Friday, October 22, 2010

Everything I Ever Needed To Know, I learned in a Greasy Spoon

The Cowboy Poet Darin Brookman penned these words: 

The Coffee Shop Cabinet

They all meet each day at the coffee shop
Or at their local cotton gin
To discuss the whole world's affairs and why,
We’re in the shape that we’re in.

A dirty hat’s the only requirement
If you think you wish to convene,
At this high level summit meetin’ of these
Political analyst in jeans.

Be forwarned the debates can grow heated
And They’ll digress to callin’ names.
Till the chairman wisely calls a recess
To discuss the last home ball game.

Their agenda will vary widely from
The price of wheat to acid rain.
There’ll be two experts on ever’ subject
To explain what needs to be changed.

Whether it’s U.S. Foreign Policy,
The trade imbalance, or inflation.
Each one will have a sure fire remedy
For the ills that plague our nation.

I’ve wonderd why our learned congressmen
Will spend millions every day.
Trying to find ways around the obstacles
That spring up in our countries way.

When they could just use a little slack time,
Go hunt one of these meetings up.
And easily find the answer they seek
For the small price of one hot cup.
(Brookman, Darin, “Those Who Came Before and Other Poems,” Darin Brookman, 1993, Hollis Oklahoma)

The words contained in the poem brought back memories of my younger days in the Texas Panhandle.

The Saturday mornings of my youth were spent mostly at a local greasy spoon diner called The Black Gold Restaurant. I grew up in the middle of the oil patch that was found in western Oklahoma and the eastern panhandle of Texas. Thus the name “Black Gold” came from the rich oil culture (if you can call it rich) in the area. The problem was, during the 1980’s the oilfield in that area went bust, and a lot of folks were left without work. My dad was one of those unfortunate souls. He eventually found employment with the school district as a maintenance worker. My mother, in my pre-adolescent years, worked as a school cafeteria lady. She later would take a job with the state at the prison when I was in middle school. I say all of that to make this point. I grew up in a traditionally “Blue-Collar” household. We didn’t jet-set all over the globe in search of a good time or bounce from place to place in search of the next big thing. We lived a simple life. We held to traditional values: God, family, hard work, and honesty. It was largely from these things that we derived our greatest pleasure.

One of those “pleasures” was the time spent in that little greasy spoon. It was the kind of place that was filled with smoke, and had blue plate specials. A couple of nights a week, a local musician would set up and play for tips. Places like that have their own traditions, and this place was no different. It was the picture of every other small town diner in every other small town in rural America.
The restaurant itself was associated with a small home-owned, and somewhat rundown motel. You know the kind; single story and reeking of curry. It offered cheap rooms, and resided in a once booming, now dilapidating area of town.

The restaurant however, was somewhat different. Though the physical structure was owned by the motel property owners, it was leased to the restauranter. It derived most of its business not from hotel patrons, but from the regulars that frequented the establishment for big breakfasts, greasy cheeseburgers, or just a cup of coffee and some lively discussion.


The place was set up diner style, and when you walked in, there were two prominent tables that naturally caught your eye. The first was peopled by farmers, retired guys, and widowers. They were there basically every day, and spent much of the day there discussing current events, politics, conspiracy theories, grain prices, and the general inanity of life.

The other was filled with school maintenance workers like Jerry and my dad. There were others who were employed at local oilfield contractors, and other blue-collar capacities.  There was Sam and his wife Jody. I never really was sure what Sam did for a living, but Jody was a nurse at the hospital. There was C.R. and Agnes, he had worked his entire life at a local service station, and served as a deacon in one of the more conservative Baptist churches in Town. This table was what the regulars termed “The Table of Knowledge.” Jerry was the jokester of that table, and gave it its name. The conversation was usually light-hearted and filled with puns, quips, and wisecracks. Time would be spent making up fictitious events such as the annual “HogFest,” complete with a pig-chip throwing contest, a pig-nic on the ground, and the bestowing of the coveted title of “Hog Queen.” There were discussions of big dreams, high hopes, and reminiscing about old times. They would recall humorous stories or past events that happened and would usually bring a bout of rousing laughter from the table.

