Monday, June 29, 2009

Post-Peach Week Update...

Peach Festival Week in Ruston is over for the '09 season.
Number of peaches I saw during Peach Festival Week: 0.
Number of peaches I ate during Peach Festival Week: 0.

O-for-The Festival.


It happens.

But it looked like everyone had fun. I didn't get to go to anything but the parade came by my place. I wanted to go see Ricky Skaggs Saturday night (my buddy called him Ricky Scruggs, sigh...) but had to go to Natchitoches instead.
In Natchitoches was the 50th annual LSWA Hall of Fame Inductions Ceremonies. This was my 7th one to attend, I think. Very proud for Bob Griffin and OK Buddy Davis; they both were excellent and sweet and sincere in accepting induction by earning the Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism honor, the most coveted tangible honor in the profession (not counting the coveted LSU football parking pass; those things are like gold bars.) Also much fun listening to my traveling companions from Ruston on the way there and back: Dr. Pat "Fleet Feet" Garrett and the only father-son duo in the Hall, Dub Jones and his son Bert. These three together are hilarious without meaning to be and it's a beautiful thing. Definitely my third favorite Hall trip, understandably behind the two I got to make with my then-fiance. The ceremony is always WAY too long, but it's always a great night for the presenters and the inductees and the fans who get to see so many of Louisiana's athletic memory-makers each summer.
Ordered a No. 3 at Waffle House yesterday evening with Mr And Mrs Frapp and was given the No. 2 instead. I hate that. Ordered the hash browns scattered and smothered and topped, but they forgot the topped part. Hurt me. But I know my attitude is improving because you know what?: it was fine. And the Frapps are basically Waffle House rookies and they loved it. So see?: It all worked out.
A new Burger King is opening in Arcadia today! And it rained for five whole minutes here in Ruston. It wasn't much -- it happend just after noon and I stood out in it -- but it was better than nothing.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Peach Week Updates...

Peach Festival Week in Ruston.
Number of peaches I've seen: 0.
Number of peaches I've eaten: 0.
Will keep you updated.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Peach Week updates...

Peach Festival Week in Ruston.
Number of peaches I've seen: 0.
Number of peaches I've eaten: 0.
Will keep you updated.
Hearty congrats to the LSUers. People don't realize how hard it is to win games, ANY games. Kudos to the Tiger baseball men.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Peach Week updates...

Peach Festival Week in Ruston.
Number of peaches I've seen: 0.
Number of peaches I've eaten: 0.
Will keep you updated.
After nearly two weeks in the hospistol, daddy will go home today. He had heart surgery June 12.
Actually very busy at work as two mags are being finished. ("Mags" is journalistic and marketing talk for "magazine." Part of our professino's sophisiticated lingo. Went Einstein on you there for a second and I'm sorry.) BUT, it's Fried Chicken Day at Tech in the Ropp Center. Fried Chicken Day is the great equalizer. This is always a good thing. Dessert is peach cobbler!, (which doesn't count as a true peach, but it's always good. Tech can make some peach cobbler. They should offer a degree in Peach Cobbler.)
Good luck to the LSUers tonight. You could argue that they pulled starting hurler Austin Ross (a Shreveporter) too early last night -- but somebody would have had to have pitched a shutout for LSU to win. Can't win many games with just a run. A true single championship game tonight: you don't get many of those. Hope it's a good game for you.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

East Shreveport Little Leaguer starts for LSU tonight; Daddy, Wiley still on DL

Best wishes tonight to Austin Ross and his LSU baseball teammates. Austin is scheduled to be the starting pitcher in a few hours for the Tigers in Game 2 of the best-of-three series against Texas for the College World Series title. LSU won in extra innings last night, 7-6.

Austin was a fun player and a good player at Shreveport Little League. He was at various times a Brave, a Phillie and a Rockie. He was the starting pitcher for the Braves when they beat our team 13-8 for the 9-year-old Minor League title; Casey Allen of the Orioles was the losing pitcher and starter for us, and we'd have won if I'd have coached six runs better and if Austin would have pulled a hamstring. I remember we'd beaten them in a one-run game about 10 days before on an Africa-hot Saturday early afternoon. We were no match for them in the finals. The next year Ross and a bunch of those same Braves beat us -- we were the Cubs, SUCH a fun team -- in a best 2-of-3 series for the American League, 10-year-old title. Dang! They were the better team. That was a lot, lot of fun.......

Hope Austin gets to celebrate tonight. He was always very together on the mound, very natural out there, even as a little boy, quiet and purposeful on the hill. Very respectful of his teammates and coaches and opponents.

In other news, Wiley Hilburn and my dad, both heart surgery patients two weeks ago, continue to recover, but neither will see action in tonight's CWS game.

Wiley is at home in Choudrant and has been for more than a week now, reading WWII books: "You can never get too much Mussolini!," he's fond of saying.

Daddy has a private room in the hospital in Atlanta, Ga., but got an infection today. Some sort of "white blood count" issue. He won't go home tomorrow as planned, not until that gets straightened out. So please continue to root for him; he's been in the hospital for nine days now; that's no fun.

Thank you...

Ed McMahon dies ... (DANG!)

From the Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — Ed McMahon, the loyal "Tonight Show" sidekick who bolstered boss Johnny Carson with guffaws and a resounding "H-e-e-e-e-e-ere's Johnny!" for 30 years, has died at a Los Angeles hospital. He was 86.
Publicist Howard Bragman says McMahon died early today at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center surrounded by his family.
Bragman didn't give a cause of death, saying only that McMahon had a "multitude of health problems the last few months."
McMahon had bone cancer, among other illnesses, according to a person close to the entertainer, and had been hospitalized for several weeks. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
(Check for more details...)

From Teddy ...

"I hold in my hand the last envelope." This time, it's the REAL last envelope...

I LOVED my Ed. Not the Ed who did the Star Search or the monthly insurance television commercials for the elderly. But the sidekick Ed.

