I Can’t Be That Old

I celebrated my 63rd birthday last week. I find it really hard to believe that I’m that old. It seems like it was only last year that I hit my 50s. Don’t get me wrong, my body definitely knows it’s that old. It’s my mind that is having trouble grasping how many years have passed. I may have to admit that I’m only kidding myself though. I am past the age that I considered to be really old only a few years ago.

When we got home from tutoring tonight, a commercial for Dancing with the Stars came on listing the “stars”. Other than an Olympic athlete, I didn’t recognize any of the names. I must really be out of touch with “the happening scene”. Dad was always a huge fan of the show and wouldn’t miss it for the world. He knew what time DWTS came on and would set up his schedule around it. I guess I should feel grateful that it has not become one of my staples as of yet so at least there is that. Papa Stripling, Mom’s father knew the exact time Huntley and Brinkley came on, even when he was in a different time zone. My genetics may be dooming me. I am a little concerned that I’m beginning to mark time by when Pat and Vanna air with The Wheel of Fortune. I’m also becoming convinced that nothing good happens after 9:30.

Mom never would admit that she was a senior adult. She just went on trips with that group as a chafferone. I don’t really have a problem admitting that I’m a senior adult, I just have trouble believing that it snuck up on me.

If all that wasn’t enough, my much younger, beautiful wife was relating the difficulty she had with a Zoom meeting this afternoon. I tried not to laugh too hard when she talked about being on the zoom. Our daughter, on the other hand, lost it completely. Our future is unfolding right before our eyes. When our grandchild, that is due to arrive within the next couple of weeks, wants to see us, we’ll be telling them to make their parents put them on the zoom, or the Facebook, or the Instagram, or if we’re really feeling froggy to get on the Snapchat. Of course, they will wonder why all they can see is Grandma and Granddad’s stomachs but that’s a whole different discussion.

Well I won’t gripe anymore about getting old because you either get old or you don’t. I guess I better wind this up because it’s getting on past 9:30 and you know what that means.

Joel 2:28

28 [a] After thisI will pour out My Spirit on all humanity;then your sons and your daughters will prophesy,your old men will have dreams,and your young men will see visions.

What Is My Raison d’etre Anyway?

Each Friday I participate in the FiveMinuteFriday.com challenge to write for five minutes on a prompt word. Today’s word is purpose.

When I started thinking about purpose immediately I recalled a phrase used in several Charles Martin novels (I recommend his books very highly). The phrase is raison d’etre that is a fancy French phrase that means the most important reason or purpose for someone’s or something’s existence.

Before I get into as deep a discourse as possible in five minutes, I need to reflect on something that happened yesterday. My daughter who is expecting very soon called me when I arrived home from work for my birthday. She had a texting scavenger hunt designed to locate my gift. When my kids were growing up they often requested that I plan scavenger hunts for their birthdays and even sleepovers. They were not scavenger hunts in the truest sense but more like quests with each clue leading to another until a goal was reached. There would be different themes, like Dr Who and others, depending on the occasion and the interests of the child. With the advent of cell phones, they became more technologically sophisticated. Sometimes they would become frustrated trying to figure out my thought processes and be more worried about winning the game than just enjoying the experience. The whole purpose of the quest was for them to have fun with their friends. I must admit that my daughter had a little payback yesterday as I got frustrated as I attempted to get on her wave length deciphering her clues. I was tired after work and was hoping to get my lawn cut before expected storms this weekend so I was less into the activity than I should have been. It wasn’t until I was out cutting the grass that it dawned on me that I had forgotten my daughter’s purpose for planning the scavenger hunt for me. She wanted me to have fun searching for my birthday gift because she loves me. Later last night, I sent her a text thanking her for the gift and for sending me on her quest.

I realize that I took the long way to get here but I couldn’t help but consider what is my Raison d’etre, the most important reason or purpose for my existence. Sometimes I’m guilty of feeling like I didn’t get much out of a sermon or worship service. In actuality, worship is not about me in the first place. We were created to worship God. Worship is not about being entertained or what I get out of the experience. It is about coming before the One who created me. Worship was not created for me, I was created for worship. My Raison d’etre is to worship Him, to come before His presence with praise, thanksgiving, and song.

