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.

 

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

The Church with Props

Amos 7:8; Matthew 7:24-27

There is nothing quite as charming as a quaint little white chapel, welcoming the weary wanderer to come in.  It was in such a chapel that I made my personal commitment to live the rest of my life as a follower of Jesus.  On the last night of a summer revival meeting, on the last verse of “Just as I am,” I went to the front of the church and told my dad about my decision.  A few weeks later, I was baptized, buried with Christ in baptism, raised to walk in the newness of life.  Of course, at age seven, I didn’t have a lot of sins to confess, and I didn’t have much of a rebellious life to overcome.  I was making an honest attempt to get my life straight with God and set a firm foundation.

That little chapel would have been more quaint if it had not been situated in the parking lot of the high school football field.  Yes, you read correctly.  Every Friday night, the church yard was filled with fiercely loyal Texas high school football fans.  My father simply found it useful as a reference point when inviting people to church. Everyone knew where Trinity Baptist was. In addition, we were known as “the church with props.” Through some design flaw, the walls of the building began to lean and bow out over time.  Therefore, the solution was to scotch two by six studs together at a 45 degree angle and prop the walls up. There was always a deacon or two stationed outside to deter youngsters who might view those props as some sort of playground equipment.  “Hey! You kids get off there! Do you want the walls to fall down?”

Some of you may be saying, “But the Cathedral of Notre Dame has outter supports, and they’re beautiful!”  Yes, it does, and yes, they are. I have seen it in person. It’s breathtaking. This is not that.  Two by six studs, painted white and stuck in the ground, leaning into the top of the wall do not a cathedral make.

cathedral-notre-dame-paris-36137_w1000

I’ve often wondered over the years whether the builders were woefully incompetent or pitifully apathetic.  In either case, they must have had accomplices. This kind of thing had to be noticed by at least one person.  I’ve also wondered why the congregation never decided to employ a proper fix and remove the props.  Neither ignorance nor apathy are extolled as spiritual virtues.  To be fair, though, we often conduct our lives like that.  We prop up whatever is leaning, and we leave it there….just… propped up. We tell people not to lean on the props. We paint the props to match.  In the end, we’re still just propped up.

I drove by that little church a couple of months ago. The props were gone! Someone finally realized this was a real problem, a spiritual problem. God doesn’t live in a building, but it is a physical representation of his presence in the world. Should it not reflect diligence and thoughtfulness? So, whoever you are, dear saint who moved the congregation of Trinity Baptist Church to fix the walls and remove the props, may God bless you for your work. You are in no wise least in the kingdom.

Published in: on October 10, 2017 at 12:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Preacher’s Work Week – Part 4

Wednesday night prayer meeting

I Thessalonians 5:17

Wednesday night in our little country churches was hit-and-miss.  My dad used to say, “On Sunday morning, you can tell how popular the preacher is. On Sunday night, you can tell how popular the church is. On Wednesday night, you can tell how popular God is.”  The truly faithful, die-hard members of the congregation would gather for prayer meeting and missions activities.

My father was very intentional about prayer meeting being just that…prayer.  He might give a short, five-minute exhortation on the effectiveness and benefits of prayer, but then the congregants were expected to pray and pray fervently.  He was fairly creative about leading the folks in the format. One week, it might be silent prayer, kneeling where you are, getting down to business with God. Another week it might be sentence prayer. Each person was expected to contribute a single sentence of thanks, praise, or intercession. (Deacons never stopped at just one sentence.)  Other times, you just simply pray silently, if you like, or out loud, if you like, and a designated person would end.

I don’t remember this specific event personally because I was very young. However, my parents often told the story of one especially dark Wednesday night prayer meeting in deep East Texas.  The church was about ten miles from town in the piney woods, and the congregation was specifically praying for God’s conviction on the lost.  At one point, the room fell silent in the ebb-and-flow of prayer. At that juncture, a coyote began to howl, just outside the window of the little chapel.  My dad often quipped that three people got saved right then.