The Sidekick Ed was a beautiful thing.

Loved him.


I've got shoeboxes full of jokes from the mid-'70s Tonight Show. We'd just moved from South Carolina to here and Ed and Johnny kept me company late at night while everyone in my family slept. I'd write down funny stuff they said or did, stuff it in a box. Read them later. Enjoy the show all over again. Dang. They were fun. The senile Ed, suing people and whatnot here in the later years, not so good. And his health problems were legion. But he was hot as a firecracker back in the day. Very perfect for what he did on The Tonight Show. Dang. Hate that.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Quotes and Notes

"That's one thing about possum innards:
they's just as good the second day."
-- Jed Clampett
Met about 100 fishermen Friday night. Great guys. Don't know who won the Saturday tournament but my compliments to the chef on the fish-frying Friday night.
Read and wrote and cleaned a lot and walked a million miles Saturday in the heat. Sweet. Almost died, but still ... Watched Miss Louisiana on the television Saturday night and am getting better at this. Picked the Top 3 when they announced the Top 5. Had to juggle my picks after the On-Stage Question. Nailed it. I was the winner, winner chicken dinner. (OK, I didn't grind it, but I watched it closely enough to figure out who was going to win and all. It was easy after Ed asked them the question. I've figured out that the answer to the Q&A is huge. Can be a deal breaker. I think. Like I actually know anything...)
Scored a free steak after church Sunday and all I had to do for it was carry a new plasma TV from a van to a happy dad's living room. Blue Bell ice cream was also involved. Then drove to Shreveport and hugged my son, who was meandering around various naked Grand Prairie WartHogs at the time, a story in itself. Then drove back. Just like that. But much worth it. I'm proud of him and it was so good to see him, gainfully employed and carrying on and smiling and looking healthy and good. And I heard from lots of nice people and called or texted lots of dads. And still, it was a Father's Day with empty spots in it for sure. Big ones. Can't deny that. But it was a good day, and I'm thankful for it.
I can't really get a color combo that works for me on this blog and that hurts me. Need help.
Happy Summertime.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day: Daddys Have a Heart

I hope my dad’s breathing on his own this Father’s Day. He wasn’t last Sunday.

A dozen hours of heart surgery last Friday in Atlanta, Ga., sort of drained his batteries.

They put in something and put in something else besides that and sewed up another thing and rebuilt this other deal. I think they changed his oil and rotated the tires while they were at it.

Lots of stuff.

So they couldn’t get him off the respirator until Monday. The respirator is the machine that breathes for you until you can do it on your own. I say “respirator” but it might be ventilator. He was hooked up to one of those. It was whichever one breathes for you, which hopefully was the same machine that’s covered by his insurance.

My little sis called Monday to say he’d finally worked up the strength to breathe on his own again. The nurse said he was talking crazy, out of his head, because of all the medicine they’d shot into him.

I wonder what made her so sure it was the medicine.

Many of you read Wiley Hilburn, who is a supplemental dad of sorts to me. He had surgery two weeks ago and is resting and recovering in Choudrant Memorial, which is his house. Last I checked he was holding his heart pillow, feeling fine, and reading another book on World War II, unconvinced that we really did beat Hitler and that no matter how many books he reads, Germany in World Wars is still going to be 0-2. Wiley can be a hard guy to convince.

So it’s been a heart-heavy month in this bureau. But my men are on the mend, good for a few thousand more miles. That’s a good thing. I need to learn more from them. I’ve learned a lot from them both, and not always in ways they’d have preferred to teach. I love them both and am proud of them both, and I hope their hearts continue to be repaired, continue to beat only in the way their hearts truly wish. Mine too.

Things can get confusing in the Father-Son Division. My dad will be the first to tell you he has fumbled it around a bit through the years. Well, he might not be the first to tell you. Maybe the fourth or fifth to tell you. But I am content in knowing the crazy days are over. I root for him; I can hope he roots for me. This next thought is from another era but will always be true: I could have helped matters by being a better son.

The poet Maya Angelo has been either credited or discredited with saying that “when people show you who they are, believe them, the first time.” I don’t think so. Even in the Bible, everybody coughed it up a good bit, everybody but Jesus. Abraham was a horrible husband, Jacob a habitual liar, Moses a murderer, David an adulterer, Peter a coward. Not a great resume, yet that’s a pretty salty starting five if you were developing a team for the Righteous League. Redemption and reconciliation is a theme of the Bible and hopefully a theme in the lives of fathers and sons everywhere.

And I’ll bet it is in Angelo’s life, too. Because she’s also credited with saying she isn’t afraid to look at her many mistakes, ask forgiveness of the ones offended, “then you forgive yourself and say, ‘Well, if I’d known better I’d have done better.’… If we hold on to the mistake…we can’t see what we’re capable of being.”

That sounds like someone who knows something of forgiveness and grace, which works every time, if it’s the authentic kind. Fathers and sons can’t operate successfully without it.

(The Times, June 21, 2009)


Friday, June 19, 2009

Notes and Quotes

"I ain't got nothing but a head and a butt, and they both got holes in 'em." My Great-Aunt Opal. She was a beautiful person. And had a way with words. As you can see.

"You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do." Anne Lamott, "Traveling Mercies."

* Happy Father's Day Sunday. My son always tells me that Father's Day should be on a Tuesday, like from 10 to 10:15 in the morning. "NOBODY notices Father's Day. Mother's Day gets all the pub." Which is probably how it should be.

* SO, that makes it an unusual coincidence that Father's Day is the first day of summer and the LONGEST day of the year. The only bad thing ... the days will start getting shorter now.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Good guys, bad guys

Oswald Chambers and Bonnie and Clyde are rarely mentioned in the same sentence...this is the exception.

Chambers was so good. Here's a piece of yesterday's entry from his book "My Utmost for His Highest," one of 20-plus books put together by his wife from his notes after his death. Chambers never lets you off the hook...The book's online.