Psalm 100

1 Shout triumphantly to the Lord, all the earth.2 Serve the Lord with gladness;come before Him with joyful songs.3 Acknowledge that Yahweh is God.He made us, and we are His[a] —His people, the sheep of His pasture.4 Enter His gates with thanksgivingand His courts with praise.Give thanks to Him and praise His name.5 For Yahweh is good, and His love is eternal;His faithfulness endures through all generations.

My Momma Didn’t Raise No Fool

Today I’m celebrating being married to my wonderful wife for 35 years. I thank God for giving me such a godly woman. She is not only my love but my best friend too. We have our share of successes and hard times but He has been very good to us. We are thankful to have raised our three kids to be responsible adults. Our family has grown to include a son-in-law and this year a daughter-in-law. We are really looking forward to welcoming our first grandchild within the next 2 or 3 weeks. Yes, I’ll soon be sleeping with Grandma and I’m good with that.

Mom loved Sherry right from the start. She was constantly saying that she picked out my wife for me when Sherry started attending our church. It’s funny because Sherry was sort of dating someone else but Mom was constantly telling me that they weren’t really serious. I think Mom was afraid I was about to become the first Baptist monk so she was delighted when Sherry and I started dating. She was even more thrilled when I knew that Sherry was the one the God intended for me. There was only a narrow window to have our wedding due to both of our work moving in that fall. We asked Mom if it was okay to have our wedding on her birthday. I’m not sure if Mom okayed it because she was afraid Sherry would back out or the fact that Mom celebrated her birthday through out the entire month. Before she passed, I think she started in August and the party would bleed into October. Mom would be completely tickled to have another great grandchild if she was still around. Just like all the other grandkids and great grandkids, I’m sure Mom would say that ours looked just like her.

I’m completely thrilled to have had 35 years with my wonderful wife and hope to be able to celebrate many more. I never told Sherry that part of the reason I pushed for this date for our wedding was to make sure I would remember our anniversary since it was on the same day as Mom’s birthday. Mom wouldn’t let me forget her day so my anniversary was covered. Like I said, my Momma didn’t raise no fool.

Proverbs 31:10-31

10 Who can find a capable wife?[a]
She is far more precious than jewels.[b]
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will not lack anything good.
12 She rewards him with good, not evil,
all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
and works with willing hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from far away.

15 She rises while it is still night
and provides food for her household
and portions[k] for her female servants.
16 She evaluates a field and buys it;
she plants a vineyard with her earnings.[l]
17 She draws on her strength[m]
and reveals that her arms are strong.
18 She sees that her profits are good,
and her lamp never goes out at night.
19 She extends her hands to the spinning staff,
and her hands hold the spindle.

20 Her hands reach[n] out to the poor,
and she extends her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid for her household when it snows,
for all in her household are doubly clothed.[o]
22 She makes her own bed coverings;
her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is known at the city gates,
where he sits among the elders of the land.
24 She makes and sells linen garments;
she delivers belts[p] to the merchants.
25 Strength and honor are her clothing,
and she can laugh at the time to come.

26 She opens her mouth with wisdom
and loving instruction[q] is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the activities of her household
and is never idle.[r]
28 Her sons rise up and call her blessed.
Her husband also praises her:
29 “Many women[s] are capable,
but you surpass them all!”
30 Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting,
but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised.

31 Give her the reward of her labor,[t]
and let her works praise her at the city gates.

Here I Come to Save the Day

Growing up I loved stories where the hero charged in, at the last moment when all hope seemed lost, to rescue everyone to save the day. I guess I should confess that I still enjoy those type of stories, even if it makes me unsophisticated and naive. Perhaps that’s why I’m always amazed when I hear someone’s conversion story who was so far away from God, doing the most dreadful things, being the absolute worst kind of person until Jesus rescued them and turned their life around. To be honest, I’m sometimes a little jealous that I don’t have that dramatic, road to Damascus kind of testimony.

