I do water aerobics three days each week. It is men only and most of us are older gentlemen. Just a bunch of old vets and patriots. We begin each session with “God Bless America”, and always end by standing at attention with our hands over our hearts and sing the National Anthem. We call ourselves the “Pot=bellied Patriots”. We have actually done a youtube rendition of the National Anthem. We ain’t bad for a bunch of old guys. We sing at churches and open political rallys some times.
We celebrate birthdays and a few weeks ago, we celebrated the anniversary of one of our guys getting wounded in Nam. That was the last of his many wounds that got him sent home. He was 19 then. So we celebrated the wound day and ate pizza at Cici’s. We are an interesting group to say the least.
A few days ago, we were sitting in the hot tub (it’s built for about 10) and we were discussing how we were raised. We all agreed that parenting now is not very recognizable from when we were being raised. No one worried about us becoming traumatized. We worried about getting our butts torn up. My dad was not too concerned that I would be scarred for life, but rather that I be respectful of my elders and people around me. Interestingly none of us went to integrated schools but we were taught by our parents how to be inclusive and understanding of other ethnic groups (I don’t use the word races, racism, racist). We are All the same race. We are not all of the same ethnic background.
As we were talking one of the men made comments on how the church influenced his upbringing. He began to talk about what he was not allowed to do by his church. He said. “man we couldn’t do much of anything without the fear of being put out of our church. He talked a bit about stuff he wasn’t allowed to do. He looked at me and said, “You are a preacher, how did you grow up”. I replied to him. “I grew up WAY down in the Don’t Dos.”
I remember very well hearing most of my life about the evils of drinking, smoking , cussing, dancing. movies etc. I knew well that if I died with alcohol in my system, or smoke in my lungs, or a swear word on my lips, or a heart attack brought on by dancing , it was a one way ticket to HELL Do not pass go and no get out of jail free card! That was it and there was no debate. So….i grew up hearing Don’t smoke and I didn’t (except for rabbit tobacco; you can look that one up), Don’t drink..so I didn’t ….don’t cuss, so I didn’t (except for the occasional shucks, and darns. Don’t dance (unless it’s in the spirit at church) so I didn’t.
Then they added on “professional sports, stock car racing, pool, mixed bathing, card games, movie theaters, fairs, no shorts, no pants for the girls and no skirts for the boys, no bowling, no nothing! Way down deep in the Don’t dos.
I grew up being guided by a set of values (maybe just someone’s idea) that were very strict. On occasion some of us “jumped the curb” (that’s another blog) and tasted of the “don’t dos” to see just what might happen. We mostly survived unless our parents caught us (they normally did, I don’t lie well) and some even went on to believe those things might have been “spiritual repression” instead of being a good thing for us.
In the last 10 years, I have attended many funerals of the people who taught me those things. I remember those people who, while they might have been overly zealous in their teaching, cared so much about me and wanted the best for me. They truly wanted a life free of condemnation for me. They walked through so much of that and came out on the other side. My dad was an alcoholic before he became a Christian. I know the smell of “drunk puke”. There is nothing worse than that smell. I washed it off many times trying to help my mother get him into bed. He would throw up all over us and the bed. I hated that smell.
My dad became a very successful pastor and mentor. He only laid down the “Don’t dos” for my benefit. Many times he would say. “Son, you can try what ever you want , but nothing will ever satisfy you like the love of Christ”. He was so right. Christ has sustained me when men have discarded me.
I haven’t always stayed true to those “Don’t dos”. One of my best friends, Dr. Tommy Griffin and I snuck off and went to see Elvis (Jailhouse Rock) at the movies. We LOVED IT! He got under conviction and while we were preaching a revival, he ratted us out and went to the altar to repent….looked at me and said, “you need to repent too”. I had just finished the sermon.
So, Just so you will know. I grew up ‘Way down in the Don’t dos.” Some of it was silly no doubt. But the men and women who walked Christianity before me, sincerely cared for my soul. I am grateful for their example. We might need to bring some of that back. It might be a good thing.
Many years ago there was a street preacher in New Orleans. His name was Bob (something). He used to cause quite a stir preaching and calling people out over their sins and the influences of alcohol.
He never had a problem going public with their names. He called a beer company name and called them liars. He accused them of breaking the “truth in advertising law” and sued them. They assured him he would lose in court. After all they had a battery of legal experts and he was going to plead his own case.
It was quite highly publicized at the time and finally there came a time of arbitration. The defense lawyers sat with him and asked him who his witnesses would be. He told them he was bringing a corpse from the local funeral home. They laughed and jokingly asked “And what do you expect to gain by this”? Bob said.”Your commercial says “Where there is life, there’s Bud”. I am going to bring a corpse and a case of Bud. I am just simply going to pop and pour. If that dead man don’t get up, you lose”. As I recall the ad was pulled the next day and Preacher Bob was given a settlement. He then got caught up in some preacher scandal and ……whatever….
