A Short Ride – A Long Journey

John 13:5

February 14, 2003 was warm and sunny. It was a beautiful day for a Friday evening ride with my beautiful redhead. We donned our leather jackets, put on our helmets, and mounted the bike for our Valentine’s Day date. All started well as we turned onto Hewitt Drive and headed for our favorite steak house.

About a mile from the house, we found ourselves surrounded by the five o’ clock traffic. I wasn’t worried at all, since I was a seasoned rider. I had almost forty years experience, and my only spill had been on the first day I learned to ride. (I still have the scar on my leg.) We had just come through a traffic signal, and we were passing the local HEB grocery store when a young teenage girl couldn’t put her phone down long enough to check traffic. She plowed into the rear wheel, and set us spinning in the middle of four lanes of traffic. I was thrown off and rolled about fifty feet down the road into oncoming cars. As soon as I stopped rolling, I scrambled to my feet and ran back to the bike. Kimberly was sitting on the gas tank looking down at her foot.  A piece of the plastic bumper from the car had broken off and gashed her foot open. It could have been much worse, of course. She might just as easily have lost her foot.

As traffic ground to a halt, other drivers stopped to render aid. I was wrapping some cloth around the bleeding wound. Shortly afterward, the firetrucks, police, and ambulance showed up. I noticed a woman walking toward me. I didn’t know her. She introduced herself, “I’m the mother.” I assumed she meant the mother of the young driver. I simply  nodded my head and turned back to my wife and her foot.

Once the EMTs had her loaded into the ambulance, I quickly pushed my bike over to an adjacent parking lot, then got in the back of the vehicle with her. Shortly after we arrived at the emergency room, the doctor began to wash the gash on her foot with pressurized water. He explained that the pressure was necessary to clean out any sand, dirt, or gravel that might be lodged in the wound. It was very painful for her. He then stitched up and bandaged the foot. All I could do was hold her hand and tell her how sorry I was.

Once things began to settle down, some friends from our neighborhood showed up. I was surprised and asked how they knew about the wreck. It turned out that the young girl was their son’s boyfriend. They assured me that she felt terrible about the accident. Again, I just nodded my head. A minute or two later, I walked down the hall for the men’s room. I reached for my wallet in my back pocket; I don’t remember why. At that moment, I realized I had no back pocket. In fact, I had no jeans back there. Apparently, the pavement had torn a piece of my pants off. I had been mooning the whole ER staff, and no one bothered to tell me.

The neighbors stayed to give us a ride home. The doctor had given instructions for antibiotics, cleansing the wound, and purchasing a walking boot once the swelling subsided. She was also prescribed physical therapy to ensure she properly regained full use of her foot. For the next six weeks, she needed assistance with most motion-related tasks. She especially needed assistance with putting the boot on, taking it off, and keeping the wound clean. It was then I learned to wash her feet, and I found it to be a true act of love.  I would gently wash her foot with warm soapy water, pat it dry, then apply some medical creme. To be truthful, I was a little sad when she no longer needed me to do that for her.

bikers

 

Published in: on May 15, 2019 at 10:58 am  Leave a Comment  

Death Comes to the Parsonage

Psalm 116:15

The night my father died is still vivid in my memory. He had been diagnosed with cancer two months earlier, and his strength was fading. The doctor sent him home with a bottle of chemo pills. This type of treatment was still young in those days. The pills were very large, and they had severe side effects typical of any other chemo-therapy. They made him violently ill and made his hair fall out. I remember him throwing the bottle in the trash after a few weeks. “The medicine shouldn’t make you sicker than the disease,” he said. The only real relief he could find for his aching body was an alcohol rub down. My sister would put the alcohol on her hands, then rub his feet and his back.

Soon after that, he had little strength for walking and poor balance. Someone in the community had a wheelchair and loaned it to us. A couple of men of the church came over on a Saturday and built a ramp from the steps of the house to the sidewalk. For the last few weeks, he preached from a wheelchair and used a microphone. He never needed one before. His strong voice could fill the auditorium with no assistance at all.

My father loved preaching. He would study all week and most of Saturday night to prepare the message for Sunday morning. He read commentaries, used his red Scofield Reference Bible, and browsed his library of Charles Spurgeon’s sermons for quotes. He often said, “If I ever get to the point where I can’t preach, I want the Lord to just call me home.”

