Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sermon-on-a-Stick: The James Chronicles, cont...

(From Sunday's sermons, if you trust my note-taking)

James 1:17-20 (NIV)

(This is "The Message" translation: "16-18So, my very dear friends, don't get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures.

"19-21Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God's righteousness doesn't grow from human anger. So throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life." )

1. Be QUICK to listen

2. Be SLOW to speak

3. Be COOL --- slow to anger
a. neither slow simmering anger,
b. nor passionate anger

* Jesus seldom got mad, and when He did it was when religious people acted like idiots or when the church acted ungodly.

* He didn't get mad at the drunks and prostitutes; He didn't get mad when people did things to him. He got mad for appropriate and justifiable reasons, and he acted justly in his anger. But he didn't remain mad.

* Most anger comes when we don't get our way

* If we get angry often, we have too much anger. (Prov 29:11 -- A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.)

* Man's anger does not honor God; no one sees a Jesus believer angry and says, "Man, I want to be an angry person like that angry follower of Christ!

* Will Rogers said that when we fly into a rage, we always make a bad landing.

* Don't overcomplicate and overspiritualize things. Do these three things and every area of your life will improve. Keep your temper and tongue under control. Use your ears more. Concentrate on changing you.


James 4: 1-3 (NIV)

(From "The Message" translation: Get Serious 1-2 Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don't have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn't yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it.
2-3 You wouldn't think of just asking God for it, would you? And why not? Because you know you'd be asking for what you have no right to. You're spoiled children, each wanting your own way. )

I. There is strife in a lot of places
* In geographical places but also in our hearts, in our churches, in our homes...
* This has been going on since Adam and Eve -- and it was going on in James' church in Jerusalem

II. WE are the problem
* Strife comes from the desires that battle within us/me.
A. The problem is within my heart: about control, power, prestige -- sinful fallen people acting in a sinful fallen way.
B. The problem is within groups of hearts, in a business or family or, what James is most likely talking about here, in churches.

III. Let's change us

When Jesus prayed for the church (in John), he prayed for UNITY, not great music or great preaching or even great mission work. How can we be salt and light to the world if we're vinegar in the church?

Again, this is uncomplicated and simple. Hard to do sometimes, but simple in concept and a simple teaching. The problem is always in the mirror. It is always ME who needs changing.

(From Dr. Chris Sunday morning and night.)

(Teddy note: Was reading Romans 14 and 15 Tuesday night and it's got good stuff on this very thing, church unity and accepting one another, majoring in the majors, etc. Romans 15: 5-7 seems like a timeless summary: "May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.")


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Good stuff

You know your love is real when you weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. You know your love is real when you feel for others what Catherine Lawes felt for the inmates of Sing Sing prison.

When her husband, Lewis, became the warden in 1921, she was a young mother of three daughters. Everybody warned her to never step foot inside the walls. But she didn’t listen to them.

When the first prison basketball game was held, in she went, three girls in tow, and took a seat in the bleachers with the inmates. She once said, “My husband and I are going to take care of these men, and I believe they will take care of me! I don’t have to worry!”

When she heard that one convicted murderer was blind, she taught him Braille so he could read. Upon learning of inmates who were hearing impaired, she studied sign language so they could communicate. For 16 years Catherine Lawes softened the hard hearts of the men of Sing Sing.

In 1937 the world saw the difference real love makes. The prisoners knew something was wrong when Lewis Lawes didn’t report to work. Quickly the word spread that Catherine had been killed in a car accident. The following day her body was placed in her home. Three quarters of a mile from the prison.

As the acting warden took his early morning walk, he noticed a large gathering at the main gate. Every prisoner pressed against the fence. Eyes awash with tears. Faces solemn. No one spoke or moved. They’d come to stand as close as they could to the woman who’d given them love.

The warden made a remarkable decision. “All right, men, you can go. Just be sure to check in tonight.”

These were America’s hardest criminals. Murderers. Robbers. These men the nation had locked away for life. But the warden unlocked the gate for them, and they walked without an escort of guards to the home of Catherine Lawes to pay their last respects.

And to a man, each one returned.

Real love changes people.

-- From "A Love Worth Giving," Max Lucado

Monday, September 28, 2009

Writing tip: always chek your spelling

Wordguy, presidential speechifier, Pulitizer Prize-winner and columnist William Safire (1929-2009) died this weekend. You might enjoy the following, his "useful writing advice."

1. No sentence fragments.
2. It behooves us to avoid archaisms.
3. Also, avoid awkward or affected alliteration.
4. Don't use no double negatives.
5. If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times, "Resist hyperbole!"
6. Avoid commas, that are not necessary.
7. Verbs has to agree with their subjects.
8. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
9. Writing carefully, dangling participles should not be used.
10. Kill all exclamation points!!!
11. Never use a long word with a diminutive one will do.
12. Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.
13. Take the bull by the hand and don't mix metaphors.
14. Don't verb nouns.
15. Never, ever use repetitive redundancies.
16. Last but not least, avoid clichés like the plague.

Went to the play at the Dixie Friday night then went to the Waffle House where some nice people said hey to me; they knew me when I was 4 years old! "You look the same," they said. I asked them, "You don't think I'm taller?"...

Got tires Saturday morning, and it hurt me as I figured it would. Love my tire people though. Oil change after that. (The early morning was vehicle-oriented.) Worked out and studied and ate at 2 with my son and the Von Frapps. (There was 'an incident' at Chili's so we had to go to the Mexican place.) Actually, watched them eat. Walked a few miles and watched the Florida game with Jeeves and my little sis, a big Gator fan. I watched until her team had things well in hand: in other words, I watched the first seven minutes.

Worked and walked Saturday night, watched some ball. Pretty neat Texas Tech-Houston game. For the first time since I've moved to Ruston, went to Wal-Mart. Went at 1245 Saturday night because I couldn't sleep and because I wanted to surprise my son with a Key Lime Pie Sunday. But they didn't have Key Lime juice at Super One during reasonable shopping hours and Wal-Mart didn't have any either at the unreasonable time I went. It wasn't crowded though, except for the four police cruisers that pulled up while I was there. Maybe someone had shoplifted all the Key Lime juice.

Sunday was good news at Sunday school in that all seven of our starting day lineup showed up, plus one new member. Only two fell asleep! Will post Sermon-in-a-Stick notes later.

Saw news clips of a flooded city overseas where they, too, have been getting lots of rain. The people were walking down the street in thigh-deep water -- and several were holding umbrellas. Think about that...


Friday, September 25, 2009

Wish I were already tire-d

Could go watch Cedar Creek play awhile tonight. Iffy...

Got plenty to read and write at home.

Get tires in the morning. I like my tire people but I don't like having to buy tires. But you've got to have tires. Tires are a must.

Could go to Tinker's for a while after tires. Possibly. See Tick and Jeeves. Watch some football. Don't know. Got a free ticket to the community play at the Dixie. So that'll happen. Sunday matinee, I'm thinking. But I could go to the play toNIGHT, skip Cedar Creek, do the writing and reading Sunday and Saturday.

Do you have weekends like that, where you don't know what to do when? Sort of like weekdays, sometimes? I am certain about the tires; I'll use that as a focal point and build around it. Tires, Sunday school, church house, a Bible study, and everything else, we'll just have to see. Could zip over to the Cowboys game but I've already agreed to let some other people use my luxury suite. Plus it's not 'til Monday night. Plus I'm just joking.

OK. The two memory verses for the past two weeks. I forgot to post one last week. How am I going to memorize a verse if I can't remember to post it?

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."
John 15:5

"Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God."
Psalm 20:7


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Happy Birthdays Belated (Douhh!)

Catching up. . .

I sent cards on time, but not balloons. So...

Last Monday was Gregg and Heather's birthday. They are the twins and they are my nephew and niece.

Then the next day was daddy's birthday. Happy birthday again, daddy!

And tomorrow is Andi's birthday, another of my nieces. Happy Birthday!

And finally yesterday was Jake's birthday. He is four. He is on the left and an apprentice to one of my favorite farmers, Ben, who is on the right and currently the president of the FFA Chapter at his elementary school. Ben kept us in pickles throughout the late summer.

I like birthdays now. I hope theirs were/are/is happy.


Sweeter is a sweet 4-0

"Sweeter" is my mother. She lives in West Monroe. She loves Peyton Manning and Eli Manning, the NFL quarterbacks of the Colts and Giants, respectively. If Peyton and Eli and me were drowning and Sweeter could save only one, she would have to think for a minute before springing into action.

Then she would save Eli. "He's the baby," is what she always says.

My mother does not miss a football game that either of these two play in. Not if she can possibly help it. So this weekend was football heaven for her. Eli beats the Cowboys late Sunday night, and she watched every snap. "Stayed up past 11," she told me Monday, when I ate a supper sandwich with her.

She was, at the time, in her pregame prep for Monday Night Football, Peyton vs. The Miami Dolphins. (It's never "The Colts" or "The Giants" verses anybody. It's "Peyton verses the Dolphins" or "I think Eli plays at Chicago this week," like that.)

She was in her pregame warmups a little after 6 Monday night, just before I left. She pulled out one of her secret weapons. It's a half-lifesized poster of Peyton, setting up in the pocket. Nea gave it to her last year, and during Colts games it hangs perfectly, like a work of art, from a big armoire in the den. Sweeter hung the poster. In the back bedroom was the Official NFL Peyton Manning jersey Don gave her; it, too, is an essential.

"Now I'm going to take a bath, put on my housecoat, put on my jersey over that, then come back in here and we're gonna play some ball." That's what she told me right before I left. I cannot tell you how happy this made me.

Peyton 27, Dolphins 23. She watched it all.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Big reasons for small groups

Below are listed some more good reasons for small groups and accountability partners, and why a sermon's not enough to help you grow as a maturing believer, (from the Desiring God Web site...)

(You can meet at someone's house, etc., and not necessarily on a Sunday. One day I'd like to be in a group that eats supper once a week and really talks/shares/listens/studies. These friends could see what John Piper calls "the sinful inclinations" in my life and point them out and pray for me, and I would do the same for them. Don't you think that would be a neat thing to do?)

Today I have 4 guys I can tell anything to and be accountable to, and I do and I am because I've learned it's unhealthy for me if I don't. I'm more comfortable without the isolation; it feels safer, the exact opposite of how I used to feel. I see at least one of them daily and usually talk to all of them by phone, in person or several times a week by mail. Sharing your deepest darkest fears or concerns or hopes or dreams won't work in Sunday school but is necessary, at least for me, with accountability partners. They could and probably often do come from your small group.

Pastors are called to "equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12). But I bet we'd all agree that listening to a sermon is not enough. If Jesus were only a great teacher, we might could learn this stuff by only studying a book or listening to sermons. But Christ asks us to grow in community. Here are the seven reasons Piper listed for the importance of small groups. You can probably think of more.

1. The impulse to avoid painful growth by disappearing safely into the crowd in corporate worship is very strong.

2. The tendency toward passivity in listening to a sermon is part of our human weakness.

3. Listeners in a big group can more easily evade redemptive crises. If tears well up in your eyes in a small group, wise friends will gently find out why. But in a large gathering, you can just walk away from it.

4. Listeners in a large group tend to neglect efforts of personal application. The sermon may touch a nerve of conviction, but without someone to press in, it can easily be avoided.

5. Opportunity for questions leading to growth is missing. Sermons are not dialogue. Nor should they be. But asking questions is a key to understanding and growth. Small groups are great occasions for this.

6. Accountability for follow-through on good resolves is missing. But if someone knows what you intended to do, the resolve is stronger.

7. Prayer support for a specific need or conviction or resolve goes wanting. O how many blessings we do not have because we are not surrounded by a band of friends who pray for us.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sermon-on-a-Stick: James and more James

(Sunday’s sermon notes, if you trust my note-taking)

Sunday morning
Whose Fault Is It?
James 1:12-16

Accept responsibility for your ways/sins – my sin is my fault; not God’s fault or Satan’s fault or my parents’ fault or my environment’s fault etc. Romans 4:12 “Each of us will give an account of himself…”

What will we do about temptation/sin? – Adopt the Barney Fife Theory of Dealing with Sin: Nip it in the bud. Because temptation can lead to sin, and sin to heartbreak (v. 14-15).

How to “Barney Up:”
Consider/dwell on consequences of sin.
* It can destroy yourself and others
* It makes God look bad
* It hurts God and others
Have an accountability partner.
* Don’t share your deepest thoughts to just anyone or in Sunday school, but have a person or two you can depend on to tell everything to, a Christian brother or sister you can talk to and share with, someone you know will pray for you and share with you.
We can’t stop the birds from flying overhead, but we can keep them from building a nest in our hair.


Wise or Unwise?
James 3: 13-18

Your Life Shows Your Wisdom

The Wrong Look
Jealousy – not ‘righteous jealousy,’ but the killing kind … familiar with sharp and piercing pains?; this is unwise living.
Selfishness – A mean, unspiritual ambition
This kind of ‘wisdom’ comes not from heaven but is “earthly, unspiritual, of the devil" (vs. 15); it’s from our animal instincts; it’s demonic.
This kind of person wreaks havoc
"For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice "
(v. 16); this will wreck EVERYthing in your life.

The Right Look (vs. 17)
Humility is the foundation
Pure – unmixed in motives, clean.
Peace-loving – bring harmony and unity to situations; unwise people create problems.
Considerate – a sweet reasonableness
Submissive – You can be talked to and not be offended. A gentleness under control.
Full of mercy --
Full of good fruit – reflect a good, lovely nature
Impartial – the wise are fair
Sincere – the wise are not fake. They’re not hypocrites.

(verse 18) – The truly wise reap a wonderful harvest. We make things better for ourselves and everyone around us if we are wise in our living.

* Wisdom is proved by what it does. Am I wise by God’s standards? Is my heart right? God can make me and you wise people. We have to be willing to be molded, and we have to remain in the potter’s hand.

(Sermons from Dr. Chris at FBC Ruston)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Huddle Up

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.”

Hebrews 3:13

We all know what a football huddle is. The players get in a circle and talk about you. (Not really ... though sometimes they might. Someone once said, "It's not paranoia if they really ARE out to get you." )

They huddle so everyone will be on the same page. Running the same play. Getting in the same defense. They check to see who needs help, who can give help, what's working, and what's not. Without honest communication, good players are just running around all over the place in what's probably our best example of a team game.

The Christian life best flourishes when in relationship with believers because we serve a relational Savior. In isolation, the fire goes out. There's strength in the herd, danger in denial, in excuses, in grazing alone. We need others to pick us up. We need to pick up others. We need friends who will show us our blind spots, who will ask that we show them theirs.

What used to be called a "Sunday School" is now often called "small groups" or "connection groups." Whatever the term, if we're not hooked up regularly with believers, we're running around, trying to do it all by ourselves. Satan loves that. If you're not in a Sunday school connection group, he can generally take the day off. You're done. Maybe not today or next week, but it's coming. (Now, if you're going to go to Sunday school and lie, or not voice your fears or confusion or flaws, you might just be turning UP the flames; I have experience here. Accountability groups or Connection Groups won't work if you're dishonest. Nothing works if you're dishonest.)

To the Romans, Paul wrote: "I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong; that is that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith." Romans 1:11

The writer of Ecclesiastes knows that two is better than one, so if one falls, the other can pick him up.

Christ asks us to "huddle up," honestly and regularly, and any excuse I have not to will be weak. To our small groups, we bring our faults, our doubts, our fears, our faith, our strength, and our weaknesses. We share those. We grow together. The first step is consistently showing up and being honest. As weak as I might be, my small group needs me. I know I need them.

I once lived in isolation. That's death. When I most don't feel like showing up, that's when I need to show up the most. Had Christ been only a great teacher, we might could learn all this stuff, and learn how to live this stuff, by reading books and listening to sermons. But since Christ is a relational Savior, I've got to be in relationship with others, talking about Christ, being taught and shown both how to receive and how to show his kind of love and mercy and grace, or I'm a fish in a barrel and an easy target. We all are.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sermon-on-a-Stick -- So You Want to Be a Teacher and a Leader?

I don't doubt that the Holy Spirit guides your decisions from within when you make them with the intention of pleasing God. The error would be to think that He speaks only within, whereas in reality He speaks also through Scripture, the Church, Christian friends, and books.

C. S. Lewis

(Below is Sunday night preaching, if you trust my note-taking...)

So You Want To Be a Teacher and a Leader?

James 3: 1-2

* The Book of James is sort of like a New Testament Proverbs ... He jumps from here to there but it's still practical Christian teaching that confronts casual Christianity. And it's from an early believer and friend of Jesus and a man who died for the faith and lived, after his conversion, practicing what he preached. He didn't always believe, even having grown up with Jesus; but once he did, he was solidly in the game, faults and all.

(Non-pastoral Teddy note: In August me and a couple of other guys read James each day of the month; it takes 15 minutes or so, once you've read it a few times. The first few days it was a little/lot intimidating. James is very straightforward. But as the readings went by and the message sunk/sank? in, there was a comfort in reading James. Very clear, our instructions. And very clear the dangers of disobedience, how we can harm ourselves but mainly the damage we can do to others when we dishonor God...My favorite passage: Chapter 4: 3-10; this translation is from Eugene Peterson's "The Message":

You're spoiled children, each wanting your own way.
You're cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way. And do you suppose God doesn't care? The proverb has it that "he's a fiercely jealous lover." And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you'll find. It's common knowledge that "God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble."
So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he'll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it's the only way you'll get on your feet.

From a more formal translation, the NIV, my favorite passage from my favorite passage is verses 7 and 8.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled sermon...

To Prosper the Kingdom:

* Find your gifts and use them, in the world and in your church

* If you are a teacher or in another area of visibility, be right on these things:

1. Your gifting. 1 Corinthians 12:27-30 ... know where you've been 'gifted' to serve specifically -- but remember, little is much if God is in it. And just because you don't have the 'gift' of singing or teaching or cooking or administrating today doesn't mean you won't have it tomorrow. And we can all do SOMEthing for God, for others and for the church all of the time; each Christian is commanded to do so. Do you pray for your church, for its leaders, for each other?

2. Your Example and Life: 1 Timothy 4:12 Set an example in speech, faith, love and purity.

3. Your Theology: 1 Timothy 4:16

4. Know you you are under, who you answer to...God, the church, your pastor (who is a servant-leader)

*** Before I can be over what I should be over, I have got to be under what I should be under

*** Know that with great power comes great responsibility, and God holds us accountable


Tuesday, September 15, 2009


This was from Sunday morning at church, if you trust my note-taking. Started a series on the Book of James.

Remember that James, the half-brother of Jesus, grew up with Jesus but was an unbeliever until Christ came to him after his resurrection. Then James because the pastor of the first church in Jerusalem. In his day, he was probably more widely known and respected than Peter and Paul and some other early spreaders of the Gospel. Tradition says that James was killed by local Pharisees who threw him off the top of the temple and, when that didn't kill him all the way, stoned him. James was the real deal. His nickname was "Ol' Camel Knees" because he prayed so much he wore calluses and blisters on his knees.

When you think about it, most of those guys had to have had nicknames, just like we do. There are not a lot of funny passages in the Bible, I mean pure comedy, but someday I'm sure those blanks will be filled in. I think about the fellas looking for James, to go eat or something...

"Anyone seen Knees? Let's go eat!"
"He's probably in there praying."
"Well go get him. James! Knees! Let's go! God will be there when you get back. I'm hungry...hey, wait a minute ... who took my sandals? Who stole my .... Knees!? Give me back my sandals. I know you took ...."

That wasn't part of Sunday's sermon, but I'm just know if they cried together and served and suffered together, they must have laughed a lot and enjoyed each other too. Same as today.

OK. Here we go...

Making Some Sense Out of Your Pain and Problems
James 1: 1-4

* There will be tribulations in life.
* You will have "trials" of many kinds, and the word "trials" back then alluded to "multi-colored" or "many-faceted," so James was saying that we'll have all SORTS of stuff, multi-layered and odd problems as well as ordinary ones.
* This might have been the first New Testament book written. If that's the case, the first thing the NT tells us is that "Life is difficult. You're going to have problems. It's part of life."

Problems come as:
* attacks from Satan
* trials we place on ourselves
* others putting sins and mistakes on us
* just part of life

* God is trying to do some great things through your pain (Romans 8:28)
* Satan tries to break you; God tries to "make" you.

3 Things God May Be Trying To Do Through Your Pain
1. Turn you to Him
2. Turn you BACK to him, through the pressure/trials
3. Mature you into Christ's likeness (Verse 4; be perfect/mature and complete) Be "grown up"

1 John 2:6 ... "Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did."

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ... "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God."
* Broken-world people often become the most tender and sweetest, kindest and most compassionate people because they have experienced broken-world pain.

*What's God trying to say to me today, through my problems?
* What am I going to do about it?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Some things don't show up on the stat sheet...

The charms of high school football are many. Sometimes, the quaintness can be taken too far. This is a story about that.

Twenty-five years ago this very fall, I got out of college and started writing up ballgames for the sports section of The News-Star in Monroe. Weekends, if LSU or the Saints or both were at home, I’d cover a high school game south or east of Monroe on a Friday night, then keep heading south, make the loop through Tiger Stadium and the Superdome, and come back late Sunday night.

The Friday night stop might be Vidalia or Ferriday or Winnsboro or Mangham or Sicily Island. I got to see a lot of fun football in a lot of fun little stadiums. Homecoming games. Little wooden concession stands manned by band parents and booster clubbers. Tiny cinder block field houses.

Small town high school football is a beautiful thing, we know. But it is not immune to tacky.
What I wanted to tell you about happened on a Friday night just like any other football Friday night. Small stadium sort of cut out of the woods. Coca-Cola signs everywhere. The smell of sweat and testosterone and popcorn in the air.

Covering high school games is very hard. People would think that covering a “big” game in college or the pros is harder. Neg. Child’s play. In those places they hand you typed statistics in an air-conditioned press box. They have bathrooms. They have food and places to plug things in. At a high school football game it’s just you and your pencil and your stenciled program that sometimes might even be correct.

So you try to keep stats – punts, yardage gained, turnovers, tackles – all by yourself. Tracking little men you’ve never seen before. Throw in there that on this night the mosquitoes were out. Big ones. Maneaters. When you’re holding a Coke, popcorn, binoculars, a note pad and a pencil, it’s hard to swat mosquitoes.

Mid-first quarter, I moved from the stands to the press box.

The press box was a tiny plywood perch. There was room for the P.A. (public address) announcer, his P.A. announcing box about the size of an old VCR, and me. Imagine a good-sized closet, only not quite that big.

Some high school P.A. guys just make announcements but some like to give a play-by-play to the crowd. You can seldom understand them because of the quality of the sound system and the fact that the Pep Squad is yelling and somebody’s always banging a cymbal or blowing a tuba. But some P.A. guys persevere.

This one did. And his resolve to capture in language the events of this special night grew as his consumption of alcohol did. Because now and then, over the mouth of his paper Coke cup, he’d tilt a brown paper sack. He was drinking Jack Daniels; I remember it like it was yesterday.

I didn’t mind at all. It was sort of like being in shoebox with a living, breathing cartoon. I was just happy to be away from the mosquitoes.

But then came halftime.

It lasted a calendar day. It was homecoming. And my P.A. guy was saddled with the chore of calling out names of girls and their escorts as they circled the field in 1980s convertibles. He struggled with names, which irritated him not at all, certainly not nearly as much as his friends who, like faucet drips that become a stream, kept coming up to the top of the stadium, holding their paper Coke cups up to the press box opening, and begging for “a hit.”

He didn’t mind sharing whiskey with the first couple of guys. But the four or five after that, he minded a lot. A guy hates to share if he’s running low, and trapped until the final whistle.

Then my new friend did something I will never forget. He might have been irritated. He might have been cocky, being the P.A. guy and all. Or he might have just been drunk.

But for a few moments I didn’t see him there by me. I was compiling my halftime stats. And that’s when I heard a noise that sounded as if a water spigot had been turned on.

But it wasn’t a water spigot.

In the back corner of the hot muggy press box, he was running Play No. 1. Onto the floor. In the corner. With his back to me, using the bathroom.

The ol’ Bladder Sweep.

It was in record time that I left the press box. Ammonia and heat is a bad combination. I welcomed the mosquitoes.

I don’t remember who won. I do remember I lost. And I remember thinking, as I sat there figuring how many yards a kid I’d never meet had just punted a football, that I would never forget this night.

Normally, I wouldn’t write the names of the schools, but I almost have to here for you to get the full effect. Plus, it was 25 years ago. The guys who played that night, the homecoming queens and her court, they’ve all celebrated 40th birthdays. And the P.A. guy, he’s probably in politics now.

So after a quarter-century, it’s safe to share this, since I’ve always felt the names of the schools were somewhat telling in a strangely coincidental way.

One of the schools was Waterproof.

The other, was Wisner.


-- The Times, Sept. 13, 2009

Friday, September 11, 2009


As you might remember, the head of a company survived 9/11 because his son started kindergarten that morning.

Another fellow was alive because it was his turn to bring donuts.

One woman was late because her alarm clock didn't go off in time.

One was late because of being stuck on the New Jersey Turnpike because of an auto accident.

One of them missed his bus.

One spilled food on her clothes and had to take time to change.

One's car wouldn't start.

One couldn't get a taxi.

One man put on a new pair of shoes that morning and took the various means to get to work, but before he got there, he developed a blister on his foot. He stopped at a drugstore to buy a Band-Aid. That is why he is alive today..

Now when I am
Stuck in traffic,
Miss an elevator,
Turn back to answer a ringing telephone ...
All the little things that annoy me...
I try to remind myself,
Maybe this is exactly where
God wants me to be
At this very moment..

Next time your morning seems to be
going wrong,

The children are slow getting dressed,
You can't seem to find the car keys,
You hit every traffic light...
Don't get mad or frustrated;
It may be just that
God is at work watching over you.

May God continue to bless us
With all these annoying little things
And may we remember their possible purpose.

-- From the T-Mail Bag

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sorry! ... My homey thought he was at a 'rasslin' match...

On behalf of people from South Carolina everywhere, I'd like to apologize for my homeboy's outburst during the president's speech last night. The South Carolina representative stuck his bare foot in his mouth. Sigh ... It was uncalled for, unprofessional, and impolite. It was probably redundant too!, which makes it even more stupid. But still, you've got to respect the Office of the President, especially when he's playing a home game, in Washington and all. You can shout the very same thing at your television in your living room, as no doubt millions were, but you can't shout it on the floor of Congress. There's no cheering, or jeering, in the press box.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Comet Sends Out Special Invitations...

Without saying a word, Rosemary gave her testimony Monday morning in a big church made cozy by the crowd.

Honored to be there were several hundred of her closest friends and friends of friends. Those who didn't know Rosemary left wishing they had, hoping one day they would, but still feeling as if they already did.

In sweet, poetic eulogies punctuated by laughter and necessary pauses unrehearsed, she was called Little Rosemary, The Rose and Rosemary. Also a mom and a wife, an aunt and a niece, a daughter and a sister, and a friend 'til the end.

An uncle was the first to eulogize. He looked at the stars Saturday, the first night since his niece had died of the cancer, just 45 she was, and he thought of a comet, how they come only rarely and last only a bit, but how they fire up the sky, the whole sky, when they do.

You can't ignore the comets when they come. They are too breathtakingly bright, too out of the ordinary, much too alive to dismiss.

We're grateful for life's comets.

One of Rosemary's younger friends, 6 or so, asked his mom one day recently, "How do you invite people to your funeral?" Odd question. It's hard to send out cards from beyond, even if you have the hostess skills of someone like Rosemary, who used words like "décor" in everyday conversation.

But the more the child's mom thought about it, the more she realized that the question was just what her mind and what her heart needed. You invite people to your funeral by doing what Rosemary did. You invite them with your life. With authenticity and a sweet spirit, you invite them by being the same on bright Sunday mornings as you are on weary Tuesday nights. You invite them by showing up with picnics in sunshine and umbrellas in rain, by sharing yourself both in joy and in grief.

You invite them by being a Rose, by "loving and giving and keeping on the sunny side, always on the sunny side."

From Rosemary, a lot of people received these once-in-a-lifetime invitations.

A wise friend who's known her since she was a baby hinted that Rosemary's imaginary invites might have carried an inscription borrowed from King David himself, who said at the end of his life, "Oh, how good it was to live!"

Bravely before a casket and floral spray stood Jana — "One of her 1,763 best friends!," Jana said. With economy and grace, Jana covered decades of ground, from Rosemary's little-girl bedroom until last month, when the two took a spur-of-the-moment trip out of the country, at Rosemary's request. And so it happened that on a recent summer evening, the two found themselves sailing with sea breeze all around, with Sinatra singing in the background, with endless stars above, with Mexico in the rearview, the bright blue Pacific below and beyond.

"This," Rosemary said, tasting the moment, "is heaven."

No. Not even close. Not really.

But she knows that now.

-- The Times, The News-Star, Sunday, Sept 6, 2009

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Older Boys of Summer

Every year here lately, when the shades start getting pulled on summer and a school bell rings, I wonder where they all are.

We spent the summers young. We weren't really a band of brothers. Just a band of boys. I think most of them are still in Carolina. I might have been the only one who moved more than a state away.

Hard intelligence is not easy to come by from my small town. The friends I was a boy with aren't so much moving targets as they are stealthy ones. They always were low-profile types.

Michael had the most formal name of us all. He was also the smartest, by a country mile. He won the school spelling bee — smoking yours truly — and he studied even though he didn't have to. But he was a loner, something that's hard to be in a small town like mine. I'm sad that he was. He's the only one of the boys who's now dead. Suicide. I'm not sure we knew what suicide was back in those special summertimes.

The last time I saw him, Glenn was working at Gaddy's Texaco. We talked about the Southeastern Conference and the ACC and school days and the price of premium unleaded. Same ol' Glenn. Smart as a whip. Red hair and freckles, all the way into adulthood. Once during lunch he bent my little finger back so far I screamed and everyone in the cafeteria got quiet. I miss Glenn.

Boyd was running a Burger King in Aynor, but that was years ago. I once completed a slant pass to him against the Mullins Baby Auctioneers, a moment in time that perfectly captures how one man's treasure is another man's trash. I celebrated a rare completed pass, he was tackled immediately and missed the rest of the season with a knee that looked like it was pregnant. I miss Boyd.

Jay Calhoun was the best pool player I'd ever seen and was, for most stretches of time, my best friend and a natural shortstop, smooth as creek water over rocks. One Fourth of July he had a firecracker explode in his hand, so his mom put butter on it, told him not to pop any more firecrackers, and he didn't. Not with that hand. He just used his other one. He substitute teaches some, they tell me, and still shoots pool. Once he was in the newspaper for his pool shooting, and on television too. I miss him.

Bobby Stubbs' daddy was a hog farmer, and once it was our job to help on castration day. We picked up and placed in an old insecticide bucket what was castrated and poured motor oil on the wounded areas. It was dirty work but even at that innocent age, we knew things could be a lot worse. I mean "» think about it. Bobby lives in the county seat now. Last year, he sold his daddy's hog farm. As any of Mr. Stubbs' hogs could have told you, the world can be dicey sometimes. Bobby's a good guy.

I'm not sure where the Fowler twins are, Jerry and Terry. But I remember the day Mrs. Alice spanked all three of us for sliding down the sliding board with our legs hanging off the sides, even after she'd told us not to. In the second grade, Mrs. Alice ran a tight ship. I miss the Fowler twins. I miss Mrs. Alice, too.

The list goes on, but not for long. There weren't many of us. David Collins has a yard business now and I still remember the day he got bit by all those yellow jackets. His head swelled up like Boyd Flowers' knee after the Mullins game. Hunter Griffin lives in Columbia, last we talked. He gave me "Super Bowl!" by NFL Books, for Christmas, 1972. Signed it and everything. Had all five Super Bowls to date in it. I still have it.

Jerome King is a preacher, I think. Either he is or Charles Tart is. That's what I heard. I think it's Jerome, because the day I fell out of the hay loft in Charles Tart's daddy's barn when I was 8 or 9, Jerome was there and he prayed for me, on the spot. Charles just stared. I tried to breathe. Don't fall out of a hay loft if you can help it, but if you do, make sure Jerome King's nearby. I wish he were now, at least for a day or two. I wish they all were.

-- The Times, Aug. 30, 2009

Friday, September 4, 2009

A 'feelings' Friday

Posted here's a semi-long essay by an Illinois-based writer, wife and mom. The message works for children, but for grownups too. At the bottom, a meaningful list. A similar list has helped me in the past few months. Instead of posting the link only, I just posted the whole thing.

Happy football season to you. Me and others are helping new students move in dorms tomorrow at Tech, all day I guess; might watch football tomorrow night. Happy Labor Day Weekend!

Help Your Son Develop Healthy Emotions
Elisabeth K. Corcoran

I have an eleven-year-old son which, for some reason, immediately conjures up the phrase no man's land. There's just something about an eleven-year-old boy that seems so in-between. He wants to be a man, he wants to play football, he wants me to teach him how to drive in parking lots. And yet, he's scared to start middle school (okay, I don't care what age you are, any one would be scared to start middle school), he still tenderly holds my hand when we're alone, and he doesn't know what to do with his feelings.

The other day we were driving around and I asked him about school do you feel about it, bud? Not good, he said. What about it is not good, I asked. I don't know, he replied.

Okay then. Glad we had this heart to heart, I'm thinking.

This all-too-familiar exchange with asking questions, him answering in less than a handful of monosyllabic words...made me think back to something a guy friend said to me years ago. I was asking him what he felt about something and he said, without batting an eye and in all honesty, "If I ever figure out what I feel about something, I'll tell you."

I have never forgotten that one line. Probably because I couldn't relate in the least. I'm the kind of girl who knows what I'm feeling. I'm the kind of girl who can name what I'm feeling, even if it's seventeen feelings all at once. And I can tell you to what degree and in order of priority. I'm the kind of girl who journals about her feelings and, for the most part, knows how to express them. Whether anyone else in my immediate world wants me to or not. I get feelings. I love feelings.

As a mom, I believe it's my responsibility to send my kids out into the world knowing what they feel about something and how to express it in a healthy way. To realize that my son, if left to his own devices, would grow up like my guy friend and have no idea what he is ever feeling, let alone how to express it, was just unacceptable to me.

So when we got home, I sat down at my computer and wrote up a list of six common feelings, along with their definitions, a list of synonyms, how to know when that's what you're feeling, and how to express that feeling in a healthy way. And that list was our bedtime story that night. It went so well, that he even asked me to "go over that one again" because I apparently struck a chord with one of them. That list is taped next to his bed. That list, I hope, is just the beginning of many good conversations as I prepare my son for the world.

And, future daughter-in-law, you're very welcome.

Here, by the way, is my list...feel free to use it, add to it, whatever...


Definition: in high spirits; satisfied

Synonyms: blessed, can't complain, cheerful, content, delighted, ecstatic, glad, grateful, joyful, laughing, peaceful, playful, thrilled

When you might feel this: When you get your way, when God answers a prayer, when you get a gift, when you do well on a test, when you get to do something fun...

How can you know this is what you're feeling? You smile, laugh, feel good inside, want to keep feeling that way

What can you do to express this feeling in a healthy way? Laugh, thank Jesus, thank the person who helped you feel this way, you can look up a verse about being happy (Psalm 68:3)


Definition: being mad, often extremely mad

Synonyms: annoyed, displeased, enraged, furious, irritated, offended, resentful

When you might feel this: when someone irritates you, takes a toy away, turns the channel when you don't want them to, interrupts you, makes you do something you don't want to do or at a time you don't want to do it

How can you know this is what you're feeling? You might get hot, you might want to kick or punch something, you want to yell

What can you do to express this feeling in a healthy way? Quietly tell the person that you're angry and why, tell Jesus about it and ask him to help you handle your anger well, talk to your Mom or Dad about it, journal about it, punch your pillow, count to ten, breathe deeply for a few moments, take a quick walk up and down the driveway, go play basketball, you can look up a verse about what God wants us to do about our anger (Ephesians 4:26)

How you shouldn't express this feeling: Yell at the person, yell at someone else, slam doors, be disrespectful, hurt someone or yourself, keep it to yourself


Definition: unhappy, depressed

Synonyms: blue, dejected, despondent, down, down in the dumps, downcast, gloomy, heartbroken, heavyhearted, hurting, melancholy, troubled, weeping

When you might feel this: when someone says something that hurts your feelings, when you're left out at school, when you don't do well on a test or in a game, when you miss someone, when someone breaks a promise

How can you know this is what you're feeling? You may cry, may feel tired, may not want to talk to anyone, you may want to be left alone

What can you do to express this feeling in a healthy way? You can talk to Jesus and ask him to help you feel better, you can talk to your Mom or Dad, you can journal about it, you can spend some time alone in your room or doing something by yourself, you can lie down for a little while, you can cry, you can make a list of five things you're thankful for, you can look up a verse about being sad (Psalm 42:11)


Definition: frightened

Synonyms: afraid, anxious, fearful, panicky, startled, terrified

When you might feel this: during a thunderstorm, doing something that is a phobia

How can you know this is what you're feeling? You might feel butterflies in your stomach, you might feel hot, your hands might get sweaty, you might have trouble sleeping or concentrating

What can you do to express this feeling in a healthy way? You can tell someone that you're scared, tell Jesus and ask him to make you more brave, journal about it, hold someone's hand, you can look up a verse about Jesus being with you when you're scared (Joshua 10:25)


Definition: feeling friendless

Synonyms: abandoned, alone, apart, by oneself, companionless, deserted, isolated, lonesome, rejected, unbefriended, uncherished

When you might feel this: when you're on the bus and not sitting next to anyone, when you don't know anyone in your class or at lunch, when you don't know anyone in a new sports team or club, when one or both of your parents are out of town, or when you're out of town

How can you know this is what you're feeling? You feel like you're missing someone

What can you do to express this feeling in a healthy way? You can call, email or write the person you're missing, you can tell Jesus about it and ask him to remind you that He's with you, you can journal about it, you can look up a verse about Jesus being your friend (I John 4:11)


Definition: anxious, troubled, don't know what to think about something, don't understand something

Synonyms: afraid, apprehensive, concerned, distracted, distraught, distressed, disturbed, fearful, nervous, uneasy, upset,

When you might feel this: when you hear your parents' fight, when you're left home alone

How can you know this is what you're feeling? You might feel butterflies in your stomach, you might imagine things to turn out badly (for instance, you might think that if your parents' fight, it might mean they'll get a divorce)

What can you do to express this feeling in a healthy way? You can talk to Jesus about this, you can talk to your Mom or Dad about this, you can journal about this, you can list off five things you're thankful for, you can look up a verse about worrying (Matthew 6:34)

August 31, 2009

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Last night ...

... Of all the TVs, in all the towns, in all the world, "Casablanca" comes on mine.

Sat down to eat cereal. Should have never turned the stupid TV on. What a mess of a movie, all spliced together. And I love it.

You must remember this

A kiss is just a kiss,

a sigh is just a sigh.

The fundamental things apply

As time goes by.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Do you often pray for more faith? Like, real often? Me too...

I do not ask that He must prove
His Word is true to me,
And that before I can believe
He first must let me see.

It is enough for me to know
It's true because He says it's so;
On His unchanging Word I'll stand
And trust till I can understand.

-- E.M. Winter,
from "Streams in the Desert," L.B. Cowman