He would often bring home an entire set of books, classic works of literature and theology that still today adorn my sister’s bookcases and mine.

Not only did he love buying books with yellowed pages, he loved giving them away.  If he read something he thought was worthwhile, he actively sought an opportunity to give it away.  He was no hoarder.  I am reminded of one particular volume he purchased.  When my mother’s sister, Pat (the happy hillbilly hippie) declared her major in college as English, he gifted her with a 1913 edition of H.G. Wells’ The Passionate Friends.  What makes this particular work interesting is that Wells was very well-known for works of science-fiction, such as The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, and The Island of Dr. Moreau.  This work was a novel, a love story, and a very good one.  A couple of years ago, I was visiting Pat and Don, when she asked me to sit down.  She carefully pulled out the hardback copy, still containing the little note he had placed inside the cover, explaining how he (unlike her father) had honored her desire to immerse herself in literature by giving her the book. She now wanted to give it to me in return.  I was humbled and honored, too.  As soon as I returned home, I started reading it.  A few months back, I started looking for the book, trying to remember where I had misplaced it.  It dawned on me that I had loaned it to another friend, who evidently hadn’t returned it.  No matter. That’s what he would have done. He would have given it away.  My father must have bought and given hundreds of books in his lifetime.  That’s just how he operated.

I am about halfway through the book my friend recommended. For the life of me, I don’t know why it has stirred up so much controversy, other than the fact that some people simply like to argue.  Even though it is a current best seller (not my usual fare) I am thoroughly enjoying it.  The only problem is, I will now have to keep it for several decades before I can give it away.  The pages are too white.

 

Published in: on October 18, 2017 at 12:43 pm  Leave a Comment