Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Divine White Out

“Come now, and let us reason together,
saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow . . ..”
Isaiah 1: 18a

In North Louisiana, we get to build a snowman about as often as the Saints win a Super Bowl.

But there we were recently, waking up on Monday to a Super Bowl title for New Orleans and waking up four mornings later to several inches of snow that had fallen while we slept. Snow, pure and fresh and brand new.

We don t get to see it much down South, so maybe we forget. But white as snow is really, really white.

I’m not sure most of us understand the depth of God’s forgiveness, how clean He makes us. The lack of understanding can’t be a cultural thing or a modern thing; the Judeans had a hard time with it, too.

Maybe it’s because we have a hard time forgiving. We say we’ve forgiven, but we haven’t. So we don’t understand how someone else can forgive and we can’t. We compare God’s ability to forgive with our own.

But God’s nature, unchanging, won’t let Him bypass a contrite heart. When God forgives, He erases sin and memory, just as he erases the clouds from yesterday’s sky.

Because of the cross, God changes our darkness into Light. It doesn’t matter if you were a little bad or on Hell’s paid staff, the blood washes away sin. All of it and every kind. Crimson turned to white.

We quickly made the snow dirty with our snowball fights and snowman building, and by afternoon most of it was gone anyway. But, the picture I kept was the one before we’d walked outside, the white photo God had developed overnight.

"If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land . . .."
Isaiah 1: 19a

Trust and obey, He tells us. Live in a state of confession and repentance and confidence. Your Father is much more concerned with your future than He is with your past. You can make neither white as snow. He can.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Blast from the Past: Jim Bibby

Didn't know til today that Jim Bibby had died, of causes not released, on the East Coast earlier this week. He was only 65.

Jim Bibby was not a great player -- tho he could be at times and for stretches -- but he was a BIG player. He was 6-5 adn 235, really huge for the 1970s. He pitched the first no hitter in Rangers history. He pitched an odd one-hitter against the Braves for the Pirates, and it had never been done this way: he gave up a leadoff hit to Terry Harper, then retired the next 27. Perfect after the leadoff hit.

The biggest torment to me: he was the starter in Game 7 of the 1979 World Series. He didn't get the win but the "We Are Family" Pirates finished coming back from being down 3 games to 1 and beat Baltimore. He didn't get the decision, but still...

I'm just sad when a player like Jim Bibby dies. And only 65. And you don't even know why he died. It's another little piece that's gone, I guess. It's a sad kind of nostalgia. I like Jim Bibby. I'm glad he played baseball. He was a part of my boyhood and I thank him for that. Look at his numbers sometime. He could be hot as a firecracker for a month, then equally cold, then hot again, then cold again. When he was right, they couldn't touch him.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


(I am now Sainted out for a bit ... but here is a final effort/recap for all the true black and gold fans out there who have grinded it wholeheartedly since the Johnson Administration. Enjoy your offseason!)

For 43 years, it was love unrequited. New Orleans Saints fans kept showing up. The team didn’t always do the same. And when they did, fans left with the feeling they’d forked over their money and their hearts without getting so much as a card or a kiss.

There were 34 losing seasons in 43 long years. There were 1-15 campaigns. There were 8-8 seasons that caused, all things being relative, manic joy. There were even playoff appearances, but those were just dust in the wind.

No kisses.

Not until this past Sunday.

Has it been just a week? Has it been only a week since Saints, 31, Indianapolis Colts 17? Since grown men wept and old ladies trembled in their jersey-wearing bosoms, both overwhelmed by a relief known only to the loving, to the loyal, and to the ever hopeful?

Consummation Sunday. .

Was it worth the wait? Alfred Tennyson said, in that silver-tongued way of his, that it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. There were times you’d have had a hard time convincing Saints fans of that. But this Valentine’s Day Sunday, a week removed from those unforgettable goings-on in Miami’s Sun Life Stadium, you can bet your hat and your jock strap that it was all worth it. Every gut-wrenching second of every hair-pulling season of every mind-numbing decade.

Saints 31, Colts 17.

Super Bowl Champions.

What makes it so special? What removes it from another hum-drum Super Bowl game, from another national championship or another pro sports title? What made Super Bowl XLIV the most watched television show ever? I mean, nobody really rallied around the pitiful Seattle Seahawks a few years ago when they played in the Super Bowl, a fact you’d probably already forgotten. Think you’ll ever forget where you were when the Saints won the Super Bowl?

Why did so many people care?