As restaurants go, it was no 5 star, suit and tie kind of place. It was locally owned, the food was greasy, cheap, and piled on the plate. The coffee was sometimes stronger than you might want, but it was always fresh. And the conversations were always lively. I recall with fondness those times!

A few years ago, the Black Gold restaurant closed its doors. The owner rented another building, changed the name, and conducts a similar business. For me though, it’s not the same. I don’t know what it is, but something is missing somehow. Maybe the wornout carpet, or the rips in the booth seats, maybe the set up of the place, or maybe there was something special about that old cinderblock building in the southward moving side of town. I can't really say as I know. A place like that just has a lingering presence and it leaves an imprint on you.

You know, there are places like that in little towns all over. Places where friends meet to eat a great hamburger and have a cup of coffee, while sharing joyous memories. Restaurants offering a table where widowers come to convene with those of like mind, or sometimes enter into great disagreement. Places where the life-educated minds meet to discuss the problems of the world and offer their solutions and thoughts on everything from current events to the moon landing. Yet in all of those places, among the regular faces and the coffee stained cups, there’s a sort of fellowship, a sense of belonging. It is all held together by the thick smoke, florescent lighting, and constantly brewing pot of coffee.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Need For Kindness and Honesty in Religious Discussion

I suppose there is a need for honesty in discussing religious matters. I have to wonder sometimes how those who hurl charges and set themselves up as “defenders of the faith,” continue in open misrepresentation, or at the very least the construction of straw man argumentation in the realm of discussion and debate. I have read through the years a number of debates on issues that have come up among the churches of Christ, in addition to those that have placed a member of the church in discussion with some denominational preacher on some issue or another. The sad fact is in a number of my readings, I have noted that there was less misrepresentation, ad homonym, red herring and straw man appeal in those discussions that were held with those in the denominations. This should not be so! So many times brethren have resorted to name calling, personal insult, or open misrepresentation. I noticed this in the discussions surrounding the so-called “deity/humanity of Christ” issue, it was present in the discussions over Marriage Divorce and Remarriage, and perhaps the most evident in the discussions of the issues that arose during the 1950’s and 1960’s. It both surprises, and saddens me that such was the case.

I began preaching when the biggest wave of the deity/humanity issue was in some sense drawing to a close. That is not to say that it is over now, but it has fallen out of popularity as a source of discussion in many circles. During the course of these proceedings, there were brethren who said things like “I have more in common with Billy Graham than I do with ______________” ( preacher’s name omitted for obvious reasons). I was chastised by some for simply attending a meeting at a local church because of their supposed involvement in the controversy. And also at one point, I was told that “Brother so and so believed what the Jehovah’s Witnesses do about Christ.” So me, finding it somewhat odd that a member of the church would believe such nonsense, did what I believe we all should do. I asked brother so and so what he believed. Guess what? It was not what the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe at all. And While I don’t agree completely with what brother so and so, explained. I came away convinced that he does not deny Christ’s divinity, and his beliefs aren’t a red-headed step cousin to what the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe on the issue. Sadly, the same guy who told me all of this about brother so and so, also told others that I believe and support the same doctrine that he characterized as the "Jehovah's Witness's position" . Thinking back, I never had a conversation about what I believe on the issue with him, nor have I written extensively on the subject. I have told many, but he was not one. Also, even had he heard through a third-party, I fail to see how he could come to that conclusion. I suppose some brethren, sadly, have no problem with lies and misrepresentation I recall what Solomon said, though “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 sows discord among brethren” (Proverbs 6:16-19; emphasis mine KGJ)” What a stern, and so often unheeded, warning.

The sad thing is, this was just the general discussion surrounding the debate. To listen to some of the debates that took place then, you would have to remind yourself at times that the debate was not over personal attributes, but rather over what Christ did, and/or did not do on the earth. Brethren were called “Calvinists,” and “pagans,” and an open effort was included by one to insure that he did not call the other his “brother” but simply referred to him as “opponent.” (Oddly enough, he would then later whine that “he doesn’t even consider me a brother”). Also, this does not even take into account some of the non-important side argument that arose and wasted debate time over nothing. Brethren, our time and talents are deserving of better.

Another example is that surrounding the issues that divided the Lord’s church in the 50’s and 60’s, and brought about other issues that further divided us in the 70’s and 80’s. The issues over institutionalism, the sponsoring church arrangement, general benevolence, church sponsored social activities, and the like. Many of the debates in the 50’s were pretty well issue driven, and remained focused upon the issues with little personal attack (at least in the debates that I have read from the time). Though the writing in brotherhood periodicals and general dialog of the day was anything but civil. Nonsense was thrown about concerning “starving orphans out in the streets", and how some folks would "rather see them go hungry…” Folks who opposed the innovation were referred to as “anti’s” (which was simply a term used to prejudice people’s minds and to hinder open discussion from the scriptures). At one point, in a major paper, brethren were called upon to "put a yellow tag of quarantine on all the anti churches" The list of course goes on.

Along these same lines, when these issues are brought up today people who oppose the innovations of human institutions (such as orphan’s homes or colleges) being supported from the church’s contribution, or who oppose the innovation of the sponsoring church arrangement which undermines the church’s autonomy, or who oppose the church’s provision of recreational and social activities, etc. These are lumped in with those who don’t believe in having a bible classes, or who oppose the church having a located preacher, or insisting on one container for the fruit of the vine during the Lord’s supper. It is an attempt to make folks look foolish and irrational. This seems dishonest to me. Why not simply consider each position biblically, and on its own.

Another issue that gets on my nerves regarding this, is that of straw man argumentation. I recently read a series of lectures that were conducted at the Spring Church of Christ in 2006 on the issue of “anti-ism” (notice the use of the pejorative term). In the lecture book, one of the lectures was dedicated to “Eating in The Building.” The writer spent the balance of his time erecting, and deconstructing a straw man, and then gave the impression that he had solved the matter with the truth. The fact is, the issue is not “eating in the building.” It never has been! I don’t know of anyone who believes that we can’t eat in the building. The issue is, is there authority for the church to plan, provide, oversee and call its member out for activities that are for social, and not spiritual, purposes? I find it hard to believe that these brethren don’t know that. If they don’t they should do a little more research on the matter. If they do, then they are simply dishonest, and have no problem misrepresenting their brethren. It’s both sad and a shame!

In 2008 I had a debate with an Institutional brother on this issue (the issue of church –sponsored social meals and recreation), I was pleased with the outcome. By that I don’t mean my own performance, for there were a lot of things I would change if I could go back. I noticed several mistakes I made. Yet in truth, I was pleased with the outcome because for the most part, Brother Garner and I did not digress into personal attacks and misrepresentation. I say that with one caveat, and it references a mistake I made, however unwittingly.

I have gotten into the habit of referring to all institutional brethren as “liberal.” This actually is a habit I have worked on getting rid of recently. The term “liberal” is used, in a sense, like some use the term “anti” to prejudice the minds of people. The fact is brother Garner is far more conservative in his belief and practice that many “Institutional” brethren, and sadly, even a number of supposed “non-institutional” brethren. During the course of the debate, I referred to him as a “liberal.” In truth, I did not do it intentionally, but rather as sort of a bad habit. Of course this raised his ire (and rightly so), because he has spent a good portion of his time as a preacher in answering the doctrines of those who espouse error on divorce and remarriage, fellowship with denominations, that the church is merely another denomination, etc. The truth is, though even in spite of that, he did refer to me as an “anti” a time or two. The debate itself did not digress into personal attack, or purposeful open misrepresentation. We both sought to stick to the issue, and I respect Brother Garner a great deal for that. It is my hope that he feels the same.

