Second period was blue. Dark blue. That was the color of our gym shorts in seventh grade. Well, at least for those who sailed down the steps at Azalea Road Junior High to greet the red shorts brigade who was returning from Coach Crenshaw and Coach Perkins’ gym class.
Always anxious for coming attractions, we’d ask the boys from first period, “What are we doing?” Sometimes it was something awesome like battle ball or football. Sometimes it was something exotic like gymnastics. But one thing was sure to send a chill up my adolescent spine:
The Obstacle Course.
I should probably mention here that my athletic ability was legendary. In my own mind. But running headlong into a class of 60 or so peers left little doubt that my gateway to glory wasn’t through athletics.
And if there was any doubt – if there was any shred of athletic dignity left in me – the Obstacle Course loomed as a reminder of the inglories that awaited. [click to continue…]
These days I make a trip to the bank just about every day. I’m on a first name basis with most of the tellers, which feels good. And most days it’s a pretty straightforward deal – one or two deposits, mostly business. Even a left-handed guy like me can get that right. About the worst mistake I ever made was driving around in a cluttered truck and realizing that beneath all that clutter was a deposit I forgot to make. For about a week.
Then came Friday. Four deposits. Three different accounts. And one of those was a check I’d written to myself to deposit in our personal account.
I pulled up to the window and realized I hadn’t endorsed the check I’d written to myself, so while the probie teller waited for me patiently, I paused to do that.
I’d venture to guess there was about a six-inch gap between the deposit drawer and my truck window. And somewhere in that six inches, as I reached for the drawer with a pile of bank bid-ness, that freshly-endorsed check was sucked away. Weird even for the dusty plains, the drive-through lanes had formed a wind tunnel. And the wind tunnel took my check.
My assumption: Oh. This is frustrating. I’ll have to get out of the truck and pick it up off the ground.
My reality: Y’all, it was gone. Vaporized. On its way to Amarillo, I suppose. I always fuss because Amarillo gets all the rain (out here we refer to it as “moisture”). Now they got my check. [click to continue…]
As you probably could tell from the last post, we got to spend a week with three of our grandsons last week here at our house. You may or may not know that I also spend 95% of my working time at home.
Do you see a potential conflict there?
The week was predictably (and wonderfully) less-than-productive.
Routinely as I would try to “escape” to the bedroom or office to get some work done, one of them would find me. The sweetheart crawler, the scary-smart walker, and the funny, nonstop talker. One wanted me to hold him, one wanted me to see and notice him, and one wanted me to engage in conversation – endless, looped conversation. [click to continue…]
Did a face plant a couple of weeks ago. On concrete. It was ugly, and so was I for a few days.
The irony of the situation was that I was bolting from one meeting to another, with a cross-town drive in-between. And the place I was in a hurry to?
A radio interview about the mental health of people in the ministry.
I wasn’t exactly expecting to have my own tested in the process. But that’s the price you pay when you’re trying to move at the speed of light on a sidewalk designed for the speed of pedestrians.
For just a minute I thought I was seeing the light of eternity. Turns out I was just seeing stars.
Aside from the wounds to my forehead, knees, hands and pride, I did learn a few things, such as what an “orbital nerve” is. Oh, and that there is more than one kind of black eye.
But the most important thing I was reminded of is that my ability to maintain my rhythm and step in this world of the falling is no comparison to God’s ability to hold me, heal me, and shepherd me home. Regardless of how I may stumble in a temporal world, in the one that matters most, He won’t let me fall. [click to continue…]
The other night I ran into an old friend I hadn’t seen in years – namely because he had moved away. Doyle had always been such an encouragement and support to me in whatever endeavor I was involved in at the time. But as a friend, Doyle offered something else – something that every leader needs. He offered me the gift of perspective.
The first time we got to know each other was over lunch. We had served on a couple of planning committees together and I had admired his wisdom and kindness. Lunch on that day was no different. I heard his story, and shared mine with him. I talked about the fact that I was living in a parentheses period – an in-between time in my work. (I was serving as a men’s pastor at the time, but anxious to get back to being a senior pastor.) Doyle’s primary word (and that of everybody whenever I’ve been anxious to make a quick move) was, “Stay where you are.” Actually he said, “I can’t think of anything more important than working with men.”
