Like the rain: a retrospective of this life, love, and marriage

Driving from Dallas to Houston through the driving rain in the wee hours of the morning, I soon found myself out of the range of my default sports talk radio station.

So, I turned to my trusty Amazon music collection.

Something about a rainy morning driving away from home brings on a warm and bitter melancholy. It isn’t long before the mind wanders along the trails, the highways, and bi-ways of a life as unexpected and painful and glorious and beautiful as any ever imagined by novelist or storyteller.

As if to create a soundtrack for my thoughts, the music selection set to “random play” lands a on a song by one of my favorite singer/songwriters. There he is, singing his haunting, beautiful song, summarizing how I am feeling about this life you and I have built together…

Any relationship that stands the test of time must withstand its share of storms. It may have begun with sunshine and song, but the thunderstorms will soon roll in.

For us, the first real challenge came in 1983, when we learned God had selected us to provide guidance, love, and hope to a child born with a physical disability.

And the thunder rolled.

The dark clouds of doubt and the chill winds of despair swept across our souls like a merciless wind on an empty Texas prairie, howling its insults, whispering its accusations.

In 1989, at Stanford Medical Center in Palo Alto, California, a million miles from home, we waited 12 hours while a team of skilled and heroic doctors fought –mostly in vain – to give new structure to our daughter’s badly damaged frame.

We were young parents, feeling our way along, clinging to faith, grasping for hope, begging God for wisdom and strength.

There would be other storms, of course. Like the loss of everything we had ever known professionally, when we were left clinging to one another and the few friends and family that remained at the moment.

I never liked the rain ’til I walked through it with you.

It’s ironic how the most painful experiences become precious memories, mile markers along the road of a successful, rewarding, fulfilling, can’t-imagine-it-any-other-way life.

All that we are and all that we have is the result of everywhere we have been, everyone we have met along the way, and everything we have endured, cherished, celebrated, mourned, loved, lost, found…

And here I am, more than three decades removed from the altar and “I do”… like the rain…falling for you.

Posted in (Gene)ric Ramblings, Faith, Family, Life Experience, Love, marriage, nostalgia | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hello, Spring and Happy Birthday, Dad

dadDad didn’t pay much attention to his birthday, the way I remember it. Maybe that is because I was a kid most of his time on earth and kids figure birthdays are mostly for them and not so much the old folks.

He’s been gone 25 years already. He would have been 76 today. It’s funny how little time I spent thinking about him when he was around and how much I think about him since he’s gone.

One thing I do remember about his birthday is how he liked to point out that it marked either the first day of Spring or the last day of Winter. I guess he liked it that he was born when nature was reborn every year. That reminds me of the analogy the Apostle Paul used for the way we should think about death as it relates to God’s own:

But someone may ask, “How will the dead be raised? What kind of bodies will they have?” What a foolish question! When you put a seed into the ground, it doesn’t grow into a plant unless it dies first. And what you put in the ground is not the plant that will grow, but only a bare seed of wheat or whatever you are planting. Then God gives it the new body he wants it to have. A different plant grows from each kind of seed. Similarly there are different kinds of flesh—one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish.

There are also bodies in the heavens and bodies on the earth. The glory of the heavenly bodies is different from the glory of the earthly bodies. The sun has one kind of glory, while the moon and stars each have another kind. And even the stars differ from each other in their glory.

It is the same way with the resurrection of the dead. Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, there are also spiritual bodies.

The Scriptures tell us, “The first man, Adam, became a living person.”h But the last Adam—that is, Christ—is a life-giving Spirit. What comes first is the natural body, then the spiritual body comes later. Adam, the first man, was made from the dust of the earth, while Christ, the second man, came from heaven. Earthly people are like the earthly man, and heavenly people are like the heavenly man. Just as we are now like the earthly man, we will someday be likei the heavenly man.

What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever.

But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.

Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die,j this Scripture will be fulfilled:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.k

O death, where is your victory?

O death, where is your sting?l

For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:35-56

spring-green-road-landscape-high-definition-wallpaper-desktop-background-downloadI say Dad “would have been 76,” not because he ceased to be all those years ago, but because he ceased to be bound by time and all of its implications. There is no need to celebrate birthdays in Heaven. Every day is a celebration of everlasting life with the Giver of life Himself.

It is kind of ironic that we make a big deal about our birthdays, isn’t it? It’s like we are celebrating the finite nature of our journey. We are marking milestones on the sometimes long and sometimes not-so-long march to the grave we work so hard to avoid.

(That’s a little morbid. So, if today is your birthday… Happy Birthday!)

At any rate, I do not know what it feels like to be free from the constraints and cruelties of time. Dad may be even less inclined to acknowledge his birthday now than he was when he was here. But not me. I still celebrate them like nobody’s business.

Happy birthday, Dad. I will see you “when the roll is called up yonder.” (Yours is still the loudest voice in my head whenever I hear or think of that song. The way you belted it out helped me believe and want my name on that roll.)

Oh, and hello, Spring. Glad you are here.

Posted in Christian Living, Faith, Family, nostalgia | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Accidental Progress: A Farewell to 2015

man-walking-down-road

I closed 2014 on a new journey. After 10 years of traipsing across North America, settling claims in unsettling circumstances, I accepted a positon relatable to the skills I had acquired, but totally different in focus and scope. I was now a field superintendent/inspector for Progress Residential, a group that owns and manages a large portfolio of single-family homes. The pay was decent and I was home most every night.

And that is how 2015 began.

Life was good.

Job, Interrupted

Then, March of 2015 came along. A phone call from my supervisor changed everything. I was all caught up on my field duties, but over on the maintenance side of things, there was an incredible backlog of unresolved issues and open work orders. I was asked to come inside and help sort things out, get people called, get work orders closed, get a grip on what had become an overwhelming situation.

I never went back to the field.

At first, it had me plenty irritated, to the point that I made a couple of phone calls to old comrades and contemplated hitting the adjuster road again.

Meanwhile, I was busy building a model for handling maintenance issues for the 1,100+ homes we managed in Dallas/Fort Worth. Things were coming together and the maintenance techs and I actually began to see daylight. The pending work order count was steadily dropping. We had devised a new workflow that insured the constant influx of work orders would not reach the breaking point for our department again.

Corporate took note…and took action. Our model was used to formulate a national gameplan and a new position emerged. I was now Service Manager. A new title and a better pay and bonus schedule resulted from the call that I thought was a slap in the face back in March.

Shows what I know.

New Year, New Beginnings

Today is my last day in this position. After the first of the New Year, I will be moving on to a new company with a better position, better pay, better opportunities.

Talk about accidental progress!

Only, I don’t believe in accidents. I believe in a sovereign God. Sovereignty rules out happenstance. What seems like good or bad fortune to us only seems like it.

“Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done; saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.’” Isaiah 46:9-10

The Long and Winding Road

When I look back at all of the years of my life, I see a journey that, by all human measures, appears to have been “all over the road.” I’ve been up, down, in, out, favored, forgotten, victorious, defeated, a shepherd, a sheep, a wandering soul. I have preached to thousands and been a sermon illustration. I have been counselor and counseled.

I’ve never been anywhere that took Him by surprise. I’ve never gone where He did not allow – or rather, appoint.

I am ready to put 2015 to bed with thanksgiving. I am thankful for my new son-in-law Dylan Blevins, who brought love and hope to my daughter Ashley and my grandson Ty. I am thankful for my soon-to-be son-in-law, AJ Haley. He loves my Lacey the way she deserves to be loved and she loves him completely. I am thankful for Edward, a man among men when it comes to sacrificial love.

I am thankful for Donya. She has made every victory more satisfying and every loss less stressful.