Maybe on this day that spotlights lovers, the poets can help us…


“Love is blind.” We’ve all heard it. We’ve all said it. We just don’t know who said it first. It’s an anonymous proverb.

It’s anonymous because no one would admit to being the first to say something that stupid.

If love were blind, Archie Manning’s own sons wouldn’t have asked their mom if they could join the Superdome chorus that early 1980s afternoon. While the Saints lost yet another game on their way to a 1-15 season, the ages 4 and 6 sons of The Greatest Saint of Them All looked at a very pregnant (with Eli) Olivia Manning and said, “Can we boo, too, Mom?”

Love sees the warts. For years, fans of the Saints saw and verbally acknowledged their team’s shortcomings. They did not turn a blind eye to fumbles, to sacks, to sieve defenses and 25-watts offenses. They did not hide their frustrations from on-field train wrecks and front office foibles.

They wore grocery sacks on their heads and called their team “The ’Aints.”

Denial is blind. Denial says, “Oh, that’s OK; we’ll be fine.” But with alarming clarity, true love sees that we blew it in the draft, that we’ll be killed by free agency and that our offensive line can’t block air -- but true love holds on tightly and hopes anyway. Love says, “They’re terrible and they’re the ’Aints, but they’re OUR ’Aints.”


“He is not a lover who does not love forever.” Euripides said that. Euripides was a Greek playwright who knew nothing about football but a lot about the heart of a Saints fan.

These fans were embraced by America because they booed when booing was due and embraced when booing was due. These people didn’t give up. These fans withstood a hurricane, a season without a team, a season with just a piece of a city!, and kept coming back for more. These fans were and are football realists living in a bit of a carnival city.

The only other NFL fans who can even have a conversation with Saints fans are the ones in Detroit, who have had a team since there were 13 colonies and still haven’t sniffed a Super Bowl. But the difference here? Detroit has the Red Wings. And the Pistons. And the Tigers, who might have won another World Series only two years ago if their pitchers could have thrown comebackers to first base. Detroit is a city with some championship banners hanging around. Even the Lions won four or five NFL championships back in the day of the leather helmet.

No, the Saints fans are in a league by themselves.

(WERE in a league by themselves.)

Through 43 years of unsightly escapades, Saints fans kept showing up. Loving, though thin and thinner. A poet’s wife once said that nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much a heart can hold. And that might be true. But we know this: a heart can hold at least 43 years worth of disappointment and still be filled with love. Saints fans knew their Dome Patrol defense had no offense, and they knew their offense of ’06 had no defense. But somehow, Saints fans for years held on loosely to what the Saints were, and tightly to the dream of what they could become.


American Pulitzer Prize winner Willa Cather reminds us that “where there is great love, there are always miracles.” I’m not sure when she said that; maybe it was November of 1970, right after club-footed Tom Dempsey kicked the record 63-yard field goal in Tulane Stadium to beat Detroit.

At that point, with the Saints franchise only four seasons old, New Orleans fans hadn’t had enough football experience to be overly happy or overly sad. Of course, time and fumbles and interceptions would take care of that.

The honeymoon, it seemed, would never come.

But then Sunday bloomed, and Tuesday brought this suggestion from the editorial page: “Breath deep this fleur-de-lis bouquet made all the sweeter by the slow delivery.”

A teen celebrating Sunday’s victory is all fine and dandy, but he hasn’t hurt enough to enjoy what the old guard were able Sunday to lock away in the corner of their battle-scarred hearts when Tracy Porter picked off Peyton Manning and raced into Saints history. For young Saints fans and fans of pure football, Sunday’s title was one to toast, to appreciate or drink and party to.

But for some, it was more than that. People who don’t understand that athletics can be more than just a game just don’t understand how a human heart works.

There is a guy in Shreveport and another in Sterlington and a lady in Gretna and another in Port Allen, each in their 60s and all bound by years of frustration and now, bound by a Saints Super Bowl win. These are the kinds of people who remember Kilmer’s wobbly passes and Dempsey’s kick and Archie’s rookie season. These are your card-carrying Saints Fans. And the ones in New Orleans proper, the ones who battled losing seasons and losing all the possessions they had in Katrina, they’re in a special league of fan. I’m not sure any other fans in sports history have taken such a ride.

A friend of mine has a buddy from Covington who started weeping after the Colts fourth-down try failed with less than a minute to go in Sunday’s game. These two have known each other well and for 36 years, but never has my friend seen such emotion from his buddy. He wasn’t misty-eyed; he wept.

