Monday, March 19, 2018

A story of raising hands

About a dozen years ago, I attended a Promise Keepers conference with a friend
at one point, before a song or a prayer
the man at the front asked us to raise our hands
I did, but during that song or prayer, all I could think was
I’m not comfortable with this
I’m not comfortable with this
I’m not comfortable with this

But a seed had been planted
so that over the years
in an effort to be more expressive
I began to lift my hands, until they were just a little bit above my belt
I’m not kidding
years of this
and then, there was an opening of hands and a pointing of palms upward
and later, a raising of them to about chest level

For some reason, that was about as high as I could go

Until last November
when Cheryl and I attended a conference in Los Angeles
the city of angels
where no one knew us
and there, with Hillsong Worship leading
(“What a Beautiful Name” … ‘nuff said)
my hands went up
all the way up
in worship

A Holy Spirit thing?
I cannot say

But for me
it did not feel showy or prideful
it felt humbling
like I really needed God
and I was reaching out

I was finally reaching up

Monday, February 26, 2018

A very good birthday
Harding University Petit Jean 1979-1980.

It’s my birthday
I’m sitting on the front row of Harding Academy chapel
because my last name begins with “A”
and because I’m in 7th grade
Sometimes it’s a terrible place to sit
like during pep rallies
when the cheerleaders stand directly in front of you
shaking pom poms in your face
but most of the time it’s okay
surrounded by friends
singing hymns
listening to announcements and various speakers

For the most-part, I like chapel
the smallness of the student body
the coziness of the auditorium

And I like the way we sing Happy Birthday

This will be the first time I hear the entire high school—grades 7-12
sing just for me

Except for one small detail …

I hear Mr. Jones, the chorus director, announce that Valentine’s Day is not just my birthday
but it also belongs to 3 other students


Now I’m starting to figure out that the third line of Happy Birthday will be some muddle of Mark-Laura-Donna-and then me
if anyone has any breath left to sing “Mike” at the end

But, wait a minute …
Mr. Jones has an idea
“How about the senior high girls say Mark’s name and the senior high boys say Laura’s name and the junior high boys say Donna’s name and the junior high girls say Mike’s name?”

And that is just what happens

I sit and listen
and almost close my eyes for one second as every junior high girl sings
Happy birthday dear Miiiike
Happy birthday to you!!!

This, my friend, is a very good day.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Victory Line

Harding University Petit Jean 1979-1980.

Come on, y’all!
Come on out to the victory line!
That’s what the cheerleaders were telling us
So, we moved onto the field
and formed a couple of parallel lines—
a loose chain of humans, facing one another
straighter than you might imagine
because we were good at this

It all began in the end zone
and stretched for about 30 yards
if not farther
where a gigantic paper banner hung between 2 tall poles
Strong members of the Pep Club
held onto those poles for dear life
because in just a few minutes
the high school football team
would come rushing between us
and crash through that banner
which symbolized,
as we all knew,
the way we were going to smash our opponents

And as we waited just a little bit longer
the cheerleaders led us
in more clapping and shouting and stomping
until the team finally appeared

And then we just went crazy

So that by the time the players had run by
and demolished the sign
and we’d made our way back to the stands
well, we were a little bit spent
and our throats were raw

but it was worth it

to stand side by side
and fully give our hearts
in celebration of something bigger than ourselves
It was almost spiritual in a way
or maybe it was truly spiritual
on that field
in that community
on a football Friday night.

Harding College Petit Jean 1971-1972.

Harding College Petit Jean 1974-1975.

Harding College Petit Jean 1977-1978.

Harding University Petit Jean 1982-1983.

Harding University Petit Jean 1983-1984.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

At the dude ranch …

At the dude ranch …
One spring break, our family traveled to a dude ranch
and late one afternoon, as we were finishing up a long and dusty ride
the cowboy in front turned around and said
Well, we can take this here trail, which will get us back in about 15 minutes
or we can take that one over there, which will have us back in 45
and Kate and Cal and I said, in unison
The 15-minute trail!
And Cheryl, at almost the same instant, said
Let’s do the 45-minute one!

At Walt Disney World …
Another time, our family spent a week in Orlando
devoting an entire day to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom
We arrived when the gates opened
and frolicked until dark
and as we slowly shuffled our way down Main Street toward the exit
Cheryl made us stop for a photo and said
Who wants to ride Space Mountain one more time?

In Paris …
We spent a whole day walking around Paris
from our hotel to the Notre Dame and Louvre
from the Eiffel Tower back to our hotel
Miles and miles
and then, finally, after settling in to a comfortable chair
with my aching feet propped up on a footstool
Cheryl says
How about we go to a souvenir shop and pick out some things for my students?

You see … in the end
We did not choose the 45-minute trail
and we did not ride Space Mountain one more time
but Cheryl and I did go out to a souvenir shop and see Paris at night

and it was one of the most memorable evenings of our lives

Do you know someone
who tries to squeeze an extra 30 minutes of joy out of every single day?
Well …
I hope you do.

At the dude ranch

Monday, November 27, 2017

After the preaching

Photo on
After the preaching
and the invitation song
and the standing in the foyer and shaking everyone’s hands
and telling toddlers, “Well hello, Pumpkin” and pinching their cheeks
After the local preacher or elder turns off all the lights
we—Dad and me—
get into the car and drive back to the motel
where we park
and walk over to a dimly lit corridor

It is well past my bedtime, but we stop at a vending machine to buy a couple of Dr. Peppers
This will be our treat at the end of a long day

And standing in that corridor, far from home
surrounded by shadows
in a lonely motel
I am not afraid, because my father is there
He is strong
and He will take care of me. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Big Sis

One of my earliest memories of my big sister Cindy is this …

I’m standing on the back patio, in my sock feet, playing some sort of game where the patio is a safe place and all the surrounding area is dangerous

The grass is not really grass, but it is fire or water or something like that

And the problem is, it’s time for me to go back inside, but I “can’t” because I’d have to cross over the grass

And then Cindy comes out, and I explain the situation to her

And she doesn’t roll her eyes

And she doesn’t say, “That’s dumb”

She just picks me up and carries me around the house and into the carport where the ground is safe

I think about this story now …

As I’ve watched my big sis, over the course of the past several years, “carry” our parents

Take care of them

Meet even their most basic needs

And I can say …

I’m not surprised

No, I’m not surprised one bit.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

3 brothers and 2 sisters

Mom had 3 brothers and 2 sisters
a good-sized family
at least, that’s how I always thought of it

The oldest sibling being Melvin
who had a bad back, but a wonderful sense of humor
Plain-speaking is how I'd describe him
“Why I wouldn’t name a dog Francis,” he once said
which was funny, because Melvin’s first name was Francis
and it was his father’s name as well

And next there was Pete
whose real name was Estel
a form of Estella, which was his mother’s name
Pete was a successful businessman
who carried a plastic change purse in his pocket
and he was always generous with his nickels and dimes
I learned to tie my shoes in Uncle Pete’s home

And then there’s Marciele
Sweet Aunt Marciele
who lived the longest of the bunch
She was strong in spirit and faith
That’s how I remember her
And she had a garden and a tower in her back yard
yes, a tower
I will show you a picture, if you don’t believe me

And Jim
I thought of him as quiet and kind
a mailman who did some farming too
I rode in a big tractor with Uncle Jim
I don’t think I’ve ever done that with anyone else

And Madge
who I saw more than the others
because she lived only 50 miles down the road
She’d invite us over for holidays and such
and there was always plenty of food
and Razorbacks sports watching
and laughter
She beat cancer and taught music
and had 6 children
and so many grandkids and great grandkids
that you couldn’t even count them

And coming back to Mom
Marilyn, the youngest
as sweet as the day is long
I miss them all, but I miss her most
She loved Jesus, this I know
and her family
every one of them
from Kansas to Oklahoma to Arkansas
and wherever the world had carried us

Pete, Marilyn, Madge, Melvin, Marciele, and Jim