After sharing more joys and frustrations, he (lovingly!) asked me a slap-in-the-face question:
[click to continue…]
A few months ago I was having a conversation with someone who was going through a recovery process. He sounded really healthy on the phone – sober in the best sense of the word. Then he said something really curious about his life.
“I’m so ready to get things back to normal.”
“Normal,” I told him, “was what got you in trouble in the first place. You’re ‘normal’ is being redefined, and that takes time. And as much as you want that, you are going to need to give it time to form.”
I was talking to a couple a few weeks after their first baby was born. I asked how things were going and got a predictable answer. “We love being parents, but we’re exhausted from lack of sleep,” Mom said.
Then Dad chimed in… “Yeah, we’re so ready to get back to normal.”
I guess I was a little rude, but I just laughed. In their face.
“You want what? Good luck with that.” [click to continue…]
I’d like to tell you how I became a follower of Jesus Christ. But before I do, I need to tell you how I became a lost church member. In my story, you can’t separate one from the other.
It was Easter Sunday at the church I grew up in, at least from the age of 4. I was in the fifth grade. During those days, my sister and I went to Sunday School and church about half to two-thirds of the time. In the fourth grade we began having more personalized Sunday School teachers instead of being in the big class. Several of my classmates had made professions of faith in Christ and been baptized.
Mr. Gregory, a kind, caring man and my Sunday School teacher, asked me then if I was ready to accept Christ as my personal savior. I told him I wasn’t ready, and that I would know it when I was. I don’t remember discussing any details of what people refer to as the Gospel. But I’m sure it was presented. Somehow.
That was pretty much my stance through fourth and fifth grade. On this day, however, something was different. I felt a strange sensation in my chest. My heart was pumping a little faster, I sensed something was about to happen. This feeling in my heart told me today could be the day.
Our church was starting a revival that Sunday, with brothers BO and Dick Baker in to lead it. That morning all the children were brought into the auditorium. BO Baker spoke to us from Revelation 3:20 about Jesus “knocking on the door of our heart.” He would knock on the wooden pulpit to illustrate.
Knock-knock-knock. [click to continue…]
It was Christmas Eve morning, I don’t know, about 12 years ago, I guess. I got up way ahead of everybody else, and for some reason had to go to the grocery store. And for some other reason I can’t remember, it wasn’t our regular grocery store.
When I walked in, I noticed that the supermarket had a case of 24 Christmas gel candles marked down to a buck apiece. On a whim, I bought an entire case of them and hauled them home.
I was inspired.
(By the way, completely irrelevant side note, but that’s just one more reason to do your Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve. Black Friday’s got nuthin’ on the bargains you can find the day before Christmas. More here.)
I got back home and everybody was still settled in to their long winter’s nap. So I went to work. I sat down at the computer, grabbed a sheet of labels, and printed 24 that read, “Thanks for the light you bring to our lives every day. Merry Christmas, The Wood Family.”
Boy, was I inspired. Click here to see what happened
Davidson High School, Mobile, Alabama. Circa 1974. My freshman year. I’m standing in the cafeteria line, waiting to decide whether I was going with the hamburger or whatever today’s chef’s choice was. It was there I spotted her, headed toward the faculty dining room. This was worth losing my spot in line for.
She was our school guidance counselor, and also an experienced English teacher. She was wise about things I was ignorant of.
She also happened to be my great aunt.
“Aunt Helen!” said I. “I wanted to ask your advice about something.”
“What’s that,” she replied.
“Well, see, I’m writing a book – a novel – and I wanted to get some advice from you about how to get it published.”
(I should pause here to interpret what “novel” meant. I probably had about five chapters, about five notebook pages hand-written each, about a tough-guy high school kid who winds up dying for the girl he loves, who happened to have the same name as the girl I was fixated on in the ninth grade. Anyway…)
Her advice was sage – way wiser than my 14 years. She didn’t write off my dreams and tell me that 14-year-olds don’t get published as novelists. She didn’t boggle my mind about query letters, agents or publishing houses either. She offered me words of encouraging truth. [click to continue…]
Albuquerque. Sunday morning, 4:30 a.m. MST.
I think I had an encounter with a prophet.
Or maybe it was one of those times when the Lord Himself wanted to pay somebody a personal visit and get their attention. He definitely got mine and for the briefest of moments it wasn’t pleasant. [click to continue…]