In the 70’s, I heard Christian singer David Meese, give his testimony. It went something along the line of “I was a pimp, a drug dealer. leader of a gang but then I turned 8 and got saved.” He went on to explain that he became a believer at an early age so he had a “boring” story. That was me. I grew up in a Christian home, went to church from the time I was a baby, and was always a pretty good kid. It is too easy to think that because I was a “good” kid that Jesus really didn’t have to go that far to rescue me. I was pretty close on my own and He helped ease me over the line. It’s like I just joined forces with Him; almost as if I became His sidekick in the battle against evil. It is tempting sometimes to believe that those “terrible sinners” have so much more to be thankful for because Jesus rescued them from such an awful condition. When I think that I’m only fooling myself because like it says in Romans “all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God”. No matter how good I think I was, I was in a desperate situation completely away from God. I was actually His enemy. It’s a little hard to accept that fact but it’s still true. Jesus didn’t come to rescue me because I was good. He came “while I was still a sinner” and desperately needed to be rescued. My sins separated me just as far away from God as the most despicable person who ever lived.

So in reality, I really do have a dramatic rescue story because there was no way that I could have done it myself.

Luke 1:72-74

72 He has dealt mercifully with our fathers
and remembered His holy covenant—
73 the oath that He swore to our father Abraham.
He has given us the privilege,
74 since we have been rescued
from our enemies’ clutches,[a]
to serve Him without fear.

1 Timothy 1:15

15 This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them.

Each Friday I participate in the FiveMinuteFriday.com challenge to write on a prompt word for five minutes. Today’s word is rescue.

It Brings Back Bad Memories

Yesterday, my wife and I drove about an hour away to hike at Stillhouse Hollow Falls with our dog Gertie. It was a great hike even though it was pretty steep so my surgically repaired quad is feeling it a bit today. The falls were beautiful and definitely worth a little pain today. When we arrived home we had one of those unexpected little surprises that home owners sometimes must face. Water was dripping down from the ceiling in our hall/guest bath. The origin of the leak was from our upstairs bath where I had done some repair on the toilet that wouldn’t cut off. I had checked for leaks after replacing the guts of the toilet and didn’t notice any. Apparently there was a small one that dripped on the floor for a couple of days and caused the issue downstairs. It didn’t rival the falls we had visited earlier in the day but did result in opening up the ceiling to allow everything to dry out. We’re planning on redoing that bath at some time but this may have accelerated that process. I thought Labor Day was to honor the American worker not cause more work.

The thing about home ownership is that it’s always something. We have owned older homes, as well as new construction, and no matter the age, they are all money pits. They will drain as much cash as you are willing to throw at them. I would be much happier if I could just accept that fact and move on but I constantly believe there will be an end to it. It may be a mess but at least it’s our mess.

Which brings me back to the bad memory that yesterday’s event brought back in living color. We were remodeling the upstairs bath quite a few years ago. All the kids were away at camp so Sherry and I thought it would be the perfect time to tile that upstairs bath without a million questions about what we were doing. My older brother has done a lot of tiling and offered to help. We put backer board down and began tiling. I supplied the unskilled labor and cut the tile outside while Sherry would relay the measurements from upstairs. We were planning on leaving in the morning to pick the kids up at camp and then on to vacation in Jekyll Island. We knew that we would have to do the grouting after our return from vacation but were quite pleased with how the floor looked. I’m not sure if the expression “pride goes before the fall” or “the best laid plans of mice and men” best applies but we were soon to discover both were probably applicable. We were packing so we could leave it the morning when I felt a drop of water hit my head. That is never a good sign when you are indoors. Placing my ear to the wall I thought I detected a spraying sound coming from inside the wall. Once again, not a sign that bodes well. Even though we were very careful in screwing down the backer board, the previous owners had placed the water pipes directly below the plywood which in turn made them very accessible to the screws we used to install the backer board. I don’t know who was sicker, my wife and I or my brother having to pull up that beautiful tile. Luckily we had only put one hole in the pipe that my brother helped us repair. We had no choice but to leave the hole open so everything could dry out while we were gone. We were fortunate that we discovered the leak before we left or we would have had a much worse situation returning from vacation than we encountered upon our return to home yesterday.

