Monday, April 30, 2012


Looking down one day

running my finger across my stomach

and discovering a lump there.

A marble-sized lump.

Hoped to God it wasn’t anything

like maybe it was a big subterranean zit that would eventually pop and drain away.

But it didn’t drain away.

And I waited a couple of weeks before showing it to my parents

and begged them not to touch it

but Dad did anyway

to feel for himself that something was wrong.

And from there

we set up a few doctors’ appointments

which ended in a meeting with Dr. Henry Farrar

a happy man

always smiling.

And Dr. Farrar wasn’t completely sure what the thing was

but thought it would be better to cut it out

or off

or something like that.

And so we scheduled a surgery for right before Christmas

in order to give me time to heal

before basketball practice started back up.

And I was super-nervous about the whole thing

but tried not to show it


Until the day I checked into the hospital.

I probably showed it then.

And I rested for that entire afternoon in my hospital bed.


but glad I had a room to myself.

Not like in the movies where you had a roommate

or worse

where you had to lie on a cot in a ward full of wounded soldiers.

And after awhile

a hospital person came into the room to shave my stomach.

And I wished I had something to make his job worthwhile

but there was only peach fuzz.

And then I was alone.

Everything still.

And after what seemed like the longest night of my life

the sun came up and




And I wondered why in the world surgery had to take place at the crack of dawn

but was glad to get it over with.

And my parents walked into the room

and I looked at dad and asked him what he was doing there

because I thought he should probably be on campus grading papers or something

and he said he wanted to be there.

And that’s when I knew it was serious

more serious than having a cavity filled.

And I took a deep breath

remembering that I’d already prayed about everything.

And an orderly or two wheeled me off to the operating room

where a man put a black mask over my face and told me to count backwards from 5

but I got a late start and only got to the number 4

before my world turned to black.

And I opened my eyes

what seemed like

a few moments later

and they were wheeling me back to my room.

And pretty soon I felt a soreness in my belly

like God’s own fury.

And a nurse handed me some pills.

But not enough.

I could have used about three more of them

every hour or so.

And then …


this might be the best part.

And then

the visitors began to come.

They streamed through the door of my hospital room

so many that we should have installed a number dispenser on the wall

and shouted

Now serving number 43!

Men and women from church.

Brother Dale Foster our preacher.

Parents of my friends.

So much caring

so much loving.

Someone even brought me a Frosty from Wendy’s.

It was then that I realized …

I was not alone in all of this.

I was a part of something bigger.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Song of the church

This song cracks me up.

Now I know there’s a good bit of sincerity here, but there is something about it that just plain tickles me.

With that said, here is my readiest recollection of how I came to “own” this piece of a cappella sheet music:

One fine Sunday, our youth group took a road trip to conduct a worship service for a small country congregation.* We were a group of boys with Bibles in hands, ready to lead a prayer or a song, or—for three or four of us—ready to deliver a five-minute lesson. A bunch of girls came along for the ride, ready to sing like angels and to mix in with the typically-older locals we would see there.**

And we arrived at the tiny building about 30 minutes too early, because we always allowed enough time just in case we had a flat tire on the van or if someone happened to throw up or something. And I sat down in one of the pews and began thumbing through the hymnal to kill some time. Then … I … saw … it. Song #1. “The Church of Christ.”

What in the world?

I showed it to a few other guys, and we had a good laugh. It was as if we’d been on a 17-year journey together, and we’d just discovered there’d been a theme song for us all along. It reminded me of the verse in Romans that people quoted from time to time or that sometimes appeared on the back of bulletins: “The churches of Christ salute you.” But, for some reason, Mr. Crum’s song hadn’t received quite as much acclaim.

I had never seen it before. I thought I might never see it again. I had to have it.


And the song was all mine.

* There are—or at least there used to be—a million of these smaller churches in Arkansas, and I have many warm memories of attending them.
** Actually, now that I think about it, the girls would have been great at the praying and song-leading and other stuff, but that is a conversation for another day.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Best chapel program ever

A couple of weeks ago, our family visited a small Christian college in Indiana. The school is on a short list of colleges my son is considering.

As a part of the campus tour, our freshman guide pointed out the 2200-seat auditorium and said that students attended chapel there on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

And, he added, they get 16 chapel skips per semester. (Not a typo … 16.)

My first thought: “Are you kidding me? These guys are a bunch of wimps!”

At my alma mater—Harding University—we met for chapel every single weekday. And, we only got 10 skips per semester. (Unless, of course—theoretically—someone had a girlfriend who would occasionally sit in his chapel seat. In that case, a person might get a few extra skips.)

But, as I look back now, I can say there was at least one chapel I wouldn’t have wanted to miss …

On that morning, Dr. Jim Henderson from the HU business department was speaking. (Or, wait a minute, it might have been David Tucker. After 25 years, sometimes people blend together in my mind.)

Anyway, after a few introductory comments, Dr. Henderson/Tucker got around to the point of his program—introducing Harding’s Walton scholars. (Walton scholars were a group of international students who came to the university on scholarships funded by Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart.)

And, as Dr. H/T introduced the students, they came out on stage smiling and waving with some special music playing in the background.

And the music was …

(Coming to) “America” by Neil Diamond.

And the students looked so happy … and the song was so corny … that the program crystalized into a moment of pure joy.

On that morning, the Walton scholars were glad and grateful to be at Harding. It showed on their faces.

And I was glad to be there too.


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Salvation in Mexico

Dad and I went on several fishing trips to Mexico. On the first one in about 1974, we drove south from Tucson after Dad had preached a gospel meeting. We rode along in a borrowed truck, pulling a borrowed boat on a borrowed trailer.

At some point in the journey, we got a flat tire on the truck or trailer. Dad stopped in a Mexican village to have the tire repaired. In the village, we saw a cute teenage girl walking down the street. Dad pointed her out to me, shook his head and said, “That girl doesn’t have a dog’s chance of being saved.”

I nodded. Very sad indeed.

The point, as my 8-year-old brain understood it, was that this girl (and everyone in her village) could not come to know Jesus, because there was not a Church of Christ nearby. That God could not reach out and touch their lives.

Nowadays, I might disagree with Dad. I might say something like ... “I believe God is able.”

My brother Jimmy and me, visiting Old Tucson before our trip to Mexico.