Upon the Occasion of My Mom’s Birthday

My mom would’ve been 89 today. She was a faithful wife to my dad for 61 years and she cooked me all the scrambled eggs and french fries (not at the same time) that I ever wanted. Best mom ever, hands-down.

She had a sharp wit and my dad was often on the receiving end of it. In fact, they were always picking at each other and I wish I could’ve appreciated it for what it was when I was watching it happen right in front of me. It was love. Love that transcended the temporal, born out of the spiritual. You don’t stay happily married for that long, especially with me as your kid, without having a relationship based on the truth of scripture.

Mom ran the business of our family. She always said that if my dad actually signed one of the checks she wrote to pay the bills instead of her signing his name, that the bank wouldn’t recognize the signature. She wrote the checks and dad delivered them like a good boy.

Mom kept us fed, in clean clothes, and she sang hymns while she did. All the time, in fact. For some reason, it bothered me when I was a child but if what comes out of the mouth is the overflow of the heart, then her heart was full of love for her Savior, her husband, and her children.

That’s not to say her saint-like patience with me didn’t occasionally run out. There were some occasions where it did and rather than spank me, she would inform me that she was going to tell Dad when he got home from wherever he happened to be which would then send me into a dramatic fit of tearfully repeating “please don’t, Mama” for the next 30 minutes.

She also defended, maybe sometimes to a fault, her baby boy (That’s me). I once said, under my breath and very quietly, “I wish you’d shut up” to my dad as he was going on to me about something I’d done wrong. He wasn’t supposed to have heard it. Ten minutes later as I came back into the living room, my dad asked me what I’d said. My blood ran cold as I stammered unintelligibly for about two seconds before he was up and had me by the arm with his left hand and was wearing out my backside with his right. I surely must’ve looked like a bullrider who had gotten his hand stuck in the rope as I flailed and flopped in a circle trying to minimize the impact of the stinging pops to my rear. After a few seconds, Mama told him that I’d had enough. Actually, her exact words were, “Stop it, James Earl! You’re gonna break his damn arm!” Feisty, she was. He stopped. I guess if the preacher’s wife uses a cuss-word to beseech the preacher to have mercy on the preacher’s kid, the preacher listens.

She loved Alabama football, Braves baseball, and she loved to see Auburn lose. Her favorite player was Terry Pendleton and she once wrote a letter to Skip Caray, the Braves’ play-by-play guy who also hosted the pregame show, to express her displeasure with Bobby Cox’s language during games. She could barely hear and, as such, she got pretty good at reading lips and she was none too pleased with Bobby’s language. She obviously believed that an occasional, very infrequent swear word could be useful in communicating an important thought or idea. In her estimation, grown men playing baseball on TV did not require such measures.

The TV was always loud because of her hearing loss and to this day, I still talk loud to anyone over the age of 65, regardless of how good or bad their hearing happens to be.

She was an incredible woman who modeled what a Christian wife and mother should be. She sang in the choir and taught Sunday school until arthritis mostly took away her legs. Once she stopped being able to go to church regularly, she would faithfully watch her second favorite preacher behind my dad, Jay Wolf at FBC Montgomery, on TV. Our Sunday afternoon visits always included a conversation that would begin with with “Today, Jay said…”, at which point we would discuss that Sunday’s message.

If there’s a salad bar in Heaven (my dad LOVED a big ol’ salad), she’s making him one just like she did at every Pizza Hut we ever went to as a family. She served. Always. She served Jesus, my dad, her family, and so, so many others in the churches and communities where we lived.

I could go on and on about her, and maybe one day I will. There are just too many wonderful things not to share them, even if only for my own enjoyment.

She’s been in Heaven since July of 2011. I know that up there she sings and walks and hears perfectly. To know that is good for this preacher’s kid’s heart. It keeps me – all of us – from being heartbroken because we can be sure that we’ll be there with her and my Dad again. Sooner rather than later because, for the Christian, whatever time we have left on this Earth is a nanosecond when compared to eternity in Heaven.

What a day that will be.

Isaiah 25:8

#Hope

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School Drop-Off Line or Military Operation?

You parents that refuse to follow the pick-up/drop-off line rules at the school or the ones who park on side streets so you can circumvent the rules and let your kids walk across streets and through traffic drive me insane. Good grief.

In our family, we treat the morning drop-off line like a military exercise. Like our car is a plane and my daughter is a Navy Seal being dropped into enemy territory. Before we even get between the cones she’s got her backpack on, her athletic bag and lunchbox in hand, she has been instructed that she should pick her feet up high upon exit so as not to knock any debris from the floor onto the ground which would waste precious seconds of the mission…I mean, drop-off. The car stops and I bark the order, “GO, GO, GO!!! LOVE YOU! HAVE A GREAT DAY!” And with that, I return to base. Quick, clean, and considerate of all the other missions taking place behind me.