In order to free the adults from the burden of tending their young ‘uns on Wednesday night, so they could fully devote their attention to beseeching the Almighty, Baptists developed children’s programs designed to educate them on Missions. The WMU (Women’s Missionary Union) whole-sale plagiarized the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America, threw in some scripture verses, and called them RAs (Royal Ambassadors) and GAs (Girls in Action).  The preschoolers were Mission Friends.  I’m certain I may have just drawn the ire of many SBC patriots, but consider the many similarities of uniforms, merit badges, camping activities, and levels of achievement.  I could be wrong, but I doubt it.  I didn’t mind, though.  Making an African noise-maker from a block of wood and string was a whole lot more interesting to me than praying for Aunt Myrtle’s second-cousin’s ex-husband’s brother-in-law and his gout.  Besides, I just wanted to hurry up and get into the Youth department, so I could play volleyball and croquet. Have I mentioned that?

The very best thing about Wednesday night was it often marked to beginning of our vacation.  My dad didn’t often take time off from work, but when he did, it started on Wednesday night.  The work week was over, and we could squeeze in a trip to see Mamaw and Eddie, Glen, or Pat.  We would leave on Wednesday night, drive past midnight, bed down on a pallet in the living room, then wake to bacon and eggs and two days of fun.  We always had to get back by Saturday night, so as not to miss Sunday.  My dad never missed preaching. He loved preaching more than any vacation.  I am not my father, but Kimberly and I did adopt and perfect the art of day-cation.  We would leave after school on Friday, drive a few hours to nothing special, spend the weekend sampling that town’s local wares and local fare.  I still like those trips and how they refresh my spirit in a short time.

When we arrived home on Saturday night, we all slept soundly.  Then, Sunday morning came, another week started in the house-of-God, another week in the life of a pastor.

Praying child.

Published in: on October 4, 2017 at 10:49 am  Leave a Comment  

The Preacher’s Work Week – Part 3

Luke 14:23

Visitation

On Monday, the pastor doesn’t have the energy to do much more than recover from Sunday.  For many a layman, that doesn’t make sense.  Their limited understanding thinks the pastor works only one hour a week, and most of them, even that’s too long. There have actually been research studies on the effects of stress for varied professions. One study found pastors experience the same amount of stress in one Sunday service as any other person who works a full eight-hour day. So, the preacher may get the mail, return a few calls, or just take care of mundane chores. It’s not a day to start anything.

On Tuesday night, the pastor goes on visitation.  This is the time set aside for the pastor to get into people’s homes – the lost people, the shut-ins, the inactive church member.  The pastor and perhaps one or two of the deacons would arrive at the church, distribute contact lists, say a prayer, and head off into the highways and the hedges to compel them to come in.  In smaller churches, the pastor is often the only one to go.  I heard of one frustrated preacher who decided to buy a boat and name it “Visitation.”  That way he could just go the lake on Tuesdays and tell people he was on Visitation.

My dad would occasionally take me along with him.  I loved the opportunity to spend a little time with my dad, but I wasn’t crazy about being around other people.  Years later, I discovered through the Meyers-Briggs Personality Inventory I was an introvert.  Being around people I didn’t know very well drained me. Forging new relationships was often a challenge, much less relationships with grown-ups.  My father was an extrovert.  He thrived on meeting new people and being with his flock.  Sometimes visitation for him took odd forms. A few years ago, an older fellow informed me he thought my dad was the best pastor he ever had. When I inquired why, he stated, “He went to farm implement sales with me.”  My dad went wherever the people were, not just to their homes. He knew a little about everything, so he would often end up helping repair a plow or working a squeeze-chute at branding time. More often than not, he came home from visitation with dirty pants. Daddy loved visitation.