And why? Maybe because of all his native city has been through. Maybe because of the Super Bowl Eve New Orleans mayoral election, in which 70 percent of whites and 63 percent of blacks voted for the same candidate. And maybe because the underdog Saints’ victory just piled more hope upon hope for his city and his state and his friends.

Nothing against Indianapolis, but they have a Super Bowl win. Maybe Providence does care about football, at least just a little bit.

So…what about next year? The Saints are young. They have Brees. They have only a couple of really big free agents who may be tough to sign; the rest are restricted or expendable. (Hate to use the word “expendable” in a love story, but we ARE still talking about the NFL.)

Remember this: The Pittsburgh Steelers took 40 years to win a division title and then another couple to win their first Super Bowl. That was in 1974. Then they won three more and were the undisputed Team of the Decade. I’m just sayin’…


Thursday, February 11, 2010


Grinded the first half at my little sister's, then we darted back to the Big Screen in Ruston to grind half No. 2. I would have bet a zillion dollars on the Colts, if I were a better man. And would have lost a zillion. Plus juice! The Colts had 25 or 26 guys on the team who'd won a Super Bowl a couple of years before; it's hard to go against that kind of experience when the two teams are pretty evenly matched, and when one has a four-time MVP at the wheel. But you know what a great equalizer is? Big receivers against little defensive backs. And defense. And not turning the ball over. The Saints didn't. When the subject is turnovers, nothing besides the final score is a better indicator, on average, of who will win/did win an NFL game.

I am now a believer, officially, and I think it's clear the Saints were the best team in football this year. And they're fun to watch!

My mother is fine. She had her Peyton jersey on, his picture hanging, her Peyton action figure by the television. But she was prepared for a Saints victory. She called 10 minutes after the game to say she was OK and that the season had indeed been a wild ride. You know what will be fun? -- to see how Peyton Manning and the Colts and their rookie head coach react in their offseason and next year. And how the Saints do too. I don't think you can expect a letdown from the Saints. Their victory, and all the collateral stuff, adds fuel to the fire.

I tried to crank out something for Sunday, a bit longer than usual, to tie in with Valentine's Day. Hope it worked.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Very First Senior Moment...

(I've fallen behind but will catch up with blogs about James (the book and the preacher), the Saints in general, the Super Bowl in specific (my mom is fine!), and assorted Whatnot, which I guess is redundant...!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Happy Birthday wishes to ...

My little sister Tinker and her oldest son/my nephew, JM. Proud! Wooooooooo!

'What I Know Six Months Out' ...

You likely know that Maggie Lee Henson was a student who died when her First Baptist Church of Shreveport, La., youth-trip bus was involved in an accident in Alabama last summer. The following is a posting recently by her mother. I met Jinny Henson a few years ago, not long after she and her family moved to Shreveport. After the accident this summer, I felt a post like this from Maggie Lee's mom would one day come. I'm blessed it was sent to me...

(Update from maggie lee henson's caringbridge.com site)

Jinny Henson

I have often reassured myself in the six months since Maggie Lee's death that although I have no idea what I will do without her, I honestly didn't know what to do with her when she first arrived, either. Somehow this gives me room to breathe and by the grace of God, I sense that I will adapt to my new life in some measure as I did before.

Of course, birthing a child and burying a child are two radically different prospects. On the one hand you deliver a bundle of dreams wrapped in possibility oozing potential and conversely, in the other unnatural scenario, you lower those most treasured dreams into the ground...forever.

It is a disorienting experience and frankly I am shocked to still wake up every morning. "A Broken Heart Still Beats," is the title of a grief book for parents and, alas, mine still does. I remember reading a about a friend's 4-year-old daughter who had cancer two years ago. As I clicked out of the email, I sighed with relief that God had not laid that burden on me because He knew full well that I could never take anything so awful.

And then in a moment, despite the diligent love that you have and the protective eye you naturally cast, a freak accident comes calling and is unaware that your family is supposed to be exempt. As soon as you're told that your child will die, you begin to ratchet down expectations. You see a child in a wheelchair and breathe a hasty,"I'll take it," or one with a contracted little body, but still able to communicate and think,"I would gladly spend my life taking care of her." But, alas, the ultimate bargain isn't yours to make.

I remember painting Maggie Lee's toenails crazy colors while she was comatose and massaging her legs when the nurses would let me take the pressure cuffs off. I told everyone that she always wanted to be famous and wouldn't she be irked that she slept right through it? I distinctly remember the kindness of a nurse preparing her body for burial as it were by bathing her when the end was near; detaching the monitor from her head to wash her blood-matted hair so that I could braid it one final time. I also remember most of all longing to explain to them just who was lying in that bed covered with tubes and monitors, but that proved to be impossible.

It still is impossible, but the urge remains to remind the world that although she only had 12 years, she was truly a phenomenal little person.

I have learned a few things in my first 6 months of new-born grief. Certainly, many more lessons are to follow as I will contend with this ever-present absence as long as I shall live. I have learned that it is impossible to shake a good friend. Most people are lucky to have one true friend when it is all said and done. I have an embarrassing wealth of amazing friends and family who have shouldered the burden of loss with me. Souls who have sincerely attempted to put themselves in our unenviable shoes, anticipate our needs and keep us supplied with books and Starbucks cards.

I have learned to treasure every imperfect day and those who remain. Life is hard and will not for the vast majority of us ever turn out in the way we would choose. I guess that's why we're all so cranky. Since Maggie Lee's death, I have tried to suck the marrow out of life even more than I did before; enjoying my family as they they are, not as they should be. We often unwrap the presents of the people around us with a conditional bent of dissatisfaction; we love our children but try to exact better performances from them. We appreciate our parents but our dad dresses funny and mom has a goatee. We are committed to our spouse but he sets the thermostat too low and never remembers how we like our coffee. Losing someone I love has helped me to step back and be grateful for what and whom I have left.

Even though I never was much of a control freak, I now know that even the appearance of control over my circumstances is nothing but a facade. It is with infinite wisdom that the writer of Ecclesiastes compares our earthly existence with a fleeting vapor. I have learned that even if life would've obediently followed my plans, that I would have at some juncture encountered a traumatic blow or two. Time wounds all heels, and many more graphically than mine, just consider Haiti. No purpose is served by pridefully thinking that no ones loss can ever rival mine. If I wear my disaster like a orchid on Mother's Day, it will only serve to frighten people. Every human being will be confronted by unwanted circumstances to which they can accept, or wander down main street in a nightgown like Mary Todd Lincoln. As for myself, I never looked too hot in a nightie.

I have learned that t-shirt fronts serve as great Kleenex if you suddenly get an unexpected gusher. Gut-wrenching grief is sneaky and will typically ambush you at the most inappropriate moments such as the carpool line, Sunday School or the deli counter over cold-cuts. Some times, emotions are brought on by well-intentioned small-talk such as, "How many children do you have?" or, "Is he an only child?" I have found it best to answer the question as my life is now rather than to thrust my emotional baggage on an unsuspecting Wal-Mart Employee. People by and large are unprepared for the flood of toxic emotions a grieving person is capable of producing.

I have learned that people do indeed want good to have the last word. When our three week ordeal ended, over 250,000 visits had been made to Maggie Lee's Caring Bridge Site. On October 29th, what would've been her 13th birthday, over 18,000 people signed up to do a good deed. On "Maggie Lee For Good," Day, Lawyers took on cases pro-bono, an American passed out baguettes to the homeless French in the Eiffel Tower's shadow and one man installed a hot water heater for a disabled man in Louisiana who previously showered on his back porch. Schools had canned-food drives, friends had lemonade stands benefiting Children's Hospitals and a Pediatrician in Texas forgave the medical debt of a newly-unemployed father, just to name a few. I have learned that when you are determined to wrist good out of tragedy, God and many other people will hustle to help you.

I have learned that although I struggle with God and miss my daughter desperately that I am not prepared to go it alone. I know intrinsically that God is the only path to true healing of which I can conceive. Although there are days that the searing pain wins over me, I have learned that my Heavenly is indeed close to the brokenhearted, and that hope in Christ will sustain me until I see my precious child again.

I have learned that of all the things I have failed to prioritize, that mothering is not one of them. Not that I was or will ever be perfect, but that I was dead-on in living with my family as my priority. I am devastated to have placed so much import on loving my children only to have had one of them die, but grateful that for a brief period of time that I did what mattered most. When Maggie Lee told me that I was the best mother in the world, I would tell her that I was sure she would grow up and need counseling for something I had done or failed to do but that she would know that I loved her with all of my heart. And, she did.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Happy Groundhog Day Eve

Why isn't Groundhog Day anybody's favorite holiday? I like me some Groundhog Day.

Tomorrow, to celebrate, I will post some good groundhog recipes.