I love our home but I don’t think it likes me very much.

Ezekiel 47

47 Then he brought me back to the entrance of the temple and there was water flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the temple faced east. The water was coming down from under the south side of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar.

Not All That Different

Each Friday I participate in the FiveMinuteFriday.com hosted by Kate Motaung challenge to write for 5 minutes on a prompt word. Today’s word is city.

I’ll start off by saying that I’m not a big city kind of guy. We live in a small city on the outskirts of Nashville, Tennessee and I’m Ok with that.

About 3 years ago, we took a combination daughter graduating from college, anniversary, and my birthday trip to New York City. I was excited to see several things in the City and surrounding area, like the Statue of Liberty, the 911 Memorial and the Empire State Building but this trip was definitely by my freshly graduated daughter’s choice. She had been to NYC on a mission trip while in college and wanted us to experience it also. We rented a by owner place out in Brooklyn and planned on using public transportation to get around. The paleness of our skin tone tended to make us stick out in that particular neighborhood. We were, by far, in the minority in that area. It required several blocks walk to reach any of the subway stations from our rental. Being from the south, I was accustomed to smiling, nodding, and even greeting folks passing by on the sidewalk but we rarely received any of those in return. We were the ones that were different and there were times, I could feel the distrust because of our differences. We took different subway routes into the city depending on our destinations to sightsee but almost all of the stations were the end of the line. Because of this, we were usually one of the last passengers to exit the subway when we returned at night. It was on the way back to our rental in the evenings that I noticed some people avoided us because we did look different.

It was very late one night as we were on the way back to Brooklyn and an African-American mother was in our car with her two pre-teen daughters. The car emptied out the further we got from downtown and the mom made her daughters sit closer to her, avoiding eye contact with us. I couldn’t blame her because she was only trying to protect her children. We still had about another 20 minutes left before our stop with only us and the mother and her girls remaining in the car. My 25 and 23 year old daughters began playing some kind of clapping hand game with a song they learned way back in Girl Scouts to pass the time. It wasn’t long before the two little girls became fascinated with what my daughters were doing and approached them which had been my daughter’s intentions all along. Both of my daughters are very good with kids and they engaged them in conversation with their mother’s okay. It wasn’t long before the little girls were playing with my daughters, having a great time. My wife and I had a pleasant conversation with the mother during this time. Their station was before ours and her girls begged to stay on until our stop. They said they would be willing to either walk a little further or ride back to their stop so they could stay and play. The mom told them to say goodbye to their new friends and to get off. She thanked my daughters for entertaining her girls during the long ride and for teaching them new games and songs. She gave our family a great big smile as the doors closed and the little girls waving to my girls.

As I said earlier, I’m not a big city kind of guy so I was way out of my comfort zone in such a big city. It was a unique experience to be in the minority and to have me and my family be perceived in any way as threatening. God used our encounter with the mother and her girls to demonstrate to me, as well as them, that we’re really not all that different if we just take a little time and effort to realize that fact.

Romans 2:11

11 There is no favoritism with God.

Galatians 3:28

28 There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

John 3:16

16 “For God loved the world in this way:[a] He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

Baby, Baby

This past weekend we went to our very pregnant daughter’s home so all the girls could go to a shower held at their church. I know that there really not any degrees of pregnancy but since she is due in about a month, she is about as pregnant as she can be. She’ll be a great mom. She has always been great with kids. Babysitting, nannying, anything to do with kids has always been right in her wheelhouse. Even when she was just a little girl, she was our little mama. Any time we left her and her 3 + older brother somewhere, she would get her brother’s coat and “organize” his stuff when it was time to pick them up. It was pretty cute because she say “I dot your toat, Tyler. Tum on, it’s time to do.”. Even many of her friends referred to her as “Mama Mallory”.

She doesn’t have long now. Like I said earlier, I know she’ll be a great mother because she has has been training for this her whole life. When she and her husband, get that baby home I think they’ll find that it might be different when they’re yours full time. Not that I have any doubt that they will both come through it with flying colors. I’m not too sure how I’ll do at the whole grandfather thing. I’ve only got a month to work on my spoiling techniques so I’ll got my work cut out for me. I may have to pass a battery of written and physical tests before my daughter lets me hold or much less watch my grandchild. We’ll see. I may have to remind her that my wife and I must have done a pretty good job with her.