The long and the short of my rant is this, brethren need to be honest, forbearing, and “kindly affectionate to one another" (cf. Romans 12). There is much that can be gained by open debate and discussion. From the white hot fire of debate, the truth stands refined and clearly seen. Solomon encouraged that people “debate thy cause with thy neighbor” (Proverbs 25:9). Yet while this point is true, it also is possible for debate to digress into little more than a playground name-calling match where the truth is further obscured, and brethren come away with sour taste In their mouths.
Let us strive always to focus upon honesty, good intention, and kindness in our discussion of heated topics.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Dr. Dave Miller of "Apologetics Press," On America's Most Pressing Concern

The following videos were presented by Dr. Dave Miller to the Wetumpka Tea Party.

Dr. Miller is a preacher among Institutional Churches of Christ, and also the director of "Apologetics Press" The following videos expose, without a doubt, by examining the founder's writings, that this nation was indeed founded upon biblical principal, with view of "Christianity" (used in a general sense) to be a core value for the success and prosperity of this nation.

“America’s Most Pressing Concern Part I” by Dr. David Miller author and national speaker from Wetumpka Tea Party on Vimeo.

Americas Most Pressing Needs Part II by Dr. David Miller author and national speaker from Wetumpka Tea Party on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The 40 Day Pledge

Glenn Beck - Current Events & Politics - Make the Pledge - 40 Days and 40 Nights

In the above link, Glen Beck offers a challenge. I came across it this morning and I thought,"Wow! this is a great idea." This idea is one that is rooted in Biblical precept and truth, and one that is much needed in our nation. I offer the same challenge to you.


Start today! Go out to Walmart, or Office Depot and purchase a spiral notebook. Or Better yet, get one that you have laying around and tear out all the pages with writing. Then draw a horizontal line accross the middle of each page until you have 40 sections. Put today's date at the top of the first section, tomorrows, at the top of the second, and so forth. Now, start to write down things for which you will pray. (eg. start with repentance and reconciliation, then go on to your thanksgivings, and supplications.) Do not forget to mention this nation, those members of congress, our president, etc.

As you begin to pray, consider such biblical passages as

James 5:16b--"The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." We must realize that for prayer to be effective, this passage conditions it upon 2 things.

First, that it be fervent. Prayer is not a series of recited words and phrases mumbled thoughtlessly, but rather it is the method by which children of God approach the Father to honor and worship Him, as well as to allow our requests to be made known to Him.

Second, that it be offered by a "righteous man." The nature of sin is such that it separates us from God. Isaiah 59:1-2 records " Behold the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save' Nor His ear heavy. that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from you God' and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear." Thus the importance of praying for repentance and reconciliation to God. We are able,through Christ as our advocate, to have our sins forgiven as Christians, if we will repent and confess them to the Lord (Acts 8:22, 1 John 1:9; 2:1-2).

In addition, Consider the fact that prayers are to be made with thanksgiving. The apostle Paul, through the Holy Spirit's inspiration, penned these words " do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God" (Philippians 4:6). So often we take time to ask God for things, yet we never take time to thank God for His answer to our prayers. We can trust that if we ask according to His will, He hears us ( 1 John 5:14). Let us always seek to know his well by studying the Bible (2 Timothy 3:15), and making our prayers and supplications according to His divine teaching. When we do that, we truly can pray to God thankfully.

As you are working on renewing and refreshing your faith, another aspect is to dedicate yourself to purity, and godliness. Put away from yourself those things which are sinful. Paul wrote "only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ" (Philippians 1:27). Our language, should be free from cursing and "seasoned with salt" (Colossians 4:6). Dedicate yourself to faithfully assemble with local congregation of the Lord's church (Hebrews 10:25), and continually grow in the grace and knowledge of God (2 Peter 3:18), this is done by studying His word.


According to the scriptures, in one sense there is only one hope (Ephesians 4:4-6) This of course is the hope of everlasting life. However, in the context of this admonition, we turn our attention to the general idea of "hope" that is encompassed by the greater promise of eternal life. That is things that we may hope for even now. Hope is the idea of eager expectation. Paul wrote to the church at Rome "For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience." Hope, as noted in the link, is rooted in truth. There is no "hope" if there is no eager expectation. If we truly hope we will live as though we posses this hope. We should be honest, moral and forthright.