(Warning: Adult Content Ahead)

An Un-welcome Visitation

One visitation night stands out in my mind above the rest.  Rather, it haunts my mind.  I went with my dad to an elderly lady’s home on a Tuesday night.  She was a stalwart of the little church and he wanted to check on her because she had not been well.  When we got there, her grown children happened to be at home.  There was her 20-something year old daughter, another female friend, and two male friends. They were in a back room talking and laughing while my dad was visiting.  At one point they hollered at me to come meet them. I looked at my dad, and he nodded that it was alright.  I timidly walked in and they started talking to me.  One of the men quietly shut the door, while another of the men and one of the women held me on the bed.  The man and woman proceeded to unzip my pants and take them down.  I didn’t know what to do. I tried to get loose, but these were grown people, and I was nine years old. To this day, I don’t know why I didn’t yell out.  I struggled to get free, but I didn’t yell. The woman began to fondle me, while the other three laughed and pointed.  It was all a big joke. While my father prayed with Mrs. Brown in the kitchen, four adults molested me in the bedroom. After a couple of minutes, they put my pants back up and let me go. I was confused, angry, hurt, and dazed. When they released me, I ran outside and looked for a place to get away.  The only thing I could think of was to climb a tree, which I did. I climbed as high into that sycamore tree as I could go.  Then, I just sat there in the branches until my father came out.  I never told him why I was in the tree. In fact, I never told anyone until I was well past 40 years old.

I know many of you are shocked that I would include such a graphic story in an otherwise light-hearted blog.  I do it for two reasons. First, life is not always light-hearted and fun. Sometimes it is messy, ugly, and confusing, even in a pastor’s home.  Second, I have discovered I am not alone.  There are many others who have experienced such transgressions in church-related settings.  Little boys and little girls are scarred for life by others.  I was emotionally fractured by that event.  I do not feel like a “victim” per se.  I do realize, however, the profound impact this had on my life.  For years after, I experienced sexual confusion and poor choices.  Through some solid biblical counseling and conversations with other friends, who I discovered had experienced similar events, I have found a sense of resolution. This is not mine to avenge.  That is a right God reserves for himself (Romans 12:19)  Forgiveness does not ignore a wrong. Forgiveness looks the wrong straight in the face and says, “What you did was wrong! However, I give up the right to punish you.” Also, forgiveness does not mean automatic trust. Forgiveness is free, but trust is earned.

I offer no simple solutions for any reader who may have experienced a similar event.  Only, know you are not alone, and you can survive. If you have been through such an ordeal, please talk to someone. Seek counseling. There are many fine trustworthy biblical counselors available. Don’t hide behind secret shame anymore.

Published in: on September 26, 2017 at 2:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Preacher’s Work Week – Part 2

Psalm 134:1

Sunday Night

Sunday night services were really my favorite time the church gathered.  The atmosphere was relaxed, and people were in a good mood because they had a big Sunday lunch, watched the Dallas Cowboys win, and maybe even had a nice nap. We still covered the same basics as Sunday morning, three songs, Scripture reading and prayer requests, then a practical teaching from the Word.

Before Sunday evening worship, we had Training Union.  This was basically Sunday School, part 2.  We divided up into age groups, just like Sunday School. We had a book from the Sunday School Board in Nashville, just like Sunday School. The only difference was instead of the teacher teaching, we each had to read a part and offer some response to what we had read. Most of the time the response would be something profound, like, “Uh…I dunno.” Then the teacher would kick in his or her two-cents-worth.  In previous years, this had been known as BYPU (Baptist Young People’s Union). It was meant to keep young people off the streets and get them into church with interesting activities. In latter years, it was called Discipleship Training. I always envied the youth group, because they got to do things like playing volleyball or croquet with a short devotional.