Another commercial that sticks in my mind was one where a man is looking for something to drink that would be nutritious. He drinks some kind of drink then slaps his head and says “wow, I could have had a V-8!” He recognizes that he settled for refreshment over nutrition.
In our world we have done much the same as the V-8 guy. We are in need of nutrition spiritually, physically, emotionally, and relationally. Our lives are shallow and painful. Stress is at all time high levels and people are driving themselves crazy looking for something that will satiate their desires and needs. And so they look for refreshment instead of nutrition.
My doctor recently told me to exercise more. I told him I was tired a lot. He said “Ron, the best time to exercise is when you are tired. It gets the blood moving again, raises the heartbeat, drives oxygen to the muscles and organs. It makes you “feel” again instead of exist”. He is a good doctor. And he was right. It is when I am eating a proper diet and exercising that I see the difference in my life and my stress level.
We spend our lives trying to escape the “non-feeling of existence” We just live from day to day. We find things to be passionate about emotionally but not experientially. I remember the days when going to church was an experience to enjoy and participate in. It was rewarding and uplifting. Now all I hear is “No sermon should be more than 20 minutes long.” My recently departed friend, Elva Howard would have laughed you under the table for that one.
We try so hard to assuage our guilt and our condemnation with “refreshment” but eschew the idea of nutrition. We want deeply to be whole, but we spit out the life giving source and settle for sugar water.
One day many of us will slap our head and exclaim. Wow, I could have had a V-8. I hope it won’t be , as the old folks used to say “everlasting too late”.
Now go eat your veggies.
This is a test post to see how it does going to social media. Only a test. If this had been an actual post, our social media channels would have alerted you with a high-pitched siren and a funny looking image on your tv.
Some days in our lives just seem to stand out above all the others. We make some of them special and then some of them are kinda forced on us to make them special. Commercialism does that to all of us.
We have so many days that we feel almost guilted to observe. We buy flowers on Mother’s day and Birthdays and Anniversaries. We go out to eat ( as though that is unusual) on other days. We have to go to our favorite place to eat what we like on any given night that is NOT an auspicious night. but the occasion for which we go Makes it auspicious.
I guess what I am saying is that we are not always allowed to choose what days we think are the most special in our own lives.
Two kids planned a wedding some 53 years ago. “Let’s see, you graduate on May 30th, and I graduate on June 4. That takes up two weekends back to back. I will come to your graduation with a u-haul trailer and bring all your things back to Nashville and you can live with my sister until we can get married. Mom and I will come and bring you back. Then, we have the next two weeks to get everything ready. I know, let’s make it June 20th. That sounds like a good date, because we will have a week for our honey-moon, then we come back and move into the parsonage in Greenbriar in 2 weeks after that. Then I sign up for classes at MTSU the next week, so this is the best date. ” we agreed.
The fact that June 20th, 1965 also was Father’s day. It was never considered until we started sending out invitations. The RSVPs were something like . “we would love to come , but we are going to be visiting my dad on that Father’s day.
And so it was that we actually saw the auspiciousness of a day. But, we went ahead with our plans. We had a beautiful wedding in the North Nashville COGOP. It had a bell tower and was just a perfect setting. We went to church that morning…well, she didn’t but after church at about 2 pm , it all started.
The wedding went as planned. Her dad walked her down the isle and gave her hand to me in marriage. We were 18. I sang to her as she walked down the isle. It was all quaint and romantic and it has lasted for 53 years.
Our anniversary always falls on the Father’s day weekend. It can sometimes get hectic being away from our families on that date, but we only see it as an anniversary. And since she is the one who made me a father, I kinda feel the need to make that day special for s both.
And so it was on Father’s day in 1991, that we made plans for a trip to Austin Texas for a couple of days for the anniversary.
I called my dad on that day and talked to him for a couple of hours. We laughed and he told me some of his old jokes that I had heard a dozen times, but then something interesting happened. While I was talking to him, he just feel asleep . My mom scolded him and woke him up. I thought it was awesome that he felt comfortable doing that. We said our good byes and I told him where we would be.
On the day we were to leave for Austin we had our clothes packed and in the car. The phone rang. When I answered a voice on the other end asked if I were sitting down. That is a strange way to start a conversation. I said no but I can if it is necessary. I was the Presiding Bishop of W. Texas and sometimes I dealt with some pretty difficult issues.
The voice on the other end said. “Your dad has had a stroke. You need to get here as soon as possible. ” I thanked him and hung up. I was frozen. My wife asked .”what was that about”? I said . “Dad is not expected to make it” We both were just shocked for a few minutes. It was gut wrenching.
It was at the hospital that I learned why he had fallen asleep. The stroke was beginning at that very moment. He was fixing a washer for mom and fell in the floor. Eight days later, he died.