Charity, in the scriptures is the idea of "agape love" That is an unselfish love. Love that seeks the best interest of others. The apostle noted in 1 Corinthians 13 some characteristics of this type of love. Notice:
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Charity never faileth (1 Corinthians13:4-8a)

When we consider the this concept,we can understand the long suffering nature of charity, or "love" it rejoices in the truth, thinks no evil, endures through the roughest of times. We should cultivate and manifest this in our lives at all times.

Beck got his quote of "faith, hope, and charity" from this section of scripture where the text notes "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity" ( 1 Corinthians 13:13). In the context, the apostle is comparing the things that are temporary and in part (ie. the miraculous manifestations of the Holy Spirit), with those things that would remain after the end of such things. Faith, Hope and Charity remain. Yet the greatest of all of these is charity. Our actions ought to be motivated by genuine concern for others. We should seek what is in their best interest, even if it means foregoing our desires at times.
Do something "charitable" for each member of your family. Something out of the ordinary, every week during the next 40 days. Surprise your wife with flowers for no reason. Send a card and express you love. If your like me, clean up your own mess, and do the dishes. Do nice things for your kids and other family members. Plan it out, write it down, and follow through.

I would also encourage you do do something charitable for a perfect stranger each week. Maybe pick up someone's ticket at a restaurant, offer to help someone with their groceries, mow a neighbor's lawn. You can be creative, just remember the Hebrew writer penned these words "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares" (Hebrews 13:2)

So, there it is, the challange. What will you do with it? Will you follow through? There is nothing bad that can happen, yet it has the potential to open a new, better your. Yet more importantly to encourage you to draw closer to the God of heaven. as James wrote "Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded" (James 4:8)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Remembering "Liberty" and Its Divine Author

Today is Independence Day. This is the day that our nation has set aside to remember the day when 13 Colonies decided to sever their subservience under a tyrannical rule over the ocean. It is a day in which men came together to declare to King George that “We are Free and Independent!” This was the birth of this, the greatest nation on God’s green earth.

Thomas Jefferson is quoted as saying “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” This is quite a true statement. These men knew tyranny. They knew what it meant to have so say in the affairs of a government that levied taxes with no redeeming value to the people. They sought out liberty.

Through the years this nation has grown, overcome adversity, made needed and lasting changes. This nation is not perfect, but it’s by far the greatest upon the earth. Let us remember this fact, and dedicate our service to the cause of liberty! Men and women have gone throughout the world to carry the banner of liberty, have helped to seek out tyranny where ever it may be and looked to destroy it.

As we go through our ritual of watching fireworks, eating hotdogs, and enjoying our time off from work, let us take time to remember those men who, long ago, declared their freedom: our freedom. Let us remember those men and women who gave their lives for the ideal: the reality, of liberty. Yet even more than that, let us take time to remember the divine “author of Liberty”—The God of heaven.

I am not one who argues that this is a “Christian nation.” Yet the fact remains and cannot honestly be denied, that the framers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of this great nation did trust in God, and looked heavily to biblical principal in creating the documents.

The concept of “liberty” is of divine origin. We read, and understand liberty in the scriptures. The Apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote a great deal about liberty in the book of Romans. We find that Children of God have “liberty” in Christ. We find that we escape the consequences of our sin and obtain freedom! God indeed is the truth author of liberty. Let us never forget this.
Luke records the words of the Apostle Paul as he addressed those on the Areopagus, in Athens. He said :

God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring (Acts 17:24-28).

We notice also, that it is by God’s divine will, and by His providence that the United States of America came into existence. God appointed it! We should bear in our thoughts the fact that we as a people are here because God, in his divine providence, appointed a time and space for the United States. We owe our freedom, our liberty to God.

We often sing a song “America” written by Samuel F. Smith. In the fourth verse Smith writes
Our fathers' God, to thee,
author of liberty, to thee we sing;
long may our land be bright
with freedom's holy light;
protect us by thy might, great God, our King.

