Wednesday, November 8, 2017

This Be the Verse You 'Grave For Me

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the almighty. -Psalm 91:1

I begin many of my stories these days with this disclaimer: "I may have told you this before...."

We sat in the sanctuary of Grace Pres for Ms. Joycie's funeral service.

Martha Kendall Preuett, a favorite daughter of a favorite friend, sat at the concert grand piano and began to play.

Single notes rang through the room, "Jesus Loves Me." Martha played the simple melody once through then segued gracefully. seamlessly into "In the Cross."

She swayed gently to the music, head back, tears flowing as she played perfectly each song in the medley we had selected, expressing for us all the grief at the loss, the sorrow at the parting.

Joycie's favorite Psalm was the 91st and we had read it several nights before, working our way through the Psalms.

It was our habit to discuss what we had read, but she smiled and said, "You don't have to say anything about this one, I get it."

Bro. Billy preached the 91st for the funeral sermon. At the end he smiled and said, "She got it."


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

This Much

When I survey the wondrous cross...-Isaac Watts

And can it be that I should gain?-Charles Wesley

What Christian could look upon this or meditate on it and not think of God's amazing grace and love?

On the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation, I have been reading the life of Luther, "Here I Stand," by Roland H. Bainton.

You know what stands out the most for me about Luther's life? You might say it is his courage or his faith or his dedication to preaching the Word.

But Luther's fear is the thing that strikes me as I read his story.

His terror of God's wrath that drove him to the monastery. That drove him to mortify his flesh. That compelled him to desperately seek some way, any way to make himself (sinner that he knew himself to be) acceptable to his Holy and Just and All-powerful God.

He finally found it. In Romans 1:17 (the righteous shall live by faith).

Faith alone. And that faith a gift from the God Luther so feared.

We are Luther's heirs. Beneficiaries of the doctrine forgotten for hundreds of years but recovered by Luther and all the other Reformers.

Not much fear of God today, it seems.

Even in His Church, we wink at our sin and even that of others though I will admit that it's easier to give my sin a pass than someone else's.

The hymns I've mentioned speak beautifully of God's amazing love. The love that placed Christ upon the cross in my place and yours.

What it must have been for the Son, eternally loved of the Father to take on my sin and yours, to become the thing the Father hated, to experience the hell of forsakenness.

Psalm 103 speaks of God's steadfast love as well... "to those that fear Him."

Luther was well aware of God's hatred of sin, and finding himself to be a sinner, feared God to the depth of his being.

What would my life look like, what could my witness to the Gospel be if I lived in "reverence and awe" of the living God?

Friday, September 22, 2017

Cotton Fields

They can't dig what they can't use, should just stick to themselves, there'd be much less abuse.- Lynyrd Skynyrd

My music career began when I was 23, on a small stage in the community building in Monroe, AR. I stumped onstage (leg was in a cast you know) and sang "In Them Old Cotton Fields Back Home."

All the recent brouhaha over cotton and images/displays of cotton has caused me to wonder if some of us have too much spare time.

But this is not about that.


Whether your daddy farmed or not, if you grew up in the South (and maybe if you didn't) you have memories of cotton fields.

Some of us picked cotton. Some of us played in the cotton trailers, jumping off the sides to sink waist deep in the white fluffy stuff. Maybe you were one of the folks who pulled over next to a field of cotton and had someone snap your picture while you stood out in the middle of it. We actually had one family knock on our door and ask that we take their picture standing in the field. We did.

And the smell. I can't see a picture of a cotton field without remembering the smell.

One more memory. Maybe my fondest.

Somewhere there exists a picture, taken by my mom, of my three oldest girls and their cousins baled off into a cotton trailer full of cotton. And the expression on their faces is priceless.

How could you not smile at that?

Thursday, September 14, 2017

On Turning Fifty

For Kim

I don't really remember my fiftieth birthday.

I'm certain we celebrated with cake and a song. There were the usual cards and jokes about "getting old now."

Those things go with turning fifty. It's universal I suppose. I just don't really remember any of the particulars of the day.

I do remember another celebration of sorts. On October 21, 1976, in a motel outside St. Louis, I observed my dad's fiftieth birthday. I and several other men.

We had come to move a preacher and his family and all their worldly goods. Taking them back to Arkansas to pastor Lexa Baptist Church where my dad was a deacon.

There were maybe eight of us, and I seem to recall that all but one of the men were younger than my father.

Being brothers in Christ, they naturally ragged on Dad about becoming an old codger. He took it in good humor and ragged back, like you do.

I remember it also as being the only time in my adult life that I have shared a bed with another man. Not so strange among a group of guys who had mostly grown up poor, sharing beds with one or more brothers, usually until they married and owned their own beds.

Dad was my bedmate that night and complained next morning of my being all knees and elbows.

He passed on in June, 1998, six months before my own fiftieth birthday. I had thought it would be cool to share that with him as we had shared his, some twenty years previously.

I dare say, oldest daughter, that you don't feel any older than you did the day before your birthday. And certainly, I doubt if you feel "old."

That comes much later, in my experience, and is not really a thing to be dwelt upon overmuch. It's part of life, you know. There's a blessing that goes with it.

Our God never takes anything from our lives without giving something in return. Something always better, always richer, always calling us to remembrance of Him and His goodness.

Part of that is to be increasingly aware of the rising generation, those just starting their lives with their husbands, wives and children.

You've been where they are. You have wisdom to impart, though it will not always be received.

Someone once commented that our lives can seem like utter chaos, seemingly random events unfolding with little time to catch a breath.

Time, and may I add, faith, lend perspective. For the Christian, it is amazing to reflect upon what has been the revealing of God's perfect plan for our lives. Not that we have been perfect, but our Father in heaven certainly is.

So happy belated birthday, Kimbo, and many more.

Here's hoping and praying that your children will celebrate their own fiftieth birthdays in your presence.


Monday, September 11, 2017

Who Am I

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.-Hebrews 4:12

Matthew 7:1 ("Judge not, that you be not judged.") may be the favorite Bible quotation of our day.

"Who am I to judge?" is the question on many lips. A kinder, gentler way, perhaps, of saying "I don't want to get involved."

And "Love your neighbor as yourself." What does that entail?

I would avoid danger. Should I warn my neighbor of the same approaching danger?

So there is this:

John Hendryx' comment on article 10 of the Nashville Statement.

You may read that statement here (and sign it as the Holy Spirit prompts you):

The quote from Ezekiel 3:18 in Hendryx' comment speaks to the Christian person's conscience, as do Paul's words in Romans 1:32.

This is personal, you see, as I have not just a neighbor but a dear loved one with whom I have been having this conversation.

My sin is ever before me, as David reminds us, and at times seems so overwhelming and all-pervasive that I too am tempted to ask: "Who am I to judge?"

But it has been pointed out (though not in the Bible I think) that "sometimes words have two meanings."

So then "to judge" can be to pronounce sentence or condemn. Not my job but God's only.

But "to judge" can also be to discern, to make a distinction. I look at the sky in the morning and may decide to carry an umbrella.

I am bound to speak as one who has been and is continually the recipient of God's love and mercy.

Turn back, turn back.

Pray for my faith, that it not falter and that I not grow weary in my entreaties before God.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

What Adam Saw

Adam was the first musician. I have good reason to believe this.

This past Sunday morning after getting dressed for church, I sat and played the guitar.

As the last notes of the song I was playing faded, I thanked God for the gift of music.

"What if there were no music?" I thought. (You see, like Tiny Tim, I think the strangest things, sitting by myself.)

I tried briefly to imagine such a world and could not. Instead I thought of the birds, God's irrepressible musicians.

Then I thought of Adam, full of the first breath of life, and I'm sure the first sound he heard was the birds singing.

And as he opened his eyes, his first sight was the face of his Maker.

And don't you know his heart filled up with music and he began to sing.

And maybe clap his hands.

And probably dance.

How could it be otherwise?

So I say sing to your Creator, all you people.

Rock on, you children of the Living God!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Dealer, For a Nickel, Lord, Will Sell You Lots of Sweet Dreams

I originally published this on another website. Having had a friend recently commit what may turn out to be a grievous error in purchasing an automobile, I thought this might be useful.