His birthday was in November and always near Thanksgiving. That year, he requested his brother and his three sisters to visit. He wanted to see them all one last time. I remember we had Thanksgiving early because his sister, Genevieve, and her husband, Rolla, were scheduled to return to Korea where they were missionaries. After dinner he went to his bedroom. One by one, he called in his siblings to say his good bye. He wanted it to be personal and private. He also called in my cousin, Walter, who felt called to ministry. That weekend, they all went back to their respective homes.

The next Saturday night, we kids sat by his bed watching him with an oxygen mask. He would take it off and talk to us, then put it back on. He finally told us goodnight, and I told him I loved him. Later that night, he fell ill. He had to call another preacher and asked him to fill the pulpit for him the next day. Then the ambulance came and took my dad to the hospital. Mother went with him, and we kids stayed home. At 2:00 am, she called from the hospital. Our father was dead; God had honored his prayer and called him home. That night, I drank my first cup of coffee. I didn’t want to sleep.

That Sunday morning at church, the deacon chairman had my sister, my brother, and me stand in front of the church. “These are the bravest people I know,” he said. I never understood how losing a parent makes a person brave, but that’s what he said. The next night, my Uncle Glenn took us to the funeral home in Dumas for the viewing. He encouraged us to touch my dad, but I refused. I wasn’t scared. I just didn’t want to touch him if he couldn’t touch me back.

The day of the funeral, it was cold and raining. It was my first funeral to attend. As the family processed in, I didn’t know what to do or how to act, but I saw my friend, John Terrell, and I smiled. I remember thinking it wasn’t an appropriate time to smile, but I needed a familiar face. According to my father’s wishes, my sister sang “The King is Coming,” and Uncle Glenn preached the sermon. My father had instructed him to preach an evangelistic message; “Don’t talk about me. Talk about Jesus.” My sister’s boyfriend stayed after the service to talk to Uncle Glenn. He wanted to be saved.

I remember one classmate dropping by the next day with his parents to pay their condolences. We took the wheelchair ramp across the street to the church parking lot and used it for a ramp to jump our bicycles. We rode in the snow, and I didn’t care. My memory of the days after that were all blurry. I remember my English teacher, who was normally strict, excused me from the assignment I had missed. The math teacher, who was normally sweet, told me I had three days to make up missed work. Somehow, I was expected to resume life as normal. Nothing would be normal again for a very long time.

 

AWW-Sr

Published in: on May 1, 2019 at 10:16 am  Comments (2)  

NASCAR

Hebrews 10:23

I’m not one of those avid NASCAR fans. I’ve never watched an entire race because I get bored with all the circles, but occasionally I enjoyed watching part of a race. I suspect that most of the other viewers are waiting for the same thing I’m waiting for – a crash. We’re not sadists, though. We hope everything turns out alright and the drivers are safe, but there is a certain thrill in seeing a car spin out at 185 mph, then get smacked by another car, sending both vehicles wildly skidding and banging against whatever objects may be in the path. Excitement, fear, and awe are all wrapped up in six seconds of chaos, and it takes our breath away. Seeing this unfold on television is one thing; being in the driver’s seat is quite another.

As a teen, I worked on a dairy. One winter night there was a heavy snow, and I received word that my boss’s farm had suffered damage. The snow had piled high on his milking barn, and it had collapsed. My brother and I were to join other men of the church in a day of clearing the debris and getting the barn functional again so he could get his cows in to milk. We were on the trip out to Harlan’s farm, and the roads were mostly cleared. On one bridge, however, there was a patch of black ice, and I didn’t see it until it was too late. The car spun twice as I grunted the only two words that came to mind; “Hang on!” We slammed against the guard rail and into the ditch. After a minute of catching my breath, I asked my brother, “Are you okay?” He said he was, so I got out to inspect the damage. There was a perfect imprint of the guardrail along the passenger side of the car, but everything was functional. We managed to get out of the ditch and drive on the our destination, then home again. I kept wondering how I would explain to my mother that I had almost killed her baby son.