I am ready to face with you the unknown, because it is only unknown to us. I am ready because, like the immortal Charles Haddon Spurgeon famously noted…

“God is too wise to be mistaken and too good to be cruel and when you cannot trace his hand, you can always trust His heart.”

Happy New Year!

Posted in (Gene)ric Ramblings, Faith, Family, Greybeard Chronicles, Life Experience, Personal Observation | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

’twas the night before…

b02af580c51eac566f69ef430fab65a7

‘Twas the Night Before…’

Everything changed…forever.

Imagine a world without Christmas…a world without Christ. Imagine a world without the Golden Rule. Imagine a world where no one ever turned the other cheek. Imagine a world where the last could never be first and the least could never be most. Imagine a world ruled by the tenets of Christless religion, with its vengeful gods and their impossible demands.

Or, imagine a world where Darwin was right and only the fittest survive, where the weak and sickly are inevitably trampled and eliminated. Talk about a dog-eat-dog world!

Imagine all the people…living their lives without even the remotest influence of Christ and His teachings on their thinking and behavior. Everything is dark because the light of the world never shined.

Remember this:

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” ~James 1:17

EVERY good gift…and it starts with the greatest gift of them all.

When you wake tomorrow morning, remember that first Christmas morning. Remember the birth announcement that changed the world, that brought hope to the hopeless, help to the helpless, and life to the lifeless.

“…For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord…” ~Luke 2:11

Posted in Christian Living, Church, Family, Gospel, Jesus Christ | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A Thanksgiving Prayer you are better off not praying

thanksgiving prayerAll across America, families who still pause to give thanks at Thanksgiving are gearing up for the big day of feast, family, and faith. Heads of families or those whom suspect they may be called on to “offer grace” may have already begun boning up on their prayer life. Some like it more rehearsed. No surprises. Eases the tension of suddenly being the only voice in the room and speaking on everyone’s behalf…to God! Others will confidently and boldly “wing it.”

There are those who acknowledge God, but only as a support, or an accomplice. They feel strongly about the fact that THEY provided this meal, this home, this haven of security for their family. Their prayer will likely reflect those sentiments.

There are others who use prayer time as a time to give God their resumè, to make sure He is actually aware of what a lucky stroke of genius it was to turn them loose on His creation to begin with. This is called pride. P-R-I-D-E, and it is particularly loathsome to God. Jesus gave the following example on how NOT to offer thanksgiving:

The Thanksgiving Prayer that isn’t

Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: 1“Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer : ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” ~Luke 18:9-14 (NLT)

Something like, “Hey, God! You ought to be so proud of You for making someone as special as me. I mean, just, Wow! I’m not like other people. I resist the temptations that trap so many. I have a good job. I work hard. I provide for my family. I am loyal to my wife and I could be, you know, out tom-catting…I mean, look at me!”

I know. It sounds ridiculous. And overboard. But I have heard prayers just about that absurd. Pride is the stumbling block over which the very best of us stumbles. You navigate your way through the minefields of dishonesty, disloyalty, adultery, etc…then you start thinking you are special.

God hates that.

Pride is a symptom of a deeper problem

The subject of pride is dealt with rather harshly in the Bible.

These six things the LORD hates,
Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look,
A lying tongue,
Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who speaks lies,
And one who r sows discord among brethren. ~Proverbs 6:16 (NKJV)

Pride goes before destruction,
and haughtiness before a fall. ~Proverbs 16:18 (NKJV)

Why is God so put out with the proud?

Pride is a symptom of self-righteousness and self-righteousness is a declaration of independence from God. God’s holiness is only satisfied by His own righteousness. His is the only righteousness He accepts. We are sinners by nature. Any righteousness we muster is fueled by the flesh, not by faith. That is why even the good we do can become a source of sin.

Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone s is in Christ, he is t a new creation; u old things have passed away; behold, all things have become v new. Now all things are of God, w who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are y ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become a the righteousness of God in Him. ~2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Salvation is an exchange of His righteousness for our sin. His righteousness is imputed to our account and our sin debt was imputed to His account and paid  in full by Christ at Calvary. There is no place for self-sufficiency or braggadocio here. There is no reason to tout our own righteous deeds.

But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. ~Isaiah 64:6 (KJV)

Since the filthy rags here mentioned are understood to be the cloths used to cover the infectious sores of the diseased, this is not a ringing endorsement of self-righteousness. It is seen as just a facade, a covering. The disease remains. That is where the blood of Christ comes in.

But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. ~ Philippians 3:7-11 (KJV)

The Problem with Pharisee’s Prayer

The overarching problem with this man’s prayer was that it came from a heart of pride, of self-reighteousness. Look at its content:

He touted his credentials

“I am not like everyone else.”

I am special. I am different. I am better.

In America, where we teach our children about American exceptionalism and the greatness of this nation, we have to be careful we don’t cross that line where we instill in them a sense of personal superiority by birthright. The path to righteousness is the same regardless of the place of your birth.

I was caught red-handed stealing a book from a store when I was about 12. I remember well the discipline meted out by my father.

I also remember him saying, “You do not behave this way. You are a Strother.”

I know what he meant by that. He wanted me to protect the “good” name of the family in the community. I did, however, behave that way that day – not because I was a Strother, but because I was a sinner. I still am. Justification is immediate at salvation. Sanctification and glorification are not.

He used comparisons

“I am not like everyone else and I am WAY better than that tax collector.”

Publicans (tax collectors) were seen as traitors to their people. They were Jews collecting taxes from their own people for the Roman crown. They were notorious for over-collecting to line their own pockets.

In the world’s eyes, a Pharisee following all the rules imposed by the Torah was surely better than a thieving scoundrel tax collector.

But all of our righteousnesses are as filthy rags to God. The law was never meant to justify anyone. It was meant as a guide for morality and as proof that we all fail. We all fall short.

You may be better than your siblings, your neighbors, the drug addict on the street corner, all the fools who voted for Obama, etc…

But you really aren’t.

The sinner’s prayer

That tax collector prayed a much different prayer. He knew he had nothing to recommend him to a holy God…nothing but regret and repentance and the desire for God’s mercy, the desire to experience a change he could not himself effect.

“God be merciful to me a sinner.”

God heard that prayer. He honored it.

Thanksgiving begins with humility

We are thankful when we recognize benefits we didn’t earn and we don’t deserve.

What do you say we let thanksgiving rule our hearts this Thanksgiving? What if it was the beginning of a new way of looking at ourselves, at others, and at the God we claim to love and serve?

What if we finally stopped to realize…

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. ~James 1:17

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Posted in America, Blog, Christian Living, Faith, Family | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

I, Tom Sawyer: The True Adventures of an American Youth | Part One: Billy Jack, Buford Pusser, and me

I grew up with a Bible in one hand and a copy of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer  in the other. If I had a third hand it would have held a football. A fourth would have had a baseball glove on it. A fifth and sixth would have clamped the handlebar grips of my Huffy bicycle. Mine was the all-American youth in all-Texas towns with names like Mineral Wells, Strawn, and Sansom Park. I had adventures with all-American boys with names like Robert Bunnell, Johnny Caudle, and Troy Henager.

There were other towns and other kids sprinkled in along the way. Together, they conspired to engage me in adventures that, in many ways, remain as vivid in the theater of my mind as they were in the days of their doing.

For posterity’s sake, and because I enjoy the reliving and re-telling of them, I have decided to share some of my adventures (I do not know how many yet) on this blog. If you are entertained by them, I am gratified. If you are not entertained by them, I am, so that will have to suffice. If you read them and they remind you of your own adventures, by all means, share them.

Enough with the small talk. Hop in this time machine with me and let’s rewind to the clock to 1971.

