Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Turn the Page

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. -Ecclesiastes 3:11

I once heard someone say that our life, in the midst of living it, seems like a series of random events, all chaos and confusion, but when looked back at, takes the form of a well-crafted novel complete with plot twists, blind alleys and surprise revealings.

So what did we (by "we," I mostly mean me) learn in 2015?

That the author and finisher of my faith is still writing, still finishing.

That the ending of one chapter in life leads to the beginning of another.

That, surprisingly, eating excess amounts of chocolate (and yes, you can eat an excess amount of chocolate!) inspires the strangest dreams ever. Which dreams could be the subject of another blog entirely.

I learned (am learning) that no matter how well I think I know myself, my heart still hides amazing, unthought of secrets which are ever being revealed (and often repented of).

I think I also learned that time and death are means whereby God works to make us more heavenly minded.

That He has indeed made all things beautiful, and as their time unfolds and they are revealed, we are drawn ever deeper into the mystery and beauty of that which is to come.

And. like Mrs. Cratchit, we ask, "What next, I wonder?"

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


...but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  -Romans 6:23b

You've got 'em. I have 'em. Even Hank Jr. has family traditions.

Had a large time on my birthday. Got the tree up. Watched Scrooge.  Had a sumptuous birthday feast prepared by Chef April (don't know what that chocolate stuff with the Tiffany[?] cream was called, but Lord have mercy!)

Worked on several of the new songs. Sandy learned to sing the phrase (four notes) "debt" from one of them. Got tons of well-wishes from family and friends via FaceBook.

Got up early this morning to sit in the dark and look at the tree. It's lovely but I can't help wondering, "How did we get from Jesus to this?"

Never having been much of a Christmas guy, I'm focusing really hard this year on trying to meditate on the significance of Christ's entry into our world.

I mean it is truly mind-boggling to think that the God who made everything would come and live in the world He made as a real live human being.

And because He did, this life, which at times seems so unreal (a dream within a dream, as Poe called it) is not all there is.

The Spirit of Christmas Present uttered a line in the movie we watched last night that is not contained in Dickens' book. He said that the Spirit of Christmas does not live in men's hearts only one day a year, and neither does the child born in Bethlehem, but lives all 365 days of the year.

And that, my loves, my dearies, is more than a tradition.

It is the faith we embrace, the precious gift of God

Merry Christmas and God bless us, everyone.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Cut Me, Mick

For all I've learned, and memories kept; may I be forever in your debt. -Sandy Tolar

It's my birthday and there's this one song, Forever in Your Debt, with this really high part. About half the time I'm having trouble reaching the notes in falsetto even.

You'd think the guy who wrote the melody would have chosen notes within his vocal range, hmm?  Ah, but it's so purty and the lovely lyrics and tune combined make me want to weep.

Does music do you that way too?

Anyhoo, Chef April comes in with a large knife mock-threatening to cut Sandy for some snarky remark or other. And someone proposes that an appropriate cut might help me reach those high notes.

Then I'm reminded of the line from the first Rocky movie and I don't care who you are, that's just funny. And I decided a long time ago to try and have fun wherever I find myself.

So it's been that kind of day.

Happy Birthday to me.

And thanks for all the kind thoughts and well wishes.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Have a Biscuit

Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates. -Proverbs 31:31

I made biscuits for breakfast this morning.

I have to say that I have just about got it down. Maybe it's that dash of sugar. Or maybe the amount of milk, making the moisture of the dough just right.

Still there is something lacking.

I have often said that one of the things I miss most about Ms. Joycie are her biscuits. The best in the known universe. And it's not just me. Anyone who has ever enjoyed one of those biscuits will tell you the same thing (can I get a witness up in hyere?).

I've also said that one of the reasons God called her home was so she could make biscuits for Him!

Hmmm. So I may have figured out two of the twelve manner of fruits found on the tree of life (Revelation 22:2). Chocolate, of course. And now, Ms. Joycies biscuits!

But the point of this is, I think I have also figured out what made her biscuits so awesome.


I know it's a cliché that the special ingredient in this, that, or the other thing is love. Hear me out.

The Song of Solomon speaks of the joys of the marriage bed, where a man and a woman bring a dedication, a desire, a love into the relationship.

Proverbs 31 also speaks of the love a godly woman brings to her home and all who live there or visit there. Each verse from v. 10 through v.31 speaks of this love in all its various aspects.

Love seems almost to emanate from the pores of such a woman. So that when she makes biscuits, for example, this love passes from her fingertips and into the texture and substance of the dough.

Oh my!

