Category: Faith

Tokens: Small Word, Big Show

Tokens: don’t be deceived by the smallness of the word.

Reminiscent of a tiny, plastic disc–stand-in currency–used to make some small purchase, or a gesture made for the sake of appearances, the word takes on a richer and deeper meaning in the context of that delightful mixture of music, mirth and musings that is the Tokens show, Lipscomb University professor Lee Camp’s “Prairie Home Companion”-like, live radio-style brainchild. The show, now a widely-recognized thread running through the fabric of the Nashville entertainment scene, is no counterfeit coin.

Tokens transcends mere entertainment, ascending instead to the level of education, even enlightenment.… Read the rest

How Mary Nell’s Handbell Got Saved

Jesus said to “Love they neighbor” and “thy enemy.” But what do you do when the person who lives next door to you is both?

I guess there aren’t any special dispensations for that scenario. You’re just supposed to suck it up and go. When it came to Mary Nell, our neighbor from 1995-2011, we tried–and failed–over and over and over.

We first met Mary Nell in August 1995 when we stopped by Corley Drive to check out the 10-year-old brick rancher with the huge backyard that had just gone on the market.

Well, “met” only if you count a dried-up prune of a little old lady glaring at you through window blinds as a “meeting.”… Read the rest

A Major Breach in the Britches, Leap Year 1972

Today is February 29, Leap Year 2012. This is also the week that pro football wannabes are showing off their physical skills in the NFL Combine. Put the two together, and you come up with a traumatic, cringe-inducing, early childhood memory.

It was the spring of 1972, another Leap Year, and I was in Ms. Traylor’s 4th grade class at Burnt Chimney Elementary School in Wirtz, Virginia. We were on the playground finishing up the last event of our biannual physical fitness tests–the broad jump. I was on the line, waiting my turn.

“Go ahead, jump!” Ms. Traylor called out. I swung my arms in rhythm–one, two, three–and then crouched low, like a panther set to pounce…

The previous fall, I had failed every one of my physical fitness tests.… Read the rest

Coefficient of Friction

A former college professor of mine at Harding, Dr. Joe Pryor, was famous for his bow ties and his nerdy (and charming) way of saying things.

Whenever it snowed or iced in Searcy, Arkansas and the sidewalks around campus grew slick, he would stand behind the podium during chapel and declare, in his best Ben Stein “Ferris Beuller” economics teacher monotone, “Be careful walking around campus today; the coefficient of friction is extremely low.”

I thought of him last Sunday when the coefficient of friction on the roads near my birthplace in southwest Virginia suddenly dropped to near zero. It started snowing that morning, not hard, but enough to capture the attention of my sister’s two curious cats, Twinky and Zinger, who sat on their haunches and stared out the patio window watching the flakes fall.… Read the rest

Ocular Prophylatics–A Salute to “BCGs”

I first heard the term “Birth Control Glasses” or “BCGs” in the early 1990s when I started practicing optometry with the US Government. I was around 30 years old, married, with two sons and one on the way. Fortunately, I had already “spread my seed.”

Because if I hadn’t, I feel sure that merely touching those brown, butt-ugly, godawful, googly-eyed monsters would have struck me impotent. When I first laid eyes on them, I understood immediately why a whole generation of young men had dodged the draft and sought refuge in Canada.

For decades, military-issue eye wear has been as much a rite of passage for new recruits as screaming drill sergeants, 5:00 AM PT and MREs.… Read the rest

Homeless Hank’s Christmas Miracle Turkey

I smelled it long before I saw it. You’ve seen those cartoons where the character catches a whiff of a powerful, pleasant odor and suddenly rises off the ground, borne along by the fumes like a slave in chains. That was me, right before lunchtime a couple of days ago in my clinic.

I sprang from my chair to see what was the matter. I’m used to the pungent odor of burned popcorn coming from the break room microwave, but this was different; more like Sunday brunch at the Ritz. It was deep brown, slightly crispy on the outside, moist and tender on the inside, seasoned with just the right amount of rosemary, garlic and basil.… Read the rest

The Family Holiday Newsletter (1996[?]-2011)

The Family Holiday Newsletter died yesterday. It was born in December, 1996 when the Family Sons were ages seven, five and three. It may have been before then, but there were no files older than 1996 on the 500GB external hard drive.