"You must constantly beware of anything that causes you to think of yourself as a superior person...There is no escaping the penetrating search of my life by Jesus. If I see the little speck in your eye, it means that I have a plank of timber in my own (see Matthew 7:3-5 ). Every wrong thing that I see in you, God finds in me. Every time I judge, I condemn myself (see Romans 2:17-24 ). Stop having a measuring stick for other people. There is always at least one more fact, which we know nothing about, in every person’s situation. The first thing God does is to give us a thorough spiritual cleaning. After that, there is no possibility of pride remaining in us. I have never met a person I could despair of, or lose all hope for, after discerning what lies in me apart from the grace of God."


A technical deal kept the Sunday Times column (June 14) from posting; here it is for those who've asked.


GIBSLAND -- Charlie brought us our plate lunches in downtown Gibsland, sat them on the café table and pointed outside.

“Saw Bonnie and Clyde get shot to death there last week,” he said, pointing through the plate glass toward Main Street. “Shot ’em four different times in one afternoon.”

That had been the May Saturday marking the 75th anniversary of the ambush and elimination of the nationally famous bank robbers by a half-dozen lawmen hidden in the woods along Highway 154 on May 23, 1934. The real-life, real-death ambush happened eight miles south of town. But you can’t move the annual Bonnie and Clyde Festival eight miles south of town.

So Bonnie and Clyde were killed four different times, just as they are every year, after a staged bank robbery downtown. There is also an annual re-created ambush that takes place at the actual spot, but it’s a one-shot deal, so to speak. Not everybody wants to drive out there, and it’s a good thing because the town triples in size, from 1,200 to about 3,000, during the festival.

Charlie Andrews and his wife Marsha have seen the famous outlaw lovers killed more than three dozen times since they began running the Gibsland Grill 10 years ago. Marsha is a hometown girl – the 1963 girl’s Louisiana state championship basketball trophy she helped win is in the grill’s banquet room – and Charlie, a Shreveporter, is a Gibsland transplant because of his long marriage to Marsha. Shreveporter’s will remember Charlie from his parents’ store, Andrews Grocery, in Caddo Heights back in the ’50s.

Today his bread and butter – and yours – is the Gibsland Grill. You’ve got to love Charlie and Marsha and the Gibsland Grill. I had the dead fried chicken, corn and rice casserole and double green beans and my friend J.D., a regular and a childhood friend of Charlie’s, had the same thing except he got fried okra instead of double green beans. I got chocolate sheet cake for dessert. J.D. eats sweets only on weekends; J.D. is not a very smart man.

You can grab one of the books off the shelves and leave one for others in the two stacks of paperbacks and old hardbacks that make up the Gibsland Grill’s loaning library. But you’re not going to want to read while you’re there, not if Charlie has time to sit and talk a minute or if the nice retirement-aged guys at the next table want to talk to you about Carolina or their families or how business is going. Or, since the subject never gets old, Bonnie and Clyde.

I didn’t know until Charlie told us, but these re-creators, the people who posed as Bonnie and Clyde and the law and all, go around from town to town doing this. They bring the period cars, weapons, clothing. “They might be Dillinger in Chicago next week,” Charlie said.

I actually saw these people back on May 23, having cruised out to the death site myself that day and, on the way back, passed the party. And they really did look authentic, except just much more alive.

Charlie and Marsha also fed historians and Bonnie and Clyde buffs that day in the banquet room. “183 of ’em,” Charlie said. “These are the people that have the Bonnie and Clyde shrines in their bedrooms, candles and all that.”

Some of the Parker family was there; (that would be Bonnie’s side.) A book came out this year, Charlie said, that insinuated Bonnie’s clothes might have been a little too chic, a little too good for a girl on a waitress’ salary, that maybe she was doing something besides robbing banks to get it. That didn’t settle well with the Parkers present; the book’s author must have known something because the author didn’t show for the festival.

“You can call her a bank robber or even a murderer,” Charlie said, “but I got the feeling that the one thing you don’t call her is a ‘bad girl.’”

CNN was there. And FOX and NBC and CBS and “I think,” Charlie said, “just about everybody but Ladies Home Journal.”

But Bonnie and Clyde weren’t. I wonder, when they left Gibsland that long-ago May day, what their hurry was. Gibsland would have been a good place to just hang around in for a while. Especially if fried chicken were on the plate lunch.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Poet and a prophet...(and eventually, a peach)

(No, I did not draw this. It's Michelangelo's "Isaiah" on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. But I did pose for the hair!)

Agree or disagree?: A way you can tell the Bible is divinely inspired is that you can read passages and books over and over again and they don’t wear out.

God’s a really, really good writer.

Early today I was looking through the Book of Isaiah for something and you talk about a guy who could swing a quill … Isaiah is so good. He’s poetry and prayers and promises.

“He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor…”

He’s the real deal. Judah was heading for hard times. All self-inflicted. But there would come a day, Isaiah wrote, when the people would turn and the God of Jacob would deliver, and…

“… provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.”

It's never just what he says. It's the way he says it. Context and style and rhythm and all. And always, a message. It's alive, "the living Word," just as it professes to be. And it's right there for us to read, whenever we can or want to. Always available. When I started reading it as a love letter from Jesus to me -- and that's what it is -- it started to make a difference in the way I thought and acted. Try that. Try reading it with the conscious thought that it's Jesus writing to you, that it's a story, from beginning to end, about him. A little bit's about us but overwhelmingly it's about him and what he's done, not us and what we can do. It's a letter from him so we'll know him, and knowing him, moving from information to sensation, that's what starts to change you. Because the Word, it's alive.

In other news:

On the side of Interstate 20 yesterday, I saw a chicken. Pecking around on the shoulder, like she was in the barn yard. Looked very misplaced. Must have fallen off the truck.

That was on the way home from eating a sandwich with momma, who has kept the plants alive since we planted them last month, and they look great! So do the hanging baskets. She's rocking out with the watering and whatnot and to and fro. Very proud for her.