Uh, pass me a biscuit, will ya?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Why Are You Always Running in Place?

Your hair is in my face, and laughter's in your eyes
And as the memory fades, all that's left is to cry  -Sandy Tolar

I thought my job was to be the strong one. I thought I was pretty good at it, too.

Very strange to realize how much you depended on the one who depended so much on you.

When someone is such a huge part of your life, I guess the tendency is to focus on that. If you're not careful, to focus on that exclusively.

The thing is, there's a great deal of pleasure to be had in dwelling on the good stuff. It's more than gratitude, though there is that.

Maybe it's a forgetfulness of other things that call for your attention. Maybe some of them not so pleasant, but which must nonetheless be attended to.

So when the prop is knocked out from under you, so to speak, there is a necessary redirection or re-ordering of your priorities.

This is good in that (a) it fills the empty place left by loss and (b) it allows you to consider what may have been previously neglected.

To be granted a "re-do," sort of.

It is refreshing to observe the blessings in vocation, to set aside discontentment and see instead the good. Where in the past, I was so jealous of my time, to now have "all the time in the world."

How selfish it is to desire only the good things God has given us and not want to give of ourselves. That time I so zealously guarded to my own ends I may now share outside the walls of my home.

Aren't idols found in the strangest places in our hearts?

Isn't God so merciful to allow His children second (and third?) chances to get it right?

What next I wonder?

Sunday, November 1, 2015

I Met Her in Church

She looked at me with eyes of love as the choir sang Hallelujah....
-The Box Tops

I lay in bed, on the near border of Sleepytown, and an image flashed in my mind.

I stood in the aisle at Grace Pres. next to my accustomed pew and glanced over to see my wife, sitting in her accustomed place. She was looking very beautiful in a long black dress, you know, the one with the flower print, and she looked up at me with that little smirky-smile that she had, you know, the one that said, "Come sit next to me and we'll share secrets and enjoy one another's company for a bit."

These brief glances of an image can be quite detailed, it seems.

What a wonderful God we know and love and serve, who can create minds able to store and recall (even at the oddest moments)
memories of amazing intricacy, intimacy and precision.

Who created us for relationships and sent to us people to fill our lives, to bless us and be blessed by us.

Who called us into the ultimate relationship, with Himself, and invites to see these others as He sees them, through eyes of love.

The fact of the matter is, I met my wife someplace other than in church. But I can never ever doubt that the Lord sent her to me just as surely as if we had met in Sunday School.

I thank God for bringing us to the point of cherishing and appreciating each other. And I can say to my Lord as I once said to her:

"Thanks for the dance."

Friday, October 9, 2015

Miles Upon This Road

Too many smoky nights
All those regretted mornings
Leave me
Thinking of you
Wondering where you are
Hoping you're still out there
on that same old star.  -Sandy Tolar

If someone handed you lyrics that spoke to your heart, as these do to mine, how could you not frame a melody around it?

Music can take us to places in the heart where we could not or would not go unaided.

Hidden places, places we weren't aware existed.

Walled-up closed-off places I would never go to again, unless music carried me there.

And words which reach up off the page and pierce so deeply, when set to the proper melody, bring us to the rarest of all places: where joy, grief and amazement combine into an unutterable emotion.

It can happen in church, when we sing "It is Well With My Soul." Or when I hear Roy Orbison sing "Crying."

Or when I play this freshly composed song.

This music.

This gift from God.

My creator has made music.

I will imitate my Creator.

And I wonder if this unutterable emotion will be that which I feel (only magnified many times over) when I shall behold the face of my Savior and the mountains and the hills break forth into singing?

Friday, October 2, 2015

If Today is Friday, What Day is it in Heaven?

When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound and time shall be no more. -Hymn: "When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder"

Perhaps I shouldn't be thinking of this.

October 3 is Ms. Joycie's birthday.

I have seen many posts wishing a happy birthday to someone's loved one "up in heaven."

I'm sure you have reflected, as I have, upon how blessed we are to have that assurance, not only for ourselves, but also for our dear departed, those who have gone to be with the Lord.

I know that when Christ returns, time as we know it will cease to be. After all, how can you number the days of forever?

But what about now, for those already standing before God's throne? For we who remain, our works and days continue. But are there (to speak in a temporal manner) calendars on the walls of any of those "many mansions?"

You may think it a silly question. Still, as I ponder the matter of heaven and its many mysteries, I wonder; how is time reckoned in that place, if at all.

I suppose, as we move about in the present reality, that we attempt to comprehend these things in terms of our experience. May I not sin in so doing.