Billy Jack, Buford Pusser, and me

 

Thou Shalt Not!

I was raised Baptist.

By Baptist, I do not mean the “liberal” Southern Baptist version. I mean the version of my grandfather W.A. Henager and my dad William David Strother. I mean the KJV 1611 version. I mean the version that preached – and by preached, I mean foam-at-the-mouth preached – against long hair on men, women wearing pants (or anything that wasn’t a skirt, dress or ((God help us)) culottes), Rock and Roll music, and MOVIES.

Most of the “Thou shalt nots” would not bother me until I hit about thirteen. But the movie thing had me quietly seething and plotting my revenge as early as 1971, when I was ten.

I know it was 1971, not because I have Hyperthymesia, but because I have Internet and Google and IMDb and can verify that as the year Billy Jack starring Tom Laughlin came out. My best friend Robert Bunnell, a couple years my senior, had gotten to see that movie because his parents had not at that time imposed the theater ban on their three boys.

Billy Jack was an ex-Green Beret Hapkido expert who fought to defend the hippie-themed “Freedom School” from townspeople who did not approve of their counterculture ways. Billy Jack was actually the second of four movies featuring the Tom Laughlin character. It would fail in theaters in 1971, but would be re-released in 1973 and catch fire, raking in $40 million at the box office. Billy Jack would become a cult hero. After that second release, every boy in Mineral Wells, it seemed, except me had seen the movie and could practice his Hapkido moves on his friends or foes…or thin air.

My pal Robert was a renowned fighter. I know he worked a few of Billy Jack’s moves into a scuffle or two.

I felt like such a loser. I couldn’t do any sweet Billy Jack moves. I had never seen one.

I missed Billy Jack twice!

Walking Tall, Running Fast!

Then came Buford Pusser. In 1973, the movie every red-blooded, God-fearing, butt-kicking, snuff-dipping Texas boy had to see was Walking Tall, featuring Joe Don Baker as Buford Hayes Pusser, the sheriff of McNair County, Tennesse from 1964-1970. It was a true story about a sure-‘nough, club-wielding bad-ass good guy.

By the Spring of 1973, my parents had changed neither their religious affiliation nor their minds about going to the theater. So what if that was the only place a boy could see Buford Pusser walk tall? It was a den of debauchery and all manner of wickedness and I was not to darken its doors. (They needn’t forbid my attendance of drive-in theaters yet, since neither I nor any of my friends were anywhere near old enough to manage that.)

I was 11 and wouldn’t hit 12 for another six months the night Robert Bunnell, Johnny Caudle, a fellow named David (a friend of Robert’s whom I do not remember well), and I set out to execute my plan to see Buford Pusser. Walking Tall was showing at the drive-in, which was on 180, the main east-west drag through town. The theatre was out past the hospital, which meant it was on the western outskirts of town. We were at Robert’s house on Kiowa Drive, in a housing edition known as Fairfield Acres, about three miles north and east of downtown. I measure the distance on Google maps while prepping for this telling. My calculations put the theatre 5.7 miles from the little three bedroom, brick house with a carport. Under that carport, as the sun made its last fuss in the jagged hills-that-seemed-like-mountains-to-me-then, I pressed my case for going to the movies.

“How far is it?” asked Johnny.

“‘Bout four or five miles,” mused Robert.

Johnny whistled.

“That’s a hike.”

“Yup,” offered Dave, the outlier.

I remember better what they said than what I said. I know I was in a fevered fit to do it. I know I carried the day. I know that, as soon as darkness had fallen on Fairfield Acres, four boys set out on foot to see what was sure to become the most inspiring movie of their lives. Never mind it was a drive-in and the oldest among us was not yet 14. Never mind we had no car. Never mind Johnny was in from Strawn, spending the weekend with me, and David was from somewhere in town and neither had a bicycle with him, which meant we were afoot. Never mind any of that.