My sisters remain tired from their weekend to Atlanta and back. It's an easy trip, but not when you're dad's having heart surgery and you're his daughter.

The Shreveport Captains are at home each night through Father's Day; if you are a visiting player or coach or an umpire, please tip your clubbie, who is my son and who could use the dough. He's a great guy and a hard worker and a man who is trying to save up some money. Tip him. Read Isaiah to him. Something. Thanks!

The fine folks at the Tech Dairy are making peach ice cream this very day. Not for sale until the 24th. Peaches. Plenty to be thankful for. How can you not love a fresh Ruston peach?!

Monday, June 15, 2009

A new hit from the Lonesome Dove-Brothers Band...

My dad is breathing on his own again in an Atlanta hospital after 12 hours of surgery on his heart Friday. The nurse there reports that all is well, that he's on a lot of medicine and talking out of his head. (She probably thinks it's because of the medicine.)

Thank you for your prayers for him. If he can get some strength and get a couple of days of breathing on his own under his belt, he should be good for another few thousand miles.

I wish he'd have been able to watch Lonesome Dove last night, one of his favorites. I sat down to eat cereal, turned on the TV and there was Lonesome Dove. I was helpless to turn it off. Watched the last hour of it and the first 30 minutes of the 'encore' they played after it. Most TV I've watched at one time in 10 months. It is the best made-for-TV movie/mini-series ever, except for maybe Band of Brothers. Tough call.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Hanging in there...

My dad had 12 hours of heart surgery Friday in Atlanta. He's OK, sedated and all, but he should be off the respirator by now. He's not. But, considering he's 73 and was in surgery a half day, the nurses say this is not normal but at the same time not surprising. They are going to try again tomorrow to get him off the respirator, see if he can start breathing for himself.

This morning they asked about him in Sunday school and I said he wasn't off the "ventilator" yet. I just a second ago realized I'd said that. As if they were airing out my dad. Which he might need. I don't know. But I DO know he needs to breathe for himself, and I appreciate the good thoughts many of you are holding for him.

My big sis came home yesterday and my little sis is there now, so we have one of our very best people on the scene. Please hold a good thought for both of them. Thank you... I'll update when I know more. I imagine nothing will change before tomorrow.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

It took longer than they thought... several hours, to help my dad's heart get fixed. But they did it. A little more was wrong than they'd thought. For hours and hours they were in surgery. He's in ICU today in Atlanta and I'll be updated later by my sisters, who called early today to say they were on their way back to the hospital. Thank you.

Friday, June 12, 2009


... my dad's been in heart surgery most of the day. Should be able to fix everything. Stint, valve, fix a hole that's not supposed to be there. We'll see. But he should have been out by now...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Man who invents salad bar dies

"Norman Brinker, a restaurant mogul who popularized the salad bar and built a worldwide casual dining empire that includes Chili's Grill & Bar, died Tuesday. He was 78...

"...Brinker moved to Dallas in the 1960s and started a coffee shop before developing the concept for Steak & Ale restaurants in the mid-1960s. The chain popularized the salad bar..."

That hurts me. I might go eat at a salad bar today. Might be appropriate to get it to-go.

Never even ate a salad until I was 20. In Lafayette, of all places. At a Piccadilly. Karl Terrbonne was in the line beside me. First day I ate cheese, too. Put it on my salad. It was all at Karl's suggestion. I have him and Mr. Brinker to thank for any positive salad experience I've ever had.

Some day I need to write about salad bars. There are good ones and there can be really bad ones, and the bad ones outnumber the good ones. But when you run into a good one -- the one in the faculty clubroom at Tech is a winner -- it's hard to beat. Fresh lettuce. Fresh cucumbers. Fresh fruit. Fresh stuff. Fresh stuff is such a good thing...

Salad. Bar. Makes you think there should be Jack Daniels dressing somewhere. And I guess there could be. Only some people would go back through the line two times. Or three times. Or 17 times.

Lost and Found Department

"If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the 99 on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?" -- Matthew 18:12

Look at this picture of this sheep. You've got to love a cartoon sheep picture. Have you ever noticed that in your mind, when you think of a sheep, he's just standing there? He's never running or playing or up to much. If you're counting them to try to go to sleep, they might be jumping. But who counts sheep anymore? We've accepted that they just sort of stand around, growing wool. I imagine they're too hot to do much.

Bible people loved the sheep metaphor. Bible people were big sheep people. Huge sheep people. It was a comparison easy to grasp, back in the Biblical day.

I'm told that sometimes it’s easy in the Christian marathon for the sheep to fall into too much of a routine. In the monotony of life -- getting ready for work, for school, going to the grocery story, washing dishes, getting haircuts, growing wool -- zeal for sharing the Gospel or even living it can erode. Then you're taking a few days or weeks or even years “off.”

If that’s your experience, take it from a new guy on the block. Try remembering where you were when He found you.

Might not have been overly dramatic. Maybe the good shepherd found you when you were dog-paddling, looking for direction and dry land. Maybe your scars were minimal, your trip to the fold a short one.

But maybe the shepherd had to walk a long way, search a lot harder. I know people who turned to find Christ in a hotel room, on their hands and knees, scraping up with their palm the last of the cocaine they'd spilled on the cold bathroom floor.

I know people who were found when leaving divorce court. When leaving a job they thought they'd always have -- until they got fired or laid off.

I know people who were found after draining a vodka bottle. Crying over a mound of bad choices. Taking a left on Dead End after driving themselves -- and everyone around them -- crazy.

You wouldn't know it by knowing them today, but back when they were found, they were so lost that only the one true shepherd could have possibly carried them home.

So where were you when he found you? Tough day, I know. Bittersweet. The beginning of the climb. I remember coming home that night, after shaking hands with people who said they'd be praying for me, after hugs and tears and testimonies of hope. I remember walking in the door alone and saying, "Ok God. What now?"

And things started to get interesting.

