“They talk funny here.” That’s what Mrs.
Sweetie told me the first time I took her to Alabama to a family reunion.I reminded her that, since we were the ones
from out of town, we were the funny talkers there.
Did you know that in Alabama there are only
25 letters in the alphabet?There is no
R.“Pass the buttah, please.”In Texas, we vocally capitalize the R, even
in the middle of the word.That’s why
the name Carl sounds like a two-syllable word. (If you are reading this in a
public place, I hope you didn’t just embarrass yourself by trying that out
I had an “Aha” moment during the worship
service in the church I attended this past Sunday. Those moments should occur
in church a lot more frequently than they do, but that’s another topic for
I was worshiping with one of our Hispanic
congregations. I took three years of Spanish in school over 35 years ago and
grew up in west Texas where there was already a large Spanish-speaking
population, so I can understand enough to generally keep up with what is going
on.But I miss a lot, too.On some of the songs, I may only catch a
phrase or two before it’s over.
It was during one of those unfamiliar songs
that I had my “Aha”.I realized that I
didn’t have a clue what they were saying, but I had joined my heart with theirs
in the worship of our God.I clapped
along with the rhythm, hummed along in harmony, and raised my heart to
God.I did not have to like,
understand—or even agree with—every word to join with them in spirit.
I had a similar experience in the Crimean
city of Sevastopol about three weeks ago.Except this time the service was in Russian and the only word I ever
understood was the Russian word for God.But I worshiped as they lifted their hearts and voices to their God and
I got to thinking about the complaints I have
heard from church-goers over the years.Complaints because they didn’t like they style of music.Complaints because they didn’t agree with
everything the preacher said.Complaints
because they might agree with it, but they just didn’t like the way he said
it.Complaints because the service was
too long or the thermostat was set too low or the sound system was set too
high.Complaints because … you fill in
the blank. Sometimes one might get the impression that we think the worship
service is about us.
Jesus once said, “But the hour is coming, and
is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and
truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” (John 4:23)
Our lives matter so much to God that He is
seeking us so that we can seek Him. Even if we talk funny.
Who would have ever thought a
silly song about picnic supplies would be a major country music hit?Oh yeah, it’s country music.No insult intended.Just an acknowledgement that if you can hit a
down-home, regular old boy vibe with a catchy melody, you might have a country
hit.Every genre of music has its own
I just watched the YouTube video of Toby
Keith’s performance of this song on the recent Academy of Country Music awards
show.Over 1.7 million people watched
this video before I did.Crazy.
I don’t have any great affinity for any
particular picnic implements although I do have a list of picnic essentials,
based on my upbringing.Probably most of
the picnics I remember from childhood were meals that my Granny Lewis turned
into picnics.She always had Fritos,
bean dip, and those little sweet gherkin pickles.I have no idea what in the world a gherkin is,
but if you don’t have them, you don’t have a picnic.
Granny Lewis went to be with Jesus and
Grandpa in 1990, just about 4 months before my son was born. I have a few
quilts and afghans that she made, but one particular item stands out.It is a little neck pillow that she made for
me when she was still able to sew.I
don’t remember at what point I started putting it over my face at night to
block light, but for the past 30 years or so, I can’t sleep without something
over my face.Fortunately, Mrs. Sweetie
hasn’t felt the need to put the big bed pillow over my face.
Granny’s little pillow began to look a little
thread-bare a few years ago, so Mrs. Sweetie used it as a pattern to make me
another one for every day use.But I
still carry Granny’s when I travel.I
looked at it on my recent trip to Ukraine and noticed that the fabric is now
tissue paper thin, the cotton batting is in clumps, and it doesn’t block much
I got a little nostalgic thinking that the
time is soon coming that I will have to retire it completely.Toby Keith says the red solo cup is his
friend.I guess this little neck pillow
is my red solo cup.It reminds me of
picnics, back rubs, and Granny’s tiny kitchen.
Last week I wrote about looking forward
rather than looking longingly backward.That doesn’t mean that memories are not precious and heritage is not
important.When I look back on how God
used special people in my life to prepare me to be the man I am today, it makes
me want to be sure that I am allowing God to use me in the lives of those
around me.Who knows what my future
grandchildren will remember about me?
Our lives matter so much to God that He wants
us to finish well.Granny’s little
pillow is my reminder.
The latest superhero move, The Avengers, has
broken all kinds of box office records over the past few days.More than likely, my first viewing will be in
a few months when I can watch it on pay-per-view from the comfort of my own
recliner and hit pause for the necessary potty breaks. That was probably too
During my recent trip to Ukraine with the
Singing Men of North Central Texas, I met a couple who have become my newest
heroes.AJ and Doris Stroud are the
parents of one the men in our group.How
rowdy this group must be when we have to have our parents go along as
Seriously, this trip consisted of 95 singers,
and another 70 or so wives and “mission partners”.Their role was to do the real work of the
ministry.In other words, if it didn’t
happen on stage, they were doing it--going out on the street to pass out
concert invitations, serving as greeters at the concert venues, conducting
English lessons with locals before each concert, praying through the concert,
and distributing free CDs and Bibles (more than 8000 of them) at the exits at
each concert.All of these mission
partners are the true heroes of a trip like this.