She didn’t scream. In fact, she was fairly calm as she informed me she was taking my driver’s license away for six months. The truth is that was my second wreck in six months, so that seemed a reasonable consequence to her. The wreck was not my fault, but I had to admit the previous wreck was. In that event, I was driving with my buddy Jay and I missed a tight curve. I jumped my 1966 Oldsmobile over a culvert, like they do in the movies. All I could say was “Hang on!” He ended up in the floorboard, but he said he was okay. I kept wondering how I would explain to Dr. and Mrs. Eckert that I almost killed their middle son. Oddly enough, Jay was the one who drove me to school for the next six months of my driving suspension. That’s a true friend.

I was wreck free for the next thirty years, but history has a way of repeating itself. My son and I have a long-standing tradition of taking one day in the spring, skipping work and school, and taking in a Texas Rangers’ afternoon baseball game. It’s quality male-bonding time. A few years ago, we set the date and headed to the ballpark in Arlington. All was well until about the third inning when a downpour started. Eventually, the game was rained out, so we headed home. We were driving down I-35 in driving rain. I was holding my speed down to 60 mph because of the conditions. Just as we were inside the Waco city limits, the pickup started to hydroplane. I tried to correct the skid, but the truck suddenly spun the other direction. There’s something odd that happens in a moment like that. Everything seems to be moving in slow motion. I watched as we were headed toward a light pole, then spun the other way. I said the only words that came to mind; “Hang on!” My only thought was how I would explain to my wife that I had killed her baby son. As we spun around, we eventually were facing oncoming traffic. The car that had been following us was now in front of us. It had slowed down some, I imagine, but we still hit. Our truck spun another 180 degrees and came to rest on the side of the road. I asked my son if he was okay, and he said he was. It’s hard to explain to someone how I had a head-on collision going backwards at 60 mph, but that’s what happened.

The song says, “Life is a highway,” and sometimes that’s how it feels. We are going through our daily routine, and something happens. Suddenly, we are spinning wildly out of control at the mercy of our circumstances. Every correction we try seems to only make the situation worse. Catastrophe is unfolding before our eyes in slow motion, and we fear the worst. I don’t have profound insight for situations like that, but the writer of Hebrews said, “Let us hold fast…” I think that’s probably Bible-speak for “Hang on!” Sometimes, that’s all you can do. It won’t last forever, and you will most likely survive.

 

Published in: on April 16, 2019 at 9:37 am  Leave a Comment  

Against the Wind

Hebrews 12:1

When I was a freshman in high school, I signed up for athletics. Our school was small, so students either signed up for athletics or something else. Everyone in athletics competed in all sports, which in this case meant basketball, tennis, and track. The track coach couldn’t figure out what to do with me. I was too slow to be a sprinter, too small to throw shot or discuss, and too uncoordinated to high jump or pole vault. I tried it all with varying degrees of un-success. He finally decided to place me in the mile run. I had only one quality that proved to be an advantage – endurance.

Because the school had limited resources, the “track” was simply a pasture in which some of the local farmers had graded an oval running space. The dimensions were a little off, so the distance was actually a little shorter than the regulation 400 meters. The coach adjusted by marking the actual finish line at four and a quarter laps instead of four. This dirt track is where we practiced most days. On other days, the coach would drive the team 15 miles to a nearby town for practice on an actual asphalt track. Just outside of that town, he would stop the bus and tell the milers, “Head toward home, and we’ll pick you up when practice is over.” So we started running down the highway.

Tracksters in the Texas panhandle face a challenge that few other locations present – the wind. Track season is in the spring, and springtime is the windiest time of year. A calm day meant the wind was less than 40 miles per hour. (One day, after practice, I went home to find the wind had peeled the siding off our mobile home and blown it several blocks away.) All this meant that at least half of the time, I was running against the wind. It also meant that after the second lap of a four lap mile on the dirt track, I had worked up a sweat. There was dirt from the track and from the surrounding plowed fields blowing in the air and into my eyes and sticking to my sweat.  Nonetheless, I had endurance.

The local newspapers published the results of the track meets. They printed the names of first place, second place, third place, and so on. Then they printed the other names as “also ran.”  I never won first place, in fact I never placed, I was an “also ran.” I finished every race, though. I refused to quit. Through wind, dirt, sweat, and mud, I would not quit.

In my final track meet, I didn’t finish last. I felt that was what they call “a moral victory.” After we all loaded up in the bus for the trip home, I called from the back of the bus, “Hey coach, what was my time?” He hollered back, “5:56.” Everyone on the bus cheered me; I had never broken the six minute mile. I grinned all the way home.