Even though there was a mess of a life to clean up, at least it was the end of being lost. He didn’t find us to lose us. We know that.

So if you're going too fast or feel your walk is going too slow -- if you've forgotten daily to really pray and to really read the Word and to spend time in community with believers, with some other sheep, talking about the shepherd -- get back over there close. Close to the guy who found you. Get back over there with the fold.

I remember where He found me; I just don’t know where He’s taking me. I don’t even know where I am much of the time.

But I know where He is.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

They Said It...

"A stitch in time saves nine."
-- Poor Richard's Almanac

WHAT? This has got to be my least favorite quote/cliche. I appreciate the rhyme, the pentameter, even the sentiment. I love thread. LOVE thread. I just don't like this quote. Adage. Whatever. It's too ... too mathy, maybe?...

So that's why I'm using it as my first Quote of the Day/They Said It/Verbal Pause That Refreshes/Etc...I don't want to start out with really good ones and then fade to black, to medicore quotes, like "I TOLD y'all I was sick!" (on the tombstone of one of my great uncles) or "A walk's as good as a hit."

Will update later. Hope your day is useful and fun.

Monday, June 8, 2009

"Coach God"

I read this weekend that God is like a track coach for slow people. (Now it's two days later and I remembered: Anne Lamott. That's where I read it. In a book called "Grace Eventually." Good stuff.)


Blows the whistle. Throws us a towel. Gives us a cup of Gatorade. We’re on a knee, panting. He’s telling us we’re on a good pace, perfect pace for us, on this day. He’s thrilled we finally got on the track, into the race. (Secretly you have to believe that when we’re not looking he shakes his head a bit and whispers, “Lord, have mercy.” Or, in his case, “Me, have mercy.")

The perfectionist streak that filled me like water fills a glass is slowly draining. That frees me up to write some stuff here and be OK if it comes out in tiny sections, maybe not all glued together just right. I could write a book. Maybe two books. Wait … I AM writing two books! Did I mention that? One goes to the agent person in two months. Not sure about the other one. But please save $20 so you can buy one. We’ll get to that later. I’ll keep mentioning it. You keep saving money…And remind me to keep reminding you…

So about trying to write these kinds of things…You eat an elephant a bite at a time, right? The longest journey starts with a single step. A penny saved is a penny earned. Too many cooks in the kitchen spo….. wait a minute; What I’m saying is that I can write a little now and then as I go along. Starting with …

For years I thought I was a good person (some days) and other days I didn’t feel I was a very good person at all. The people who loved me most began to think the exact same thing. Who wants to hang around an egomaniac with an inferiority complex? Yeah, me neither. If anyone hated me most, it was me. I didn’t want to be that person anymore, ever. So if you have been down a similar road (and we all have) …

The very first thing that I had to get into my heart before I could have any peace or any relationship with God or any transforming, real, authentic change was that he really did love me. Some people have had this kind of love modeled for them on earth. I had, to a degree. But I didn’t believe it. The reasons: the self-sufficiency we’re all born with, all of us wanting to be our own Saviors; some “life experiences,” abandonment and that kind of a deal; perfectionism. The list is a little longer -- sort of like "War and Peace" is a little longer than the 23rd Psalm -- so I’ll expound later. The best way I’ve heard it described, and this from someone who I think really loved me, was “Teddyisms.” The body of work was a mess.

Your gifts? Super. Your character? Not too good.

Your talent? Admirable. Your character? Needs a complete overhaul.

But what can change that?

There’s more to the big story than this, but at the core, the answer is love. And not just any love, but God’s love. His kindness. His goodness. For no motivation other than love.

What do you get the guy who has everything? Jesus comes to earth and says, “I’m going to die for you. Somebody has to and I’m the only one who can. And I’m going to do this because I want to.” So you and me say, “OK. What can we do for you?”

Hello? He created everything, had love in the Father and Holy Spirit, and all he needed. His sole motivation was to cover us in glory, knowing we couldn’t do it ourselves. Love.

That sounds kind of deep, but it’s really hard to explain even now, and I’ve thought but I can’t come up with a ‘funny’ way to say it right now, or a less intense way. The best way I can put it today is to say that in my experience, until Jesus is really a person to me, until he is more than a force but instead a real person, I can’t change what needs changing, which are the moral compartments of my heart. That place where all the “sin seeds” in every single person are planted. The heart has to have something to worship. It’s going to have a God. (Thou shalt have no other gods before me, He said. Which tells us we’re going to have a god, always. What or who will the God be?) So if my loves aren’t ordered, if God is not the true love and the first love, everything else, every other love, will be disordered.

But to think that the son of God himself died for me? We were so ungodly that it took the Creator himself to do this? We don’t deserve that, right? Of course not. I don’t. You don’t. That’s kind of hard to really get into your mind. Of COURSE it’s hard to absorb. That’s why we’ve got to think and think and think a bit. Read the Word. Talk to others. Get some community going. Pray pray pray. And somehow, as God promised, it moves from your head to your heart.

And then you’re in business.

You’re in business when you can feel this to be true and when, at least most of the time, you can believe it: That before the stars were formed, God found favor in you. Wrote your name into the slain Lamb’s Book of Life. Once you can see what this “man of sorrows” did for you, you can’t be the same. That’s got to humble any of us. If it’s really inside you, if he moves in, it will. It has to. That’s the kind of industrial-strength love that changes the chambers of the heart, not because you are scared of God, but because you want to please him. You don’t want to disappoint a friend, not now that you know what a friend is, not now that you have traded a fear of rejection for a love that will always let you in and never let you down. When he gets real to you, you understand that he is either genuinely pleased or genuinely hurt, depending on your actions. So your actions begin to change simply because you know you are loved and you want to love back. You don’t want to hurt ANYone, especially God, and all sin (I know that’s a big and tough and hard-to-accept word, but it’s important and our biggest problem, God says,) hurts God. And then the timidity starts to wear off and you can move in confidence into the world, move out to love, the best you know how that day. I don’t know how people survive without it. (No … yes I do. I did it. A lot of us have done it. All of us have. Survival. It’s not pretty.)

And I don’t think any of us bring a bunch of love to Jesus at the start. I heard a man say yesterday that he’s never seen anyone “come to Jesus” out of victory. We come when we’re scared or discouraged or – and this might be the best-case scenario – totally broken. We come in defeat, with what little piece of pseudo-love we have, and we offer that, and Jesus accepts it.

We’re all blind spiritually in different spots; we start seeing because of a relationship with him. I remember thinking a while back that I needed to go to church more and hang out with Christians more and find out what’s really “allowable” under God’s law and all like that and I even did that for a while. “A while” meaning years. But nothing changed until, instead of talking to myself and others dishonestly, I started talking to Jesus, as honestly as I knew how on that day, something like, “I’m blind and I am begging you to open my eyes because if you are there, I want to see you. I’ve proven to myself that I don’t see right.”

What I was drawn to after that was the Gospels. Reading them intently, to see if he loved me. Read John. Read Mark. Read Matthew and Luke and skip over and read I John. Read it while you’re asking Jesus if he really loves you and if he’s really real. Look at his compassion, his gentleness, his courage, his honesty. Look at that and try to convince yourself that he doesn’t love you when every word breathes that he loves you completely.

Pray for faith; he’s the one who gives it; you can’t conjure it up on your own, which I’d always thought you could. Ache in the direction of Christ and read those books and get quiet and picture the cross and ask God to make all that real to you. Or that’s how I did it. I had to go outside and stare at dirt for more than an hour and picture a cross and people around and all that. I had to watch “The Passion” and I had to keep telling myself that at a moment in time, this really did happen. And I asked some people to share with me how Jesus was real to them. That was the start, for me anyway.

All these years I’ve heard “Jesus loves you” and “His love will save you” and all like that and I’d always nodded, with great intentions, OK and that’s fine and I know and I understand. That’s what I said inside my head. Certainly Jesus loves me.

But, I didn’t know squat.

The ability of the human heart to deny, that’s what has separated us from God to start with. But if you can be awake for a minute when Jesus comes after you, if you can have that one moment of stillness, enough to notice him for all he is, and if you hurt badly enough and you’ve hurt others, which is always a byproduct since none of us lives in isolation, you might be lucky enough to consider that this miracle you’ve heard about all your life might really be true.

And if that’s the case then you will likely suddenly find yourself walking to the track with your little ‘slow person’ track jersey in your hand.

Last fall the days went by and I found I kept talking to him. One day, if it happened for you as it did for me, you might hear yourself saying, “I’m scared, but I believe you died for me. I believe you had to or I would be out out out. I really do believe you love me. Keep showing me that please, and keep showing me the most rotten parts of my heart because I don’t want to disappoint you. Because you love me. I’m going to run for you.”

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Getting to the Bottom of Things


Going to the doctor and getting a physical is one of the many sneaky ways God has of keeping us humble.

Others are faulty transmissions and plantar warts and Simon on “American Idol.”

But those are child’s play, mere petty inconveniences compared to what a physical examination holds in its big bag of tricks.

By its very name, “physical” tips you off that there might be some touching involved. Maybe poking. Even prodding. I hate a poke and a prod. Those are the very things that bother me. But doctors have to do that sometimes, especially if it’s covered by insurance.

The good news is that I lived to tell the story. The bad news is, a prostate test was involved.

I had heard about them. Other men had told me. The stories were never good. Ever.

In the past, I’d actually asked for a prostate exam of this nature because I wanted to be sure everything was swell in the plumbing area. You know how I feel about plumbing: if it’s a wreck at your house or in your body, the world stops until it gets fixed. Poor plumbing respects neither the prince nor the pauper but is an equal opportunity nuisance. So I was prepared to take my medicine.

But the doctor had always said the blood tests for such a problem was all that was necessary at my age. “When you get 50,” he said, “then it’s time.” Time for PE class: Prostate Exam.

I’m not 50 yet. So last week when he asked me about the prostate situation, I told him what I’ve just told you. “Well,” he said, “now, today, it’s time.”

He’d misunderstood.

“No sir, I’m not 50 yet,” I said. I was sitting on the table. Should have kept sitting.

“No,” he said again, “it’s time.”

He reached into what looked like a Kleenex box and pulled out what looked like a blue glove and started to put it on what looked like his hand. I’d heard about these blue gloves.

“No, you’re misunderstanding what I’m saying,” I said to this man. “Wait a second. You’re putting on the glove! Why are you putting on the blue glove? Don’t put on the blue glove.”

He kept putting on the blue glove.

“Don’t do that,” I said. I think. Then he was holding a little tube and he squeezed it and some jelly-like stuff came out onto the glove. I asked him to put that tube down, something like, “Do Not Pick Up That Tu….Put That Tube Down! Why Are You…What Are You Doing With That Tube?”

Well, the horse was out of the barn and I had to turn around and all I can say is this: it seemed to last a calendar day. And in February, I’ll be expecting a Valentine’s Day card from him.

My test results report, blood and whatnot, came in the mail this week. And the good news, unless I get on your nerves, is that I’m healthy. He gave me three Excellent’s and also two happy faces, one of which he drew next to my LDL Direct, which I didn’t even know I had. How my kidneys and liver have survived in excellent condition to this point in my life is one of the great miracles of our age, right up there with the pyramids and Stonehenge and Regis Philbin.

And the prostate test? I passed. He even circled my score. And drew a happy face. It wasn’t mine.


Wiley: 5 days after 5 bypasses

(From Kate...)

Hi Friends,
Today Wiley has been liberated from most of his tubes and cords. He doesn't need the oxygen anymore and he is free to walk around without a bunch of tubes, including the port on his neck. Picture a man in a Cubs cap and very little else except for the white stockings, carrying a stuffed heart pillow clutched to his chest. There you have it. It's so cute I can't even take a picture of it.
He may go home first of the week if it continues this way. The best thing, according to Wiley, about the day was: The Cubs were on WGN tonight and he got to watch.
Anne Marie and I discussed the fact that he appears to have that angel on his shoulder still.


Saturday, June 6, 2009

D-Day update on Wiley

I talked to Mr. Hilburn for just a second yesterday. He's good ... Kate says he's walking, progressing to less wires and tubes, doesn't have much energy but does have strength and is eating full meals and watching news on TV, (non-FOX News of course; what are you gonna do?)

I'll let you know when he goes home....

Friday, June 5, 2009

Wiley: 3 days after 5 bypasses...

(Wiley Hilburn had heart surgery Tuesday in Shreveport. Five bypasses. If you are nice he might let you borrow some of his Frequent Bypass Points.)

He was "promoted" to a regular room Thursday and "he is enjoying the peace and quiet," Kate wrote. "All is going well, he is doing a lot of breathing therapy. He is eating a full meal of real food now, and sitting in a chair for a good while. Tomorrow they have promised a walk.
"He is bemoaning the fact that the Cubs are not on the cable available, but he has his latest WWII book when he gets tired of Wheel of Fortune. He sends greetings to all and appreciates all of your support through thoughts and prayers. His visitors are limited and he tires easily, so he's not doing any phoning yet, but he says to tell everyone He's 'doing OK and thank you for the support.'"

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Great Expectorations...

The story’s in Mark 8, about Jesus spitting in a blind man’s eyes, and when the man’s vision hasn’t cleared completely, Jesus touches him again, and he sees clearly.

“They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man's eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, "Do you see anything?

“He looked up and said, "I see people; they look like trees walking around.

“Once more Jesus put his hands on the man's eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.”

Have you ever wondered about that story, why the man wasn’t healed the first time Jesus “tried,” and why he had to touch the man again? Me too.

I wonder if the people who brought the blind man were the blind man’s friends, or were they just people who wanted to see another miracle, so badly that they begged for it? Remember another man, the lame man who was let down through a roof into a crowded home where Jesus was? Those men who carried the man on a mat to Jesus begged Jesus to heal the lame man, and Jesus did, right there, after first saving him, which is another story. But these men must have been true friends. They carried him and got on a roof and made a hole and lowered him down and begged.

I don’t know about the people who brought the blind man to Jesus, because the text says Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village, away from the people. Maybe it speaks to the motives of people’s hearts, and how Christ can read them. And maybe these people just brought the blind man to Jesus like they’d bring a person to a guy who guesses body weight at the circus, just to see if he could do it.

“I’ll put five talents on the Jew! I say he heals him before noon.”

“I’ll take that. WAIT. If I lose, will you take a check?”

A lot of people were curious about Jesus in an un-Messiah-like way, and you can’t blame them. They didn’t know what was going on. The disciples were late figuring things out -- and they were disciples! So I don’t know…something to think about though, because motive in the heart is very important to Christ. Paramount. My motive in “doing good” for years was not to benefit Jesus or anyone else; it was to benefit me. It’s an old story, and I didn’t see that then… but Jeremiah was right: the human heart runs on denial. It was my good stuff, not the more obvious sins, that convicted me. More than anything else, that’s how Christ showed me I was lost. Good things for the wrong motives equal “egg” in the kingdom. “I can preach and sing and write and give my money to the poor and offer my body to be burned and win the Pulitzer and be a great guy and recover from insanity and win people to Christ, but if I have not love, I am nothing, I gain nothing, I count for nothing.” Like that. My heart didn’t begin to change until the object of its affection changed, from me to Him, and that didn’t happen until I was able to get it into my heart that he loved me a lot, even if I loved him only a little, if at all, but that that was enough for him to start growing it. Which is also another story.

But about this other story…The part of the “spit in the eyes” thing that’s always confused me is that Jesus had to touch the blind man twice. The creator of the universe, we know now, could have just looked at him and healed him. Snapped his fingers. We probably all agree that Jesus doesn’t try to do something and not quite get it right and then have to try again.

“Abracadabra! Do you see now?”

“Not quite.”

“OK. Hang on . . . Let me try one more time…”

And then Jesus reaching into a medical bag for a screwdriver or some ointment or a little healing booklet. Like a guy tuning your carburetor.

Right. I don’t think so either.

I heard an explanation the other day and have dwelt on it (I have never written the word ‘dwelt’ before and it felt very uncomfortable --- must be reading too much King James Version) and I “see” now, and agree: If Jesus asks you something, answer honestly. Don’t be embarrassed. If it’s a sin or a perceived sin or a shortcoming or a motive or anything, even if it’s a question about Him, be honest when he asks you:

“Do you see anything?”

What if the guy had been intimidated and said, “Yes, and it’s great. Thanks. I’m not going to say that I see men walking around like trees because, well, at least I can see now a little bit and you didn’t have to do that so this is plenty.”

The guy instead was honest. He needed another touch. And Jesus already knew that, of course.

Sometimes I just don’t get it. I don’t understand things. I’m scared or uncertain and I want to do the right thing and … I’ve learned that if nothing else, in these moments and all others, the first thing to do is ask. The more you personalize Jesus, the more he becomes a person and not just a force or a theory, but a real person, the easier it is to ask him, “Hit me again. Give me another touch, please. I didn’t quite get that just then. Stay with me. Touch me until I see this for what it is, please.”