Heaven is outside that experience and so, for now, I wonder.

And I look forward to finding out.

For now we see though a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then I shall know even as I also am known. - 1 Corinthians 13:12

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Army of the Dead

And he said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" And I answered, "O Lord GOD, you know." -Ezekiel 37:3


Dead as a hammer.

Dead as a doorknob.

We have seen dead, whether it has been a loved one, a family pet, or simply an animal lying crushed beside the road.

Can you imagine this death as being the state of your soul?

If the wages of sin is death and if, in fact, we are steeped in sin from before birth (as Psalm 51 indicates), then surely spiritual deadness is the state in which all humanity find themselves.


There is Ezekiel's vision of the dry bones. There are Jesus' words to Nicodemus in John 3.

There is a life-giving Spirit.

Who hovered over the waters at Creation.

Who rested upon Christ at His baptism.

The Spirit who filled the Church at Pentecost.

This is the Spirit who gives life to dead hearts and transforms them from dead stone into living flesh.

So the question for each professing child of God must be: "Do I possess this Spirit and does He reside within my heart?"

I must ask: "Does my professed love for Jesus find expression in love of His Word, in love of His Church, in love of His children, my brethren?"

These things of the Spirit must work themselves out in the affections of my heart and in service rendered to the Master and His kingdom and His saints.

Does this once dead heart live?

O Lord GOD, you know.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Home to Roost

...and be sure your sin will find you out. -Deuteronomy 32:23b

I have sinned. No surprise there.

Is it not true that we live in daily repentance? Of course we are grieved over our falling short of God's glory. It's one of the things the Spirit does for us.

But of all the grievous things, perhaps the most painful is to have a long-hidden sin surface at an inopportune time.

As in when we are admonishing with someone else over the same sin.

First comes the sickening remembrance.

Then, the inevitable and necessary "Forgive me, Father."

Do you think that God allows such sins to be covered over  by our self-righteousness and unrecognized in our deceitful hearts? And He does this so that the sting of conviction might be more acutely felt and repentance all the more immediate and sincere?

Think David as Nathan spoke, "Thou art the man!"

And I am reminded of another verse, "...let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed unless he fall (1 Corinthians 10:12).

If I were to draw a conclusion from all this, I suppose that it would be:

That as we work together in Christ, confessing our sins, and sharing our struggles, we learn from each other's mistakes, always forgiving and offering encouragement to one another.

What goes around comes around, they say.

There is enough forgiveness in our Savior to go around.

And as we send it forth, may it come back to us.

Friday, September 18, 2015

I Know Who I Am!

Harry Angel, in "Angel Heart."

Self image.

The bane of our existence?

Cultures, I have read, create their own mythologies over time. Can this be said of us, as individuals?

It goes something like this: our lives are molded by early experience and we begin to shape our own personal myth. This is me: the kind of person I am, what I believe, why I believe it, and so on.

And is it possible then that the myth becomes set in stone? An image, even, to be worshipped?

And is it also possible that relationships, viewed through the filter of Myself, must be disrupted, tainted or even destroyed?

Unless there is love.

I have been loved by someone who loved me; not the me I had created in my heart, but the me she could see underneath all the pride, resentment and bitterness.

There was a glimpse of kindness and goodness and tenderness that she could see, looking through eyes of love.

But much, much more than that, I have been loved by Christ who for some unexplained and deeply mysterious reason, set His heart on me.

And so the me I have imagined and loved and gloried in, must become what He has imagined, desired and ordained.

It is hard. It is painful, even heart-breaking at times.

But it must be.

How could it be otherwise?

Monday, September 14, 2015

Like Ghosts, Only Sad

I'll be damned, here comes your ghost again.-Joan Baez

So I watched several wretched horror movies Saturday. Sandy and
I had a very merry time as we MST3K'ed Hellraiser.

I really can't watch horror movies nowadays with any degree of enjoyment.

Suspension of disbelief is the issue, I suppose, for you see, I don't believe in the existence of ghosts or goblins or Freddy or Jason or any of that.

Memories are a different thing.

They can come unbidden, unwelcomed and with no warning. Like ghosts are supposed to be able to do.

To define them as electrical discharges firing along neural pathways is unsatisfactory. That doesn't explain their power, their ability to haunt.

And the haunting is not about some spooky and unexplained presence.

It's more like an absence really. Where there used to be something.
And the expectation that the something ought still to be there.

This is the essence of memory, that is so much more than a visual recall played out on the mind's movie screen.

And the haunting is not played out in fear or terror, but in an existential ache, so deep and so abiding.