The singing on Sunday night is where I first started developing a love for music.  Relaxed singing just feels better. You can experiment with harmonies a bit without people looking at you funny when you hit the wrong note.  On Sunday night we diverted from the officially ordained Baptist Hymnal to the little paperback Stamps-Baxter songbooks. The ones we used had shaped notes. For the un-initiate, shaped notes were a way for people who had no formal music training to learn melodies and harmonies. The heritage is found in the Sacred Harp singing schools that started in the Applachian churches. The notes were still found on a staff, but they were shaped into triangles, squares, and circles, representing the solfege system of do-mi-so, and so on.  We sang “Dwelling in Beulah Land,” “I Shall not be Moved,” and “The Good Old Way.”

I remember Cleta Carrol, the pianist.  She was pretty good on Sunday morning, but on Sunday night, she let loose.  Because it was less formal on Sunday night, Cleta wore her  house-shoes.  Not just any house-shoes, but sparkly, gold lame house-shoes with a little point on the end.  We called them “genie” house-shoes.  On Sunday night I would alternate between learning the shaped note harmonies and watching Cleta’s genie shoes working her magic on the reverb pedal. She pretty much ignored the soft-pedal until the invitation.

On Sunday night, my dad would switch from preaching mode to teaching mode. He would expound on the delicate intricacies of the verses, finding hidden gems previously unknown, then make a practical application for everyday living.  My fifth-grade English teacher had taught outlining, and on Sunday night, I practiced it. I would label my dad’s first point with a Roman numeral I. The supporting details and illustrations were capital A, B, and C. Point two was Roman numeral II. Supporting details were duly noted. The final point was Roman numeral III. Supporting details followed.  I could follow the sermon! There was a sense of satisfaction in this new-found note-taking formula. It was like…discovering the combination to a long lost chest and gazing on the treasures locked inside. (Truth-be-told, anyone can follow a good Baptist sermon; a good joke in the introduction to warm up the congregation, three points, and a sad poem.)

After church, everyone was happy. The biggest day in a pastor’s work week was complete. We went home full of the peace of God, the grace of Jesus, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.  Sunday night supper was simple, but satisfying, usually scrambled egg and bacon sandwiches. I still love that meal today. It is true comfort food.  Then we would all sit around in the living room watching the second half of Disney (the Devil’s way of keeping the luke-warm out of church) or Hee-Haw (my dad’s personal favorite).

HeeHaw

Published in: on September 21, 2017 at 10:06 am  Leave a Comment  

The Preacher’s Work Week – Part 1

Hebrews 10:25

Sunday Morning

As good dedicated Baptists do, we had services three times a week. On Sunday morning, there was Sunday School, then worship. On Sunday night, there were discipleship classes, then another worship service. On Wednesday night, there were missions oriented activities and prayer meeting. Although larger churches had choir practice on Wednesday, the churches I grew up in had no choir because then there would be no congregation. Here’s how each of these events looked close-up.

Sunday School

Sunday School was the time when young boys and girls were, against their will, dressed up in their Sunday best. For the boys this meant starched black slacks, starched white shirts, bow ties or neck ties, black socks, and spit-polished black shoes. The girls were adorned with modest dresses, white ankle socks, and patent black shoes. Have you ever tried to play Red-Rover in Sunday clothes? Well, it ain’t easy. We antsy young’uns listened for 45 minutes to whatever old codger – who had been shamed into teaching by his wife – agonizingly reading word-for-word the lesson from the Sunday School quarterly (issued four times a year).  He ended with, “Now think about those things.” Then we ended with a prayer.

preaching

Sunday morning worship was the big guns, the pinnacle of the week.  I could always sense a slight nervous energy in the air. I’m not sure why, because the service was fairly predictable. After the welcome and announcements, there was the Scripture reading. Our little country churches were informal enough that anyone could chime in during the announcements.  This included a recitation of the week’s events, which rarely varied, and prayer requests. I dreaded that part because it seemed to take forever, and my breakfast was already playing out. I didn’t care about Fred’s mother’s second cousin’s husband’s gall stones. I was hungry!