I couldn’t get much better until I could see myself clearly, and I could never love you until I could see Jesus loving me or see you for what you are – a lot like me – until I could see you clearly. And Jesus has got to do that for you. And wants to. If we can just feel or sense that he’s trying to touch us … then he can change us. It takes an admission from me of what fuels the human heart. By definition, our greatest sins, the ones that cause all the trouble for us and for the ones we love, are the ones we can’t see…

I try to picture the guy after the first touch, seeing the ‘tree people,’ but talking plainly to Jesus, and still standing there with eyes open and glassy, not moving, trusting, maybe even wondering if this guy really is the miracle worker they’d said he was, but trusting anyway, and standing there still and long enough for Jesus to touch him again, and Jesus did, and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. It took humility – “No sir, I can’t see right, not yet,” – and stillness, and then another touch.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Wiley's behind hurts, but Cubs beat Braves 3-2 in 11

(FROM KATE) 9:45 Wed Nite

Hi Friends,

Wiley has had a good day...progressed from face mask oxygen to a nose tube, had a real meal this evening, is sitting in a chair, and of course charming his nurses.
He looks pretty good and is in very little pain. Biggest pain is sitting up for long periods and experiencing a sore backside.
Thank you all for the thoughts and prayers, I relay all your conversations and notes to him and it has made him feel good.


This is me. Rain here. Hit the daily double tonight. Ate supper at the Protestant church then, since it was raining and I couldn't really stay outside, went to see Angels and Demons. Very Papal. Haven't seen that many Cardinals in one place since I was in Busch Stadium. It was a good show. I realize that's not a very comprehensive review; I'm just sleepy.

Wiley's good!, (but Cubs lose to Atlanta in 12)

From Wiley's wife Kate...

Dear Friends,
Wiley had his by-pass surgery this morning (Tuesday) at Willis Knighton North Hospital in Shreveport and he did well. He had five by-passes. (Ed. note: ... but only because they had a 'Buy 4, Get 1 Free' special going...) This evening he is off the ventilator and practicing breathing exercises. He can talk a little, but is hoarse. He will be in the ICU for two or so days and then a regular room for a few days.
He is clutching a blue Flair pen and wearing his Cubs cap.
Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers,

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Wiley 1:15 Tuesday afternoon

No typos so far...

Kate called at 12:15 and said Wiley is in recovery and according to the hospital, he's doing well. 5 bypasses. Surgery was about 7:50 a.m. and he was in ICU about 10 ish and now she said he's either already in or headed for recovery.

Closed heart surgery?...

Wiley is having open heart surgery (can you have closed heart surgery?) today at WK North. In Atlanta next week, Daddy is having a hole in his heart stitched up, a hole that's not supposed to be there. In a medical mood, for Sunday's column, I wrote something about my initial prostate exam; one of my buddies said, "For you, that's sort of like brain surgery." You hit a rough patch and all of a sudden everybody's a comedian.

I'm fine, but please remember Daddy and Wiley in your prayers. My dear friend Sue Haley is duking it out with chemo down in Houston, and she's a trooper and her family is right there so I am rooting. And of course there are always others sick and hurting. A positive of one of life's knockdown punches: it should give you a lifetime of compassion. I've written myself a little note at home by my bed: "Be aware." (I have to write myself a note about being aware to help me learn to be aware. That's how unaware I've been. So I'm taking no chances...) And if you're aware, it's easy to throw out little prayers all day long toward people, because all of us have little hurts or big ones. We all could use some compassion, the giving and the getting. I've come to learn that it's really one of our main jobs. You don't realize it at first, but you get back more than you give. That's how it is in the Jesus Division: He requires more than you wanted to give, but you get back so much more than you'd hoped or asked for. I've asked him to keep me aware today.

Monday, June 1, 2009

'Little help down here?!...Little help please?!...'

That was a pretty weekend. I walked 15 or so miles. Who walks 15 miles? I don't even like to DRIVE 15 miles. But, it was fun and it was good so there you go.

(These are my thoughts only and they could be wrong so, head's up!, but ...) Hey, you’ve got to love your Ben Franklin. Not many guys can get away with that combination of hairdo, spectacles and knickers. And buckled shoes.

Wise man. But he might have fumbled here with a saying many think is in the Bible but is actually in a 1757 “Poor Richard’s Almanac.” Franklin wrote, “God helps those who help themselves.”

Not hardly. No way.

Paul writes in Romans 5:6: “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”

Without strength. Powerless.

Unable to help ourselves.

If God wants me to dig a hole, He’ll suggest I grab a shovel. I need a burger cooked? He won’t fire up the grill for me. He is no celestial butler. That’s what Ben meant.

But in life’s more meaningful places and with our own shovels, we dug ourselves into deeper and deeper holes. Turned up the heat. A culture that demands self-sufficiency, that suggests your justification lies in 'things down here,' does a good job of pushing us along. Maybe even over the cliff.

Remember the day you realized you were helpless, the day you came to the end of yourself? If not, you'll get there. Most of us think we're whole. We don't need a doctor. We all need a Savior -- just not THAT one. And we don't call them "saviors." But that's what they are, or what we want them to be. We look for all the usual suspects to save us; and they do, for a while.

Until ... the bottom disappears. Most of us have to be pretty mangled, I've heard it said, until we surrender, not just in our minds, but in our hearts. I'd surrendered in my head for years and years and it did me no good; it probably made things worse.

But a person humbled and convinced of his helplessness doesn't have a big problem pulling up to the pump and saying, "I'm out. You drive. And I'm not just asking for the tanks to be topped off. I'm saying I'm empty, done, and more done." That’s when the God who created us hears our cry, hears our hearts, and comes down. It wasn't a case of my thinking as before, "Just give me a little help, get me back on my feet, I'll try harder..." and all like that. Won't work.

Entirely broken is what works.

That’s when we find out that God helps those who can’t help themselves. Which pretty much covers us all. It’s the story of the Gospel.

Paul reminds us that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Isaiah declares God a “defense for the helpless.” Can't do anything if we're not branches hooked onto the "vine." Our resumes don’t look like much until the Christ who can do all things strengthens us, since we can’t do a lick. Then he gives us his resume, covers us with his medals, sets up shop in what was his home all along. That's when the changes start: it's not something from inside that we did; it's a person from the outside who has moved in.

It’s sort of important to remember, because when I forget, I begin listening to the same person who got me into the mess I faced that day I said the prayer God had been waiting to hear: