Monday, December 26, 2011
Sunday, December 25, 2011
There are lots of sick-to-your-stomach feelings that result from pilot error. One is when you step in something. Doggone it…
Or when you hit that sweet, sweet shin bone on something hard. (I am thinking wagon tongue or trailer hitch here.) Mercy.
But it’s a different kind of pain when you drive off with something on top of your car and, in mid-drive, realize it. This can happen when people in other cars point at your car’s roof – “Hey idiot, look above you!” – or it can come in a gut-punch moment of “Duooh!” self-awareness.
Unless it’s a dead deer or strapped-down luggage, you usually don’t carry anything up there. Certainly not your Bible.
But that’s what Mr. Bill had lost. It’s been more than a year now since he and his wife of 50 years headed to their car in Ruston for the drive to Wednesday night prayer meeting. He spotted something he wanted to put in his storeroom, put his Bible on the car roof, then forgot about it until he was halfway to church -- and running late.
Oops. “Let the lower lights be burning…”
After church – where he and Mrs. Minette could concentrate little – they searched ditches until dark. Mr. Bill looked some more the next day. No luck. Of course it rained the whole afternoon and night. The Bible was gone.
Not that any Bible is “just any Bible,” but this was not just any Bible. Not to Mr. Bill and his family. There were pictures in the margins that he’d drawn to keep his now-grown children quiet in church when they were little. All sorts of margin notes from decades of Sunday school teaching. Deacon notes. Training Union lessons.
He started using the backup Bible he had at home. If there was a silver lining in this black Biblical cloud, it’s that his “new” Bible had larger print! But it wasn’t the same. The other one would almost always seem to fall open wherever he needed it to.
A year passed. The phone rang. It was Mr. Bill’s Bible calling.
Actually, it was a gentleman in Jonesboro, 30 miles away. He’d been cleaning off his work desk and came across a book and wondered what this Bible was doing there.
Then he remembered that his boss, who lives on the same Ruston road as Mr. Bill, had brought it in about a year before on a rainy morning. He’d picked it up off the side of the road. “Look what I found,” he said, and put it on the man’s desk. And a year had gone by; no one had taken time to do anything with it, so it had been covered up with the business of that day, and then with the business of the year.
But this day, the man took the time to open it. He saw a name and address, and pictures drawn in the margins.
That afternoon, the Bible was on its way home. And all Mr. Bill could say to his family when he hung up the phone was, “Do you believe in miracles?”
It’s Christmas Day. So much of the business of the year has covered up the things that are important. But if we look – and we don’t even have to look too hard – if we look underneath all the wrapping paper and presents and food and football, surely we can find something priceless that, in our rush, maybe even in our rush to do what’s “right,” we might have dropped outside.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Love me some James Lee.
Have not read one of his books in six years and my buddy got me his latest to sort of get me back on track. He's got to be America's most accurately descriptive writer. He and Pat Conroy. At least of the authors I've read. Burke is hard to beat in sensory and flat description.
This is more of a mythical, "why did they do that" kind of crime novel than a whodunit. It's a terrifying deal. And one of the great book jackets ever...
Monday, December 19, 2011
It started at 9 at night in a south Mississippi tropical storm and ended in mid-evening in a steady north Louisiana rain. In between was the football version of something mixed up enough to look like the inside of my grandmamma Ruth’s handbag.
It really was the strangest season of Louisiana Tech football I’ve seen since joining the program’s radio crew. It was also the first season of Tech football I’ve seen since joining the radio crew, but still…
Steve Davison had been the caddie for longtime Tech football play-by-play aficionado Dave Nitz, a Tech Hall of Famer we call “Freeway” because of his love of the road and its love of him. The only thing that’s been on the road more than Dave in four decades of radio work is asphalt.
Steve and his wife Sarah had twins in the spring, causing Steve to opt for “color analyst” early retirement. So I got the job in a way familiar to me: I begged. I was in the ear of LA Tech Sports Properties general manager Mason Ellenberger so much that by the time I’d broken him down, there was hardly enough of him left to scrape up with a putty knife and put in a shoe box.
(His original offer was $400 a game, which I laughed at. I countered. He laughed. Negotiations continued over a few stressful weeks, all the while with me remembering what my dad had taught me, that I could do most anything I wanted if I were willing to pay the price. We finally settled on me paying Mason $100 per game; I drive a hard bargain. $400 a game? Ha. That Mason. I swear.)
On the LA Tech Sports Network crew were returning veterans Dave and sidekick Benny Thornell, a statistician with a love for and encyclopedic knowledge of Tech athletics. (Benny knows where the bodies are buried.) The rookies were me and sideline reporter Max Causey, a quarterback for the 2001 Western Athletic Conference champion Bulldogs and a member of the Tech family since before birth, literally: his mom Linda is the daughter of Mrs. Gerry Lambright and the late Maxie Lambright, Tech Hall of Famer and former Bulldogs football coach. Max was juiced.
Other rookies included engineers Chris Brister and Ryan Kavanaugh, who split duty and were the only people besides Mason who knew how to hook up anything that would involve fans begin able to actually hear us on the radio.
I won’t give you the play-by-play here, but I can tell you that our first road trip was the season opener to Hattiesburg for the 9 p.m. game at Southern Miss. To be at the game five hours early as Dave prefers, we – me, Benny, Max, Ryan, Tech associate athletic director for media relations Malcolm Butler and Freeway -- left from Thomas Assembly in a van around 11 a.m. and made it all the way to Tallulah’s gravitational pull before stopping at Dave’s favorite restaurant. Perhaps you’ve heard of it: it’s called Wendy’s. (Dave suggests the hamburgers.)
Dave still hasn’t seen the Tech-Southern Miss game. The rain and fog on our broadcast booth window turned the thing into a shower door. Inside the booth was an actual shower; we had four trash cans catching water. (I am not joking.) I pressed my forehead against the glass to spot jersey numbers I hand-signaled to Dave, who watched as best he could on the end zone’s giant TV screen. Max battled the elements and looked like a prune in postgame.
We unfolded ourselves from the van back in Ruston, all cheery and whatnot, at 6:30 a.m.
That was the beginning. The season’s been well-documented by now, so you know that what ended up as a WAC championship and berth in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl started off more like something you step in and can’t get off your shoe. Dave and Benny took it particularly hard, and again, I’m not kidding. A 1-4 start – three heartbreakers and a game against Hawaii in which the team reacted terribly – well, it made every other game a grind. You could not afford to lose and still entertain any thought of a championship.
And what a grind it was.
But what a finish.
For the first few games, I hung something in the press box to make Dave feel at home, and each item had a story and fit the opponent. An old Southern Miss jersey, a pair of Houston Astros pants, and on like that. But it wasn’t working. So starting in Idaho, I taped just a baseball card of Dave (there IS such a thing!) and an advertisement for the new Wendy’s Hot ’n’ Juicy burgers to the press box wall. Seven games and seven wins later, I haven’t changed a thing.
It helped, of course, that Tech quit turning the ball over late. Started intercepting passes. Completed balls deep. Played like a band of brothers, whistle to whistle.
I could go on and on with examples, and maybe soon I will. But for now – I mean, since I am an “expert” color guy and all – I’ll just say that after all the limp-offs and plane trips and penalties and momentum swings and gut checks, the sole team standing atop the WAC really proved itself a champion. Anybody who knows anything about football will tell you that the team who won the WAC worked its way up a hill to get there, earned it step by step, down by down, quarter by quarter, game by game.
And when the smoke from the long regular season cleared, there was only one jersey at the top of the mountain. Its color was red and blue. Even a rookie color analyst could see that.
Sunday, December 18, 2011
(From today's Times and News-Star; I'll try harder next time!)
It bothers me that Santa sees me when I’m sleeping and knows when I’m awake.
Does he see me in the shower? Does he know when I have gas? If he does and I do, will that make him go away?
I guess it is a small price to pay, though, this constant surveillance, as long as the presents keep rolling in. It’s a Yuletide hazard. Like fruitcake.
Christmas commercialization does not come without its downside. For every plus, there is a minus. It’s almost like real life!
Consider that in sports they tell you to “keep your eye on the ball.” They coach you not to “drop the ball.”
Yet at the same time, we’re supposed to “have a ball.”
The holiday season is especially pressurized, ball-wise. Opportunities for disaster lurk in the form of festive balls nearly everywhere you turn. Lurkers. Lurking. Doing what lurkers do.
I hate lurking holiday disaster. But, in a fallen world with a lot of round things, it’s inevitable. We’ve got to be “on the ball!”