And I wonder, would it be selfish or disloyal or even shallow to desire to be done with it? Done with the memories.

Ah, but the truth of the matter is this: memories, seasoned with the bitterness of past sins, move me forward. Take me from this place of haunting.

What next, I wonder?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Holy Diver

Between the velvet lies, there's a truth that's hard as steel.-Ronnie James Dio

Dio was going on the radio as I drove into the cemetery this morning. The red rising sun cast its pink glow onto the pale marble all around me before it was swallowed by low-lying clouds.

There was a freshly dug grave nearby, a narrow hole which seemed barely wide enough to accommodate a casket, and I was struck by the strangeness of our custom; to place the remains of our dearly departed in a box and place them in the ground.

There is a significance to this whose meaning escapes me. I am reminded of the Viking funerals, not so much the burial rites, but images of burning ships sailing gloriously into seas set aflame by the setting sun.

It seemed fitting to me, however odd you may find it, to meditate on these things as I knelt before her grave on this day.

But as I look forward to the resurrection, it seems fitting as well to remember to be thankful: for mercy given, for sanctification completed, for ultimate healing (not the healing we had prayed for, right?).

To be grateful to remain, to be the one left standing, is most difficult of all, it seems.

Yet I remember that God's faithfulness is great and His compassions new every morning and I recall the lyrics of another song:

"The ones left standing carry on."

It's what God's children do.

Monday, September 7, 2015

He Leadeth Me

When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul. -Psalm 94:19

I was searching the phrase, "murmur nor repine," which had popped into memory during prayer this past week.

It seemed, as I pondered the words, that I had been guilty of such  and I sought to find out the hymn which contained these words and read the lyrics in their context.

Hard to reflect on the biblical truth that our God leads us, in all the circumstances of this life, and not be brought to tears.

What a precious thought, indeed. And what ingratitude I have shown in complaining and doubting.

Isn't it amazing that even in the vague meanderings of the mind, our God seeks us out to bless us and comfort us?

What consolations we have, as we hope in God's word and in His salvation.

What blessings we have in God's people, even in an obscure young Baptist minister who labored faithfully all his life and was given, by God's grace, to write one hymn. A single hymn which, in the richness of its theology, has so blessed the people of God.

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? -Romans 7:24

Another respected Christian has been dragged down into the muck and mire.

If you were to read the self-confessed details of his fall and how he ignored the gracious warnings of guilt and fear, you might wonder, "How can these things be?"

At the risk of sounding crass, I will repeat a statement I have often made to my youngest daughter: "Men are dogs."

All that separates us from the lower animals is our ability to reason, to think (i.e., to plot and plan to achieve our base desires).

Harsh and simplistic, yes. But useful for our purpose in seeking understanding.

We are fallen. However regenerate my heart may be, it is still wicked and deceitful. I shudder to think what I might be up to, were it not for the indwelling Spirit's power to convict and inspire repentance.

Whenever we (men and women) seek to act in God's place to meet our own perceived needs, we have sinned. Otherwise godly desires have been twisted and perverted and an idol has been raised up.

I fear isolation (the self-imposed kind). Oh, may I not cut myself off from godly conversation and counsel. I need the iron of my friends in Christ to keep me sharp and alert.

Surely we realize that none of us is immune from temptation, that Satan comes, in places and moments of weakness to drag us down.

We must remember Paul's warning: "Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall."

Pray for the saints.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

September I Remember

April, come she will. -Paul Simon

I have heard, that in an instant, a person's life can change forever. 

How true.

I have heard that these are moments of extreme clarity, like the flash of lightning, revealing things previously not seen.

This too, I think, is true.

Do you find that your life is remembered in brief episodes, at times seemingly unrelated?

The reality of the thing is difficult to embrace, and were it not for the remembering, would seem a figment of our imaginations; a dream even.

There is a hymn, a children's hymn you might call it, that has been playing over and again in my head: "Jesus loves me, this I know." And the simple accompaniment played in single notes upon a piano.

And the constant memory of the repeated promise: "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee."

Odd, isn't it, that faith has been defined in part as "the conviction of things not seen."

"For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."

And so here is resolution.

Here is reassurance.

Here is reality.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Not Looking Down

Thine eyes shall see the King in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off. -Isaiah 33:17

There is something comforting about a gravestone. Solid and substantial, engraving cut deep into the granite.

An assurance, if you will, that no matter how long the Lord tarries, these remains will patiently await his return, guarded by this stone, and the day when body and soul will be reunited in one glorious whole.