The plan was as simple as it was brilliant. We would be as stealthy as possible while keeping a brisk pace. Keep out of the glow of streetlights and parking lots. Stay well off of Highway 180 – the main east-west drag through town – where the random cop might be driving.

The theater screen had its back to the main street, of course. There were the arced rows of parking spots, each with pole holding the speaker, which the patron would hook on the window of his car to get the movie sound. In the middle of the back three rows was the cantina where the tubs of buttered popcorn, hot dogs, cokes and such could be purchased. A chain link fence enclosed the back of the theater lot. Beyond it was a field where the grass was allowed to grow free and tall…tall enough for a boy to lie on his stomach and watch the movie undetected. Out play was to circled around towards the back, where darkness would cover us, climb through the barbed wire fence of the field, sneak across the field until we reached a good spot with a clear view, and watch Buford Pusser kick ass.

“We won’t even be able to hear what they’re saying,” complained Johnny.

Johnny Caudle was from the tiny town of Strawn, which could be completely traipsed without covering 5.7 miles. He was not enthusiastic about the adventure, which surprised me, because, when I had lived in Strawn and my dad pastored the little church his family attended there, Johnny had proved to be one of the most adventuresome and trouble-seeking pals I had encountered.

“So?” Says I. “It’s an action movie, man. We will see the action.”

“Yeah. You can figure out what they’re saying good enough,” offered Robert.

At least Robert was all in. Maybe it was just for me that he was doing it. He was like that. Tough as a boot. Mean as a snake. Hard-boiled. His knuckles were numb-chucks. His boots were Thor’s Hammer in duplicate. You might want to fight. You wouldn’t want to fight Robert.

He was kind and generous to a fault. Our friendship is halfway through it fifth decade now and he still fits that description. True blue.

Honestly, the walk to the theater, as fraught with potential and imaginary danger as it was for four boys who were definitely NOT where any of their parents expected them to be, turned out to be rather pedestrian (sorry for grabbing the low-hanging pun fruit) uneventful. I don’t remember much about it at all until we were there, wriggling as quietly as possible between the horizontal lines of barbed wire. I remember I snagged my left arm, just above the inside of my wrist, on the barbed wire. In fact, I just stopped typing to find the faint-but-still-with-me scar the barb left.

Once through the fence, a little blood brook running down my wrist and drip, drip, dripping from my thumb, we crouched. The weather was cool and the sky was so starless and tar black, you might have concluded, if you were an apostate and willing to make such musings, that even God was inclined to aid in our dereliction. We moved like an Apache war party through the waist deep grass. We made no more noise than the wind itself might have made blowing across the same field. Only the wind was absent and the only rustle of grass was boy-caused.

There was also the occasional crunch of dead grass or stray twigs beneath our sneakers. But other than that, we moved like ghosts on the prairie, unseen and unheard by all…

Except the hounds of Hell. I do not know how many of them there were, nor what breed. Some howled. Others barked. And from somewhere in the distance they came charging towards the Apaches in the grass. I had managed to stamp out a place in the grass and lower myself to my stomach, rest my chin in my hands and watch about two minutes of the movie before the man-eaters began their baying, barking, and barreling towards us. This was followed by a spotlight being waved across the field back and forth, occasionally flashing its blinding brilliance into my silver dollar eyes.

“Hey, there!” The shout was from an annoyed male. He was, no doubt, the one behind the searchlight.

“Hot damn! They seen us! They seen us!”

That was Robert, who was already upright, his long, lanky legs flinging him the direction we had come.

Each of us was on his feet and in full sprint for the barbed wire. The dogs had come from far enough away that, even though they were closing fast, they would not reach us before we all made it through, under or over the fence. Coming, I had snagged my arm. Going, I ripped my jeans. I did not stop to assess the damage.