You’ve got your ball that involves dancing and dip and parties. Christmas Balls. Galas. Will I dress appropriately? Get caught in Yuletide chit-chat? (“I don’t mind ordinary conversation, but I hate chit-chat.” – Bernard P. Fife) Have an olive stuck in my teeth? Ask the host when the baby is due, even though she’s not pregnant?
You’ve got your holiday bowl games, or ball games, and the potential for slips there are obvious. Drop the ball, lose the bowl.
There are ornamental balls to drop when you trim the tree. One of those breaks and it’s like breaking a light bulb. They haven’t invented something harder to sweep up than broken light bulbs or broken Christmas balls.
There’s the bell ball that hangs on your door and drives you crazy when the festive tingling wears off, which is quickly. There’s the jelly and crème cheese ball that lures the unsuspecting in like mosquito bulbs lure moths. Zap!
And there’s the most beloved Christmas ball of all, the cheese ball, which I eat until I get my bloat on. Who thought to put cheese into a ball and sprinkle nuts on it? How much time did THAT guy have on his hands that day? Regardless, God bless him. Yet there are hazards even in the good things, so my cheese ball holiday limit is two. (“No officer, I had just a couple of cheese balls is all. I was at a party!”)
Shopping is another holiday hazard, though it’s not so bad if you enjoy human bumper cars. I try to avoid mixing it up with a few thousand people whenever I can, so most of my Christmas shopping is online. Or, if I have to “go out there,” I try to do it in June.
Driving? During the holidays? Just because that person has a wreath tied above his bumper doesn’t mean he won’t pick you off in the parking lot.
There is the hazard of light hanging. Lights are hazardous enough, but when you go to hanging them, I mean, that’s like jumping into a hip hop contest with Ghostface Killa: you are asking to get “lit up.” Those old days were magical, but I have hung off my last house eve.
Hey, Santa knows the Christmas pathway is dicey. But most woe comes through pilot error. So take it easy. Relax. You’re supposed to have a ball, not break one.
Saturday, December 17, 2011
21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”(which means “God with us”).
WHO WAS THIS BABY?
1. God In The Flesh v. 23
Isaiah 7:14.."The virgin will be with child...they will call him Emannuel which means 'God with us'
John 1:1 -- "The Word came ... the Word was God....
John 1:14 -- "The Word became flesh ..."
John 14:8-9 "anyone who has seen me has seen the Father..."
GOD WITH US -- friendship, companionship...that's what "with" means here...and Jesus says, "anyone who has seen me has seen the Father..."
Christmas is God saying, "You NEED me, and you need me close to you..."
2. Our Savior
John 3:17 .. Jesus came "not to condemn the world but to save it"
* v. 21 "name him Jesus because he will save..."
Joshua = Yahweh saves; "Jesus" in Green for ancient Hebrew Joshua ... usually a baby was named after the baby's father...
* John 10:10 -- "that you might have life abundantly" He came to save us from ourselves.
* "He became one of us, down in the middle of us, to save the worst of us." -- Milton
* Phil2: 5-11 ... Paul writes that God lay aside he godly rights to save us
Thursday, December 15, 2011
DEALING WITH YOUR WORST HUMAN HURTS
Matthew 1: 18-24
Joseph Accepts Jesus as His Son
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[g] (which means “God with us”).
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Joseph is the first person NOT to believe the Virgin Birth story ...v 19
When you are hurt, what do you do?
1. Decide To Handle It As Gently As Possible
There are dicey things we must do now and then -- actually often. It's even Biblical to ask people NOT to come to a certain church anymore, to fire people, etc....
But Joseph, though he did not believe Mary at first, was a godly young man and finally believed, and did not want to hurt Mary...v. 19 -- "Not wanting to make her a public example ..."
Gal 5:22-23 .. The fruit of the spirit
Phil 4:5 "Let your gentlenbess be evident to all. Thye Lord is near..."
2. Make A Choice To Hear God In The Issue
Most of us will NOT hear him...
* Pause, be quite ... We heard through his Word, and through the Holy Spirit (v 20-21).
3. Obey God No Matter What v 24
4. ... And God Will Take Care Of You (when we decide to do it His way)
a. Sometimes the situation will miraculously work out...
b. But God will ALWAYS take care of you ... you can be reconciled to one who doesn't want it, but god will always take care of us when we follow his voice. The old hymn "God Will Take Care of You," through every day, all along the way...
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Sunday, December 11, 2011
At unquestionably the biggest night church service of the year, with proud moms and great aunts and uncles tucked in tight to see cute children take part in the symbolic Christmas ceremony, a granddad fumbled the mistletoe ball.
Literally in front of God and everybody.
“The fan mail continues to come in,” he said in mid-week after that traumatic Sunday night. “It’s nice to be noticed again. I’m surprised it wasn’t ‘Play of the Day’ on ESPN.”
He’s accepted the electronic waves of mail and the face-to-face snickers with the guarded good cheer of a man who stepped over the edge -- and lived to be ridiculed about it.
“This is the gift that will keep on giving,” he said, “right on through 2012.”
It happened during the Hanging of the Greens, a traditional service in which every branch and bough hung has seasonal meaning. Cedar represents royalty, fir and pine represent everlasting life, holly for resurrection, mistletoe for … sin? I’m not sure. But this is what happened.
The children go all over the church putting up wreaths and boughs at predetermined times. The organist plays. The congregation or choir or soloist sings. At some point, a fashioned orb of mistletoe the size of two basketballs and with a hook attached is lifted by a human holding a hooked stick and placed on a high hook in the sanctuary.
When you’re dealing with that many hooks and a human and a stick and a somber audience, you’re dealing with liturgical dynamite.
Dressed in his holiday finest, my guy (to use his name would be indiscreet; we’ll just call him Pat) had practiced before the gig. Hung it right up. But as he sat in the congregation preparing for The Hanging, the hook appeared smaller. And higher. And the stick looked to weigh roughly the same as your average piece of pulpwood.
It was time. He secured the mistletoe ball on the stick. Heaved it skyward. Arms began trembling. He zeroed in on the hook. It bobbed and weaved. He glanced over his shoulder toward his precious wife of 50 years, who seemed to say with her eyes, “Please! While we’re young!”
He got it! The hooks hooked! But only a bit. And as he brought the stick down, well, the mistletoe ball…she fell. To Pat, it happened in slow motion. The ball seemed to fall in sections. Took a calendar day for the thing to hit the ground, which it did with a soft splat. Of course to Pat, it sounded a clothes washing machine had just been dropped out a fifth-story window.
It was all about pride at this point. Again he went in, with the stick, and hooked the ball. (What I’ve imagined is a guy trying to land a marlin, only in reverse.) He pointed the stick and the unruly mistletoe ball skyward, took aim, and after a few more agonizing eternities, she hooked. She hooked! Lord have mercy, securely, she hooked.
The children, lined in back and paying more attention in church than at any time previous in their entire lives, paused, eyes on the ball, just to make sure. And when she’d held for five seconds and then 10, and the end of the torment was assured, they actually burst into cheer. They cheered in church!
Pat sat. He did what he always does in times of distress: he looked upward. The center held. It was finished.
But not without a price. “The only other greens I’ll ever hang again,” he said, “will be turnips.”
Friday, December 9, 2011
Readers of The Times and many alums of Louisiana Tech will recognize our friend Don Walker, who moved to Florida a few years ago and now works for Florida Today. He is a beautiful human being and loves him some golf. He also just returned from a cruise to the Bahamas. Here he is asking Santa for another cruise for Christmas. (Don is on the right.)
We love us some Don!
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
...and it was a beautiful thing. One day I'm going to get another copy of this. Borrowed it from the Bookmobile in Dillon County, S.C. The "We Were There..." series was AWESOME -- at least it was when you were a kid in Dillon County. At that point, the only book I could have written was "We Were There In Dillon County."
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Isaiah 6: 1-8
1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”
6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
This text written around 740 BC by the prophet Isaiah...
I. We got into His presence how?
1. In His House
v. 1 "I saw the Lord..." or I 'understood' the Lord ... while in his house...
Heb 10:25 "Do not forsake assembling..." Church attendance is not a Biblical option...
2. In Prayer v. 1 "...saw God high and lifted up." Isaiah is in prayer, and has a fresh encounter with God.
II. When in His presence...
3. You Will See Him As He Is
People will say, "I have my view of God," but what is "God's view of God"? That is what's important (v. 1) -- Isaiah saw God as He is, "on the throne" as King of Kings
4. You'll See Him Holy and Perfect...
v. 2-3 "Holy Holy Holy..."
5. ...And Awesome
(v. 4) "the posts were shaken..."
III. What happens when we really meet him?
6. Brokenness and Cleansing and Forgiveness
v. 5 -- "Woe is me..." You don't strut into or out of God's presence..(Illus: Look into a magnifying mirror and see how you 'really' are
v. 6-7 .. 1John 1:9 "If we confess, God is faithful and" will purify us ...
Isaiah 5: the prophet "beats up" the others
Isaiah 6: he beats up himself
7. A Willingness To Be Completely God's
v. 8 -- "I heard the voice ask, Who do I send...Who will go?" Isaiah heard...
8. A Willingness to Serve With Abandonment
v. 8 "Send me..."
Why do churches struggle for workers? They haven't had an encounter with God, maybe?...
Sunday, December 4, 2011
I nearly pulled seven leg muscles getting to the picture show and “The Muppets,” the seventh feature film but first in 12 years for this band of fits. If they were misfits they would not have already grossed an opening week haul of nearly $50 million (a solid No. 2 last week behind That Big Vampire Movie) after a dozen years on the shelf.
My son Casey is a hard-to-believe 22 now but humors me in that we’ve been quoting the movie all week, as if it were “Caddyshack” or “Arthur.” Like ice cream, The Muppets are generationally friendly.
I love me some Muppets. When they had their regular TV show 30 years ago, entertainers from John Cleese to Elton John to Don Knotts to Linda Rondstadt appeared. Rich Little. Steve Martin. Superman and Raquel Welch and Carol Burnett. They all wanted a piece of the action.
Today’s generation is not familiar with the not-in-syndication Muppets, which hurts me. (I might ask for a Season Two or Three DVD for Christmas?; it’s between that and a shoe horn.) But the current movie would make a fine introduction or, if you’ve missed these guys (and the irrepressible Miss Piggy, and who hasn’t?), a fine re-introduction. The old dudes smarting off from the balcony and Bobo The Bear alone are worth the price of admission.
It takes a poet to express how I really feel about The Muppets, and since I know no poets, I had to write the poem myself. Sorry! I hope if they get a copy, The Muppets will accept this for what it is, just a small but sincere love letter from a man fan.
Ode to Kermie and Them
Is a Muppet
Just a puppet,
Or is it something more?
Seems to me
The Muppets be
An entertaining metaphor.
Don't mutt turn into
When on your bed they sleep?
‘Just food’ becomes
If it’s at your mom’s you eat.
Is it water
Or an ocean
When you’re standing on a shore?
Turn into dodge ball
When you hear a guy yell, “Fore!”?
Is it sky
Or is it heaven
When you’re looking up at night?
More than just another fight?
In a world of
Fickle facebook friends
Where people come and go,
The Muppets --
More than puppets --
Stick around after show.
(A lot more fun
Than many of the
Humans that we know!)
They’re honest as
The day is long
They tell you how they feel;
Made of cloth
And buttons, sure -- but
Otherwise, they’re real.
Things aren’t always
As they seem
Despite what grownups say.
The Muppet that you meet
Could be your friend someday.
Daily Muppets laugh
And hope upon a star.
My prayer for me:
I hope to be
As human as they are.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
John 4: 1-42 (Jesus and the Woman at the Well)
1. ...Crossing Barriers
"being in the wrong place at the wrong time" ... Jesus intentionally goes to Samaria, which He could have bypassed as Jews and Samaritans didn't socialize. I need to cross barriers where i would feel uncomfortable ... Are we willing to cross barriers for the sake of the Gospel, for Jesus' truth...?
2 ... Knowing God, Not Comparing History
well water = manmade, old religion
living water = what satisfies the heart of man
v. 23 .. "worship in spirit and in truth" ... too often we associiate worship with emotion and a place
3. ...Reorienting Our Lives
v. 29 -- the woman "met a man" ... she left her waterpot, willing to abandon what she thought was her purpose for His mission.
4. ... Teamwork v. 35
It unites us ... Jesus shows disciples that the woman has done the hard work of missions, and now the Samaritans, the 'harvest,' is coming to hear...
The disciples had gone into town and done as Jesus asked, but nothing in the text says they 'witnessed' while they were in town; the woman at the well did...Now imagine the disciples there with Jesus, and here come the Samaritans who have heard the woman; they are coming to the well..... "Open your eyes and look at the fields; they are ripe for harvest..."
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. 2 Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. 3 Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his[a]; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. 5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.
It All Depends On The BIG TWO Being Right
1. Your Heart
v. 3 ... know that the Lord is God
"Know" by experience
Is my "spiritual center" right? Do I know God through Jesus Christ, personally?
2. A Right Frame of Mind
5 things the text asks us to hold to...
a) God created you -- v 3, "It is he who made us"
b) We Belong To Him Uniquely -- v. 3 "we are His people, the sheep of his pasture"
John 2:2 "He is the atoning sacrifice for the whole world..."
c) God is wonderfully Good -- v. 5 "The Lord is good..."
d) God is wonderfully loving
e) "his love endures forever" v. 5
3. When These Two Things Are Right ...
a) enthusiastic worship follows
vs. 1 -- "shout for joy"
v 2, 4 -- "worship with gladness; enter with praise"
b. Joyful service follows
v. 2 "Serve the Lord with gladness" ... a right heard and head affects your behavior; real worship always leads to real service.
People who are gracious are more healthy than those who aren't, studies show. They are more entertaining, more giving, more likeable, more satisfied...
Gratitude keys on the head and the heart
Sunday, November 27, 2011
(From today's Times and News-Star)
The fall has been a dream for those of us who love all things arbor. The autumn color this year is as good as I can recall.
Last week on a spin east, the north Mississippi woods were on fire. Oranges and reds and yellows of maple, sweetgum and oak. The bronze and auburn and purple mix alone was enough to drop a jaw.
Now and then I drive through new subdivisions and sometimes entire towns with no or precious few trees.
That hurts me.
These treeless tundra are grateful, I suppose, whenever ice storms pass and no limbs fall on power lines. But otherwise, what’s a landscape without a tree? Might as well be a car port.
To tree, or not to tree, that is the question. And the answer is an easy one: you’ve got to tree.
There was (and still is) a giant sweetgum in the front yard of the house I used to live in, and some years it would really strut it’s stuff and other years it would be only spectacular. Some sort of off-season chemistry in the weather – the rain or drought or temperature or hours of sunlight – makes the difference in just how high Mother Nature turns the volume up in the fall. This spring and summer, the elements combined for a just-right autumn picture show.
To paraphrase a branch of the military, “Tree all that you can tree.”
I knew I was getting older when I started to A) look forward to visiting my parents, just to sit around and talk about nothing in particular, B) buy new underwear way before I needed them, and C) anticipate the leaves changing in late September. Funny how that works…
There are several people I can talk arbor with, but one of my heroes in the leaf game is my friend Kathie, whose last name I can’t tell you because that would be indiscreet. (Rowell. Kathie Rowell. Editor of The Times Living section.) Kathie brought me along with tender care when I first began to show an interest in admiring and caring for things that grew from the ground. My questions changed from “Is this edible?” to “When should I plant?”
One of the very reasons Kathie and Brian bought their house was because of the dogwoods in the yard. “It was fall,” she said, “and I was smitten.”
“The dogwoods struggled with the drought and are more brown this year than the deep red they usually turn,” she said in filing her annual color report for me; “this year the best in my yard has been the silverbell, which turns golden yellow.”
Kathie and I are front-row fans of the ginkgo. Their little fan-shaped leaves turn as yellow as I can imagine a leaf being. By themselves or in bunches (a gaggle of ginkgos?, a pride?, a herd?), the ginkgo tree is a stud among literal studs. I have seen them from Athens to Oxford, and when they turn on the juice, it’s always like I’m seeing them for the first time.
“I love the way the leaves are all on the tree one day and the next they all fall at the same time, carpeting the ground with yellow,” Kathie said.
The golden hickory. The undervalued but dependable crepe myrtle, which is always trying to do something to add to the game. The maple, a glowing red in my back yard and now nearly naked but man, what a show.
Saturday, November 26, 2011
John 11-12 (The Death and Resurrection of Lazarus)
You don't have to be 'odd for God.' Just be you, your BEST you. That's when you are most real, and authentic.
You're only as free as your captor ... In Christ you are free indeed.
This is a story of Mary and Martha and Lazarus, siblings who lived together. They were 'real.'