Never a Father’s day goes by that I don’t buy white roses for my wife to celebrate our anniversary. We always go out to eat and sometimes we do special things like take a cruise for those milestone years. But never, on Father’s day do I not remember the last conversation I had with my dad. Father’s day is not my favorite day for that reason.
He had asked me to come home. He said “Hey son, move back here and let’s start a church together. I will be the pastor to the older group and we can have some time together”. I looked at my father looking at me like a little boy and told him how important my position was in the church and how needed I was in that position and all the great things we were doing. I heard him say. “yeah, that is important.”
How I wish I had done as he asked. How I wish I still had some of that time to spend with him; laughing. building stuff, fishing, or just hanging out drinking coffee.
The auspicious day I look forward to is the one where I get to see him again. Yep. That one will be really special.
So on this father’s day, nothing you are doing for anyone else is nearly as important as loving your dad.
I love you pop!
Time is a robber it has been said. It’s the one thing that makes us all equal. Everyone has 24 hours in every day. President Trump has the same amount of time as the kid flipping burgers at the local fast food joint. But those 24 hours can be stolen by any number of distractions and poor choices. We are all the masters of those days.
I keep my grandfather’s railroad watch (pocket watch) sitting in a little glass dome on my night stand. It constantly reminds me of my past, my present, and certainly my future. Time waits for no man. While it is the only constant in our lives, it is the great robber of youth and vitality,of dreams and aspirations, of hopes and desires, and of health and well being. One never knows what a day will bring. It always comes with a disclaimer that it is not guaranteed.
My grandson Jonathan was visiting us when he was about four years old. He was looking at all the stuff my wife keeps for dusting purposes. She has all these little things sitting around so that she will have plenty to do on cleaning day. Jonathan was asking her about each piece and where it came from and why she had it and what did it mean and …..he was four you know.
He looked at my grandfather’s railroad watch in the little dome and asked “Grammy, what is that?” My wife replied, “That is your Pop’s daddy’s watch”. He looked surprised and held out his little hands and asked “Did Pop have a daddy?”
At that moment, he brought my mortality to full focus. I has somehow forgotten that my dad was dead before Jonathan was born. He had never seen him in the flesh. He had never heard his laughter, or his sermons, or his humor, or seen him love his family the way I did.
He made me realize that my dad had been my hero. He had been the man who taught me 15 shovels of sand to one bag of cement. He taught me how to throw bricks up on scaffolds two at a time without them coming apart from each other. He had taught me to use a measuring tape and how to use a hammer. He taught me how to love the idea and process of learning. He was the one person I could always turn to for truth and integrity.
My dad was the essence of strength under pressure. He was a man’s man who stood his ground and never gave in. He was intelligent. Even though he had little formal education, he was well spoken and articulate. He was funny . I always called him the “Christian Will Rogers”. He was always quick with the one liner.
And my dad loved my mother. I cherish that he did that. He even had a small tattoo on his right forearm that was of a blue bird with my mother’s name in a banner being held in the beak of the bird. Of course, the story of the tattoo is not really all that romantic. He was a sailor in WWII and got drunk while on a three day pass in San Francisco. He never remembered getting the tattoo. He would always say, “I am sure glad I was sober enough to tell them Mary was my wife’s name”. I miss that tattoo.
However, I have to reconcile that he is no longer a presence in the flesh. He is an historical figure that becomes a story line to my children’s children. He ceased being the hero and is now simply “the dearly departed”. I visited his grave recently. I do that now more since my mother has joined him in the cemetery. I look at his head stone and long for his presence. It is lost to the ages. Now….he is a story.
My mother used to say..”As you now are, I one was, and as I am now, you soon will be”. How true those words. We are all marching toward that end.
But the greatest thing my dad taught me was the knowledge of a living God and a redeeming Savior! He taught me that the only person who ever lived that remains alive is Jesus!
We sometimes see our Lord as a story to be told ” And the birth of Jesus was on this wise”.(kjv language) and we read the account of the visitation of the angel to the virgin. We put up trees and lights and have parties. We have family gatherings and eat too much and buy too much for people who don’t much like us. We feel the need to give to charity and make ourselves feel better by getting in the “Christmas Spirit”.
I am afraid the condition of our world stems from the fact that we have made the Living Savior just another story to be told. He once was a great man who preached and did miracles. He once was a man who could calm seas and cast out demons. He once was a man who could touch blind eyes and bring sight. He once was a man who showed love and mercy where hatred festered. He still lives and still performs the same miracles now as then.
We must recognize once again that He is not just a story of antiquity, but rather He is the risen savior. He is as much alive and more so, than at any time in history.
My grandson will never know the tenderness of my dad’s hugs or the light in his eyes. But Jonathan CAN know the same Savior and Redeemer that I know. He is more than a story! He is Alive for evermore! He is the one constant in the world of inconsistency.
Get to know Him. You will thank me later.