Ever buy a new car?  How was that? Or to put it another way, how long did you stay in love with this shiny new thing that cost nearly as much as your rent each month?

Having been in the auto industry 30-plus years most of it in the dealerships, I have seen a lot of love stories with bad endings.

I found out:

(A) It makes a difference who you buy your car from. The "good" salesmen will take care of you after the purchase should you experience problems. No refunds, mind you, unless the car is truly, truly awful. See the "lemon laws" in your state before shopping. If you don't know a salesman, have a trusted friend recommend one.

(B) It makes a difference who made your car. This is where you need to know (or know someone who knows) a good mechanic. Some auto companies turn out junk on a fairly consistent basis. Ask your mechanic friend which brands he works on most often. Ask him what brand he drives. Or even better, what he has bought for his wife to drive.

(C) It makes a difference whether you plan to trade cars regularly (say every two years) or not. Obviously, any vehicle will break down sooner or later. You can generally avoid the later by trading before later gets here. It helps to know what long term issues you might face with particular makes and models. Your mechanic friend again, right?

(D) I shouldn't have to say this, but you really need to follow the manufacturer's maintenance schedule. If it ain't broke you wouldn't fix it. Neither should you do stupid stuff to tear it up; like not changing the oil.

Which brings us to:

(E) It makes a difference what kind of driver you are. Or the person who will be driving the car. Jackrabbit starts and screeching halts? Not good for the car. Remember, this is an automobile not a tank (except my '68 Ford which I bought in '76 and drove for 11 years on dirt, gravel and paved roads as well as turnrows on the farm.

One more thing. The last auto dealer I worked for made this remark: "You know if I wasn't a car dealer, I would never buy a new car."

Think he knew something?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Shoot That Uppity WHAT?!?

uppity: inclined to be self-assertive; assuming; pretentious; snobbish- Webster's Dictionary of the English Language

Surprised to find THAT in the dictionary, huh?

To be honest. I had only heard it used in conjunction with another word (a racial pejorative). See: "Blazing Saddles," the part where Taggart admits depression and Lyle proposes a solution).

I find it (uppity) to be racist and offensive.

But not for the reasons most might think.

Given the context (the South of my childhood) in which I always heard it used, the word was always understood to apply to a certain group of people.

This will not do, y'all.

I have known uppity people of all persuasions (mostly the persuasion that they were "all that").

In fact the most uppity person I know of does not live near here and  certainly does not trace his ancestry to the Dark Continent.

I speak of course of Kim Jong Un, the uppity little fat-boy (forgive me, Lord) ruler of North Korea.

I mean, the nerve of this guy, right? The dictator of the absolute WORST place in the world to live and he can described with every word for "uppity" given in the dictionary.

To quote Taggart: "I am depressed."

Makes me want to pray one of those Psalms. 3:7 comes to mind.

But be that as it may, the truth is (given Webster's definition) we have all been guilty of uppitiness at some point.

And in this wicked world there is an over-supply of uppity.

Perhaps a more appropriate Psalm might be the 51st: "Have mercy on me, O God."

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Something Bright and Shiny

...suffer the little children to come unto me....-Mark 10:14b

A joyful sound rings out in the sanctuary on Sunday mornings. It is not the singing or the prayers or the sound of God's Word being faithfully preached, though there are all these.

It is the sound of life. the sound of growth, the voices of babes and infants.

It might be thought to be distracting, but shouldn't it be a reminder of God's blessing that there are young families with young moms and dads committed to raising their babies in the midst of God's worship?

I am too often distracted, I find, in the midst of the Sunday service. But it is not the cries of babies that diverts my attention but my own foolish and wandering mind.

Random thoughts, a word here, a phrase there, spoken or sung during worship starts me drifting.

Nothing, certainly not the restlessness of a two year-old can be as disconcerting as to realize I've missed an important point in the sermon due to my wool-gathering.

A dear Christian friend once shared that she used to go home weeping after struggling through the service with her young child.

Prayers then, for the dedicated parents who desire to raise their precious children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
And continued prayers for myself, that I not be distracted  by bright and shiny things of my imagination from the sustenance I need and seek.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A Word of Explanation

We live in a fallen world.

We need to understand this in order to account for the wicked, foolish, destructive (to self and others), and sometimes just downright annoying behavior of people.

And we need to understand this in order to understand the spiritual war that is going in in your heart and mind, Christian person, and also in my own.

You will have noticed that whenever your desires are thwarted, your perceived needs are not met, or you (and your "feelings") are not accorded the proper amount of respect, you (we) tend to get out of sorts and perhaps even behave peevishly.

And I'll admit it (and you may join me or not), the desire arises to act out, like Tommy Udo in the photo above.

Tommy was a sneering, snarling, giggling little homicidal wretch who would stop at nothing to get his way. This included pushing little old ladies in wheelchairs screaming down long flights of stairs.

I myself have never done this, nor have any of you whom I know. But I believe that the impulse to behave selfishly and to the hurt of others dwells deep inside each of our hearts.

Will you deny that you have dwelt on the desire to say something truly hateful or hurtful to some offending party, whether you acted on that urge or not?

I can make no such claim.

And so the conclusion of the matter is this:

Without God's restraining grace and mercy, who knows what deeds the human heart is capable of conceiving and executing?

Like the guy in the picture.


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Last Full Measure of Devotion

Tell your Mama!!- Chris Rock's dad

Some might say that a good mom has the most thankless task there is, doing a thousand-and-one things a day for her kids, her husband, her home.

And so we try to remember, and still must be reminded (as Chris Rock's dad reminded his kids), to show appreciation to that woman who devoted herself to our well-being.

But there is another, isn't there, who deserves our thanks and gratitude for sacrifices made.

When Abraham Lincoln composed the Gettysburg Address, he had in mind a tribute to those who fought, but especially to those who laid down their lives on that field.

Husbands, in like manner, are called on to lay down their lives for their wives, just as Christ laid down his for his Church.

Now who can possibly perfectly imitate Christ? Yet the command is there and on this Dad's day, I am reminded of those men I have known who lived their lives according to this principle.

One of my elders at GPC is fond of saying, "There's nothing in the world like being married."

"This woman you gave me," is the first recorded complaint of a married man about the temptation through which his mate had put him.

Still we are called on to lead in love and devotion and in the authority which God has given us.

So no excuses, guys. Sometimes we have to stand for what is right, even when we are not sure what that is.

Thank God then for the women who speak loving words of encouragement and advice into the hearts of their men, never seeking to control them (for that is the curse and the temptation) but desiring always that their husbands live godly lives. For the good of the family and the glory of God.

Which brings me back to Dad.

Late in his life, after I was a grown boy, I came to understand how much he loved us kids and our mother.

I somehow attained enough good sense to be able to perceive that love, which was expressed throughout our lives, not so much in words, but in the way he led his family and set the example before us.

More than my own adventures in marriage, the hours spent with him in conversations of remembrance of bitter times showed me how hard it is to remain married (even to the best of women) and to be a good father.

And what devotion is required.

Our fathers set the bar so high.

Only by the grace of God can we hope to emulate them.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Braxton Is Going Home

My voice shalt thou hear in the morning O LORD; in the morning  will  I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up. -Psalm 5:3

We know that prayer changes things, don't we? But perhaps the thing that changes most, without our even realizing it, is us.

In times of trouble, we pray. Whenever there is sorrow, we pray. We pray when we are afraid.

We cry out in faith to our Maker and anxiously await His answer.

And through prayer we learn of God's faithfulness. Then prayer becomes a sought-after communing with our Father in heaven and we pray joyfully and at all times.

I thank God for godly moms and dads, in my family and in my church, and everywhere that there are godly moms and dads. 

All their lives they will pray for their children and will teach their children to pray and to love Jesus.

I thank God for my own mother and father who lifted up who knows (except God alone) how many prayers for my well being, but mostly for my salvation.

I think of the prayers that have lifted up my youngest great-grandson and his mom and dad and I am thankful for the gift of prayer and those Christian people who employ it to intercede for family and friends and even perhaps for strangers of whose need we are aware.

So thanks to you all and thanks to God the Spirit for moving you to pray on behalf of Braxton Wayne Anderson.

May we ever pray without ceasing.

Friday, April 7, 2017

If Ever I Forget You

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. -Psalm 116:15

If ever I should forget you, let all memory be gone from me.

If I should cease to think of you daily, let me cease to think.

Let me not weary my friends with my recalling but if I should cease to speak of you, let me cease to speak.

But I will not forget and every day a half-forgotten recollection will creep forth to surprise me, to delight me, to heal me.

And I will meditate on how I waited half my life for you and that which we shared was worth the waiting.

And I will speak to those who loved you that we might re-live the joy of that love, and to those I wish had known you that, in some way, they might experience you in the sharing.

I am convinced that yours will be the second face I behold when I open my eyes in heaven.

For we will meet again.

And I will remember you.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Premises In the Dark

Apologies to Pat Benatar

Re-watched Sinister the other day with Sandy. She had never seen it and needed to watch a well made horror film.

I hadn't seen it since it was in theaters in 2012, so there were several of the "gotcha" moments I had forgotten. They got me.

Which brings me to several complaints about these fright-fests.

If you have the electricity turned on in your house (and they did), why are you investigating strange noises in the night with no light but a tiny flashlight with nearly expired batteries?

Also, why are you not checking behind that door when you enter a room?

And what about that baseball bat left over from your little league days? Even the kids in "Stranger Things" had enough sense to drive four or five nails through theirs.

I can't think of a single reason why any sane person would want to go into their basement. Ever. I mean if it's flooding, call the plumber. let HIM go down there!

I won't even mention moving your family into a house where a notorious (and unsolved) murder has taken place. Don't we need a little suspension of disbelief here?

I will say that if it has been your dream to make a movie, you don't have to go around doing all that Ed Wood stuff (Bela Lugosi is dead after all). Just mention that you're making a horror film and apparently the sky will begin to rain 100's and 1000's.

It's the only explanation I can come up with for why there are SO many utterly wretched horror movies on Netflix.

That's all I have to say about that.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

What Is...?

...with no other thought than to love and be loved by me. -Edgar Allan Poe

He: O you who dwell in the gardens, with companions listening for your voice; let me hear it.
She: Make haste, my beloved, and be like a gazelle or a young stag on the mountains of spices. -Songs 8:13-14

Let us sing of love and meditate on it, this day after Valentine's.

Let us throw away sentiment and attempt to grasp in the depths of our understanding what is real.

If perfect love casts out fear, why are you afraid?

Is it because fear is sin and we know sin touches all we do?

But isn't there a love wherein desire transcends the physical so that the very spirit within you aches for that which you love?

A place where all thought of self is cast aside and the giving of joy, pleasure, happiness becomes the sole aim , the focus, the alone source of joy, pleasure, happiness?

Can it be so?

It must be.

Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death....-Songs 8:6a

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Through Eyes of Faith

I opened my kitchen blind this Sabbath morning and beheld a rainbow, outlined in pastel against the gray of a partially overcast and rainy sky.

From the east the sun cast a golden glow and the bow seemed to rest in the distance on a gold-hued tree, as though the myth of rainbow's end were true.

Strangely, I had just read this sentence: "We no longer love the things we were created to love in the purity and innocence that Adam knew before the fall."

Which brought to mind a particular piece of music which I have been enjoying over the last week:

Such aural and visual richness has been indescribable to me, as has been the joy with I experienced it and shared it.

Surely, I thought, the writer of the sentence is wrong. Surely the love inspired by such beauty must be pure and innocent, as are the meditations upon it.

And then the rainbow. Reminding me of the first rainbow and its promise.

But "I ain't so hot," as Jimmy Cagney once observed. So even my reflections upon beauty observed are tainted somehow?

Perhaps, though, looking through eyes of faith, there can be a nearness to the wonder and awe our first parents felt when encountering the new and perfect world.

And perhaps an anticipation of all things being made new and the assurance that in my flesh I shall see God, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.

How my heart yearns within me!