Proverbs 17:6

Grandchildren are the crown of the elderly,
and the pride of sons is their fathers.

Psalm 103:17

17 But from eternity to eternity
the Lord’s faithful love is toward those who fear Him,
and His righteousness toward the grandchildren

Not Just Anybody

Each Friday I participate in the FiveMinuteFriday.com challenge to write for five minutes on a prompt word. Today’s word is desperate.

I like to think that I’m able to figure things out on my own. Most of the time I like to think that I’ve got this. Sometimes though, I get so deep into a mess that I get so desperate and ask for help. I don’t want help from, as the Beatles said, “not just anybody” but it needs to be someone who has the ability to provide help.

Many years ago, I was a freshman in college home for Christmas break. Mom asked me to get a branch that had fallen out of the pool area. It was about 2 degrees Fahrenheit so the pool had frozen over. Now being a college man, I used my deductive reasoning skills to determine that the ice was not good for the pool liner. It was an in-ground pool so the water level was down so that the pipes wouldn’t freeze. Well I was the guy who could rectify that problem so I took a pole and began breaking the ice. There was one really large section so I jabbed at it with the pole. The only problem was that it submerged when I pushed down on it causing me to lose my balance and fall into the pool. Once again using my superior college knowledge I thought I should dive rather than fall in feet first. Since we had lowered the water, it was about a 2 1/2 to 3 foot drop before my head came into contact with the ice. The impact caused me to crack several teeth (which I’m paying for still to this day) but fortunately did not knock me out. I swam over to the ladder to crawl out but due to the below freezing temperature, the step shattered as soon as I stepped on it sending me back into the water. I again grabbed the ladder only to have the next step shatter also returning me to the frigid water once again. No one knew that I had fallen in yet so I was pretty desperate because the cold water was beginning to effect my body. I said a little prayer, “God if you want me to get out of this, please let this last step hold me up.” I held on to the steel sides of the ladder and stepped out on the only remaining step to exit the pool. I walked to our back patio only to have my Mom come to the door and ask me what I was doing in the pool. The 2 degree weather did not make for a pleasant place to discuss the matter. She made me enter through the garage because I was soaking where I discovered that I eventually needed 12 stitches to close the gash on the top of my head. I was in a desperate situation in that pool and I called out to the only One who could help me.

When Peter stepped out of the boat to go meet Jesus, he was fine as long as he kept his focus on Jesus. He started noticing the wind and the waves so he started to sink. Peter was desperate. He called out to the only One who could save him. Lord, save me.

There have been many years since I took that Polar plunge and I’ve been stuck sometimes through my mess ups, sometimes just because. God is always there in every situation, even when I do something stupid to put myself there. There have been times that I thought I had it covered, only to discover that I was in way too deep. He is always there. It may not be in the way I want or at the time I want but it is always the right time.

Matthew 14

28 “Lord, if it’s You,” Peter answered Him, “command me to come to You on the water.”

29 “Come!” He said.

And climbing out of the boat, Peter started walking on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strength of the wind,[k] he was afraid. And beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out His hand, caught hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Stickers Only Stick

When our kids were little they loved stickers, any kind of stickers. Our youngest was the worst. She absolutely loved stickers. She plastered them on her clothes,on her arms and legs, and would completely cover her car seat. The good thing about most of the stickers was that they were not permanent. They would eventually fall off.

Stickers were the furthest thing from my mind until I saw some kids get off the bus on my way home from work. I remembered something that happened to me regarding stickers. This was many years ago when we first moved to Tennessee mid school year. I was in the 9th grade at Northside Junior High. I was the very first person picked up in the morning and the last one off the bus in the afternoon. Mr. Charles was the bus driver so he and I got to know each other very well before I moved on to high school. My very first day in my new school went pretty well until the bus ride home. This was before I had my prosthetic eye so my left eye looked strange from the injury when I was five. I still had sight in it at that time but I was used to people noticing that it looked different. Most of the time comments didn’t bother me but being the new kid and not having made any friends besides Mr Charles, I was probably a little more sensitive. It didn’t take much to damage my 14 year old ego. I was seated behind a couple of girls when one turned around and said I was ugly and to quit staring at her with my weird eye. Talk about destroying a young boy’s self-image. I never told anyone what was said but I let my parents know I hated Tennessee. I made friends quickly and just avoided those girls on the bus after that. I was Ok after that until we attended the church we eventually joined only to find those very same girls in the youth group. I can’t say that I got really close with those girls because I could always hear those words in the back of my mind. A couple of years later our youth group had a devotion about needing to forgive someone. I went up to those girls and told them I forgave them for what they had said a couple of years before. The funny thing was they didn’t remember anything about it. Those words stuck with me because I let them.

One of my favorite stories I read to my kids was Max Lucado’s You Are Special. For those who are unfamiliar with the story, it’s about wooden people called Wemicks who go around giving stars to those who do good things and dots to those who make mistakes. All the people were carved by Eli who lived up on a hill. Punchinello was a wooden person who was covered with dots. He met a wooden girl who had no stickers at all. She explained that she went and saw Eli every day. Punchinello decided that he should visit Eli too. He was scared to visit his Creator with all his dots but Eli assures him that the dots don’t matter to Him. In the end, Punchinello realizes that the stickers only stick if they matter to him. Unfortunately that truth didn’t reveal itself to me that day on the bus many years ago and for several years afterward. Words like stickers don’t define me and buses don’t bring up bad memories any more.

Psalm 139:14

14 I will praise You
because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made.[a][b]
Your works are wonderful,
and I know this very well.

Jeremiah 1:5

I chose you before I formed you in the womb;
I set you apart before you were born.
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.

Ephesians 2:10

10 For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.

I usually try to keep the early week posts funny and a little lighter but watching the kids come off that bus prompted this little stroll down memory lane.

The Old Dog

The saying goes “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. Well that’s true unless the old dog is willing to listen and learn.

When our kids were growing up, I would look for teachable moments to impart lessons to them. One time when our son was not quite four and his sister was a couple of months old I decided to take the opportunity to teach my son about giving. Our church was distributing Christmas baskets and we signed up to deliver one. I talked to my young son about why were doing this, about the importance of giving to those who were not as fortunate as us, and the true meaning of Christmas. We live in an affluent county but there are plenty of those in need of you’re willing to open your eyes and see it. The time to deliver the basket arrived and we drove to the literal other side of the tracks to the home where the person lived. I carried the box along with some baked goods my wife had made to the porch of the little house that looked like a strong wind would knock it down. We knocked on the door as a family and I explained that we were there to deliver a basket from our church. Mrs Johnson (not her real name) was a delightful elderly woman, thanked us and invited us inside. She oohed and aahed over our children and continually expressed her gratitude for the basket. We visited for a while and she asked if she could pray for us before we left. I was very touched by her prayer and went to our car with a smile on my face. I was grateful to have the opportunity to serve such a sweet lady and to be able to use it as teaching moment for our young son.

I was quite pleased with myself until about a week later when I realized that like my Mama always said I got a little too big for my britches. It was Christmas morning and we drove to my parents home in our same town. My wife had taken the baby girl inside and I was unloading presents for the rest of the family. My son wanted to help so I gave him a small package to carry. As we headed through the garage, my boy looked up at me with those big innocent eyes and asked, “Daddy, what did Mrs Johnson get for Christmas?”. It stopped me in my tracks and humbled me. I had promptly forgotten about Mrs Johnson going on my merry way but my sweet little boy was still concerned about her. He taught this old dog a new trick that Christmas morning.

I’m much older now. There were lots of teachable moments I had with my kids. God also used them at times to teach me lessons that He wanted me to learn. He has also shown me that I can learn something from everyone if I’m willing to listen closely and learn.

Matthew 18:3

“I assure you,” He said, “unless you are converted[a] and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Each Friday I participate in the FiveMinuteFriday.com challenge to write for five minutes on a prompt word. Today’s word is teach.