Monday, June 11, 2018

Coach B


Here’s a story I remember about Coach Bill Barden …

Our track team had been released early from school one day
to travel to a meet in Hazen, or maybe it was Lonoke

My friend Malcolm and I hopped into his truck to go grab a sandwich

When we got back to school
a few minutes later than we planned
we discovered that the bus, or maybe it was a van
had already left without us

We scrambled

Malcolm gassed up his truck
at the local Road Runner
and I looked over a highway map of Arkansas
plotting our journey

Then we made a beeline for Hazen (or Lonoke)

When we arrived at the meet
Malcolm and I walked over to Coach Barden
fully expecting to be in big trouble
but instead
Coach B just smiled
and shook his head and laughed
and put his hands on our shoulders
and said, “I thought you guys would make it down here.”

Warmth and kindness

I could tell you a dozen more stories like this
about our coach

When I heard that Coach B was going to be inducted into the Arkansas High School Coaches Association HALL OF FAME, I thought
It took this long?
Then I thought
How fortunate am I to have been taught and cared for by this good man?

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Young Preacher


https://www.flickr.com/photos/infrogmation/4719538436/in/photolist-XCyQGa-WHVLs3-zf4HKb-KMQRFd-6bswdb-PkGP7i-GsRsQs-XeLLH1-XCyMZM-XeLKJs-8c3Smm-XeLJ55-SctWEU-WBgNHv-XeLL95-8TfbTL-4kxYwZ-fozC5k-6RBSw4-pRp8eG-7Mucn8-pTjEea-oWLkxH-pQbUhv-7uw1Np-NqSu3-NrgBB-6zXccg-XQMAJX-53ZC9R-7kpDK9-KogKr-6pSFbx-cDcWVo-7k6GAe-5UWi7U-bBUBt-5gJQeb-5Vtz6q-8odgRC-7kkKQx-XeLM6L-4NEDck-5Vtzmj-cZf9jW-DoGsP-pRp5L5-oBHH1X-7joSi2-WBgPmV/
Flickr photo by Infrogmation

I sat across from a young preacher
We were enjoying a meal at a small Peruvian restaurant
when I got up to refill my glass of water
As I walked back to the table
I saw that an older gentleman had taken a seat next to us

He had the weight of the world in his eyes

And as I sat down, the man asked the preacher
Would you buy me some dinner?
Without hesitation, the preacher smiled and said
Let’s do this.  Come on!
And the preacher and the man
slowly made their way to the front
and then worked sideways down the buffet line—
visiting like a couple of old friends—
so that when they came back to the table, the old man was holding a big plastic bag with a steamy box inside

The man looked pleased and bid the preacher farewell, adding
Thank you, sir.  I knew when I walked in that you’d buy me dinner
and the preacher smiled again and said
You’re welcome, Randy

In a few weeks, this young preacher and his family will move hundreds of miles away
to begin work in a new ministry
and I think to myself
That is one lucky church.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Deceitful women


I know a couple of deceitful women



I don’t want to mention any names

so I’ll just refer to them as

“my wife” and “my mother-in-law”



For weeks—

no, let’s make that months—

these two have been deceptive in their communications with another man

Let’s just call him “my father-in-law”



The goal of these women was to make a couple of days in April appear to be “normal”—

just like any other weekend—

but they were up to something, these two

a scheme

And if that weren’t bad enough, they began to pull others into their plan—

innocent folks, nice folks

even a baby!



So that by the time all was said and done

they had about 18 individuals in their “gang”

from all over the country

Atlanta, Chicago, Nashville—

I’m not kidding—

converging on my father-in-law

like a band of outlaws



For what purpose?

Well, I’m glad you asked



It was all a ruse, so that this group could show up to say

Surprise!

and sing Happy Birthday

and reminisce about the good life of a good man



Can you believe it?



With all this in mind

I feel I can no longer keep silent

I am forced to confront these women

in all their trickery

and say

Well done, ladies

Well done


Monday, March 19, 2018

A story of raising hands


fairfax.cc

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


https://scholarworks.harding.edu/petit-jean/56
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

What?

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
AND IT IS A VERY GOOD ONE
“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