I learned that running against the wind doesn’t last forever. Around the next turn, I would be running with the wind at my back. Life is like that sometimes. We just have to keep going. Some days the wind is stronger and some days it is lighter. Just don’t quit.

Against the wind
We were runnin’ against the wind
We were young and strong, we were runnin’ against the wind.

(Bob Seger)

Published in: on April 2, 2019 at 12:52 pm  Comments (1)  

Hypocrites and Reprobates

Matt. 7:5 & 2 Tim. 3:8

I remember words my father often used when he was preaching, words like “hypocrite” and “reprobate.” Those are very fine preaching words indeed. I wasn’t quite sure what they meant, but I knew they were bad and I knew I didn’t want to be either one. My seven year old mind conjured up images for these things.

I remember my father explaining the hypocrite as a play-actor. He described how actors in the days of the New Testament would put on a mask. That was a hypocrite. I listened intently, but the image my mind created was not the classic comedy-tragedy masks that now are the worldwide icon of drama. My mind imagined something more like the character Michael Myers from the movie Halloween.  It was downright scary.

I don’t remember exactly how he described what a reprobate was, but I distinctly remember the mental picture I had when he used the word. Somehow I connected “reprobate” with a “trilobite,” a pre-historic cockroach sort of animal I had seen pictures of in a book. There are probably some analogies that could be drawn here.  A reprobate is defined as an unprincipled person, a rogue, a scoundrel. That sounds kind of cockroach-ish to me.

trilobite

In his preaching, my dad emphasized that the remedy for a person who was a hypocrite or a reprobate was to become regenerate. Now there was another word I had to decipher. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be regenerate, however, because it sounded too much like degenerate. Of course, I had no idea what that was either, but I knew it was ugly. From the context I surmised that one was supposed to be good and the other bad. Neither prospect sounded very appealing to me, though.

I was a little more open to the idea of being redeemed or converted. Redeemed sounded sparkly and shiny, glowing even. Converted sounded like instantly putting on a brand new heaven robe in place of my worn out jeans and shirt.  I rarely had new clothes of any kind, so that seemed pleasing.

I didn’t want to go to hell and I did want to go to heaven. That was the most important issue. I knew hell was everlasting flaming torment. While I wasn’t quite sure what heaven was like, I imagined it was the exact opposite. For a time, I thought it might be icicles and snow. I could put on a coat and be just fine. In the end, I decided to simply get saved.

Sometimes traditional theological jargon can hinder rather than help seekers. Like many others, I lament the decline of vocabulary in post-modern English. That being said, believers need to put the gospel in a vernacular and context the listener can relate to.  Otherwise we run the risk of our soteriology becoming obscure and enigmatic, and the listener obtuse. In other words, keep it simple.

 

Published in: on March 4, 2019 at 1:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

Toddler Talk

Deuteronomy 6:6-7

My youngest granddaughter, Adelaide, has started mimicking sounds at four months old. Her mother will look at her and coo, “Ohhh,” and the sweet baby smiles, then echoes, “Ohhh.” Over and over they repeat the cycle, and everyone in the room is mesmerized. We all want a turn to say “Ohhh,” for the sheer bliss of having it returned.

Those early efforts to reproduce human speech first begin with sounds, then their versions of the adult words.  Our offspring don’t remember their first words, but it is forever imprinted in the parent’s memory. For some reason we adults continue to use the toddler versions of words, long after they are abandoned by the original orator.  Some situation will spark a memory, and we feel obliged to remind our now adult children of their valiant efforts to communicate verbally. I recount some of those efforts here:

Fiver – (short “i” sound) Amber’s version of river. “Look, Daddy! Fiver!”

Mo’light – Amber’s request to see more Christmas lights. “Mo’light, Daddy! Molight!”

Weewah – Art’s version of “sister,” interchangeable for either sibling.

Growed up – Alyssa’s report she had thrown up, just after eating a cherry Slushee and just before kindergarten graduation. “I growed up, Daddy!” She also growed up after eating dogfood at a neighbor’s house.

Frosty_Fruit_cherry_slushy_grande

My oldest granddaughter is learning new words in Pre-kindergarten. This was discovered by her mother, when they were rhyming. “What rhymes with duck?” She picked the only word a parent does not want to hear. Why couldn’t she say “truck?” It was reported by her teacher she also knows a word that rhymes with “itch.”