As for the side streetparkers…y’all…seriously? Don’t tell me it’s because you don’t want to be late for work. I saw some of y’all this morning and even though you may say you have to be somewhere important ASAP, your Tweety Bird pajama pants would seem to indicate otherwise. The car lines at the schools are there for a reason. Several reasons, actually. Believe it or not, one of those reasons isn’t to make your morning routine miserable. We’ve got plenty of liberals who already do a great job of that. One reason for the pick-up/drop-off line is to try and minimize chaos and add at least a modicum of order to an inherently hectic time. Another even more important reason: safety. There will be kids darting in many directions. Period. Can’t eliminate that. What teachers and administrators try to do with their car line plans is to minimize, as much as humanly possible, the chance that a child, darting or not, will somehow get hurt or worse during what will likely be the busiest and most anxiety-ridden time of their day. Other than that math test, of course.

Whatever the case, when you don’t follow the rules at the school, and there are a bunch of you who don’t, you’re making it harder for the rest of civilized society which is attempting to follow the rules, inconvenient though it may occasionally be, because it serves a greater good.

Kathie Lee and Hoda will still be there when you get home. Hop on in line and enjoy your morning.

Who Cares? Not Washington.

A reminder: most of the real power-brokers in Washington couldn’t care less about how you feel about a “government shutdown,” whether you get to keep more of your own money or not, your feelings about immigration reform, or what you think about pretty much any of the most important, pressing issues of our time.

What they care about is raising enough cash to put their name in front of you a billion times a day during campaign season so that when it comes time to vote, you and I, like good little robots, put our mark next to their name and send them back to their throne…er…seat in congress to keep doing the same thing they’ve always done which is looking out for themselves and each other.

Party affiliation doesn’t matter behind the closed doors of their conference rooms and offices. What we see on TV and online is theater. It’s largely a ruse to try and fool you and me into thinking that they really care about the same things we care about. The darndest thing about it is that we usually believe them.

Practically every election sees a new name on the ballot to challenge the status quo and upset the proverbial apple cart of power and, almost without fail, we check the name of the same person we’ve always checked because, well, it’s just what we do. Without thinking. Without educating ourselves. Without taking the one real opportunity we have to try and effect some small measure of actual change in the current, corrupt system.

All the while, we mock and deride our fellow citizens who might dare to write-in a vote or cast their vote for a candidate without the all powerful ‘R’ or ‘D’ beside their name. We call it a wasted vote or even a vote for the “bad guys.” (Plot twist…most of them are the bad guys.) Then we have the nerve to be shocked and perplexed when what we end up getting is the same thing we’ve always gotten: a bunch of self-serving blowhards running our country into the ground.

Blame who you want for the looming government shutdown. Until we look in the mirror and blame the person we see looking back at us, most of that blame will be misplaced.

And with that, my rant is over. Hope your Saturday is splendid. I know mine will be.

Gabe’s First Day at The Big House or “That Guy is only 16? I Thought He Sang Lead for ZZ Top.”

Around the first week of August, 2015, I drove my son, Gabe, to his first day at what I had, up to that point, referred to as “the big house.” His first day of high school had arrived with little fanfare. He hadn’t seemed nervous at all which was not terribly surprising. He had already moved from the child development center at our church to the elementary school for kindergarten and then, after 4th grade, from the elementary school to the middle school. Those transitions hadn’t been a big deal so there was no reason to think his move to the high school would be much different. And, in all honesty, it wasn’t…except from the time we pulled into the parking lot of the school until the time I turned left onto Highway 14 to make the short drive back home. Not for him, mind you. He handled it like the calm, cool, and well-adjusted young man he was becoming. If his dad had ever been calm, cool, and well-adjusted (not likely) it wouldn’t be happening that morning, at least not in those four or five minutes of time spent in the drop off line.

The first wave of emotion hit me as I turned off the main driveway of the school onto the part that would wind its way up to the front door. It was then that I noticed all the cars that had already arrived and parked in the main parking lot in front of the school. Not teachers and administrators and other staff…students. Students who were old enough to drive. A car. Alone. To school. They looked so big compared to the skinny little, fair-haired boy who sat next to me, apparently unmoved by the scene unfolding in front of us. Teenagers of every sort greeted friends they hadn’t seen since school dismissed for the summer back in May. Big teenagers. There were guys with beards standing next to behemothian four wheel drive vehicles with lights and stickers and huge wheels. There were young ladies wearing makeup with splendidly coiffed hair and looking every bit old enough to put on a pantsuit (does anyone wear pantsuits anymore now that Hillary Clinton spends most of her time roaming the woods outside NYC instead of campaigning) and go to work at some office crunching numbers or selling real estate or running a company or any number of other incredibly important jobs. Anyway, in that moment, I realized how young and little my boy was, at least compared to these kids, and I felt a little nervous for him. Heck, I felt nervous for me! How would he handle the much stronger and freer personalities of these older kids? What if some big dude decided to pick on him? How could he defend himself against them? How would I handle the various and sundry situations that could crop up in this new, similar, yet very different environment? I almost panicked. I might have thought homeschooling sounded pretty darn good all of a sudden. I could probably learn the new math if I absolutely had to!