One of the deacons led the singing (no paid song leaders); three hymns, verses 1, 2, and 4. Even though we had a printed bulletin with the song titles and number in the hymnal, they were announced, each one twice, “Hymn number 412, ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers, number 412.” I never really knew why we skipped the third verse of every hymn. I speculated that third verses were reserved for less evangelical groups, like the Methodists, Lutherans, and Presbyterians.

A few of the other men would take the offering, passing the plate, trying to strike that delicate balance of looking at you in a way that made you want to pitch in your folding money without drawing attention to the fact that they didn’t. I mean, if you take up the offering, that’s contribution enough, right? These offering takers were often viewed as Deacons-in-training. If you could be trusted with the offering, you could be considered as a potential Deacon (Luke 16:11).  One day, I will expound more on the Capital D Deacons. We don’t have time here and now.

Then came the Special Music. These were the original stars of  contemporary Christian music. That’s where you got your start. Special Music pre-dates The Voice, American Idol, and even karaoke. My sister began singing the Special Music early on.  My dad’s favorite request of her was “The King is Coming” by Bill Gaither.  I was glad when Pennye sang because the others, quite frankly, just weren’t very good. No matter, though. Whoever sang earned a throaty “Amen” from the deacons.

Next, the sermon. My daddy was a fine blend of teacher / preacher. He could expound on the Scripture and seamlessly shift into fire-and-brimstone. Daddy spent hours in his study, hammering away at a sermon, carefully selecting the Scripture passage and just the right words to convey its full meaning. When he preached, he never needed electronic amplification. He had a way of waking up the crowd when he sensed they were drifting into thoughts of football, fishing, or the roast in the oven. On one Sunday, he pounded the pulpit; “There are lost people all around you going to hell, and you don’t give a damn!  Right now, more of you are concerned about the fact that I said, ‘damn’ than you are about those lost people!” Another time he announced he was going to preach from the Sears and Roebuck catalog because no one cared to bring their Bible to church, so they wouldn’t know the difference. The most scathing sermons, however, were those that included the 10 second silent pause for effect, followed by the words, “Wesley…go sit with your mother!” Oh, the shame, the guilt, the depth of remorse is unspeakable.

Once the congregation was sufficiently under conviction, then came the invitation; “Just as I Am,” or “Living for Jesus” or “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.” The struggling mourners would walk to the front of the church to get saved. If they were already saved, they would rededicate their life. If they were saved and rededicated, they would just kneel and pray. I was always most impressed with the praying kneelers. They were certainly the most spiritual.

Finally, the benediction, offered by another of the men. I could finally loosen my tie, eat Sunday dinner, and watch the Dallas Cowboys whip up on their foe of the week. My next post will reveal my favorite service, Sunday night.

Published in: on September 14, 2017 at 9:43 am  Leave a Comment  

Tracks in the Snow

Matthew 16:24

My daughters are 18 months apart. Amber was born in September, one year after we were married, and Alyssa was born the next November.  They were beautiful babies, but having two in diapers is challenging, often draining.  Amber, the older daughter, was a free spirit from day one. She always charted her own course, an experiential learner. It was not enough to tell her not to touch the stove. She needed to know just how hot it really was.  Alyssa was the compliant child. Often, after her older sister received discipline, she would approach me and assert, “I’ll never do that, Daddy.” She was also compliant to her sister’s adventurous nature, at least in her formative years. Intuition might say raising kids gets easier as they learn to walk. Oh no. Chasing two toddlers is like herding cats or stacking BBs. In fact, it’s like herding BBs or stacking cats. It’s not easier.

Now, everyone knows not to leave Dad in charge of the children, not for long. My wife was beginning her teaching career and needed some help with the kids. Most days, my mother-in-law could keep them, but sometimes I had to step in.  My job as a Youth Pastor didn’t pay all that well, but the schedule was flexible, and that was a big help with two little ones.  I could work from home, tend the children part of the day, and still get my work done. Therefore, I believed myself to be a perfectly capable parent and multi-tasker.

When I was in charge of the girls, one of my rules was everyone takes a nap after lunch. That was a great rule. While little tummies are digesting, they can recharge and refresh. It’s completely healthy. Again, I was proud of my prowess as a young parent; that is…until I realized I was the only one actually sleeping.  That stark discovery hit me on a November afternoon after our first snow of the season.  I fed the girls and put them down, then I too drifted off.  I was having the craziest dream. There were faint cries.  Slowly, I came to and realized this was no dream. I hurried into the girls’ room, only to discover they were not there. I checked every other room.  I could hear them, but I couldn’t see them.  Frantically, I ran outside and into the front yard.  I looked down the street and saw both girls, in their little night-gowns, walking down the sidewalk… barefoot.  Amber had decided she needed to take Alyssa to the park at the end of the street, so she was leading her by the hand. Alyssa was cold and crying, but dutifully following her big sister, who was boldly blazing the path.

To this day, I can feel the heart-stopping sensation of hearing faint cries and seeing their little footprints in the snow.  I think of it every time I hear the song “Footsteps of Jesus” or I see the little poem “Footprints in the Sand.” (I confess to the guilty pleasure of laughing at the spoof, “Buttprints in the Sand.)

Most of us have that one person in our lives who we will follow. For one reason or another, we have chosen to love, trust, and emulate that person. With that understanding, I would like to suggest two simple challenges: 1. Make sure you are following a person who leads you in the right direction. 2. Make sure you are leading those who follow you in the right direction.

footsteps

 

Published in: on September 6, 2017 at 9:16 am  Comments (1)  

Happy, Hippy, Hillbillies

Isaiah 43:2

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.”

At this writing, I watch the still unfolding news of Hurricane Harvey and the devastation in Houston and all along the Texas Gulf Coast.  This area has a special place in my heart. For years, my uncles, aunts, cousins, and grandmother, and for a time, my mother lived near Houston and Galveston.  I’ve spent many days and nights in my childhood and adult years enjoying the hospitality of my mother’s family down there.

Let me explain a bit about these folks. First, there is Pat, my mother’s younger sister, and her husband Don. These are true salt-of-the-earth people.  It’s important to understand that we do not agree on politics or theology.  We have enjoyed many a spirited debate, relaxing by the fish pond, watching the koi do their fish, thing.  Our favorite family description of their disposition is happy, hippy, hillbillies. We share a love of music, literature, and all things motorcycle. We all know that we will disagree and keep right on loving the stuffing out of each other.  Pat will greet you with a hug and a kiss, and Don will hand you a beverage of your choice, and tell his newest story.  These folks are so laid back, they were late to their own wedding! Eventually, Uncle Glenn got them hitched, and they headed off to their honeymoon in their VW van.

VW Van

Eddie, my mother’s youngest brother, is only two years older than I am. Therefore, we grew up more like brothers than uncle and nephew.  He spent many hours trying to teach me to surf, but the skill still eludes me.  I love to fish, but I only actually catch fish when I am with him.  We had many adventures in our youthful years, most of which will go unmentioned here. Patty, Eddie’s wife, has served as a tempering force in our escapades.  (Yes, Eddie’s sister is Pat. Eddie’s wife is Patty.  My cousin, Chelsea, was briefly married to a fellow named Ed – not a happy ending – and is now with her true soul-mate, Glen. We often have to clarify Pat or Pattie, Ed or Eddie, and which Glen.)  In the annual Reece Reunion campout, we can always count on Pat, Don, and Eddie to devise some “hillbilly” technology that is far superior to traditional boats, beds, campers, etc.

Pat taught English and drama for 30 years at Bishop O’Connell High School in Galveston. Although his true love was working as a longshoreman, when work on the ship docks played out due to mechanization, Don taught math for over 20 years at Houston Baptist University.  Countless lives were touched by their work.