Some comfort themselves in imagining that their loved one, like Rossetti's blessed damozel, leans out "from the gold bar of heaven" to look down upon and watch over them.

I would not imagine, as Rossetti did, her weeping, but instead rest assured that no tears exist in that place, having been all wiped away by the beautiful presence of our Savior.

And so I know that my beloved is not looking down at all, burdened by the weight that we who remain must bear. That time is over for her and the countless number of saints who stand around the throne.

Now is a time of unimaginable joy for them and a looking forward to the day of restoration and reunion. The day when all things will be made new.

How could they look down when in the presence of Him who draws the gaze of all eyes to Himself?

They look up.

She looks up.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Two Things

...for those who are called according to his purpose. -Romans 8:28b

A motorcycle accident. Two young people are scratched and bruised, but otherwise unharmed.

The family offers praises, "We have been kissed by God."

A Facebook post. An attempt is made to answer the rantings of those who would question God's goodness, or even His existence, because of evil in the world.

God is merciful, it says, in explanation of why the wicked are not immediately consumed. 

But does God have no control over these things other than to sometimes mercifully intervene?

Does evil simply exist, out from under His sovereign rule?

If that is true, how is He able at all to work for the good?

And so, the doctrine of the "Gentleman God" has been proposed.

God is such a nice God, to put it simply, that he is willing to relinquish control so that sinners may agree to be saved and the wicked proceed on their merry way to hell (or something to that effect).

Does this sound contradictory? Does this make sense? Or does this fly in the face of what we read in scripture (God's revealing of Himself to us)?

"I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create disaster, I am the LORD who does all these things (Isaiah 45:7).

"...he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, 'What have you done?' (Daniel 4:35)."

It comes down to this: how big is your God?

Is He big enough that we may trust Him even in the worst of circumstances?

Big enough that we will bow in faith, even in the midst of sorrow?

Big enough that we acknowledge His sovereignty without understanding His sovereign purpose in the things He decrees and ordains?

This must be so, this all-ruling (omnipotent) God.

How else could we believe the promise, "I will never leave you nor forsake you?"

Or grasp the statement, " meant evil against me, but God meant it for good?"

We must believe in a sovereign God who has all things in His hand and works all events to His eternal, glorious purpose.

Like Job, I may not always get it.

Like Job, I may sometimes complain (and then repent and beg forgiveness).

But there is this:

"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)"

Friday, August 7, 2015

I Need a Hug

I can't feel my toes! -Donkey

This post is inspired by the picture of a couple of young friends sharing a hug.

Thanks for the reminder, guys, of how precious hugs are and how we should not only enjoy them, but appreciate the blessing of a hug.

We are a hugging church, I am glad to report. Nothing wrong with hugging a brother in Christ, accompanied by the obligatory back pat, letting each other know, "I love you man, in  a strictly brotherly manner, of course."

I think a more gingerly hug is in order for the ladies, if at all. An arm around the shoulder rather than around the neck, perhaps. And their prerogative, always, to initiate the hug.

My favorite, of course, is for wives and girlfriends (or husbands and boyfriends, as the case may be).

I guess that's really more an embrace than a hug, don't you suppose.

I read somewhere that infants grow ill and die if deprived of human contact and affection. So we should hug our children often.

Adults also need hugs, I believe.

A short confession here: I have kissed two men in my life; My dad and my brother-in-law Paul; both on the cheek, whenever I would see them, which was not that often. I expect that I will both hug and kiss them (on the cheek naturally) when I see them again.

So we are agreed, then, that hugs are good and one of God's great blessings in our lives.

Have you hugged a loved one today?

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A Question

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. -Philippians 4:6

How's your prayer life?

Have you noticed that one of the shortest commands in Scripture, "Pray without ceasing," is preceded by an even shorter one: "Rejoice evermore?"

Does the state of one's prayer life have anything to do, do you suppose, with one's view of God? In other words, who is this God, really, and what is He like?

I am blessed to live where there are many great places to walk. And on these walks, in the cool of the morning, I (like Tiny Tim in church) think of the strangest things.

This morning, for example, as my mind meditated on a particular prayer request made by a friend and I felt the need to pray, I was stopped at once by a very strange thought.

Being outside is a wonderful way to meditate on the greatness of God. Man-made sounds seem faint and far away and the beauty and variety of what has been made; the sights, the sounds, the smells, the very touch of the breeze and the sun's rays upon the skin; all these things bring us to a contemplation of the One who made them.

You've been there, right? But my thoughts began to take me to a place where I (to my shame) seldom ever go and I began to contemplate the vastness of God.

I mean, He's huge and His presence fills all His creation.

And here I was, about to presume to speak to Him, to actually make requests of Him and to actually expect to receive a reply; whether "yes," "no," or "we'll see."

It would be the most ridiculous and outlandish thing imaginable.

Except that God, in his Word, has commanded us to do this very thing: this unlikely, unimaginable thing. What's more, He has opened a way for us. Given us a Spirit to aid us and a Mediator to plead for us.


So how can I ever feel as though I don't want to pray or desire to put off prayer til later?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

And in the End

...the love you take is equal to the love you make. -John Lennon, Paul McCartney

Lennon and McCartney notwithstanding, wouldn't you hate to find that the love you receive in this life is exactly in proportion to that which you give?

How would that work in your marriage, do you think?

Ever spoken hastily to a friend? Ever received loving forgiveness in reply?

Quid pro quo is, I suppose, useful for conducting negotiations, producing legislation, or other areas where a consensus is desired.

But to be involved in a truly loving relationship, mustn't we willing to give without promise of return? To put ourselves out there for the other is, I believe, the essence of love.

And in the end, actually, it's not at all about the love we take, but that love we give, freely, desiring the good of the beloved.

It is, in one sense, the essence of our salvation:

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. -Romans 5:8

Having been forgiven much, should we not wish to love much?

The idea, don't you believe, behind our thoughts and attitudes.

The ideal toward which we strive.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Grave

The importance of stories. This was drawn from an afternoon shared with my father toward the end of his life and my sharing in turn with my youngest daughter.

As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. Psalms 103:15-16

“It’s supposed to be right here somewhere.”

The two men inspected the tombstones, working their way across an older part of the cemetery. The markers in this section were small, lichen-encrusted slabs of marble, a foot wide and half again as tall.

“Daddy, are you sure we’re looking in the right place?”

“This is where she said it was; third row from the back, but she couldn’t tell which plot. There was a water-stain on the page of the register.”

The old man moved slowly, eyes straining at each weather-worn inscription.

“Here it is.”

The son moved to stand beside his father and looked down.


DIED NOV 3 1926

The old man knelt, pain knifing through arthritic hip joints, and with the wire brush he carried, began to clean the small stone.

The car crept along the asphalt path. The little girl looked to the right where her father pointed. Rows of weather-stained gravestones stretched before her.

“Look on your side. Which one looks different?”

“They all look alike, Daddy.”

“Keep looking.”

She spotted it at the same moment he stopped the car; not quite white, but standing out plainly from the gray slabs around it.

“There it is.”

He opened the trunk of the car and reaching in, came out with a wire brush. She carried the white silk rose, and together they approached the grave.


DIED NOV 3 1926

“Which grandma is this, Daddy?”

“Your Papaw Ray’s mama. She died just two weeks after he was born.”

“She has the same name as Aunt Deb.”

“Yes,” her father replied, “he named her after his mother. He never knew his mom or even where she was buried until ten or twelve years ago. He and I came out here one Saturday afternoon in the fall and he found her grave.”

“He kept it cleaned off?”

“Whenever I came home, we would come out here.”

She hugged her father, tears filling her eyes.

“Daddy, did he miss her like we miss him?”

“Sure he did. I believe it hurt him not having any memory of her. We don't understand how blessed we are, sometimes.”

As she pushed the stem of the rose into the ground in front of the stone, he knelt to brush away the lichen that had grown on it since last time. He halted, as though suddenly remembering something and turned to his daughter.

“We mustn't ever forget, Babe, these folks who loved us and poured their lives into ours. We need to love them while we have them and remember their stories.” The eight year-old going-on-nine brushed away tears from her cheeks.

“You can count on me, Daddy. I won't ever forget.”

He nodded, then began to apply the brush, slowly cleaning the small marker.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

In the Navy

My oldest daughter posted on FaceBook today about the importance of recording memories as shared by our loved ones of their lives, usually long before we were born.

I was moved to share this short piece inspired by my dad's sharing of his experience of his first day on shipboard in the World War II navy.

Of course I have taken creative license in my description of the fight, but all else is pretty much as my father related it.