So what makes AJ and Doris stand out among
all these heroes?Well for one thing,
they celebrated their wedding anniversary on this trip.They could have gone anywhere in the world to
celebrate their anniversary, but they chose to spend it sharing our
But that is only part of the story.What really makes them my newest heroes is
that this wedding anniversary was their 67th.No, that is not a misprint. These
globetrotting octogenarians have been sharing life, love, and mission for 67
I got to visit with them for just a few
minutes on our last morning in Ukraine and I told them how they blessed and
inspired me.If the Lord is gracious
enough to allow me another 39 years of marriage to Mrs. Sweetie, I hope that we
will be still looking for new ways to serve Him together.
A modern version of Philippians 3:13-16 says,
“Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of
this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward — to
Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back. So let's keep focused on
that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have
something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear
your blurred vision — you'll see it yet! Now that we're on the right track,
let's stay on it."
Our lives matter so much to God that He
doesn’t want us looking longingly backward.AJ and Doris are already planning their next adventure with Him.
Are you old enough to remember that Jeffersons
theme song?“Moving on up to the east
side, to that DE-luxe apartment in the sky …”
Well, this week my baby boy moves out of the
college dorm into an apartment.It is
not a DE-luxe one, but it will certainly be different from the walk-in closet
he has called home for the past three years.He’s a year from graduation, but the end is in sight and this is the
first step toward that transition into big boy world.
This first step also marks the end of an
era.One of my offspring has been a
resident of Conner Hall, the honors dorm at West Texas A&M University,
since January, 2007.Big sister was
moving out of the girls’ wing just as little brother moved in on the opposite
“Honors dorm” sounds pretty cool if you
aren’t aware that it was built as a military barracks in the early 1950’s and
is still heated by the original radiators and cooled by whatever fans the kids
bring with them since there is no A/C.The cool thing about it is that you get to have a private room and hang
out with a lot of smart kids who may not win many intramural sports trophies,
but they are enjoying succeeding in their college experience.
I happen to think it is also good preparation
for life.Some lessons are better learned
early. Like the fact that you are smart, make good grades, and work hard does
not necessarily mean that you will live in the lap of luxury.Or that success does not always equal
comfort.Or that your life will be more
affected by your choices than by your environment.
Since I left home for college 32 years ago, I
have lived in 2 dorm rooms, 4 apartments, and 3 houses.I am certain that is way below average.Every residence has been based on a series of
choices.Even the fact that I have lived
in the same house for the past 21 years results from choices to stay when I
could have moved onto something new.
We don’t use the word “abode” much anymore,
but it is related to the word “abide”, which means to “stay or remain”.Because I have chosen to abide, my house is
my abode.Though I have no plans to
relocate, only God truly knows how long I will abide here.
There is another kind of abode that is more
important to me.Jesus said, “If you keep My
commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments
and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be
in you, and that your joy may be made full.”
Our lives matter so much to God that He has
given us instructions for true success and abiding joy.
(Note: Due to traveling and spotty internet for the past few weeks, I am posting several blogs today that have already come out in print form as my newspaper column)
Does it mean you’re getting old when you only
listen to ESPN or talk radio in the car?I’ve tried listening to the oldies music station, but I just can’t get
no satisfaction there.(Yes, I know that
One of my morning commute staples is the Ben & Skin show on ESPN.If you are familiar with it you are probably
mentally humming the theme song right now.I think I really like it because they are a couple of local guys who are
primarily fans of our DFW area sports teams.Usually their humor is not offensive and they seem to just be having a
good time with their dream job.
Last week they talked to Dallas Cowboys
quarterback Tony Romo about the recent birth of his son.As one whose first experience as a dad was
almost a quarter century ago, I love hearing the “aha” moments new dads have
when they realize you can’t completely understand it until you experience it.Tony seems smitten with that little boy and
it makes me smile just to think about it.
Toward the end of the interview, Ben &
Skin asked him to imagine 20 years down the road when someone talks about him to
his son.They asked him what he would
like that conversation to be like.Without hesitation, he said the first things he wants to be remembered
for are being a good father and the spiritual leader of his family.
I’ve been a Romo fan since he became the
starter, perhaps because he wasn’t a highly touted, can’t-miss early draft
pick.Of course the high profile nature
of being the QB of the Cowboys means that every move is scrutinized and every
mistake is magnified.His dating
relationships, vacations, post-loss comments, and interceptions have been
ammunition for those who say he is just not focused enough to lead the Cowboys
to a Super Bowl. They just don’t know for sure wherefore he is mentally.
I have been a Cowboys fan since Super Bowl 5.I want them to go back to the big game and
win it and I’d love for Tony to have that opportunity.
But if he doesn’t, he is going to be ok and I
am going to be ok with him.At the end
of life, accomplishments and accolades are not the most important thing.His marriage and children will be the legacy
Admittedly, I don’t know for sure what being
a spiritual leader looks like for Tony Romo.But I know what it looks like for me. Jesus said in Mark 8:36-37, “For
what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?For what will a man give in exchange for his
soul?” That’s a reality check.
Our lives matter so much to God, that he
knows wherefore we are in every way.If
Tony’s a winner at home, he’ll have a fan in me.