* They loved each other. Love your siblings
*People know who you love .. everyone knew Jesus loved Lazarus, and it's stated often in this text. Today's generation doesn't listen much -- they grew up surrounded by 'visuals.' But they do WATCH. They watch you. And know who and what you love.
* vs. 4 -- Even if we know something is happening that will glorify God, we might still have trouble with it, understanding it. So did Mary and Martha, concerning the death of their brother and Jesus' 'delay' in coming
* When God says you're dead, you're dead
* It's OK for real people to misunderstand each other (v 13-14)
* Is there anyone you would die for? v 16
* v 21 .. It is OK to be 'put out' with God -- as you love and believe Him.
* Before he goes to the cross, Jesus goes to Bethany to be with close friends. It is OK to have close friends -- you can't be 'close friends' with everybody.
* v 45 -- Many people believed because of Lazarus, even though he speaks not a word in the Bible. He was still a testimony...
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
When We Are On Fire In The Right Ways...
1. We Bless Our Church
v 6: 1-7
First disciples were...
Solutions -- in every organization are the clueless, passionless, spinless, godless ... and then there are the Christ-likeness folk who say, "What can we do to make things bettter?"
Success v. 7 "So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith."
* How am I helping my church grow?
2. We Have A Widespread Positive Influence
v 8-11 -- Stephen's influence
v 7:54 -- Stephen is the first Christian martyr, killed as Jesus stands in Heaven in Stephen's honor.
3. We Bless Our World
v 8:4 -- Philip, the deacon and likely the first foreign missionary (not Philip the apostle), spreads the gospel to Samaria ... and to Ethopia (8:27-40)
Monday, November 21, 2011
WHEN GOD SHOWS UP
2 Chr 5-7
When We Really Honor God, He Will Show Up
It's 980 BC. Solomon finishes the temple his dad, David, began. In today's dollars, it would cost about $20 billion.
They honored God, and He showed up ( 5: 7, 13-14)
How Do We Honor God?
1. By Putting Him in the Right Place
* Do we put God only where He fits? ... in church, in connection groups, in Bible study? ... He wants to be the centerpiece
2. When We Do Things His Way
God doesn't loan out his power and glory; He gives it when we do things by His standards
3. When We Praise Him (5: 13-14; 6: 3-4)
Remember the story of the lepers in Luke 17 -- God enjoys praise
(Note Solomon's prayer in Chapter 6)
*** When We Honor God, What Will Happen?
* God Will Do Some Dramatic Things (Read Chapter 7, what happened after Solomon's prayer)
* Our schedules/lives will get different
5:14 " and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the temple of God. "
7:1-3 "1 When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. 2 The priests could not enter the temple of the LORD because the glory of the LORD filled it. 3 When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the LORD above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying,
“He is good; his love endures forever.”
Sunday, November 20, 2011
With the Pilgrims held up as our example, we learned early to “be grateful.”
As they dragged us to various in-laws’ in assorted neighborhoods for turkey and pumpkin pie and secondhand smoke, our parents reminded us that at the first Thanksgiving in 1621 (give or take), the settlers of the New World had it much tougher than we do. They had to eat outside. They didn’t have potatoes over here yet. The yeast rolls didn’t rise. William Bradford forgot to pick up a Marie Callender’s Apple Crumb Cobbler at the store, and the cable went out halfway though the Detroit Lions-Chicago Cardinals football game.
“And they didn’t even complain,” our parents said.
“Bet they got drunk then,” I said.
“No they most certainly did not!”
The Pilgrims really WERE tough; I would have complained if there’d been no potatoes. Loud and clear. They could have heard me back over in England.
But to hear our parents testify, no one 40 years ago ever complained about anything, especially on Thanksgiving. When you are spoiled like I am, that is setting the bar sort of high. But hey, I’m old school too and really not much of a complainer – as long as everything goes right. That’s just me!
This week, complaining is a given. This week is about the pre-Thanksgiving misgivings about “where we’re going for Thanksgiving.” Do you know where you’re going yet? Or what you’re bringing? Or the order in which you’re going to whomever’s house when? Are we all on the same page?
It can be dicey.
“Are we going to grandmama’s?”
“Not this year. But we’re not sure. We might.”
“When will we know?”
“I don’t know. Who are you, Dan Rather? We’ll know when we hear from everybody and decide.”
“Then good! Since Thanksgiving is on Thursday, as it usually is, that means we don’t have to know yet.”
“We’re cutting it close.”
“I’ll show you what cutting it close is, mister!”
“I was just asking…”
“Well just quit just asking, mister man. Your grandmother might meet us at Big Aunty’s. We might go there.”
“Not to Big Aunty’s! Big Aunty can’t cook, momma. Big Aunty won’t have nothing even done until supper. We’ll starve.”
“She most certainly will have and you most certainly will not starve. I’ll make you a pimento cheese to hold you over. We might just all bring different things.”
“What do you mean, ‘we all?’ Who all is coming?”
“Aunt Jean will bring the macaroni and cheese and we’ll bring the bean casserole and…”
“Momma that means Uncle Lester is coming. He’s a professional smoker. We’ll all smell like something burnt. They’ll be ashes in the macroni.”
“No there will not!”
“There was last year.”
“You’ll think last year if you don’t shut up! Now I mean it!”
“Can we just stay home and make hamburgers?”
“NO! We can be thankful and not complain about gummy rice and ashes in the food and jello with nuts in it and getting your picture taken. And if I hear one word, ONE MORE WORD....”
Precious memories. And Happy Thanksgiving; I hope you get where you’re going.
Friday, November 18, 2011
2 Samuel 6: 14-16
Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the LORD with all his might, 15 while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets.
16 As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart.
* Worship should always happen when we are in the presence of God.
1. When You Really Love and Worship God As David Does Here, You Will Be Misunderstood
* David's wife didn't like that David humbled himself and removed his crown and royal robes and put on priests' robes
2. When We Really Worship, It Leads To Being Right With God and Others
* Worship is about what happens inward; it changes who we are and how we act
* Parts of sacrificed animals were shared among the people as fellowship, loving each other
* "Noise doesn't mean anything. A hen lays an egg and cackles like she's laid an asteroid."
3. It's OK To Really Express Your Love To And For God
* David is dancing as an expression of his love for God, the presence of God "coming home" to Jerusallem.
* "Most churches start at 11 o'clock sharp and end at 12 o'clock dull"
* God's presence should excite us more than it does
* Start expressing your love for God...
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
2 Samuel:6: 1-12(NIV)
The Ark Brought to Jerusalem
1 David again brought together all the able young men of Israel—thirty thousand. 2 He and all his men went to Baalah in Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the Name, the name of the LORD Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim on the ark. 3 They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart 4 with the ark of God on it, and Ahio was walking in front of it. 5 David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the LORD, with castanets, harps, lyres, timbrels, sistrums and cymbals.
6 When they came to the threshing floor of Nakon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. 7 The LORD’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God.
8 Then David was angry because the LORD’s wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day that place is called Perez Uzzah.
9 David was afraid of the LORD that day and said, “How can the ark of the LORD ever come to me?” 10 He was not willing to take the ark of the LORD to be with him in the City of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. 11 The ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months, and the LORD blessed him and his entire household.
12 Now King David was told, “The LORD has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.” So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing.
"You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." Jer. 29:13
THE PRESENCE OF GOD...
1. Is Awesome v 1-2, 5
* Live in the transforming reality of always being in the presence
2. When He Is Not Appreciated Properly, There Will Be Problems v. 3-8
* Remember that these problems with the ark happen among God's people, not among unbelievers -- subtle disobedience
* Just one loose string messes up the sound of the whole fiddle
3. When He Is Appreciated Properly, Blessings Abound v. 9-11
* Obed-Edom is likely a Levite priest...Regardless of his position, he and his household were blessed in the ark's presence (v. 11)...
* He did nothing to receive the blessing, while the people celebrating and praising in verse 5 were punished in the ark's presence ... Why? Because God wasn't in it. God does not bless disobedience; He blesses a pure heart, which Obed-Edom must have had.
* We live in a culture of DO and neglect what we're to BE
* Works never substitute for who you are.
Psalm 37:4 -- "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart..."
Ps 46:10 -- 'Be still and know..."
Eugene Peterson (pastor and author) suggest two commands:
1. Come and behold the works of God
2. Be still -- become award there is more to life than our desires
* "Nothing good ever happened in a stampede..." Baron von "Somebody" said that!
John 15:4 "Remain in me..."
ABIDE is about being, not about doing
4. Let's Long For God And His Blessings v. 12
* David, with a good kind of jealousy, wanted what Obed-Edom had -- and brought the ark to Jerusalem properly, and rejoiced
* Have we gotten used to living without the power, like you get used to living without electricity after a while.
* Illus: a lady during a storm lost her power and went ten years without it. Her neighbors FINALLY noticed, and wanted to help her get it turned back on. She'd gotten used to no hot meals, no fire, no hot water. "I guess I'd gotten used to living without the power..."
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Wonder how Lewis and Clark could leave Missouri with nothing more than a compass and a toothbrush and find Oregon nearly 200 years ago, while I can’t find the new restaurant I ate at last night?
This would make a good Andy Rooney moment, God rest the popular and now departed newsman’s irritable and entertaining soul. “It’s really sort of fascinating, don’t you think,” I hear him saying, “the sense of direction some people have and others don’t? Those who have it can find Deluth by the stars. In the daytime. The ones who don’t can’t find the Esso station on the corner of their own neighborhood. I just hate those kinds of people. They’re stupid.
“And didja ever notice how I don’t trim my eyebrows? Why is that? I just hate that. Maybe I’ve lost my sense of direction and can’t find the scissors.”
I don’t like complainers in general but I did like him. We need a Designated Complainer. Every family has one. Even the American family. I’ll miss him. Wish we could find another one like him. Meanwhile…
You know how the robbers blindfold the guy when they’re taking him for a ride? They would not have to do that to me. I couldn’t fall out of a boat and find water.
Back in the day, I had a sense of direction. I grew up where there weren’t many signs. You had to “know.” You didn’t know that not knowing was even an option. My direction sense is now confined to back home only.
We moved to the big town and I got used to signs and I lost what sense of direction I had. I could probably go back and find it – if I had a sense of direction. I think it’s one of those things that you can’t find once you lose it. Like virginity. Well, maybe not quite like that. Maybe nothing like that. Maybe losing your sense of direction is more like breaking a $100 bill: once you do, it’s hard to understand where it went when it’s gone.
My good friend Chief has a device in his new truck he mistakenly calls “Lonestar,” and he hits a button and a nice lady gets him all the way from where the lives to wherever he wants to go. And tells him when he’s there. “Take the Waco Exit. Proceed in the left lane. Turn right in 500 yards…in 300 yards…in 100 yards,” and on like that.
Lewis and Clark had Sacagawea. We have GPS.
I do not know at this point if we have GPS back home in the Carolina Piedmont country. During my most recent visit four years ago, we did not have cell phone service. I know this because 10 miles from the house I called to let them know I was almost there, and I might as well have been holding a Dixie cup with a string coming out of it. GPS back home would go something like this:
“Well, you mean from HERE? OK. Well, go about a mile, mile and a half, and what you’ll come to is a red barn. Used to be red. I remember when we helped build that barn. Anyway, take a right and pass Peabug’s place and you’ll come to where the Clark boy got in that wreck on his two-wheeler motorbike thing and broke his leg. Good boy. Limps a bit. I believe it’s there that you take a left…,” and on like that.
It’s wise not to lose your sense of direction back home.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
1. Accomplish The Things God Wants You To Do
6:15 -- "...the wall was completed in 52 days" (after having been down for more than 140 years)
2. Be A Great Disciple And Make Great Disciples
Matt 28, The Great Commissioin -- a disciple is a convert, then a leader, a pupil and a follower
How to be a great disciple
a) The Word
8:1-3 People hear words and read it... v. 13-14 "they found written in the Word..." they did not know before, so it was impossible for them to help others, as it's impossible for us to help others without knowing, studying his Word. Get into the Word and let the Word get into you.
8:16 -- "the bowed and worshipped..." Worship is surrender to God...it is having an encourter with God that's life-changing...
c) Confession and Repentance
9:13 -- "(Israelites) confessed..then worshipped..." We should live in a state of confession and repentance
d) A Different Life
"Real worship and real Bible study always leads to real change..."
As They Became Disciples, It Changed These Areas
i) Changed Their Families
Neh 10:30 3“We promise not to give our daughters in marriage to the peoples around us or take their daughters for our sons."
ii) Changed Their Worklife
10:31 "When the neighboring peoples bring merchandise or grain to sell on the Sabbath, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on any holy day. Every seventh year we will forgo working the land and will cancel all debts."
iii) Affected Their Billfolds
10:35, 37, 39 ... Gave their first fruits to God..."we will not neglect God..."
Illustration: A philosopher, scientist and simple man trapped in a cove and drowning with sheer rock cliffs around them.. What appeared to be a rope dropped for them from the top of the cliff...
The philosopher said, "This might be an illusion..." He didn't grab it, and drowned.
The scientist described the rope exactly but didn't grab it. Seeya!
The simple man said, "This might be a rope or it might be a python's tail, but it's the only hope i have."
At some point, you gotta grab the rope. You've got to grab God's hand, or drown.
Sunday, November 6, 2011
(From today's Times in Shreveport and News-Star in Monroe.)
The tradition-rich Haynesville and Homer football teams are in the playoffs again this year, but the atmosphere will lack a familiar ring.
No marching bands.
Hear that? They’re not playing our song.
Small-town high school marching bands are going the way of the Notre Dam box, the wishbone formation, Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie. Anybody around here play the baritone sax?
Student apathy is to blame, perhaps? Parents who don’t see the point? The lack of a leader? Maybe it’s human nature: few of us miss a good thing until it’s gone.
Whatever the cause, the result is no band. Claiborne Academy lost its band more than a decade ago. Then Haynesville. And this year, the Homer Pelicans have played football but not the snare, tuba or clarinet.
They tried. Last year’s Homer Band had 15 members, and most of those were from the junior high. Even though the band director came out of retirement to work part-time, well, you can’t get blood out of a turnip or a high school marching band out of less than two dozen students.
So officially, the Homer Pelicans Marching Band is on break.
“It’s not totally eliminated,” said parish superintendent Dr. Janice Williams. “It’s suspended until student interest picks up. If we had student involvement, we’d have a band. It the students want a band, they can have a band.”
A petition circulated briefly in August once word got out that the band had, at least for now, disbanded. Williams has heard no more about it though, and the deafness was never more evident than during September’s reprisal of the storied Homer-Haynesville football series.
“Not a band to be seen,” she said. “They played music on the P.A., but band spirit is a lot different than just music.”
In August I’d read with dismay a letter to the editor in “The Guardian-Journal,” my very favorite Claiborne Parish newspaper.
“When you consider that probably 40 percent of the student body participated in the band programs in the ’50s and ’60s,” wrote Bobby Johnson, Homer High Class of 1965, “there must have been something special happening.”
And there was. The band, 130 members strong, even went to Mardi Gras in New Orleans back then, the biggest outfit in the whole parade. They broke into two groups and came home with first and second places, two trophies, and double the prize money.
“We’d march from Homer High down Dutchtown Road to where it intersects with Clear Lake – that’s got to be more than three miles ’round trip,” said Dr. Charlie Roberts, president and CEO of the LSU Alumni Association today, but a Homer High grad, music teacher and band director back in the day. “Kids want to talk and play and horse around, but it’s hard to do that when you’re marching and blowing a horn. They loved the exercise though. And we were good.”
As you’d build a football team, Roberts recruited, getting to know the kids when they were in elementary school. He formed a club of dedicated band parents who fund-raised to reward the band with leather jackets.
“It takes more than money,” said Roberts, who knows about modern distractions; his three grandchildren aren’t band folk. “But I believe you could still build it back. It’ll take somebody special who’s willing to start with nothing.”
Then it could really be something…
“For those of us who experienced it, enjoyed and learned from it,” Johnson wrote in August, “we can only hope that it will come again.”
Thursday, November 3, 2011
2 Samuel 6: 1-9
Uzzah dies after touching the ark, which represented God's presence
I. HOW DO WE DISRESPECT GOD, THE PRESENCE OF GOD?
God is a Loving Father and our Holy Master, a balance...
1. WHEN WE ACT BEFORE WE GET GOD'S DIRECTION
* David acted in moving the ark before asking God; nowhere in the text is it recorded that he prayer or asked anyone for direction or accountability
* We quench the spirit when we act before getting His guidance
2. WHEN WE DON'T DO GOD'S WORK GOD'S WAY
Exodus 25 has instructions to carry the ark; very involved instructions.
David's men were well-intentioned, doing a 'good' thing, but ... God's work must be done God's way to have God's blessing; God IS in the details.
3. WHE WE TREAT WITH CASUALNESS THE THINGS OF GOD
* They KNEW not to touch the ark
* Sin almost always begins with a carelessness and a casualness
* Is my behavior toward church, toward connections groups, etc., casual?
II. WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE DO THIS?
1. WE LOSE THE POWER AND PRESENCE OF GOD
2. THE JUDGMENT OF GOD COMES (v 7)
Against Uzzah, an immediate death penalty.
Other places in scripture where judgment is swift:
Lev 10 -- Aaron's sons devoured by fire
Josh 7 -- The sin of Achan
Acts 5 -- Ananias and Sapphira
1 Cor 11 -- Paul's account of those who have approached the Lord's Supper with casualness and are now 'weak and sick or have fallen asleep (died)'...
* We accept subpar as par because of our steady casualness
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
*Former fullback and dentist (not at the same time!) Doc Bailey began FCA in North Louisiana 50 years ago. Sunday night on KTBS, Rick Rowe profiled Doc; you can see it by going to ktbs.com, typing "Promise of Hope" into the search box, then clicking on the Promise of Hope for Oct. 30. Wonderful story on a wonderful gentleman.
* Thank you to all who played and donated this past Thursday at the Dr. Jack Witte Memorial Golf Day for FCA at East Ridge Country Club. Think about playing in it next year! Write me if you need more info.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
How did Nehemiah -- and how do we -- survive life's skunk attacks?
1. INTROSPECTION: Am I dong what's right?
6: 1-8 ... opponents tried to distract Nehemiah with accusations and lies; Nehemiah did not begin to doubt himself ultimately (v8) -- "No such things as you say are being done...
* We won't be challenged UNTIL we decide to become a wall builder
2. BE SPIRITUALLY STRONG (v 9-14)
Nehemiah recognizes a false prophet who lies to him ... Because he is "prayed up," he can discern skunk attacks.
3. BE BUSY ABOUT THE RIGHT THINGS (2-3)
Satan wants to get you off course -- Nehemiah kept focus... "I am dong a great work, I cannot come down..."
4. FELLOWSHIP WITH THE RIGHT PEOPLE
Nehemiah had the right people in his life for love, support and encouragement
5. DETERMINED (v 3)
Am I willing to do what God wants?
*Most of us stop at halfway (ILLUS: Three little boys asked a man who was raking if they could rake his yard. The man said, "But boys, I'm halfway through." And one of the boys said, "We know, but halfway is when people usually stop.")
* See things to victory, with God's help
* "If it is of God and God is in it, it's always, always, always too soon to quit."
Sunday, October 30, 2011
Be of good cheer and take your cuts, even when you don’t feel like it. You never know when a tiny something you do today might make a big difference for somebody tomorrow – or nearly 30 years from now, and on many days in between.
Got email this week from a dear friend I’ve never met. He’d been sent a link that connected him to a story I’d written years ago about “It’s A Long Way To October,” a three-hour “documentary” about the 1982 Atlanta Braves that aired in ’83, then disappeared.
It didn’t disappear to me. I’d recorded it on a VHS machine the size of a deep freeze and still play it often while I work. No sound: I just look over at the TV set and am reminded…
The Braves’ entire season was covered since Atlanta’s TBS SuperStation, with cameras and mics and whatnot, had the technology. This was unheard of in ’82, hearing players and umpires talking in the dugout, at spring training, on road trips at restaurants. Watching it was like spending time with friends since back then, the Braves and Chicago’s Cubs, thanks to cable, were the only games in town.
So it’s neat that I should get this mail now, during World Series week.
“I was the executive producer of that special a long time ago and have a sports Emmy and a cable Ace thanks to the talented people who made this happen,” wrote Terry Hanson. “It was supposed to be the quintessential ‘any season in baseball,’ but the club’s success had Ted Turner opt for memorializing that season. So, it had only a one-year shelf life when my initial intention was to have it live for a lifetime. Happy to see you remember.”
Are you kidding me? The original “It’s A Long Way…” guy found something I’d written and wrote me back? Joy! Rapture! I wrote HIM back to say I’d made copies for other loyalists, guys I’ve never met who saw the same link and wanted a copy. They just wanted to remember Torre and Red Barber, Ernie and Pete and Skip, Horner and Dale Murphy and Niekro, even the Red Man and Miller Lite and “Buy a Kenny Rogers album” commercials of yesteryear. Is that Roger Staubach pushing life insurance?
“It is a joy to want to thank somebody for years and finally get the opportunity to do it,” I wrote to Mr. Hanson. “…Whenever things aren’t going your way – you’re having a bad day or whatever — I want you to know something: You made a difference for me. And for a lot of guys in college back then, even in high school in the late ’70s. We had the one game a week and then suddenly – THE BRAVES! The horrible, terrible, wonderful Braves…Then this piece of work in ’82. Before there WAS this kind of stuff. Not a single week goes by that I don’t quote something from the show or have it quoted to me by one of The Guys from back then…
“Finally, you might think you didn’t , but you DID make something that lives for a lifetime. You did. At least for a few guys like me.”
If you need to thank someone, do it. We all need encouragement. And if you feel underappreciated or feel your work has a short shelf life, hang on anyway. Keep dishing out the good stuff. Somebody out there’s your biggest fan.
Friday, October 28, 2011
DEALING WITH SKUNKS
Neh 2: 4 and 6
Human Skunks put out toxins who that have negative affects on others; we all have skunk tendencies...
Nehemiah faced skunks as he attempted to follow God's vision for him
I. Skunks M.O.
1. DON'T WANT GOOD THINGS TO HAPPEN
Neh 2:10 --
Sanbalat -- gov of Samaria
Tabiah -- gov of Ammon
These are leaders in the area around Jerusalem who were opposing Nehemiah
* Some people just don't want good things to happen
2. SKUNKS LOVE OTHER SKUNKS
Geshem is another governor of a nearby area
* Misery loves company
* Skunks band together
* Jesus hung around the worst of society, but his closest friends were God followers
3. SKUNKS RIDICULE AND ACCUSE OTHERS OF THE WORST
2:19 and 4: 1-3 Nehemiah moced and ridiculed
* Ridicule is the weapon people use when they have no other weapon
* Skunks also use slander (v 19 in Chapter 2) "Are you rebelling against the king..?!"
Neh 4: 7-8 "...they plotted to stir up trouble..."
* Expect ridicule if you want to move forward with God -- your motives will be challenged
* it's a dangerous to challenge someone's heart
* words DO hurt ... expect ridicule
4. SKUNKS LOVE DISCOURAGEMENT
v. 4: 10-12
Jewish people are surrounded by people / kings discouraging them as they work toward God's vision; this is serious...
II. WHY DO PEOPLE "SKUNK"?
1. THEIR PAST
Ezra 4: 1-3 describes when these same kings in this story asked Exra if they could help him rebuild the temple in Jerusalem and Exra said no, probably because the kings wished to uhndermine his efforts or take credit.
2. ARROGANCE: most negative people think theyr'e smarter than everyone else
3. SELFISHNESS: Surrounding kings controlled the area, and a strong Jerusalem would hurt them economically -- "Hell hath no fury like a skunk scorned."
4. REAL HEART ISSUES: We all have sinful natures that muse be replace with a God nature
Matthew 12:35 .. "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him." ... Which nature do we feed?
1 Cor 10:8-11 "We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come."
God challenges us to go through life not as a skunk, but more like Nehemiah, loyal and courageous
Thursday, October 27, 2011
1 Samuel 3
1. THE LORD SPEAKS AND MAKES HIMSELF KNOWN ... IN HIS HOUSE
v. 1-4 ... God created organized religion and shows up in church...Do I go to church looking for God to show up? BE in the house of God...
2. ... TO THOSE QUIET ENOUGH TO HEAR v. 3-4
1 Kings 19 tell the story of Elijah missing God because he was looking for an earthquake
Psalm 46:10 "Be still and know that I am God..."
3. ...TO THOSE OPEN AND SENSITIVE TO HIM
v 4 --
Samuel answered, "Here I am"
Do you go to church, connection groups, wanting to hear a word from God?
4. ... AND OTHERS CAN HELP US DISCERN GOD'S VOICE
v. 5-9 .. "Samuel ran to Elijah..."
* Have people in your life who will help you
5. ...TO THOSE WHO ARE SURRENDERED TO HIM
v. 10 -- "The Lord said...Samuel Answered..."
*Am I really open to God's woice and to what he has to say, exactly?...
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Three ingredients God says are essential for our "dreams" to come to pass
1. PREPARATION -- Nehemiah planned, practiced and prayed to accomplish building the wall, something others failed at for 140 years.
Neh 1:1 - Neh 2:1 -- four months pass as Nehemiah prepares
* Jesus prepared for 30 years for his ministry of three years. He reminds us in scripture to "count the cost" of discipleship. Take a risk assessment.
*Most dreams fail not because of lack of zeal but because of lack of counting the cost.
* "Pray, but keep your powder dry."
Neh 2:7 -- "Let us rebuild..." a WE CAN attitude
Phil 4:13 -- I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me...
* "If you think you can or tink you can't, you are probably right." Henry Ford
* Attitude is what gets you over the top.
Neh 2:18 -- "Let us RISE UP and build..."
Neh 3 illustrates that God's word honors the manual labor of rebuilding the wall
Neh 4:6 -- "the people worked with all of their heart..." toiled with their whole being
*Pray like it depends on Him, work like it depends on me
* Most people are like callouses ... they showe up after the work is done
Thoreau -- Live the life imagined, advance in the direction of your dreams
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
“For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” – Romans 7: 18
A week from today, some of you will be on a post-Halloween sugar high of Biblical proportions. Good luck with that! (Quick question: Do you ever put the tiny “Fun Size” candy bars in your freezer and eat them later by just letting them slowly melt in your month? Try it!)
In my youth I was, in different late Octobers, a pirate, cowboy and ghost. As a ghost I was completely covered by a bed sheet, save the holes we’d cut where my eyes were. Even in disguise, I was not very convincing. Mrs. Bobbie, my first-grade teacher, opened her door and said, “Hey little Teddy! Come on in!”
I make a poor “holey” ghost, apparently not gifted for trick-or-treat espionage.
But I do have an eye for what’s evil and what is scary. I see it whenever I look into a mirror.
One of the best blessings of my life has been a daily realization and acceptance of my potential for evil. In sin did my precious mother conceive me, right? Paul knew. The law convicted him and his covetous heart, “slew” him, convinced him his best would not be enough to save him. Suddenly, the situation became very clear: as the rest of us do, Paul needed a Savior. So … is there any hope? Is there anyone who can rescue me from me?
“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God…” — Romans 7:24-25
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Four out of five dentists surveyed say four out of five people hate their guts.
I’m that fifth guy!
The fear is probably from the unnerving whirring of those insane drills. Having your mouth open while reclined in such a vulnerable position. Being reminded you aren’t flossing enough, and in an “Eat your vegetables!” tone.
Or, it could just be fear of the sheer pain. There is that.
But I love going to the dentist. I like my dentist! And he pretends to like me, and my teeth. It’s a beautiful working relationship.
A few months ago I had a tiny cavity filled. I slobbered a “thank you” and smiled a crooked smile. They gave me a freshly baked cookie and coffee, which I drank and spilled down my numb chin. I felt like I was in a Carol Burnett skit.
Which is exactly why I like going to my dentist -- because it’s not like going to the dentist. It’s like being in a good 30-minute sitcom.
Besides, how can you hate somebody who gives you a free cookie? After all, dentists are people too. Sort of.
I even had another dentist, sort of a surgeon dentist, drill a screw into my head. An entire screw. Into my gums. Way back there. But he numbed it of course and he was funny and really nice about it and I like him too. Not enough to go get another screw drilled into my gums, but he was a very nice man.
I like dentists because they help the world smile. We need more of that. More flossing and brushing, less gingivitis and tartar. Down with decay! Up with dentists!
Oddly, my favorite dentist is a guy who never touched my teeth. But he did touch my soul. Since he died 10 years ago in May, cancer at age 44, we’ve talked about him annually here. Jack “Doc” Witte was a guy we played golf with, coached ball with, had fun with. We miss the Doc.
He was a passionate supporter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a main player in FCA’s annual Ironman golf fundraising marathon. The event is now the Dr. Jack R. Witte Memorial Golf Day, which is Thursday at East Ridge Country Club, and I ask your support in the way of a tax-deductable donation as I do every year. As other will, I'll be playing in honor of Doc, to raise money as he would be doing were he here.
You can donate online at nwlafca.org (click Donate, then One Time Gift, then type in Golf Day.) Or you can send your donation to Terry Slack, FCA, 3018 Old Minden Rd., Ste. 1121, Bossier City, LA 71112. Or just email me and we'll figure it out!
My family has made a $100 donation and I ask you to match that; not everyone can. (We've been saving up!) But your gift, whatever you feel it can or should be, will be used wisely once received.
Our friend Terry and his wife Peggy are in their 22nd year with FCA; he’s still northwest Louisiana’s point man, but he’s also FCA’s state director now. He’ll handle your gifts wisely, as Doc Witte always knew he would. You can help make an eternal difference.
“I’ve grown in faith and leadership skills that help me on the football and baseball fields,” said Byrd High star quarterback Richard Carthon, who attended an FCA Camp at Slack’s urging in 2010. “I’ve grown as a leader at home and in FCA at school.”
“Terry Slack and FCA,” said John Bachman, head football coach at Shreveport’s Calvary Academy, “are loved and wanted around here.”
I thank in advance the tireless brotherhood of dentists who’ve faithfully donated in Doc’s memory and hope you’ll follow their lead. You’ll help a lot of people smile if you do.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
East Ridge Country Club is allowing us to play there. Donations we receive will benefit the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Doc Witte, former Fair Park stud and Louisiana Tech football player, was a wonderful athlete, dad, husband, dentist and friend, and a loyal, passionate supporter of FCA. He died 10 years ago of cancer at age 44, and this tournament is a way to remember him and to help FCA, as he did when he was here.
My family is making a $100 donation and I'll play that day in honor of Doc, as we all will. We're asking you to match our donation, but any gift you are willing to give will be helpful in reaching the area's student athletes, coaches and their families. Again, more will be here, in The Times and in The News-Star Sunday. And more about dentists. I love my dentist!
Meanwhile, if you wish to donate now, you can online at nwlafca.org (click Donate, then One Time Gift, then type in Golf Day.)
Or you can send your donation to Terry Slack, FCA, 3018 Old Minden Rd., Ste. 1121, Bossier City, LA 71112.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Do you long to see the Lord? Moses did. Exodus 33:12-23 -- Moses prays intimately to see His face
Moses is a mature follower who still asks God for more of his presence
1. IT IS HERE WHERE ONE TRULY LEARNS TO KNOW GOD
34: 5-6 "The Lord is merciful..." Do I want to know God or just want to know more ABOUT God?
2. WE BEGIN TO TRULY LEARN THE WAYS OF GOD
Moses came to understand God's instruction when Moses was devoted to Him ... in this case, for a supernatural 40 days
Prayer is a way we bathe ourselves in the Divine Presence
We want a formula, but God is a person
3. IT IS HERE ONE IS CHANGED
34:29 "Moses was not aware his face was radiant because he had spoken weith God"
Too many of us think our face is shining and it is not
1 Cor 13:4-7 -- what love is
Gal 5:22- fruit of the spirit
4. THIS IS WHERE WE INFLUENCE OTHERS
34:31-35 "...they saw the face of moses, that he shone..."
Our job is to influence, not to demand or dictate
"To be much for God, you must be much WITH God."
Nothing matters if you don't have Jesus in the house; He won't be if He's not in our hearts and minds
Jer 29:13 "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."
Pray that God will show up in my church and in my life.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
My friend of 35-plus years eulogized his dad Monday with an eloquence impressive but surprising, considering the circumstances. I was proud of him.
Years ago his pastor father gave the address at our high school graduation, encouraging us to be wise, as young David was, with the stones we’d choose to slay the giants we’d face. Saturday morning Rev. Davis brought the mail inside, sat in his chair, then died suddenly of a heart attack, his Bible open in his study, his notes ready with Sunday’s sermon.
“He worshipped in heaven this Sunday morning,” the funeral program read.
My buddy Clint told a lot of stories about his dad in the filled-to-the-brim church – they even had to sit people in the choir loft. Most of the stories I knew already. A personal favorite is the one when the pickup screeched to a stop on Interstate 20; Clint and his younger sisters had figured out they could alter the steering of the truck by rolling from side to side on the foam mattress in the truck bed. There was hell to pay.
His dad got out, cracked the door on the camper top, pulled Clint out and tore him up on the side of the road while truckers honked their approval. Then he pitched a subdued Clint back into the bed, got back in the cab, continued the mission.
Clint’s daddy was old school.
One story about this imperfect but godly man I did not know. Glad I do now.
Bro. Davis would roll the toothpaste tube very carefully, day by day, all the way to the opening. Not surprising, especially for a man whose first job brought him $2,200 annually as a junior high coach and teacher in Webster Parish.
When the tube was completely rolled, he would unroll it and rake is thumb down the tube to get one more squirt. THEN, to get the absolute last bit of toothpaste, he’d suck the end, and brush furiously. Only then would he throw the completely spent tube away.
Here’s a guy you’d trust with the inventory.
Clint said that even through that modest hygienic illustration, he learned a lesson from his dad. The days of our lives aren’t much different than tubes of toothpaste. Each day, we get a new tube.
And each day, we roll the tube toward the top as little by little we squeeze out a piece of the day. Hopefully, what we squeeze out will make us and others a bit cleaner.
Then we head home from work and the tube seems done, all the way to the top. But that’s when your spouse and children need you, and nothing is more important than that, so you roll the tube back out and slide your thumb down its middle and get another little bit of love to share. Then it’s late and there’s that tiny bit left, that bit you can suck out. And maybe you need to, because maybe that’s when you need to say to someone, “I was really a jerk today. I love you. I hope you’ll forgive me.”
Each day, we get just enough in the tube to handle the day’s challenges and needs. Tomorrow, a new tube. Bro. Davis didn’t waste much toothpaste or time. One of the many legacies he left was his willingness to be used up in service, his willingness, as they say in sports, to leave it all on the field.
Friday, October 14, 2011
Book of Nehemiah
Three essentials in finding vision and accomplishing our purpose
1. FAVOR, sympathy from God in his leanings toward men
a. Favor with God -- many of us shoot for goals so low we don't need god's help; God wants to push us to things only He can accomplish, through us.
Neh 1:11 and 2:18: Nehemiah prays for success, for God's gracious hand, for His favor
b. Favor of Others -- Neh 1:11 and 2:1-5: "...favor in the king's sight..."
We should pray this often: "God help people in my life be sympathetic to my efforts toward them, in my spirit influence..."
c. Be a Favorable Person (as Nehemiah was)
Acts 2:47 -- "...enjoying the favor of all..."
Don't be a 'jerk for Jesus' ... those people never accomplish anything.
Lou Holtz "If you're ugly, dress better." Don't intentionally try to be off-putting.
Neh 2:10, 2:19 .. Nehemiah, the cupbearer for the king, is willing to leave comfort in the palace and be rediculed to accomplish God's vision .... Nothing great is ever achieved without enthusiasm and sacrifice.
Neh 2:2 "I was very much afraid..."
Nehemiahn approaches the king, thought scared -- his request demanded faith
If faith is not challenged sometimes, we might not be really trying to accomplish much
Like a trapeze artist, we've got to be willing to let go.
* The visionary sees the wall already up before it's up...
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Exodus 3: 1-12 (at bottom)
God speaks to Moses in the burning bush
Charles Swindoll: "After decades in the ministry, I realize I am just scratching the surface of understandinbg and experiencing the presence of God."
1. God Manifests Himself in Unexpected Places (v 1-5)
* God appears in the normalcy of Moses's everyday life -- on the backside of the desert.
* For the first time in 400 years in scripture, since the life of Jacob, God appears with a word for man
* Are you looking for God and praying for Him to show up?
2. Sometimes God Shows Up in Unexpected Ways (3-5)
Take your "box" of God and break it in two, turn God loose -- let Him show up on his terms
3. God's Presence is a Place of Reverence (6-7)
The is the first text in which the word "holy" appears in scripture.
* God is everywhere, so everywhere is holy ground; reverence is about humility, showing honor, about attitude -- we dn't strut into the presence of God.
* If our heart is haughty, God won't show up.
4. God Manifests Himself to Help Us Experience Him More (v. 4)
* God says "Moses, Moses" -- He knows my name; he speaks my languard
* v 6-7 -- "I AM -- the man who is, was and will be
*Are you looking for God to reveal himself to you? God does not show up for frivilous reasons; he shows up with purpose
5. God Manifests Himself to Give Us A Vision/Task (8-12)
* Moses called to lead Israelites
* No way to have an experience with God and be the same, so some of us choose not to ask for his presence
* God's power is available, but comes with a price -- humility, selflessness, a servant's attitude.
Exodus 3: 1-15
1 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
4 When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.”
5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
7 The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”
13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’
“This is my name forever,
the name you shall call me
from generation to generation.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Neh 1: 1-4
1 The words of Nehemiah son of Hakaliah:
In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, 2 Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem.
3 They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”
4 When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.
Live every day as if it's your last day, and some day, you'll be right.
Don't want "until" -- now is the time
WHO GETS GOD'S VISION?
1. Begins with you and God
No vision unless, like Nehemiah, you are connected/close to God
John 8:47 -- the reason you don't hear is that you don't belong to God
2. A Person of Character
Nehemiah prays for his people and himself with honesty
God won't give a vision to a skunk
3. Be Open to It
No one was open to the vision of rebuilding the wall for 140 years
HOW DO WE FIND THE VISION?
1. Thur the Bible
Neh 1: 8-9 "Remember Lord your word to Moses,..." Nehemiah prays. Scripture will always give us a foundation and boundaries
2. Thru others (v. 2) -- "I questioned as they said to me..."
3. Thru real needs and problems (v. 3) -- Nehemiah jointed the Vision Club, not the Criticism Club ...
4. From our Giftings and Passions -- Nehemiah was 'cut out' for wall building...as a top servant of the king, he was dependable, detail-oriented, ... Like, God often tailors/matches His given gifts to His vision for us...
5. Prayer v. 4
"I wept, mourned, fasted and cried..."
We don't sit before God and listen much. We need to sit and say, "God, talk to me..."
Sir Francis Drake -- "Disturb us oh Lord..Push back the horizons of our hope...may we seek you in strength, courage, hope and faith..."
Sunday, October 9, 2011
For a memory mix of tragedy and comedy, nothing beats one about getting a whipping from your parents.
Corporal punishment in the kitchen, den and bedroom – basically wherever your dad could catch you – went out with vinyl records and the rotary dial, it seems. Daddy saying “Boy, I’m gonna tear you up when we get home,” and then actually doing it, you don’t hear that much anymore. It was music to our rears.
Sounds of my childhood…The wailing. The kicking. The screaming. The good old-fashioned belt roundhouse. The innocent switch. The handy flyswatter.
Today’s kids don’t know what they’ve missed.
A few months ago during his North Louisiana Summer of ’11 Tour, my dad relaxed on his daughter’s couch and asked my two sisters, all nostalgic and everything, “Girls, remember the only whipping I ever gave your brother?”
We waited for the punch line. My dad whipped me like Grant whipped Richmond, except with more regularity. I know it. My sisters know it. The American people know it. But daddy’s forgotten, like an old ballplayer forgets games simply because they were so routine.
My dad could whip with the best of them. Hair brush. Garden hose. Hot Wheel track. But the belt, that was his true medium. He could flash the leather. All Conference, first team.
“For years momma whipped me with the same pair of house shoes she’d had since before I was born,” a buddy told me. “When I got to be about 8, I told her she needed a new pair, that that pair had stopped hurting five years ago. Probably shouldn’t have told her that.”
Another friend whose dad worked at his elementary school dropped a Webster’s Dictionary in a roomful of napping custodians one summer during a lunch break, just to wake everyone up. A coach passing by witnessed it all and said to my then-little friend, “I can give you five licks here or I can take you across the street to your daddy.”
“Tear me up right here,” my friend said. “Please.”
You did not want the heavy artillery brought in if you had an option. Better to be whacked with small arms fire. Back then, well-meaning teachers and neighbors didn’t mind being the first wave in when we got out of line.
“Lot of times I’d hear my name and just walk to where my dad or mom were and bend over,” one of the guys said. “I knew I’d done something. Didn’t always matter so much what.”
“I once got whipped really hard on a school trip and came home and told my dad it was too hard,” another friend said. “He told me to drop my pants. You could still see the marks. My dad just shrugged.”
It took a limb loss to get penalty yardage in your favor back in the day. But then, we were always guilty, and our sins were no secret. Grownups tattle told.
“My little brother in third grade signed our dad’s name to one of his tests he was supposed to take home,” my buddy said. “The teacher asked him, ‘You get your daddy to sign this?’ He said yes ma’am and that he knew he needed to do better and all that. Milked it. She asked him three times. After the third time, daddy walked out from behind the cloak room.”
He figures what gave him away was signing his dad’s name in red crayon.