I remember hearing a word on the playground when I was five years old. The youngsters who uttered it were speaking Spanish very rapidly, but this particular word stood out, and I remembered it. Later that day, I asked my mother what the English equivalent of “sh-t” was. Surely it was a Spanish word I needed to know, but she refused to tell me.

My parents were more intent that I learn the words in Scripture. Our church had Sword Drill competitions. The Word of God is our Sword, and every good Christian soldier needs to practice for combat. (This was long before the days when such violent language was considered taboo.)

Each youngster was given a Bible. They would stand in front of the church, holding the Bible out in front of them. When the book, chapter, and verse were announced, then the command was given, “Go!” The first one to arrive at the correct reference read the verse aloud. I was actually pretty good at Sword Drill. I had memorized the songs that rehearsed the books of the Old Testament and the New Testament in order, so I knew whether to flip pages in the front, back, or middle. As we grew older, we transitioned from finding Bible verses to memorizing them. We were hiding God’s word in our heart.

Today, I’m reminded of the song Graham Nash made famous. I think it’s an appropriate exhortation for parents to choose carefully the words they pass on their children.

 Teach your children well,
Their father’s hell did slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they pick, the one you’ll know by.
Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,
So just look at them and sigh
And know they love you.

Published in: on September 24, 2018 at 5:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Joyful Noise

Psalm 150

Any good Baptist knew the God-ordained instruments for proper worship are piano and organ. If you don’t have an organist, that’s acceptable, as long as you have a competent pianist. You still have to have the organ, though, even if it just sits there unused. If you do have an organist, be sure to have him or her play occasionally for the prelude, offertory, and postlude. Most of the churches I grew up in only had a pianist. The organ sat unused. Guitars in church were suspect, at best, and drums were certainly out of the question. Those were instruments used in bars and by errant denominations, such as the Assemblies of God.

One thing Baptists all agreed on was the Bible is our sole authority for all matters pertaining to proper worship. Therein was the rub, the fly in the ointment. The Bible has numerous references to worshiping with stringed instruments, horns, and tambourines.  We didn’t use those, even though the word of God never mentions piano and organ, not once.

Early in my ministry I served as Minister of Music, and I decided to allow all God’s servants who were skilled use their talents in worship. I remember when Dusty Rhodes (not the wrestler) worked up his courage to ask if he could play his harmonica on a Sunday night. When I said, “Of course!” tears came to his eyes. He was moved to be able to contribute, and he was good! In that same congregation we had a musical presentation just before Easter one year. Junior High, High School, and college students were on stage with their horns, drums, reeds, and strings. They weren’t perfect, but they were thrilled to practice and perform songs of high praise. Some in the congregation were not pleased. “It might be in the Bible, but it ain’t Baptist.”

A couple of years after  I took my first pastorate, the phenomenon called “Cowboy Church” was gaining steam in urban areas. These churches just outside of town encouraged people to wear their boots and jeans to church and they used guitars in worship. That never made much sense to me because this church had always been a cowboy church. Boots were left at the front door because the men had been feeding cattle before church. Alan Dillingham and Dale Burson brought their guitars and mandolins. Elizabeth Davis fiddled while they sang “We’ll Be Rounded up in Glory, By and By.” (Elizabeth was a role model for my two daughters who both learned to fiddle.)

In another congregation, one of the old deacons approached me with a similar question. His friends all called him “Boozy” for reasons I didn’t inquire into, but his heart was gold. Boozy’s dilemma was how to use his four stringed banjo for God’s greater glory. I assured him we would find a way. The first time he played in church, he couldn’t keep from grinning ear to ear, nor could I. Old Boozy played hymns with a Dixie-Land hop.  Everyone loved it, partly because he was so talented and partly because he had a red light mounted on the inside of the banjo body; it glowed and so did his face. Shortly after that I visited in his home, and he couldn’t wait to show me his treasures. He took me to a back room where he lovingly pulled out a 1965 Gretsch and a 1965 Fender Stratocaster. If you’re a guitar buff, you know these are iconic pieces.  With misty eyes, he explained to me how, in his younger days, he had played in bars. After he committed his life to Christ, he felt a loss because he couldn’t find a way to integrate his love for music and his love for the church. He was grateful for the new opportunity to do that.