We made a right turn and then another right turn and there we were, on the homestretch to the front door where what looked like hundreds of younger kids mingled with a few older ones who, for whatever reason, hadn’t been able to drive themselves to school that day. The sense of foreboding grew more intense as I scanned the crowd for a familiar face, wanting to be able to say to Gabe, “Isn’t that so-and-s0? You can go stand with them until they open the doors. They’re nice, right?” We finally made our way to the unloading zone and I saw Gavin. Gabe knew Gavin, also a freshman, and assured me that they were friends. As quickly as we pulled up and stopped, he reached into the back seat, got his backpack, and opened the door. Here it was. The moment was at hand. Time for a quick word of fatherly advice and encouragement, right? I guess so. If you consider, “Have a great day! I love you!” to be the stuff of inspiration then, in the parlance of my people, I cranked a sho’nuff dinger that day. “Love you, too” he replied and then the door slammed and he was gone. At the risk of the parent behind me honking their horn to get me moving along, I watched him walk away. Probably no more than five seconds. There was no hint of reluctance or fear on his face or in his gait. I took my foot off the brake, crept over two speed bumps, and made the final right turn that would take me to the traffic light that, with its green hue, would guide me away from my little boy at that big school with all those big people.

And on that 200 yard stretch of asphalt from the corner of the building to the traffic light, I cried. Hard. I guess I really wasn’t completely sure why at the moment but in hindsight, I think it was the realization that my little boy was no longer a little boy. That sounds so cliched, I know, but I guess one of the reasons cliches are repeated so often is that there is so much truth in them. I think in those moments that morning, somewhere in the deepest recesses of my memory, maybe even subconsciously, I saw Gabe as a baby and felt the unexplainable joy of holding him for the very first time. I saw him as the toddler who put practically every toy he had that would fit into a hole in the back of our old recliner. When we bought a new and moved the old one out, it was like Christmas for him getting all those toys back! When that many memories start kicking around, even in your subconscious, you’ll have a rush of emotions of some sort. Mine, whatever sort they were, exited my body that day in the form of tears and what my dad would’ve referred to as blubberin’. Bless the poor people who had to look upon me as I sat in the line to exit the campus that day. I’m not much to look at on my best day. When I cry, I’m ugly as a mud fence.

Gabe is now in the final few months of his sophomore year and he’s not only survived at the big house, he’s thrived and I couldn’t be more proud. But that’s really not my point. As we slide in toward his 16th birthday next month, he has he has grown to be almost as tall as me and he looks more and more like a man and less like a kid practically every day. When school starts next year, he’ll be one of those kids…er…students who pulls his car into the parking lot and greets friends he might not have seen since school got out. He probably won’t have a beard but he’ll be even bigger than he already is while some other poor, nervous dad or mom drops their freshman off at that same front door I did in 2015. And now, at long, laborious last, here is my point, another cliche: TIME FLIES. Gabe is big and tall and will be driving himself around in only a few weeks. In a real car and not a plastic John Deere Gator. His little sister will be 11 in less than three weeks and, if things go as they did with Gabe, she’ll be sauntering up to the front door of the high school in the blink of an eye herself and I’ll wonder again where the time has gone.

The kids won’t be little forever. We’ve got to love them and teach them how to live in the limited time we have with them. Before they go off to college and get a job and get married and, well, you know how the story goes. You and I won’t live forever so making the most of today is of paramount importance, not just for our kids but for all of us.

Here’s to hoping I can do a better job in the days I have left of living in the moments that are and not the ones that have been or may never be. Hopefully, I can encourage others to do the same. I aim to try harder to do just that. Life is brief and entirely too short to spend so much of it in fretful anxiety. I’ll try it if you will.

Psalm 118:24, John 10:10, Matthew 6:25-34

 

 

 

 

 

7-11 Worship Songs or Old Hymns?

I grow weary of reading articles like this, (Why Don’t They Sing on Sunday Anymore?), and yet here I am posting one. Even though this particular article isn’t really about the contemporary/traditional worship wars, I’ve seen it posted on social media where it was used as a salvo in that “war.”