“Awright, you men, fall out, grab a wire brush and a scraper and bear a hand here.”
Ray stood looking as the other men obeyed the chief petty officer’s orders. Small, dark and wiry, with dark brooding eyes, Ray was not used to obeying orders, and chipping paint didn’t look like a lot of fun to him. His eyes flickered as he cast his glance about for a likely escape route.
“Taylor! I said bear a hand here. Whatsamatter, boy, you deef?”
“I don’t think I really want to chip paint, chief.”
Chin jutting and chest puffed out like a bantam rooster, the short, stocky man stepped over to Ray. There wasn’t ten pounds difference between them, though the scars on the chief’s weatherworn face attested to the fact that he had been in this situation before.
Without warning, he launched a roundhouse right at Ray’s head. Ray’s head was not there to receive the punch as he had ducked and delivered a short vicious jab to the other man’s ribcage.
Caught off balance by his wild swing, the chief managed to partially catch Ray’s blow on his elbow. Ray stepped back, shaking his right hand. The knuckles were already starting to swell.
The chief’s ribs ached and he drew air sharply to replace the wind that had been expelled from his lungs by the force of the blow. The paint-chipping detail stopped work and gathered round to watch as the two circled. The chief hoped to maneuver Ray toward a pile of loose pipe which lay on the deck. Ray stepped back and pretended to stumble. The chief charged in low and Ray caught him with a short chopping left to the cheekbone. Rocked to the soles of his shoes, the chief continued his charge unabated and before Ray could land another punch, buried his head in Ray’s chest, locking his arms in a tackle. This kid could punch like a kicking mule. Time to take this fight to the deck.
As they fell onto the pipe, Ray managed to twist so that most of their combined weight fell on the chief as they landed. Pain shot through his knees and elbows. The steel pipe was unyielding. Jolts of lightning flashed through his vision as his forehead slammed the steel deck of the ship.
The chief landed on his back with Ray on top of him and his lungs were again deflated. He clawed at Ray’s eyes and brought his knee up with as much strength as he could muster into Ray’s groin. Ray grunted in surprise and pain and rolled off him. He shook his head to clear the cobwebs and fought the churning nausea in the pit of his gut. There was a swelling goose-egg on his forehead and blood trickled from a slight cut above his left eye.
The chief’s backed ached as though someone had taken a lead pipe to it, which was, in effect, what had happened. Blood flowed from the wicked gash on his right cheek where Ray had twisted his fist as it landed, grinding it into the chief’s face and tearing the skin. He struggled to stand and struggled even harder to breathe. He was pretty sure at least one of his ribs was broken. A sharp pain lanced through his side when he moved. Ray stood at the same time. Both men were badly battered and looked even worse from sweat, paint chips and rust from the pipes.
“What’s going on here, Chief?”
He and Ray turned blearily to face the starched, pressed uniform of a lieutenant, j.g. The combatants and the chipping crew stood to attention.
“Uh, Taylor here stepped on these here pipes and fell, sir. When I went to help him up, the things rolled out from under me and I fell too. I was about to take him to infirmary to get him checked out.”
“That right, Taylor?”
“I see.” The young officer eyed both men. “Looks like you might need to get yourself checked out, too, Chief.”
The men held their salutes as the officer turned and strode toward the bridge. None of them grinned until he was out of sight.
“At ease, you bums. Back to work, all of you. Come on, Taylor, let’s get you over to infirmary.”

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Comfort and Joy

Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy that will be for all the people. -Luke 2:10

Not exactly what we would hear about if we turned on one of the news channels.

Yet the news that we would be shown is no news at all. Things go on as they have since Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden. We commit the same depredations against one another (we are all guilty to some degree or other, right?) as we always have.

Each time I think I have heard of something new and even more depraved than before, careful reflection shows me I am wrong. Truly, the Preacher said, "There is nothing new under the sun."

I try to read Ecclesiastes once a year to remind me that things haven't really changed in three thousand years.

Ah, but "behold, I am doing a new thing," says the LORD God of Hosts. There is good news. And you and I, my brothers and sisters, have been put here to proclaim it.

God has been working all this time to reclaim fallen creation and redeem a people for himself.

He saved godly Noah from the Flood. He called Abram out of Ur.

He preserved His people down in Egypt. He brought them out again with a mighty hand. He prepared a table for them in the midst of their enemies.

Even when they were unfaithful, He preserved a remnant.

He arranged the affairs of nations so that there be a common language  in the Middle East of the First Century.

That a virgin would conceive and bear a child, "God with us."

That this child, grown into a man would make the perfect sacrifice and God would raise Him on the third day and draw His people to Him.

That there would be Roman roads to travel upon and Roman peace to protect the travelers, so that the good news would spread rapidly.

And so on and on, down to our present day, when the bottom seems about to fall out and many are saying, "Here is Christ," or "There He is."

That, too, is the same as it ever was. We pray for the hastening of that Day and look forward to it as did all the saints before us, and cry out, "How long, O LORD!"

Meanwhile, we have a job to do. There is Good News to be shared. In the words of the old song from my childhood:

"Stop, and let me tell you, what the Lord has done for me!"

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Hell is Coming

There's things goin' on that you don't know. -Lynyrd Skynyrd

I normally use this blog to share musings and convictions on matters of life and faith.

I do not wish to be a political pundit.

Faith and life (and the two are inseparable, whether you are Christian or not), however must include those things which are going on around us.

We have the relatively recent example of the Protestant church in Germany before us.

With the 40 year-long holocaust of abortion proceeding in its destruction of life, the rising tide washing away biblical definitions of marriage (you know them, or need I post those as well?) and the proliferation of hate laws around us, we are faced with the same choice which faced German Christians in the '30s: do we stand for biblical truth or do we bow the knee to Baal?

I have been amused and saddened by the firestorm of controversy directed toward the Confederate battle flag. "Historians" on both sides have weighed in with their (not "there," btw) opinions.

Military geniuses of all eras have put forth the strategy of indirection: make a threatening noise over here to distract the enemy while preparing for an all-out assault at a different point.

"What?" you say.

Simply this, the rebel flag brouhaha is simply a distraction while something more devious is going on.

Yes, I stand by every American's right to own and display the flag of his or her choice. Be that a Mexican flag, Cuban flag, rainbow flag, or even, for proud immigrants from the Great White North, the Canadian Maple Leaf flag.

Hmmm, did I leave one out?

You all remember this one. Note that the section on political views contains the phrase, "xenophobic worldview."

Do you think we could substitute the word "racist" for "islamophobe" and come up with two similar scenarios? Is the root cause for these tragedies something other than racial or religious or cultural prejudice? Or Confederate flags?

True story: Ein and I are driving down Reelfoot Avenue the other day. In front of us is an SUV speeding up, slowing down and otherwise behaving in a somewhat erratic manner. We pass, and we both look over to see who's driving.

OMG!! It's a woman talking on a cell phone!

Well, you know how we feel about that. It's dangerous and illegal, yes, but our ire is directed toward the driver herself (who perhaps was acting thoughtlessly or ignorantly), and aggravated by the fact that she had a fat, fleshy pale arm resting against the driver's door window.

Please don't judge me. Just pray for me. I really do want to love my neighbor as myself. But I still need God's strength to overcome the temptation to hate (?) the "other."

The point of this extended rant?

Maybe it is that I speak most particularly to my brothers and sisters in Christ. Be tolerant, but stand for the right. Those are two separate things (Luke 6:37; Matthew 12:33). It is important that we use biblical discernment to distinguish between right and wrong.

It is important, as well, that we speak the truth out of love and concern. Souls depend on it.

The main point is that we must be aware of the times we live in; to not be distracted, but to be prayerfully concerned about the issue at hand: the coming of the gates of hell against the kingdom of Christ.

Victory is assured.

And whatever price we must pay will be well worth it.

The consequences are eternal.

...what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God...! -2 Peter 3:11b-12a

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Bestest Dad Ever

You may have heard me say that I was scared of my daddy until I was nearly 30.

Not much, in looking at him, that would inspire fear. His friends knew him as a genial man, full of good humor and always ready to extend the hospitality of his home.

Even those who worked for him considered him their friend more than their boss. They acceded to his requests with the same good will with which he made them.

I would even say that we kids were spoiled. He certainly demanded (and received) our utmost respect. But even in that, he spoke to us with love and gentleness, even in the midst of correction.

Looking back, I can see how, many times, I must have grieved him. I can well recall the expression upon his face on several occasions.

Without wishing to seem blasphemous, I guess I can say that there was a moral certitude about him, an authority if you will, that we would otherwise attribute to God.

Please do not mistake me. I simply believe that to a child, a loving Christian dad models that love that God has for those He has redeemed and adopted as our heavenly father.

It's a tough job, I now realize, to command that respect, while at the same time expressing that loving tenderness that we guys are seemingly so ill-equipped to express.

At any rate, I think I came to fear his disapproval more than anything, and even that was gradually replaced by a love (which was always there right?) and respect for this man who dedicated his life, in large part, to me, my brother, and two sisters.

That dedication was especially brought home to me in his devotion to my sister who was dying of MS. In her bi-polar affliction, she was many times less appreciative than she might have been.

Yet he bore it all with a patience and paternal love which amazed me at the time and has been driven home even more deeply over the years by my own experience and failure.

So to finally arrive at the point, if you have been blessed with a godly father who gave his best for you, won't you join me in praising God.

For the "bestest dad ever."

I love you, man.