Let us bring forth the praises of this great nation! Let us take pride in our country and all that she stands for. Let us support always the cause of liberty. Yet most importantly, let us never forget to bring honor to God, “author of liberty”!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Resigned to Mediocrity

I have never been exceptional at anything. I look back over my childhood at attempts at sports, band, UIL contest participation, etc. When I view these ventures, I realize how mediocre that I actually was, and I suppose, to some extent, remain to be. It’s not as though I view it, necessarily, with some malcontent.  Rather I see it as an observation of the inevitable verity.

I remember my attempts at little league baseball. In Pampa, Texas, the whole program is sponsored by the Optimist club. (I know given the topic, for me pessimist would likely be a better moniker.) I was the catcher in Tee-ball! I was given the responsibility of watching from behind the tee to make sure that somehow a hit off of a tee didn't go foul. Also, when you’re dealing with five and six-year olds, there aren't a whole lot of attempts at beating the ball home from third. "Catcher" in tee-ball is the position they give the kid that they have to play because the rules require it. I was that kid. I was the one who was only on the field because the rules of the club required that I play at least some portion of the game.

I moved into the higher leagues, and the trend remained true. I remember I was chosen as bat-boy at the all-star game because I had “good hustle” and "made every practice.” In case you’re wondering, this was a nice way of saying I stunk at the game, but I did deserve some recognition for either ignoring this fact or being to dumb to know it. During the regular season, I played right field, of course. Right field in little-league, like catcher in Tee-ball, is where they stick the kid whose forced onto the field by the “rules”. My attempts at basketball, tennis, swimming, and even FFA (yes you read it right, FFA, I couldn’t even show hogs effectively), were not unlike my initial experience playing baseball with the Optimists.


I was speaking with my Brother-in-law recently concerning our childhood, and even some of our current interests. In doing so, we reminisced over our time in the Pampa High School Band. Josh, who is quite talented both in the musical and theatrical arts, even studying the latter at Texas Tech, served as the drum major his junior and senior year. I on the other hand, was the only trombone player to graduate in 1998. When the next school year started, Mr. Collins, the director, in his first speech to the Trombones of that year said “Well at least we didn’t loose anything.” I will gladly admit that I was not the best of trombone players, and I don’t doubt that there really was nothing missing after I left. The reality of this truth is only underscored by the director’s observation.

I even now look at my own attempts at playing the guitar. I can string a few chords together, and finger pick a little. Yet, I’m nowhere near the player that most people would be after playing for four years. I’ll not be playing in any Willie Nelson tribute bands anytime soon. And, I don’t play by ear at all.

I don’t recount these things with an attempt to encourage sadness, or beg for condolence. I don’t want either. It’s just that there comes a time when one needs to embrace reality. I’ve never been outstanding at anything. In general I’ve been average, sometimes a little above, sometimes a little below, but average just the same.

As I noted, it’s not so much a complaint but rather an embracing of the clear corporality and tangibility of such truth.

To help in illustrating my point, consider the following poem entitled “Something and Nothing” written by Sophie Hannah:

Something and Nothing

If you had known how little
you would have had to give
to drum into this brittle
hope the desire to live

would you have changed the venue,
your greeting or your tone
or planned things better when you
knew we’d have hours alone

and if you heard a hollow
voice spit these ill-advised
questions, would nothing follow?
I wouldn’t be surprised.
(First published in Poetry Review, Winter 2004/2005)

Hannah, seems to capture quite well my sentiment. Even given the chance at better preparation, and if given the knowledge of needed questions, I probably wouldn’t have changed any of it. I doubt I would possess the ability to make those changes.