The only time my preconceived notions were truly challenged was when my wife and I visited a congregation that one of her co-workers attended. This friend played in the worship band. When time came to start, she stood on stage playing the washtub bass. For those who don’t know, this is simply an overturned washtub with a broomstick mounted on the upturned rim. A piece of twine runs from the top of the broomstick into a hole in the middle of the tub. When you pull back on the stick, it makes the string tight, and you pluck it. The tone changes depending on the amount of tension on the twine. She rocked that tub back and forth all through the song service. Even now I smile thinking of her looking toward heaven, pulling on that stick, popping the string, and singing her heart out.

Thankfully, the worship wars are almost at an end now. Most churches allow and embrace most instruments. The Bible encourages us to “make a joyful noise,” so get out your kazoo and call your friend who plays the spoons. Maybe you know someone who can bow a saw. As long as your heart is in it, God will be pleased.

washtub bass

 

Published in: on September 18, 2018 at 11:10 am  Leave a Comment  

Hair!

Ezekiel 44:20

Getting ready for work this morning, I realized I was overdue for a haircut, and I was reminded of my ever-changing hair. When I was little, my father was conservative and clean cut, and he believed his boys should be the same. We got regular haircuts, just rarely at a barber shop. That was a luxury, not a necessity. I think I went to the barber fewer than five times before my teen years.

Daddy had a pair of barber clippers and a boy’s haircut was simple; turn on the clippers, place the blade flat on his little head, and pretend you’re mowing the lawn. That style was called a “butch.” The way you keep a butch looking dapper was a product called Butch Wax. This was something akin to axle grease, except it was clear instead of black. I can still remember how it felt when my dad would put a gob of that on his hand and slap it on my head then rub it in. That part was not a gentle massage; actually, it hurt.

As a young fellow, however, I didn’t want a butch; that was boring. I wanted a flat-top. Uncle Dick had a flat-top, Sergeant Carter on The Gomer Pyle Show had a flat-top. A flat-top was all the rage in 1965. My dad wasn’t much for following trends, though. He was a straightforward kind of guy. No flat-top.

clippers

At that time, my brother and I were “toe-headed.” That meant we had light blonde hair. I never figured out how light blonde equated to toes, but that’s what they called it. My dad would get sometimes get busy with preacher work, and our hair would grow out some. In between cuts, it would actually get long enough to comb. I liked that because I could put a nice straight part on the left side. Sometimes, I would borrow his Vitalis to keep it looking shiny. Vitalis was a more pleasant experience than Butch Wax.

A few years later, longer hair started coming in fashion. It took a bit of doing, but I convinced my dad to let me grow my bangs out, like The Beatles and The Monkees. I combed it straight down, and the cut across had to be straight. Eventually, he would get tired of seeing my hair resting on the top of my black frame glasses, and he would get out the clippers. Back to the butch. By the time I was in seventh grade, he had agreed to let me grow out the back some. He even let it touch my ears. I guess he was getting softer with age. I had bangs and hair to the middle of my ears, and I parted it in the middle. My hair had started turning brown a year or so earlier. I was no longer toe-headed, and that was ok with me.

It wasn’t just the hair on my head daddy had been picky about. When I got curious about shaving, he showed me how, even though I didn’t have any whiskers yet. I’m not sure why, but I was fascinated with moustaches. His response was simple. “If a man has hair on his face, he has something to hide.” Moustaches and beards were a sure sign of trouble.

After Daddy died my mother had her hands full with putting food on the table and a roof over our heads. She decided to put me in charge of my own hair to lessen her load. I could finally have a hairstyle from the current decade. That’s when I found out that my hair doesn’t lay down when it gets long. It just gets…big. By the time I was in college my hair was very dark brown, almost black. I had resorted to combing it straight back, and my classmates talked about my bouffont. Others said I looked like a Civil War general. One said I reminded him of Wolfman Jack (a popular 1970s radio host). Not only had I grown my hair out, I had a full beard and moustache. I didn’t feel devious or evil at all, so I figured even dads can be wrong sometimes.

Five years later I was married and had two children, and I started seeing gray hairs. I blamed it on being a youth minister. I convinced my wife that she could start cutting my hair, so we could save money. She seemed reluctant at first, but I told her the price of my haircuts could go to her dress fund instead of the barber. She bought me a pair of clippers the next week.

