Sunday, August 30, 2015

Remembering Coach Laird

I have a soft spot in my heart for football coaches.

Sadly, one of my favorite coaches (and people)—Bill Laird—passed away not too long ago.

Bill and I worked together, back in the day, at Central Arkansas Christian Schools and at the Southwest Church of Christ.  At the beginning of each school year, Bill would head down the hill to the football field, and I’d walk over to the gym for volleyball practice.  How lucky were we … spending our days and weekends with such good students, teachers, and church friends?

Off the top of my head, there are three things I remember about Bill:
  • His buzz-cut haircut, like a guy straight out of the 1950s
  • His warm and boyish grin
  • His words of grace
Of course, it’s the third one I remember most.  During the two years Cheryl and I spent in Little Rock, I can’t think of a person who spoke more grace-filled words into our lives than Coach Laird.

When Cheryl and I showed up one summer to work with the youth group at church, Bill took several Sundays (no exaggeration here) to begin his sermons by welcoming us to the Southwest congregation.  Safe to say, we have never felt so welcomed by a church.  It was slightly embarrassing, but mostly it was heartwarming.

And then there was the time my dad was invited to Southwest to hold a gospel meeting …

When Bill heard that Dad was allergic to dust and mold, he said, “Well, you know it’s about time we replaced the old carpet in this church building.”  And so he worked with other church leaders to do just that … to put down new carpet, so Dad would feel more comfortable in his surroundings.

And then there was another time when Cheryl and I took the youth group up to St. Louis for a weekend road trip …

On the way back, we—uh—accidentally busted out one of the windows in the church van (long story).  When I (nervously) told Bill about it, he just said, “Now, Michael, don’t you even worry about that.  We’ll get the van fixed up this week.  It’s no big deal.”

Ah, the cool breeze of grace.

After spending about a year as the youth minister at Southwest, I headed off to take a job with the Air Force.  Before I left, I gave a little farewell speech at a Sunday evening service.  The end of it went something like this …

In case we don’t see each other again here on earth, let’s be sure to meet up again in heaven.  And why don’t we plan on getting together in the southwest corner?

Well, Bill has gone on ahead of us now … and I do look forward to seeing him again one day.  I want to see his smile and hear his words of grace.

And, of course, I want to make sure he’s keeping his hair cut short.

From the 1991 CAC yearbook

Monday, August 10, 2015

The annoying kid on the plane

The kid across from me on the plane

is a real chatterbox

He looks to be about 10 or 12

and he’s talking the ear off

of the gentleman

--an apparent stranger--

who’s trapped in the seat beside him

Do you like Pokémon? I like Pokémon

Which one’s your favorite? I like …

And all I can think is

Thank you Lord that I’m not sitting next to that kid

I put in my earbuds

and settle back

and look over again a short time later

to see that the man is fast asleep

The kid has worn him out

And so we continue

from Atlanta to Washington

1 hour and 45 minutes

in relative peace and quiet

Thank you Lord

And when we finally land

and roll into our gate

and the seatbelt sign goes off

the same kid stands up

and launches into a conversation with the woman behind him


He’s got plenty of words saved up

And why are you coming to DC?

What are you planning to do here?

Are you going to see the monuments?

Talking a mile a minute and hardly waiting for answers

and all I can think is

Thank you Lord that I’m not sitting behind that kid

But the woman is very kind

more so than I’d be in her shoes

and the kid eats it up

He’s hungry for attention

so she feeds him a question

And why are you coming to DC, young man?

And the kid says

without hesitation

I live in Maryland, with my grandparents

You see

He lives in Maryland

with his grandparents

And all I can think is

Lord, please bless this kid

Bless him