So what’s the reason? is it all mentality? Are some people mediocre because we repress or depress the inklings of greatness? Or, is it that most people must be average in order to provide a bell curve for life?
I openly accept the fact that I don’t inspire great confidence in people. I  know that my life will not be recorded in history textbooks as one who changed the course of the world. I resign myself to the knowledge that someday I will die, and what will be left of me on this earth is the memories of those who knew me. Then, within 100 years , I will simply be a name on a family tree and a fading inscription on an old gravestone somewhere. I suppose that should bother me, but for some reason, it doesn't.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

"Hearts, Like Muffled Drums, Beating Funeral Marches to the Grave"

I have spent the last few days in contemplation of death. Not as some morbid pre-occupation, but rather because of recent events. Of course the observance of Memorial day and the images of the headstones row by row lining the graves of those who paid the ultimate price to advance the cause of liberty and in defense of this nation has drawn my thoughts in that direction. Also, it was 2 years ago that my grandmother and my uncle passed away on consecutive days. It brings to mind an old poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow entitled “A Psalm of Life.” So much of his sentiment in the verse can have direct bearing to my feeling. Consider its words now.

A Psalm of Life
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Tell me not in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou are, to dust thou returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, - act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sand of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us then be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

I recall with some sadness my relationship with my grandmother. I was by no means the model grandchild. It’s not that I did things necessarily to “shame” the family (I suppose that job was left to my cousins).  I just lived in general procrastination and dalliance of what I should have done in relation to her. As an example, some months after her death I found some Mothers Day cards in my desk that I took the time to fill out, yet never sent. I always intended to call, but always put it off. Things like that characterize the relationship that I had with my grandmother. If I have learned one thing in regard to such an attitude it would be to act now! All of the things I should have said or done have lost their place. They hang eternally on the wall of “what I should have done.” In Longfellow’s words “Act, - act in the living Present! Heart within, and God o'erhead!” There is no time to change what you should have done once the chance is gone.

Longfellow also wrote “Be not like dumb, driven cattle! Be a hero in the strife!” When I think of my uncle Gary, I cannot help but bear in my his  character. I’m reminded of the song “That He Didn’t Have to Be” sung by Brad Paisley. When my uncle met my aunt, she was single with two daughters and a widowed mother who all needed something. Uncle Gary was it! He filled a huge hole in the Jones family. Yet with his passing, the gaping maw once again is there only this time it’s larger. He was an excellent provider, a model husband, a good father, and a son-in-law that was more like a son. He left behind an example for me in my own life that I often do not live up to. It was after him that our second son was named.

Yet while these things, always ensconced in my mind, make their way to my consciousness.,  the preparation of a funeral sermon has also driven my ponderings. I came to Conroe in August, 2009 while Amber and I vacationed in Houston to visit friends. Little did I know that that vacation would lead me to  the work that I do with the Woodland Hills church. During that visit I made the acquaintance of a tall stately looking gentleman whose wife had relatives in Dumas (I live there at the time). The memory of this handsome couple, James and Lou Ann Webb, remained in my mind. When we moved here, it came to my attention that James suffered from heart issues. Yet in my visits with him it seemed not to worry him. Though his issues were ever pressing, he did not allow them to daunt his smile or optimism. He passed from this life on June first. He was a faithful member of the church here, and his absence from the assemblies will be sorely missed. The time I have spent looking over his godly life is indeed reflective of Longfellow’s words:

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sand of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

To contemplate death from time to time, I am quite sure, is natural to us all. To think of the legacy, or perhaps lack thereof , that we will leave behind can be a breathtaking and even fearsome task. What will others remember of me? Will others remember me, or will I simply be a name on a headstone and in a family tree that is forgotten within a hundred years? Even further still, what will happen to me? Do I have an immortal soul? Longfellow expressed the following sentiment that serves as an fitting conclusion.

Tell me not in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou are, to dust thou returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Introduction and Explanation

Hello Friends, Family, and whoever else may stumble across this random collection of my musings.
I hope to update this blog at least once or twice a week, and it will contain my introspections, contemplations, rants, and ramblings on religion, politics, entertainment, or whatever I feel like prattling about.

I bid you to read, enjoy, or get mad, sound off in the comments, and invite others.

I look forward to your comments, and I appreciate your willingness to take time to read the serious, sometimes senseless, salter of a simple man on a sacrosanct soapbox.