Saturday, December 21, 2013

From our home to yours ...

Merry Christmas!  Mike, Cal, Cheryl and Kate

And a Happy New Year!  Lady

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Wisdom vs. Energy

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 tired.

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 baby?
CHERYL:  Sure.

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 ago. 

Cheryl and Kate

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


As kids, we were into clubs.

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.

Genius, right?

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 play.


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.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Remembering Mrs. Lawson

From the 1980 Petit Jean.

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 would read.

“Rejoiceth not in iniquity,” we would respond.

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.

I still remember most of it today.

Thank you, Mrs. Lawson.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Songs of the Church

This week, Lisa Burgess is guest-posting here.  Lisa is a writer who blogs at  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 heading.

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 room.

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.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Did ya hear the news?

Did ya hear the news?

(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, and her 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 is that?

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.

How awesome is that?


Sara’s previous guest-post on my blog can be found here:


* Tony Kornheiser, an ESPN and DC-area sports-talk guy, calls Pepperdine the most beautiful college campus in America.