We have learned that Eddie, Patty, and their daughter and son-in-law, Leah and Josh, as well as their other daughter, Missy and her friend Amber, are all safe and homes relatively intact.  Pat and Don’s daughters, Chelsea and Carolee, along with their families, are also doing ok.  My aunt and uncle, however, have lost all.  Their home is totally flooded, car and camp trailer destroyed, and essentially homeless.  These are folks who would literally (and have frequently) literally given the shirt off their back for someone in need.  If you don’t mind, join me in a prayer for my Coastal Kin. In addition, if you would like to do something tangible, you can click the link for instructions.

https://www.gofundme.com/helping-the-teltschiks

Pat Don

Published in: on August 29, 2017 at 12:17 pm  Comments (1)  

But…What About the Fish?

Luke 5:1-11

If you are a regular reader, you already know that my Daddy and Uncle Glen were more brothers than brothers-in-law. One of their favorite outings together was fishing.  It was a warm, sunny day when they took me, my brother David, and my cousin Darrell out on tiny Balmorhea Lake in a small “John boat” powered by a little pull-start outboard motor.  As was our custom, we shunned superfluous equipment, such as oars or life-vests.  After all, the lake is only 556 acres and 25 feet deep.  What could go wrong?

fishing

We set out with our Zebco 202 rod-and-reel, tackle box, worms, and minnows.  As we arrived on the other side of the lake and set up, the fish started biting almost immediately.  There are few things in life more fun than hitting a good solid crappie run.  We had brought a large tall trash can in which to keep the fish we caught.  Every one of us was catching fish as quickly as we could bait the hook. We were so busy catching fish, we totally missed the cloud bank building in the southwest. (We were on the northeast side of the lake.)

At the point when the trash can could contain no more crappie, my father looked up, elbowed Uncle Glen, and pointed to the sky. “That doesn’t look good.” Glen replied, “Yeah. We need to get out of here.”  Glen gave a single solid yank on the rope to start the motor. It jumped to life, and he hit the throttle.  We made it only a few dozen yards before hitting a solid patch of lily pads.  (Crappie love cover, and the lily pads were taken as the sign of a good fishing spot.) The motor kept running, but we weren’t going anywhere. The undergrowth was so thick, it had sheared the pin on the propeller.

At that point, it began to sprinkle.  The situation was about to get rough, as we could see the wind and rain coming across the lake.  We had to find a way to the nearest land and fast. (Did I mention no oars and no life-vests?)  The only possible option was to use the trash can as a make-shift oar. It was tall and skinny, so it just might work.  The problem was, we would have to dump out the fish.  There was a collective pregnant pause. What about the fish? It was a true dilemma, a conundrum, a classic Catch 22.  About that time a lightening bolt and clap of thunder brought us back to our senses…fish dumped.

Using only a trash can, my dad and Glen were able to keep the nose of the boat into the wind, thereby avoiding getting capsized, throughout the duration of the west Texas thunderstorm.  After an hour or so, we managed to make land unharmed and fish-less. We were glad to have our lives and sad to have lost the catch of a lifetime.

In the years that followed, Daddy and Uncle Glen often used that story as a sermon illustration when preaching on Jesus calming the storm (Mark 4). We had been in that very situation.  For me, however, there is another appropriate application.  That day, we chose to value human life over the massive haul of fish.

That’s what Jesus was getting at when he called his first disciples. They too were fishing. They too experienced a miraculous catch. Then, they had a choice; they could choose to finish celebrating and marketing their haul, or they could value serving people over their life-long career. Luke says they “forsook all,” fish, nets, boats, livelihood, and followed him.

The point I make is this: sometimes God gives us miraculous provision for our lives. He has done that for me more than a few times. Sometimes, though, he may call you to then forsake the very blessing he just sent you, in order to focus on a greater ministry.  It won’t be an easy choice. Keep in mind, though, it could get you out of a storm.