For the record, my wife is the de-facto worship leader at our church and she works hard to choose a diverse selection of songs. It’s not at all unusual for there to be a couple of hymns mixed in with the contemporary stuff even in our 8:30 service which is technically our contemporary service. Our praise band does a fantastic job with both the old and new stuff and I’m just as comfortable singing Just As I Am (even with drums and an electric guitar and bass…I’m looking at you Bret Jones) as I am belting out (badly) Every Praise by Hezekiah Walker, itself rather repetitive but no less worshipful and theologically sound. If I weren’t so Baptist I might be tempted to do a little jig when I hear it. It’s quite peppy.

Just because one prefers hymns to more modern “7-11” songs as one commenter I saw called them, doesn’t mean they can’t help usher Christ-followers into an attitude of worship.  After all, when Fannie J. Crosby first wrote her beautiful, classic songs, they weren’t classic…they were new. They were contemporary.

If people aren’t singing in church maybe it is because they don’t care for the style of music. I honestly don’t know. Maybe I’ll ask around this Sunday. I do believe this, though…If people aren’t taking part in an act of earnest, corporate worship based solely on the fact that they don’t like a particular song or style of music, that might be more indicative of a bit of a selfish attitude or maybe even the condition of their heart.

We did The Purpose Driven Life at my church several years ago. One of the things I remember is that Rick Warren told us that worship isn’t about us. It’s about God. He’s absolutely correct. It’s about the Father, Son, and Spirit. It’s about encouragement and ministry and praise and extolling the limitless virtues of God.

As for me, I’ll take John Newton’s “Amazing Grace” AND Chris Tomlin’s “Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone.)” I’m good with Horatio Spafford’s “It Is Well With My Soul” immediately following Kristene DiMarco’s “It Is Well.” (Thanks, Tiffany D. Fontenot for introducing me to that one.)

I’ve said enough I suppose. It’s getting late and I have to go add some new songs to my Christian Hip-Hop Running Mix before the weekend sneaks up on me. Oops…new can of worms. Until next time…

Flag Flap Foolishness

This Confederate flag situation has to be one of the most useless responses to something so tragic that I’ve ever heard of. Allow me to reference scripture here even though that is frowned upon by the more “enlightened” among whom we commoners dwell:

“24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”” Matthew 23:24-26

Jesus is chastising the scribes and Pharisees because they tithe (a good thing) but they ignore numerous other, vitally important aspects of His teaching. In other words, they want it to look like they’re doing something great but what they’re actually doing pales in comparison to what they SHOULD be doing.

Sounds like He could be addressing a joint session of congress. It’s certainly something they need to hear. While much hay is being made on both sides of the aisle regarding removal of this flag from practically any and every place it has ever been displayed, race relations continue to go to you-know-where in a hand basket.

The ever-growing crowd of PC do-gooders can fight and fuss and scratch and claw until anything that even resembles this flag has been legislated completely out of existence and it won’t, as my mama would say, amount to a hill of beans. Why? Because a flag isn’t what caused Dylan Roof to commit mass murder and regardless of how good it makes the PC peddlers feel to not see it over a government building or on the grave of Confederate soldier, removing it solves nothing and, in fact, looks to be making things worse. If I make my way down a particular stretch of Bourbon Street in New Orleans and take down every rainbow colored flag I come across, will that magically transform every homosexual to a heterosexual? Dumb question? Yep. Not any dumber than what the anti-flag crusaders are doing.

We could be dealing with things that matter. Doing things that might make a difference in race relations and the growing divide between practically every demographic in the book.

That’s just my opinion. I’m just a white, southern, conservative Christian. What do I know. SCOTUS will probably find me unconstitutional in a few years anyhow.

The Party of Lying Legends

The Democrat cult…er…party never ceases to amaze and enrage me. Your former Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, took to the Senate floor during the last presidential election and lied about Mitt Romney not paying his taxes. He lied and admitted it in an interview and when asked if he regretted it, he said that Romney “didn’t win, did he?”

The Clintons have built not one but two political careers that have been based on lies and deception from almost the beginning. “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.” Sound familiar?  “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” That statement is among the most asinine I have ever heard and yet Mr. Clinton is a hero among democrats. Benghazi, being shot at as she ran from an airplane in the middle east, the current email fiasco…Hillary Rodham Clinton is pretty darn savvy at saying and doing anything to save her own rear-end and/or gain more power.

It’s not that I’m so naive to believe republicans are pure as the driven snow. They’re not and it really chaps my butt when the party I most closely identify with practices what I’ll refer to as the Clinton Plan to gain power and pad their own pockets. Politicians of every stripe lie. Democrat politicians, though, have perfected it, embrace it, and use it more effectively than any institution this side of the Sanhedrin.

For the record, I think that many republicans in the Alabama house of representatives, specifically Speaker Hubbard and his minions, have been a huge embarrassment and if they were truly interested in doing the right thing, they’d do whatever they can to make sure Hubbard doesn’t wield the gavel of that chamber for one more day.

In other words, their recent behavior and decisions would make them really good democrats. Perhaps democrat legends in the making.