Monday, July 20, 2015

Running and hugging

Flickr photo by Donnie Ray Jones

when you were a kid

and you were so excited to see someone

that you had to run over and give ‘em a hug

So excited to see your grandma

or your favorite uncle

or your dad just returned from a long trip

that you wanted to be next to them

Right then

In their arms

or just holding on to their leg for a while

And they would look down at you and smile and say something like

Well, hello there

The last time I remember running and hugging

was in college

during a club basketball game

A close game

Right down to the wire

And I was watching from the bench

(a classic example of bad coaching)

And at the very end

the ball came into the hands of Brian

who turned around and made an impossible shot

--at the buzzer--

to win the game


Just like that

And I couldn’t think of anything to do

but to jump up and down

and run around hugging everyone in sight

And since then?

Well, it feels like I’ve outgrown the running part

But I do still hug

A proper grownup hug

Like our son always says

They’re free!

But, now that I think about it some more

Maybe there’s a little running left in this old body

for certain special occasions

Like the man in that story long ago …

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.


* Last line from … English Standard Version Copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Tiny fawn ... a poem by Cheryl

It’s been a rough day
The hurt I kept hidden
has been uncovered
And worries abound

But I saw a tiny fawn
as I rode my bike
down a wooded path
So frail it stood in grassy shadows
spotted coat
eyes wide
Its mother looking on
from across the way

And there’s a single flower
blooming in my back yard
that I did not plant
It has sprung up
with speckled center
and tender petals
of melon-gold

~ Cheryl W. Allen

Monday, June 29, 2015

Answered prayer

I’ve been in a couple of Bible study groups

Where the leader asks

Who would like to share about a time when God answered your prayer?

And I have a go-to story for a question such as this

Want to hear it?


In the summer before my junior year of college

I was hanging out at a friend’s house

Sitting in his living room, watching TV

When he looked over at me and said

I heard that Cheryl Waite and her boyfriend broke up

Huh, I said

But, now that I think about it

It was probably more of a Hmm than a Huh

And from that day forward

I began to pray that Cheryl Waite would be my wife

Weird, I know

But I did it anyway

Prayed like a champion

Until the fall

When I was hanging out in my dorm

On the very first day of the semester

The very first day, mind you

And Cheryl Waite walked by

After helping some guy carry his stuff down the hall

Cheryl Waite

The Cheryl Waite

And she gave me a smile

And a side hug

And a How was your summer?

And, as they say

The rest is history.


"She was riding along a red dirt ridge to the south sitting with her hands crossed on the pommel ... That's my heart yonder, he told the horse." - Cormac McCarthy in No Country for Old Men

Monday, June 8, 2015

Is Heaven for Real?

Ever since Mom passed, I’ve been thinking more and more about heaven

What’s it like?

What’s she doing up there?

Not too long ago, I pictured heaven like it was right out of the book of Revelation

Streets of gold, pearly gates, the whole nine yards

I’m not kidding

Now I’m not so sure

I have my moments—even minutes—of doubt about the afterlife

Is heaven for real?

Revelation doesn’t help much

Horsemen, Babylon, the whole millennial idea

It’s hard to tell what everything means

And so I do the only thing I know to do

I turn to Jesus

I put my trust in him

What does he have to say about all this?

Well, as you might imagine, he says a good bit

But, maybe my favorite thing, was on the day he died

When he turned to a criminal next to him and said, Today you’ll be with me in paradise

Letting an underserving guy make it into heaven

Plus a whole lot of other folks you and I know

And Mom

Eternally with the Lord

Well … that’s good enough for me

Monday, May 25, 2015

Bad parenting

Dinner with friends

“Where are we going?”

“What time?”

“You’re allergic to seafood?  I didn’t know that”

“Okay, let’s do the seafood place; they also have chicken and steak”

And off we go

With the early half of us waiting in the bar for the late half to arrive

So we can get a table and

Settle in

To talk about work and home improvements and finally


The conversation always seems to turn to kids

“How are they?”

“What are they doing this summer?”

And then one woman speaks up

And says—not joking

“Okay, tell about a time when you were a bad parent”

And we look at each other and someone goes

“Well that’s easy”

And the stories begin to flow …

I was with my son in a food court—not really paying attention—when I noticed one of the tines had broken off his plastic fork.  He’d swallowed it

I pushed my daughter’s swing too hard and off to one side, and she hit the support post of the swing set

A good number of tales—cringe-worthy; more than you might expect

We laugh; it’s easy to laugh about these things now

They happened so long ago

But with each story, there’s a trace of guilt; you can see it

Feel it

There’s clear evidence we’ve been bad parents …

And then after dinner

Standing off in the corner with another dad

He looks at me and says, “You know, I’ve got a lot of bad-parent stories, but I’ve also got a lot of good ones”

I smile and say, “Me too”

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The classroom at the end of the hall

45 minutes before the funeral, I decided to go for a walk

Down the first-floor hallway, past bulletin boards and classrooms and turning left to see an old familiar stairway

With gray steps

And a solid railing

Something good to hold on to on a day like today

And making my way up two half-flights

And realizing I used to be quicker than this, much quicker

And coming out into another hallway that felt as familiar as any room in my childhood home

A place frozen in time from all those Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights of long ago

And knowing now why my feet had taken this path …

Moving toward the last classroom at the end of the hall

Except it wasn’t a classroom anymore

It was a storage area for AV equipment

And pausing at the doorway before going in, before placing a hand on the TV stand at the front of the room

In this hallowed space

In this space where Mom had stood and talked about Noah and the Judges and the 12 Apostles

And of Jesus

And I, and who knows how many other kids, had sat right there

Learning about God, learning to love Him

And here I was again, feeling like I was back in third grade


Because my teacher was gone, and I missed her

And for just a few minutes, holding tightly to the memories before heading back down to the place where everybody was waiting

Feeling sad, very sad

But also grateful for the woman, and the church, who raised me.

Marilyn Jean McCluggage Allen

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The good list

One of my favorite phrases is … “We remember things for a reason.”  I have stolen this from someone, but I’m not sure who.  If it’s you … well, thank you.


Cheryl and I were talking one morning about good things we remembered from church throughout the years.  We only had a few minutes, because Cheryl was getting ready to meet our daughter Kate for brunch, and I was getting ready to work on our taxes.

If you ever need an example of how life is not fair … well, there you have it.

Here’s our quick-list of good things, in no particular order.  It could be longer, we just need more time.  Maybe we’ll work on it some more, after the taxes are done.

“Life is a marathon.”  A friend of mine, Eddie, shared this with me at just the right time.  Cheryl and I were feeling a little burned out—spiritually.  We’d been sprinting for a year or two.  We were fully living the philosophy of “It’s better to burn out than rust out.”  Eddie took me aside one day and said, “Hey, Mike, life is a marathon.  Take care of yourself and your family.  Pace yourself.  It’s a long journey.”  Amen, brother.

“God thinks you rock!”  Yes, with an exclamation point!  Repeat after me.  GOD THINKS YOU ROCK!  Our preacher mentioned this a while back, and I must say, I’d never thought about such a thing.  Not only did God love me … but He also really liked me.  W-o-w.

Everybody’s got something big going on.  Everybody.  Me.  You.  They.  Even if we don’t share it.  Even if we don’t act like it.  There’s usually something big brewing … an addiction … a family issue … a loss.  We all need understanding and grace.

“We love you.  We need you.  We can’t live without you.”  A staple line in prayers by our friend Mark.  This line cuts two ways … expressing our love and need for God and also for other people in our lives—community.  We can’t live without it.

“Take up your corner of the mat.”  From a recent sermon about the four Bible guys who tore a hole in a roof and lowered their friend—a paralyzed man—down into a house for Jesus to heal.  I’ve probably heard this story a hundred times (a conservative estimate) … and have even seen it on a flannel graph board a time or two, but had never thought about it this way … that I could serve by just taking a corner of the mat. By just doing a small thing.  I don’t have to lower a man by myself or build a charity from the ground up.  I just need to grab a corner and serve.  I can do that.

How about you?  What makes your list of “good” things?