 

Published in: on August 22, 2017 at 10:26 am  Leave a Comment  

Spinning Tops

Ephesians 6:10-20

In Balmorhea, Texas, children learn to amuse themselves. In the days before X-Box, Nintendo, or even Atari, kids participated in all the dangerous pastime activities, such as riding bicycles (sans the helmet), skateboards (also free of cranial protection), wrist-rockets with sparrows as targets (sorry PETA), and marbles (shooting “knock-out” with the little ones in order to win the big ones). One favorite pastime for Tom Greenhill and me was spinning tops.

Two houses down from the parsonage there was a cement slab which, at one time, had been a house. The house had been torn down, so only the foundation remained. That hunk of smooth concrete served as a boxing ring, chalkboard, and a venue for world-champeen marbles and tops. Today, it would be suitable for the modern robot-wars.

tops

Spinning tops takes a bit of skill. First, you have to learn to properly wind the string, not too tight, not too loose.  You have to get a good slip-knot in the other end, the finger end.  Mastering a good grip is a bit like pitching in baseball. Different grips get different results when the top is released. Also, the spinner must learn how to spin a top that has been damaged. It was common to knock a chunk of wood out of the top, thus making it less stable in spinning.

I was still mastering baseball and football. My right eye was crossed. Yes, I was cross-eyed. The result was, even with thick, black-framed glasses, I had difficulty with depth-perception, and still do, to some measure. Therefore, I often got hit square in the face with a football or baseball. I was good at spinning tops, though.

A bit of background information is in order.  When I wasn’t in school, my attire was always the same, cut-off blue jean shorts…period. Shirts and shoes were a bother. The path to the concrete slab was fraught with peril and pitfalls.  One route was the caliche road, gravel and rocks. The other route was straight across the grassburrs. But the slab was worth the effort. Shoeless, I would brave the minefield to reach the arena.

On one particular occasion, Tom and I had agreed to meet at the slab for a Top-o-rama. He was in a hurry, as I was navigating the goatheads. Finally, he said, “I’ll give you a piggy-back. Just get on!”  Tom had a weakness for shoes, but I gave in and climbed on. (I’ve often wondered why that mode of transportation was called “piggy-back.” Perhaps a reader can enlighten me in the comments.) Tom carried me over to the slab, and just as we got there, he lost his footing.  I tumbled off at an angle and hit the corner of the concrete head first. Bang!

I got up and was wondering how much damage had been done when Tom’s eyes got really big. “Oh my gosh! Are you okay?” I looked down, and there was a pool of blood on the concrete.  “I guess I need a band-aid!” With blood running down my face, Tom piggy-backed me again through the minefield, and to the next yard. Then chaos. My sister, Pennye, saw the event and ran home in shock. My grandmother, Mammaw, had just arrived for a visit. Pennye was out of breath and trying to tell my mother what happened.  “Wes just cut his head o– (breath), o– (breath)…” Instead of filling in the blanks with “open,” my grandmother decided she was trying to say, “off.” She was distraught.  By the time I got to the house, there was mass hysteria.

Needless to say, I did not cut my head off.  I did cut it open.  My mother got some scissors and cut away the hair around the gash. She washed off the blood and put a criss-cross design with two band-aids, then wiped the rest of the blood from my face.  Within an hour, I was back in action.  For months afterward, I would proudly show the blood-stained slab to my friends, who were in awe that I could have survived such a catastrophe. I still rode my bicycle and skateboard without a helmet, and I have been known to ride my motorcycle the same (although I insist my passengers don’t). Shoes were still years away from being necessary.  I still have a dent on the right front lobe.

In retrospect, protective clothing has become more valuable to me over the years. On many occasions, I have found myself wishing I had taken the extra time to be prepared. Our enemy does not fight fair. It is much easier to have protection and not need it than to need it and not have it. Enjoy the Apostle Paul’s exhortation on the subject, and put on your armor.

Published in: on August 15, 2017 at 9:42 am  Leave a Comment