It had been on life support for some time, but since this is the third year running that it has failed to make an appearance, the Family finally said their tearful goodbyes and pulled the plug. The newsy, bulleted, Family Holiday Newsletter was one of those “brag sheets” that were de rigueur for “parents of a certain age,” thirty and forty-somethings whose prodigy kids composed symphonies at age five, set age records in the marathon at age seven and cured cancer at age nine.… Read the rest

“I Want To Believe”

“Mulder and Scully came right out of my head. A dichotomy. They are the equal parts of my desire to believe in something and my inability to believe in something. My skepticism and my faith.”

–Chris Carter, creator of “The X-Files”

A friend of mine told me recently that I was “altogether too polite” and that I didn’t ask enough “tough questions.” This came as news to my family, especially my sons who, on more than one occasion, have felt the probing, white heat of one of my infamous, late-night interrogation sessions following one of their nights on the town (“Vee have vays of making you talk!”).… Read the rest

“Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish”

Those were the words that Steve Jobs, CEO and creative backbone of Apple, passed on to the graduating class at Stanford University a few years ago.

After hearing of his death last night, I watched that commencement address and those particular words stuck. I went to bed thinking about them, and they were the first words on my mind when I awoke this morning. I’ll take that as a sign that I should write about them.

Steve Jobs was delivering his own “Last Lecture,” just like Randy Pausch. For the most part, the students were listening, but not really listening.… Read the rest

Seeds

When it came time to pray, the Stars and Stripes stood limp in the back, left-hand corner of the room, out of sight.

Up front was the processional cross, the center of our attention and standard of the hour. I had to crane my neck nearly one hundred and eighty degrees to spy Old Glory. I didn’t feel sorry for her, though. I knew that before the day was over, she would receive her due–and then some. But at that moment, she was merely an invited guest, one among many.

That was the scene as we prepared for common prayer yesterday at Nativity Episcopal Church in Huntsville.… Read the rest

Walking the Line

We had assembled at Coleman Coliseum on the campus of the University of Alabama to watch our children “walk the line” at summer graduation. The killer tornado that ravaged Tuscaloosa on April 27th, 2011 had also rudely interrupted the academic careers of many of the May graduates, leaving them all dressed up in cap and gown with no place to go.

Now, even though they had received their hard-earned diplomas in the mail a few weeks prior, many of them had returned, along with their fellow summer graduates, to don their regalia and finish in style. Also in attendance: a mess of mamas and papas and memaws and papaws, all of them thirsty for some much-needed closure and a little pomp and circumstance.… Read the rest

Three Lessons I Learned At Central High

Last week, I returned to high school.

Fortunately, nobody had rescinded my diploma. Neither had I landed in one of those fish-out-of-water, “impotence” dreams where the hapless, middle-age man, who has long since forgotten the difference between a sine and cosine, is thrown into an advanced geometry class full of National Merit Scholars.

Instead, I visited Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas, where nine black students, aka the “Little Rock Nine,” dared to enter her shiny portals of learning in September, 1957, thereby ending ending racial segregation in Little Rock public schools. They were blocked on the first attempt by Arkansas National Guardsmen acting under orders of Governor Orval Faubus who had sworn not to allow the black students to enroll.… Read the rest

I May Have “Pink Eye,” But I’m No Commie

In the aftermath of the tornadoes in Alabama, armies of Good Samaritans have rushed to our aid with a million good deeds. Taking up their various instruments of mercy, they have come to attention as the Master Conductor has waved his wand, and the resultant symphony of compassion has been sweet, soothing music to our ears.

But they say “no good deed goes unpunished.” “They” are right.

When cell phone service returned to near normal two days after the storm struck, I downloaded my email and saw that a local church was offering an 8:00 AM communion service followed by an opportunity to go into the tornado-stricken areas around Harvest north of town and help out.… Read the rest

Special Edition: The Eye of the Storm

Last Friday, the most powerful man in the world and his wife were walking through the debris-strewn streets of Tuscaloosa, Alabama when they came upon two university students picking through the remains of what had formerly been their apartment. Looking up, the students’ eyes widened in surprise as they struggled to mentally digest this extraordinary development.

President Obama stuck out his hand in greeting, and the two students quickly gathered themselves, took off their gloves which were coated with a patina of dust and fiberglass, and held out their own in return. In doing so, they touched the hand that only hours before had been lifted in command, setting into motion events that reaped their own powerful whirlwind in a far distant land.… Read the rest