By the time I was forty, I had full-blown salt and pepper. Around the same time, I tried a mullet. That was a fiasco. I also experimented with my facial hair. I would alternate between only a moustache and a full beard and moustache.  When my daughters were around five and six years old, I decided to try a clean shave again. I walked in that night after shaving to tuck them in bed and kiss them goodnight. They both immediately started crying. Apparently, I look different with a naked lip. I had to talk to them so they would know who I was. Years later, when my oldest daughter was in college, I once again tried a clean shave. I went to see her one weekend, and when she saw me, she simply turned around and started walking the other way. She was MAD! I promised not to do it again, and I haven’t.

I also started wearing a goatee at one point. I got lots of compliments on that, and I preferred those to the Santa Claus jokes I got when I had a full beard, which was also turning gray. Now, my hair and beard are almost completely white. (I finally got chest hairs, and all three of them were gray.) I still comb my hair straight back, and I’ve reverted to a semi-butch cut (minus the Butch Wax) with month-long intervals in-between trips to the barber. The instructions are the same: “Clipper cut, number three guard all over.” I’ve discovered hair dressers balk at that, but true barbers go straight to work.

When my wife lost her beautiful red hair due to chemo-therapy, I stood beside her as we clipped it close. What hair she had left was lying on the bathroom floor. She cried and I cried and we held each other for a while. She never worried about hair after that. She even took a funny bald-headed picture with her bald father and her bald uncle. Eventually, it grew back very curly and cute, and she started wearing it bobbed.

Too often we obsess over our hair. The Bible says God has the hairs of our head numbered, and a woman’s hair is her glory, and gray hair is a sign of wisdom to be respected. God cares for us as a person – black, blonde, brunette, auburn, ginger, toe-headed or snow-headed, bearded or bald – he watches over us and sustains us.

 

Published in: on September 13, 2018 at 7:26 am  Leave a Comment  

Uncharted Territory

Genesis 12:1

When I was a hospital chaplain I read a piece called “Hermits, Nomads, and Pilgrims.” I don’t remember the author’s name, and today Google failed me in identifying the work. At any rate, the essence of the writing was a contrast of the three. Hermits, nomads, and pilgrims have this in common: they have left their old way of life and are living apart from society and their culture of origin. Hermits travel to a place away from humanity and stay there, alone. Nomads travel from place to place, but with no specific destination. Pilgrims travel too, but they have a given destination. I remember very much enjoying the metaphor, and today I am aware that I have been each of these at some point in the past months since losing my wife.

In the first weeks of widow-hood, I became a hermit. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, I didn’t go to work, and I avoided social events. People were nice to me. They called me on the phone to check on me. They came by the house. They invited me to dinner. I didn’t want people, though. I wanted to withdraw into my grief and alone-ness.

After a while I became a nomad. Every weekend I would travel. I wanted to be anywhere except home.  I sold the Dodge Durango that my wife bought for a “Grandma Wagon.” I no longer needed or wanted space to haul eight people. I bought a touring car and put almost 40,000 miles on it in the first year. I wanted to escape the very place that had previously been my sanctuary, our sanctuary.

Now, I am entering the Pilgrim phase. I am not hiding alone at home, and I am not wandering aimlessly. I have a destination, I just don’t know what it is. I will know it when I get there. I’m following God one step at a time, like Abraham. At first, I thought this might mean a geographical change, moving to a new town and a new job. Now, I don’t necessarily think that is the case. This is a situational journey. Let me explain.

My paternal grandfather died before my parents ever met, so I never knew him. My maternal grandfather died at age 52. I was only two years old, and I don’t remember him at all. My father died when I was 12. The point is I never saw a man grow old. I am now older than my grandfather was when he died. I am older than my father was when he died. Everything I learned about life, I learned mostly on my own – how to handle money, how to apply for a job, how to court a woman, and how the raise a family. I have no one to follow and no road map.  I am in uncharted territory.

Early in my doctoral work my mentor asked, “Where do you see yourself in five years, in ten years?” This was basically a “What do you want to be when you grow up?” question. That fit perfectly because I never felt like I had arrived. I always felt like I was still in preparation, in progress. I just didn’t know what I was being prepared for. I thought on the question for a bit, then I said, “I want to write, speak, and travel.”

For some time now, I have been sharing my stories with you in this format. Several of you have encouraged me to consider a book, and I listened. I am currently working on  compiling these stories and others into book form. I have also begun working on another project. I am writing. As a pastor, I have addressed audiences large and small, and as a teacher I regularly speak, but I feel compelled to reach a wider audience. That’s where you come in.

I am asking first for your prayers. As God brings me to mind, please take a minute to pray that the right doors will open for me. Second, if you are in a position to schedule speakers for gatherings, I would ask that you consider me. I have no agent, no contract, and no expectation other than an invitation. I promise to have something worthwhile to say, and I will never embarrass you, well…almost never. I will travel to where you are, and we’ll enjoy being silly and serious.

On a personal note, I appreciate the numerous comments and encouragements through Facebook and on this page. Your friendship and your prayers have been significant in my healing and discovering my future path.  This journey is exciting and a little scary too, but as my father-in-law used to say, “See ya down the road!”

bike

Published in: on September 7, 2018 at 8:46 am  Comments (1)  

Mighty Heroes

1 Corinthians 12:23

The Mighty Heroes was a cartoon series in 1966 that ran for only one season, 20 episodes in all. In spite of it’s short TV life, the show played an important part in my five year old mind. Whenever we would get together with our extended family, we either played football or Mighty Heroes or both. We each had an important role in this scenario because the world had to be saved from villains. The Justice League couldn’t get the job done and The Avengers came up short. They sometimes fought each other! But The Mighty Heroes always came out victorious. Here’s how it went: (descriptions shamelessy plagiarized from Wikipedia)

  • Strong Man has super strength. He speaks with a friendly farm-boy type of accent and holds a civilian job as a mechanic. His favorite fighting move is his “jet-propelled blow” by which he flies into a villain fist-first. (This was Eddie. He was the biggest and strongest of us.)
  • Rope Man is a sailor who works at the docks. Erudite with a British accent, he can transform into is a seemingly unending length of rope. He can use his hands like lassos, and can even weave himself into a net. The drawbacks to his powers are that he often gets tangled up or knotted, not rarely around his own teammates. (This was Pennye because she had long arms and long legs.)
  • Tornado Man is a television weather forecaster who can spin himself into a tornado. He often sucks the villains into his vortex, then shoots them out toward the nearest wall. He speaks in a wheezy voice. (Darrell took this spot because he could spin around in fast circles without getting dizzy.)
  • Cuckoo Man is a bird-shop owner whose powers are the most limited of the group. Unlike the other heroes, who can fly with no effort, Cuckoo Man has to flap his arms almost constantly in order to keep aloft. (I was Cuckoo Man because I could flawlessly reproduce the sound of a cuckoo clock.)
  • Diaper Man is a red-headed, diapered, yet fully articulate baby as well as the leader of the group, who sounds a lot like Popeye the sailor. His main weapon is his bottle, which by holding on to the rubber nipple, he can swing around (or shoot like a slingshot) forcefully. (Of course, this was David because he was the youngest, and he sucked his thumb.)

Mighty-Heroes

The Mighty Heroes were different. Although they each had some special power, their super-outfits all bore the same insignia – a capital H – a true sign of unity. Other superheroes, like Super Man, had their own insignia; how self-centered. Not these guys; they were a true team who were never at odds. They never faced a foe that any single one could defeat alone. By necessity, it was always a team effort. Also, their powers were…different…unexpected. Who would ever think a baby bottle or a half-loony bumbler would be the ultimate difference between victory and defeat.

So we would put on our bath towel capes, force David to wear a cup towel diaper, and “fly” out into the yard in search of ne’er-do-wells. Eddie clinched his mighty fists, Pennye swung her long arms, Darrell spun quickly in tight circles, I loudly cuckoo-ed and furiously flapped, and David…sucked his thumb and ran around (he was only three).

I often tend to be a loner, and it’s hard for me to admit I need anyone. I regularly chose solitude because I felt I didn’t fit in well.  When I realized there were other odd-balls in the world, I began to open up a bit. At some point, each of us has to realize we need the help of friends, however strange they may be. God has often blessed me in unconventional ways through unconventional friendships. For these, I am grateful.

Published in: on August 28, 2018 at 10:49 am  Leave a Comment