We ran for our very lives, putting as much distance between ourselves, the spotlighter, the dogs, and for all we knew, the cops. No escaped convict ever ran with more desperation than I did that night. The thing that mortified me most about the prospect of being caught was facing my dad. Give me prison. Hard labor. Banish me to Patmos, like they did St. John.

Just don’t tell Dad.

The return journey to Robert’s house was the weary march of retreat by defeated warriors. Five plus miles to cover on blistered feet. And for what?

Except for Johnny’s incessant complaining and “I told ya” speeches, we walked in silence.

Somewhere behind us, Buford Pusser and his big stick were cleaning up a county to the delight of popcorn-devouring revelers. The lucky ones in their muscle cars with their arms around cuddling girlfriends knew nothing of the Adventure Boys and their failed mission.

So, I missed a movie. (Never mind. I saw it at least a half dozen times in the ensuing years.)

I made a memory, and that has entertained and sustained me far better than any old movie across the decades of my adventure-life.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

Posted in Blog, Family, Humor, Life Experience, nostalgia | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

God bless A.V. Henderson

 

Of all the preachers I have known and interacted with in my life, if I had to name a favorite, it would be Dr. A.V. Henderson. Dr. Henderson married my grandparents and was their pastor in Merkel, Texas a long, long time ago. His mastery of the pulpit eventually took him to the pastorate of the historic Temple Baptist Church, Detroit, MI, which was, at the time, one of the five largest churches in America, once pastored by the inimitable J. Frank Norris.

Henderson would also later serve as the president of Baptist Bible College in Springfield, MO., which I would attend in the early 1980s.
 
templeYou have heard the term “preaching machine?” Well, if that is a complimentary term, then Henderson was a preaching machine if ever one existed, though there was nothing mechanical in his manner or delivery.
 
Every preacher knows that, when you are speaking to an unfamiliar crowd, there is a bit of “warm-up” required. You have to establish a rapport with the people. Dr. Henderson never bothered warming up a crowd. He walked to the pulpit preaching…and you were drawn in – a moth to the light. There was something in the way pure eloquence would pour from that warm, west Texas cadence that was utterly captivating. He spoke with power, purpose and clarity. His knowledge of the subject was always supreme and his ability to make even the most uninformed “see” what he was saying was unmatched.
 
People said you could set your watch by Dr. Henderson’s sermons.
 
“Twenty minutes on the dot.”
 
He never preached long, but he said enough in those 20 minutes to keep your mind and heart engaged for that many hours. He left you wanting more, but he gave you enough and then some.

I imagined, as I watched him perform the divine art from my perch on the platform, that even Heaven’s angels stopped their activities to listen to that man expound the Word and glorify their Lord.

 
One of the highlights of my life was when, as a young pastor in Paris, Texas, I was able to bring Dr. Henderson to preach a meeting at my church. He preached in Paris, Texas to a few hundred the same way he preached in Detroit to thousands. I imagined, as I watched him performing the divine art from my perch on the platform, that even Heaven’s angels hushed themselves to listen to that anointed man expound the Word and glorify their Lord.
 

God bless the preachers who craft sermons with care, bathe them in tears, boil them in zeal, and deliver them in the Spirit.

I have buried the lead here, I guess, but I don’t care. This isn’t a news article. I want you to know what I think about him when I tell you that he is now 96 years old, living in Mount Pleasant, Texas, and has Leukemia. My sister attends the church he and his wife attend. She told me this morning of his condition. Doctors will not be treating it due to his advanced age and frailty. The lovely Mrs. Henderson is there by his side, where she has been for more than 70 years!
 
God bless the pulpiteers whose hearts are as great as their words are eloquent. God bless the preachers whose lives match their sermons. God bless the men who stand in the gap and make up the hedge. God bless the preachers who craft sermons with care, bathe them in tears, boil them in zeal, and deliver them in the Spirit.
God bless AV Henderson, whom I love.

Posted in Christian Living, Faith, Gospel, Preaching and Preachers | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment