Cheryl and I have these friends.They teach physics and engineering,
respectively, at a local university.They are married and in their 40s, much like us … except for one small
detail:our kids are in college, and their kids are in preschool.
Our friends are wise and loving parents … the kind of people
who should be on the cover of Parenting Magazine every single month.They are also, understandably, a little bit
Cheryl and I will sometimes talk about how we decided to
have children “early.”It happened way
back in the 1990s, and we really hadn’t offered up many prayers or sought much
advice.We just went to the movies one
night and had this conversation:
MIKE:Hey, would you like to start trying for a
Wait a minute … let me rephrase that.
CHERYL (with excitement pulsing
from every fiber of her being):Sure!!!!!!!
And so we began trying, in our barely-mid-20s, and the next
thing you know … there was Kate.And a
couple of years later, we tried some more … and there was Cal.
And Cheryl and I had this boundless energy to wake-up in the
middle of the night and to battle illnesses and to play a dozen games of
WIFFLE® ball in a single day.But, safe
to say, we lacked some wisdom along the way.
And so we glance over at our friends and think … we wish
we’d been more patient as parents.More
kind.More laid back.Just like you.
And our friends look back at us—smiling their tired
smiles—and wish that they had a little bit of that juice we all had 20 years
My neighbor Roy built a treehouse, so we had a treehouse
club.One day, the club had a
competition to see who could hammer a nail into a block of wood with the least
number of strokes.I think I was pretty
lousy at it … but I kept on swinging, because I wanted to be in the club.
In Pee Wee football, my friend Lance and I came up with the
“Good Hands” Club.Lance was a wide
receiver, and I was a tight end.Our
team mainly ran the ball, though, so the Good Hands Club didn’t see much
action.Except for blocking.We got really good at blocking.
Lance and I were optimists, though.We knew it was just a matter of time before
we got our hands on the ball, so we came up with a “good hands” play.It went something like this … if Lance ever
caught a pass, he would turn and lateral the ball to me.If I ever caught a pass, I would turn and
lateral the ball to him.
Well, I did finally catch a pass in a game, right at the end
of the first half.I took a couple of
steps and then lateraled/fumbled the ball back toward Lance.
At halftime, our coach looked over at me and said, “Nice job
of trying to keep the ball alive out there after the clock had expired.”I nodded my head, as if that had been my plan
all along.But it wasn’t my plan.I was simply executing the Good Hands Club
Which brings me to my favorite club … maybe the best club in
the history of clubs.
One fall in elementary school, some friends and I formed the
B.A.D. Club.(Yes, the “A” stood for
Allen. You may guess at the other initials, if you wish.)
We spent most of our afternoons running around the Harding
Music Building where D’s dad worked.We
yelled up and down the hallways, and associate professors eyed us suspiciously
as we sped by their offices.We slid down
the stairs on flattened cardboard boxes (which sounds like a lot more fun than
it actually was).And eventually, we’d always
end up in the recording studio, which was a big as a basketball court.A stage stood at the far end of it, and at
the entrance these words were etched into the wall:
Little by little
time goes by
short if you sing
long if you sigh.
(I quoted this to my wife recently.She was unimpressed.)
One cool feature of the stage … it had doors at one end that
allowed access to the underneath.You
could flip a light switch to illuminate the underworld, or you could just crawl
around in the darkness – if you dared.The lower-stage lands were filled with boxes, a thin layer of dust, and even
a spider or two.
Around Christmastime, the B.A.D. Club began planning our
first, and only, holiday party.(By this
time, the club had grown to include a few people whose last names did not start
with “B” or “A” or “D”.)Before the big
day arrived, we decorated the under-stage with our very own Christmas tree, and
then drew names for a surprise gift exchange.
I was completely stoked.
On the afternoon of the party, we handed out Christmas
presents by the light of our 2 ½ foot plastic tree.The flat, loosely-wrapped package given to me
contained a BiC pen.Not the greatest
gift I’ve ever received, but a gold-letter day nonetheless.Why?Because,
I was at a Christmas party … under a stage … with good friends.What could be better than that?
These days, Cheryl and I still believe in the power of
clubs.We belong to a group that meets
at Matt and Jill’s place on Tuesday nights.We talk about shallow things.We
talk about deep things.We’ve been known
to crack open a Bible.We’ve even had a
few parties along the way.
Yes, even in these middle ages, we still need clubs to help
us on the journey.
Mrs. Lois Lawson, my 3rd grade
teacher, went home to be with the Lord on November 1st.If you have ever felt completely loved by a
teacher, then you already know the kind of person she was.
Here’s a reprint of something I
wrote a few years ago …
Our teacher, Mrs. Lawson, announced
to our class that we would be memorizing First Corinthians 13, the chapter on
love. It seemed daunting. A whole chapter? All of those verses sticking in our brains and
then coming out of our mouths?
She opened up her big black Bible to
the book of First Corinthians. She said,
“Now, boys and girls, I want you to know that I am a very clean person. I wash my hands every day. But look at this page in my Bible.” She held it up for everyone to see. “I have read from First Corinthians 13 so many
times that the oils from my hands have turned the page yellow.”
She was right. The double-columned page with tiny black print
was dingy and yellow. It was kind of
cool and gross all at the same time.
And so we began to memorize the
chapter, a verse or so each day. Mrs.
Lawson would read a phrase from her King James Version Bible (always
substituting the word “love” for the KJV word “charity”), and we would repeat
it back to her as a class.
“Rejoiceth not in iniquity,” she
“Rejoiceth not in iniquity,” we
After we had learned all the verses,
we quoted it as a group for the rest of the elementary school at a Friday
assembly. I don’t think anyone clapped
afterward, but they should have. It was
a sight to behold.
Though I speak with the tongues of men and
of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
This week, Lisa Burgess is guest-posting here.Lisa is a writer who blogs at www.lisanotes.com.If you’re looking for a good dose of encouragement
and grace, Lisa notes is the perfect
place for you.
We had a hunch he was dying. He was losing too many
pounds, coughing too often, and actually calling a doctor.
That wasn’t like Daddy.
He’d always been the strong one, the one who never got
sick, the one taking care of Mama in these dark days of her Alzheimer’s.
He’d also been the one who’d taught Bible classes and sat
in elders’ meetings and led singing on Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, and
Wednesday nights in our little country Church of Christ.
But he was also the one who taught us to sing church
songs around the piano in our living room.
Instruments and the name of Jesus were a forbidden mix in
our religion. We had no pianos, guitars, or organs in our church building. Daddy
didn’t fight against the prohibition. But he didn’t agree with it either.
He used to pluck out tunes on our piano at home on
Saturday afternoons to new songs he wanted to learn to sing on Sunday. I felt
honored (and admittedly a little shaky) when he’d ask me as a young girl to also
help play the notes.
But the greatest fun came when his brother Bobby sat down
at the keys on Saturday nights and we’d pass out hymnals to share and we’d sing
four-part harmony around the piano for hours. It was praise at its purest.
What Daddy was teaching me—without using words—was that
worshiping at home was as important as worshiping at church. And that to hear
the music down deep, it was okay to loosen up a little.
It was less about us and our rule-keeping, and more about
God and his grace-giving. That gave us something to sing about.
Otherwise, we’d spend our lives like many we saw, trying
to be good enough instead of crediting God for being loving enough. That brand
of religion never settled quite right with me.
Or with Daddy. Sure, he taught us to obey (when he
snapped his fingers from the front pew, all four of us kids immediately sat
straighter wherever we were in the church building), but he also taught us to
question the rules. To see if they were from God or were from man. And to not
sacrifice our freedoms unnecessarily on the altar of tradition.
So when this ex-Marine refused chemotherapy when he found
out cancer had too big a head start on him, we knew he felt safe where he was
And when cancer got too noisy, we sat around Daddy’s bed
his last weekend here and sang hymns to drown it out, songs Daddy taught us to
sing but could no longer sing with us.
We didn’t have a piano in his bedroom that Friday night,
but I know Daddy wouldn’t have minded if we had. God either. God knows there are
many ways we need to tell him thanks. Sometimes with lips. Sometimes with
deeds. And sometimes with fingers on keys and strings.
God is worth praising every way we know how.
After Daddy’s funeral, we discussed what each of us wanted
of his. Me? I wanted his leather-bound “Songs of the Church,” the songbook he led
singing with for so many years. It rests on the family piano now in my living
It reminds me to let go of being a proud rule-keeper and
instead be a humble God-worshiper. Because ultimately that’s what God is
seeking. Exactly like my daddy taught me.
(You know it has to be big for me to postpone my “Halloween
Memories” blog post.)
The news … Pepperdine University has named a new chaplain,
name is Sara Barton!
Pepperdine, a Church-of-Christ-affiliated school, has given
a post of spiritual leadership to a woman.How awesome is that?
After hearing about this, I went online to learn more about
the chaplain’s office at Pepperdine.I
clicked on the staff link, and every single person on the page was a woman.3 for 3.100%.I felt like Rip Van Winkle,
coming awake after a 20-year nap.Where
have I been?How did this happen?A place of spiritual leadership that is
completely staffed by women?How awesome
This feels like a step in the right direction … a more
progressive and spiritually healthy path … becoming more and more a church
where both men and women have a voice.
Now I’ve never been to Pepperdine*, but I do hope to get out
there one day.I don’t know exactly what
things look like in Malibu, CA, but I do have an image forming in my
mind.I picture a young guy, a
student, sitting in a packed auditorium.There’s a faint sound of ocean waves crashing in the distance.This young man closes his eyes for a moment and
hears the voice of a woman speaking the words of Christ into his life.It’s a moment that changes him forever.