Saturday, January 4, 2014

2013.


"Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering." - Augustine

"I see the Master's Hand, In every leaf that trembles and in every grain of sand" - Dylan


The Door has shut pretty firmly on 2013. While there was a lot that I didn't like about this past year, I decided to throw down a few things that I thought were awesome, both in Pop Culture and in my own life. There is really no particular order to the madness, and while another passing year brings wrinkles and gray hair, there is still much to remind us that God is good, and " I do not know the way I go, but Oh I know my guide".


1)  This past year, George Jones died. "The Possum" was one of my Dad's favorites, and quickly after shedding the rebellion against "3 chords and the truth" Country Music, he became one of my own. I find that outside of Nashville, Vince Gill is one of the most underrated musicians. This stirring performance shows a heartfelt love and admiration for one of the greats, by one of the greats.



2) This past year, Boston ( and the world) looked evil in the face in a way we haven't seen in quite a while. Yet, Grace is always lurking, and this story proved once again why Young Life Leaders are some of my favorite people in the world.

3) As a bit of a softie I'm always a sucker for when men show emotion. So much so that for my Senior Thesis, I wrote about Walter Cronkite crying on the air the day JFK was assassinated. In a world that tells men to "cowboy up" and "hold it together", death stops us in our tracks. Here Stephen Colbert speaks fondly of his recently passed Mother.

4) From Cart boy, to Ski Lift Operator, to Janitor, to batting Clean-Up for the Atlanta Braves. Evan Gattis is my favorite sports story from 2013, Every boy's dream is to "go yard" in your first Major League at-bat. Evan did it, and offered a shot of hope to every Atlanta Braves fan.


5) My nephew Connor remained awesome.
World's Smallest Braves Fan
                 
6) Some great friends got hitched, and they let me have the best seat in the house.
Hugs....not Drugs

Wilkinson Security Squad

Flash Mob
7) 2 of the best people I know brought a baby into the world.
Big Welly Style

8) In 2008 my Roomate and dear friend Clay told us he would be moving out of the Player's Den and moving on to Brevard to help build Young Life's newest property, Carolina Point.We visited every chance we were given and it has been a huge blessing to see it go from a hunk of dirt to an immaculate camp over the years. With many good friends on staff and many memories of jumping Gators and barely escaping death, taking some friends from Marvin Ridge there this fall is something I will cherish for a long time. 



9) I became Twitter Famous for about 20 seconds


10)I found a Fake Best Friend
11) I was reminded often that Real ones love you back
             
Studs.

RTS Grad Party

Friendango

My 90's Cover Band. The Truly, Madly, Deeply's

Bro-ga Party

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Gold.

 “Every good relationship we have is a gift of God's grace"- Tim Lane
" I'm not interested in caring about people" - Ron Swanson
 Christmas is weird y’all. It really is. I don’t know if it has to do with being old and single, or with the fact that no one ever tells you when you’re parents split up, that holidays can be pretty tough. You can be more inclined to the feeling of Decking someones Jaws instead of Decking the Halls. So every year the question is asked “ What would you most like for Christmas?” and every year the answer is the same. I don’t necessarily care about getting peppermint bark or Nike Elite Socks, I always just wish that all my friends could be in the same room. That’s it. If there were some way to make that logistical nightmare happen it would be pretty sweet. But this wish always whispers of a deeper longing, because above all else, Christmas is about waiting, and what the Lord did to fulfill the need of our longing hearts. We know this story, yet it is always an amazing truth. Fullness of God in helpless babe. Jesus put on skin. Immanuel. God with us.  He came to make his blessings known, as far as the curse is found. And boy that pokes at the wound like a redneck poking a dead deer with a stick. As far as the curse is found, the curse of sin that separated humans from a loving God. You don’t have to be in a relationship with another human very long to know, the curse is there, in relationships, and that’s why folks hate Christmas family gatherings.. It’s the grown up equivalent of being forced to eat your vegetables.
We’d much rather throw the baby out with the bath water and hole up in a shack somewhere in Middle Appalachia where people can’t bother us. Yet, God is on the move, redeeming relationships is the business of heaven, and even on this side of the Jordan we stumble upon some special moments that remind us we need each other. Sitting with a friend who lost someone they love. Watching two people vow to forever love one another, and forgive each other when life sucks. Gathering around a table in a tasty donut shop in Middle Tennessee, laughing so hard you think you might die. We take the time to write pen pals, make phone calls, pass the pigs, engage in bro-hugs and cook pancakes for each other because we know at the end of the day, We don’t deserve each other. We hurt folks we love, we argue, we hide, we avoid, and we run a million miles in the opposite direction, because the curse still exists. Yet, Christ walks into the middle of all this filth and fixes it. So we hope. And we wait.
This past weekend I got to be with some of my dearest friends. Whenever I’m around them I always find myself wondering how in the heck I got so lucky. This quote from C.S. Lewis answers it better than I ever could
“In a perfect Friendship this Appreciative love is, I think, often so great and so firmly based that each member of the circle feels, in his secret heart, humbled before the rest. Sometimes he wonders what he is doing there among his betters. He is lucky beyond desert to be in such company. Especially when the whole group is together; each bringing out all that is best, wisest, or funniest in all the others. Those are the golden sessions; when four or five of us after a hard day's walk have come to our inn; when our slippers are on, our feet spread out toward the blaze and our drinks are at our elbows; when the whole world, and something beyond the world, opens itself to our minds as we talk; and no one has any claim on or any responsibility for another, but all are freemen and equals as if we had first met an hour ago, while at the same time an Affection mellowed by the years enfolds us. Life — natural life — has no better gift to give. Who could have deserved it?

An affection mellowed by the years enfolds us. We have to search for this truth and track it down like the Cowboys of Coronado (http://cowboysofcoronado.blogspot.com/) and if we are lucky enough to find it, stay and fight for it. We love one another. Pray for one another. And goof off. We journey together toward a heavenly city, whose Architect and Builder is God. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

A little word for my Seminary friends.




 I rarely consider myself a wise man, unless the topic is Braves Baseball or grilling a steak. As I enter my last year of seminary, I figured it would be fun to write a note to those coming in, though I doubt they'll even read it. The "new kids" that roll in are so fun to watch. Sometimes its the "fun kind" like watching a baby giraffe fall down, and sometimes its the great kind, the kind where men and women whose hearts are captivated by Jesus, desperately want to change the world for the sake of the gospel. If you do these things you may not become a great preacher, but it will make your time in Charlotte a little more fruitful, and you may even make a few friends a long the way. I'd love to take you out for lunch, but then again I'd love a new Tacoma and an igloo made of burritos, but what I can promise you is that I'd gladly sit and talk and answer whatever questions pop up. So take it from a dude who has been there, Seminary is alright, but its hard, and it should be. Make sure to have fun. 

Dear Student,

- Some questions are better left unasked. There is going to be a huge temptation to want to know everything about everything, and in a perfect world that would be great. However the world isn’t perfect and neither are the profs. There isn’t a warm body in the room that doesn’t have a thousand plates spinning, and trust me they are crashing left and right in the form of shoestring budgets and dirty diapers., and folks just want to go home. Save them for breaks, GMail, lunches, “coffee fellowships”, or just toss them away all together. Your classmates will let you know real quick if you break this one.

Dive headfirst into a great church-  One of the most wonderful blessings of seminary is that you get a front row seat to what the Lord is doing in his bride. She may be freckly and full of warts, but She is being refined and renewed into something beautiful. There are frazzled moms, saintly granddads, bankers, and blue collars who know more about life than you ever will. They may not read Calvin’s Institutes but they will love you more than you’ve ever been before. To the point that it may even embarrass you a little, and trust me, when October hits you like a throat punch you will want the sweet embrace of someone miles ahead of you to point out the landmines of life, and remind you just what exactly you are studying for….. the gathering and perfecting of the Bride of Christ.

Your wife will become your hero. I’ve seen dear friends fall more deeply in love with their wives than you would ever think possible during any other 3 year stint. Make sure you are loving them as well as you know how, and pointing them constantly to the one who loves them better than you ever could. You’re going to fight, you’re going to cry, and you’re going to mess up. So is she. Seminary is hard y’all. Make friends, go on dates, and please don’t joke about how terrible things are at home. Give Satan a match and he’ll burn the whole thing to the ground. There’s a pretty good chance that you married way way up, continue sweeping her off your feet like you did in college. Remember she fell in love with you because you love Jesus more than you love her. You can and will botch an exam and when you do, she will still think you’re the best guy in the world. Your professors and classmates won’t love you that way.

Cultivate Friendships- Never at any other point in your life will you be around a group of dudes like you’ll find in the halls of RTS. The whole gamut is represented from cargo shorts to cardigans, and the common thread uniting them all is the love of Jesus and his Church. There will be “book” guys and bros, braniacs and bachelors,  fathers and foreigners , and it would serve you well to get to know them. Take the time to listen. Go get coffee or toss a baseball, just don’t think you will be able to do it alone. You won’t, and you were never intended to do so.

You’ll want to quit- Chances are if you met someone who told you how perfect seminary was, they are lying. But for some reason you listened and signed up anyway. Know that you will want to give up, often. In many ways it will make you want to throw up, but it also provides a great comfort. The Deceiver doesn’t want this message getting out that there is a God who forgives sins and moves into the lives of hopeless rebels, and brings them home. It’s what he did for you, regardless of how high you scored on the Bible Exam, you still need his grace, and you will need his comfort. Rest heavily on Jesus

Don’t make “seminary” jokes. No one cares.

Jesus was a friend of sinners.  – There’s a bubble that exists at your time in seminary, and in those 3 years you’ll forget how to talk to people. But people are why we are here. We are proclaiming the only hope for a fallen world. Go on visits with your pastor, volunteer with Young Life, feed the homeless, talk to the maintenance folks at your apartment, make a cake for your neighbor, and have people in your home. The lost will never come to our church if they aren’t in our home. You are not too busy.

Remember that Jesus loves you. The one thing I’m certain about right now is that Jesus loves you. He loves you whether you have MDiv at the end of your name or not. He is with you and he is for you and there is no greater comfort in life or in death than knowing that your Heavenly father has the hairs on your head counted. His eye is on the sparrow, and you are worth more than they are. He doesn’t merely tolerate you, He loves you and he likes you. Drink deeply of his Word. Forgiveness is there every time you need it. There is grace for the question asker, the bachelor, and the brainiac.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Dirty Cloth and Fake Leather.


"And I'd end up saying have no fear, These are nowhere near the best years of your life" 
- Brad Paisley

“If you understand what holiness is, you come to see that real happiness is on the far side of holiness, not the near side.”
- Tim Keller

               I’m sitting in an empty conference room at seminary. Nothing special really, some old guy has his picture on the wall, with a glowing sentiment about all the great things he has done. He’s been a missionary for a bajillion years and a professor for about as long. Everything else in the room is pretty normal. The chairs do not match, there are a couple of holes in the walls, and it smells kinda like dirty cloth and fake leather. And I have to admit. I kind of hate it a little bit. I hate because it threatens something quite dear to me “ My Boring Idol”……. Allow me to flesh that out….. and when I do it will probably look boring and normal also. 
When I was 20 years old I was barely a Christian, and lived a life my dad described “ as hell on wheels” on several occasions. I'm not one of those dudes that hated high school, it was quite the opposite. I loved it. But really I loved it for all of the wrong reasons, I loved it because I drank a little, I was popular, funny, moderately attractive, I played sports and that was awesome, friends and I partied far more than we should have,  few of us cared about classes, basically it was college, except we had to call our parents if we wanted to go somewhere. We were like Zach Morris making fake ID’s to get into The Attic.  But I find myself hearkening back to those times. I remember telling my mentor and dear friend Dennis that my biggest fear was “ becoming an ordinary dude, and that adulthood looks boring”. He laughed in his typical manner and we went on our way.  Lately what I have found however, with the help of Paul Tripp and other Christians far wiser than I, is that in the mundane we encounter something you will never hear at a conference or read in a bestseller, or made into a movie starring Jennifer Lawrence and Ryan Gosling, you encounter a God who cares deeply about the ordinary, and that maybe our Christian subculture has enough room for radicals and “ordinary”
I run in circles where Downton Abbey is pretty popular and most folks eat things with organic in the title.  What I’ve learned is that’s ok. Its ok to drive a minivan and have a few kids and live in a neighborhood that has a brick sign out front. I am not talking about the “American Dream” keep all your money, don’t meet your neighbors, surgically enhanced trophy wife stereotype. I am talking about the Christians I encounter from working in a suburban church. They love Jesus, and they love him well. Sure it’s annoying hearing them talk about working too much, but they talk about it because they would much rather be home serving their kids dinner, and it breaks their hearts that they cannot. Still they persevere, they press on leading the life that the Lord has laid out for them, and honestly their life looks pretty incredible, (even if it is littered with keurig machines and ½ marathon applications).  The bigger tragedy is the guilt laid on by folks who aren’t in that season of life. The “Young and Restless” crowd sees the suburbs as sinful living and flock to the cities to plant churches and start soup kitchens.  Those are great and necessary things. What is neither great nor necessary ,is when I talk to folks a couple of years out of college who feel burned out and shamed that their life isn’t what they thought it would look like at 17. There is an episode of “How I Met Your Mother” in which the main character Marshall feels guilt because at age 30 he is a “corporate sellout and he can’t even dunk anymore” because at age 17 he had written a letter to himself saying he “ will marry a tall blonde, wear stonewashed overalls, and have a rat tail down to his knees”. His wife Lily is short and has red hair, and he cut his rattail and threw out his overalls. But in a moment of clarity as he is writing to his 60 year old self, he looks across at Lilly and says “ 60 year old Marshall, if in 30 years you are still married to Lilly, then you are alright”. Now while this is not anywhere near a theological statement, it has the stench of common grace all over it. For the extraordinary life we are to desire is that of Jesus, and if not for his great mercy we would never make it.  We long for the next world, and it is our mandate to pray for his will to be done “on earth as it is in heaven”.  When that last hiss of oxygen leaves our lungs we won’t be hearing God ask us if our lives were spent being “radical” ……instead, if our lives are hidden in him, we will hear our Savior say “Well done, My Good and Faithful Servant”. There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, that includes the country boy in a beat up truck, and the suburban mom jogging with a stroller, for Christ’s blood covers all sins, even the sin of watching Downton Abbey. 


for further reading see




Thursday, February 21, 2013

Sleepovers and Salvation: What I hope my nephews will know



One of life's quiet excitements is to stand somewhat apart from yourself and watch yourself softly becoming the author of something beautiful even if it is only a floating ash.”
 - Norman Maclean " A River Runs Through It"

" The whole world is singing a song, Can you hear it?"
 - Sally Lloyd Jones "Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing"

In two weeks I’ll get to be an uncle again. It’s kinda weird being older than your sisters and they spit out babies before you do…… but I’m ok with it. I am ok with it for a few reasons. My sisters are both dang good moms. Jordan is an awesome dad and my parents are pretty funny to watch as grandparents. Maddux ( whom I affectionately call Mad Dog) is in Texas and Austin and Connor are in Virginia. It stinks being so far away from them, seeing these boys grow from nuggets into little guys you can have conversations with is crazy. As their uncle, there are a few things I want them to know. I compiled this list a while back, and recently found it lying in my desk drawer and as Connor is joining the world, I've added his name and a few more thoughts........

Austin, Mad Dog, and Connor

1) Don't be afraid to get some scratches : It is a beautiful thing to be a boy and to grow up in the Country. take full advantage. Throw rocks ( not at each other), climb trees, jump off things, play in the dirt, catch a frog, chase a cow, ride a horse. play sports.

2) Listen to your Grandpa: That ole guy has some stories to tell. The smile lines on his face are full of great tales. Don't copy what he did, just listen and laugh. 

3) Your Parents love you. A lot. This might not make sense after you inevitably will knock over a christmas tree or break an aquarium. When one of them trips on your action figure or stubs a toe on your John Deere tractor, they will be mad, but it won't last forever. 

4) Always be a Gentleman.  Say your "sir's and ma'am's". Open doors for girls. Shake hands, look people in the eye. Be Firm. 

5) Sports and Girls will both break your heart someday. You'll be ok. I promise

6) You are welcome to sleep over at my house any time you want. Some time you will want a break from Mom or Dad, and they will be glad to do so. We'll watch cowboy movies and Braves baseball, We will wrestle,Ill tell you about Sid Bream and Stone Cold Steve Austin and Frodo and Sam and Dennis Fuller and  Coach Taylor and read stories of bravery. You can build a fort out of bedsheets, or camp in the backyard. I'll teach you to play guitar and throw a spiral, and hit a curve and load up a barbell. You'll eat some bacon and I'll teach ya how to tell a story.  I will also show you how to drive your mom insane.

7) Life will let you down, but there is hope. And its found in Jesus. Mom and Dad aren't perfect. Neither are you. Neither am I and neither is Maw Maw. You'll taste the bitterness of heartbreak. You're walking in a world that has lost its original design. You're biggest problem will always be the problem of sin. For that, some 2000 plus years ago Jesus left heaven and came to earth because He loves you. He is making all things right. You can be confident knowing this.

8) Your Grandma Kay is one of the greatest women you will ever know. She's tough, but she loves you. She will fill you up with the best deer meat and gravy you'll ever taste. She'll laugh at any joke and will gladly tell you stories about your mom, your aunt and uncles. Underneath that salt and pepper hair is a lot of wisdom. Soak it in.

9) That small town where you are from is special. You'll hear lots of people say how terrible it is. And someday you will say that yourself. But that moment when you've packed up your pickup truck with a suitcase and some tupperware, you'll hug your mom and dad, and take off to carve out your own patch of grass. It may take 10 minutes or it might take 10 years, but you'll begin to thank God you were able to grow up in the mountains. They will always win. Trust me. 

10) Jesus loves you. I've said it before but it bears repeating. You will sin. You'll drink a beer or smoke a cigarette. You'll cuss. You'll break a girl's heart, and cheat on your homework. You'll think a lot more highly of yourself than you should, and for that there is Jesus. There will never be a pit so deep that God's grace isn't deeper still. If you can't tell your folks, you can tell me. Or a Pastor, or a Young Life leader, Just don't hide. Sin likes to grow in the damp dark places. Remember that you always have a home. Remember that when the dirt of life is caked on your heart, Jesus picks us up and dusts us off. The whole world is singing a song that points to him. It is my prayer that you hear it and respond to it. Also.... you'll never be able to beat me in arm wrestling. But you are welcome to try....


  Giddy up Brave Boys,

    Uncle D






Saturday, December 8, 2012

Toasts.

"Don't Stop Believing" - Journey

"The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
(John 4:25-26 ESV)

   
   Rehearsal dinners are one of the greatest inventions in the history of the world. Celebrating with friends over a tasty steak dinner is a small slice of heaven, that happens to be cooked medium well. My favorite part, after the server takes the ridiculous salad plate away, is when things transition into the "toasting" phase. It's my personal favorite for so many reasons, one being the fact that I love storytelling, and hearing all the silly and fun things about the bride and groom will warm your heart quicker than kittens playing with a ball of yarn. The inside jokes portion is always a little weird, but for the most part laughter and tears are shared, spilt and spent over folks who are quite near and dear to the hearts of everyone in the room. (excluding the "plus ones" who are there for a free cheesecake) The sad thing about toasts is that they really don't happen enough. The great thing about them is that hope is shared, and the source of that hope is always Christ. Hope always leads us to the throne of Grace.
     My friend Clay is getting married today. For the last 5 years I have known him he has never stopped praying that the Lord would turn Jessica's heart, and today the hope comes to fruition as she will say yes to the man that has loved her more deeply than any other she has known. Hope can cause us to do some pretty strange things. Lots of times we had told Clay that maybe he should give up, especially during those times where she had literally said "do not talk to me". He honored her wishes, he was a gentleman, and he took his requests to the Father, just like scripture instructs us to do. I'm proud of him for so many reasons, He loves Jessica deeply. He loves his Lord deeper still. Friendship and timing are crucial, and the Lord works on a schedule all his own, and we are called to hope in Christ, who is the hope of Glory.
    Some two thousand plus years ago an angel appeared to a bunch of redneck shepherds and told them of the hope which lie in a manger just over the hill in Bethlehem. Since that moment in the garden when Adam and Eve chose to live life their own way, all of creation had been hoping for a Messiah, someone to come and make things right. All that our hearts hope for can only be found in Jesus. As I sit here and look at the Biltmore, where the wedding is taking place, all I can think about is that one day the Lord will return to make everything right again, and he has prepared mansions for us in Heaven, they might look like the Biltmore, but my guess is that once we are there, we probably won't care that much.  We live in a world where its often easy to give up on hoping for anything. Girls can break our hearts, and Guys can be kinda dumb, Job offers pass us by, cars break down, kids misbehave, forgiveness becomes harder and harder, friendships change, and even sometimes we tell folks we dearly love to leave us alone. Life has a way of kicking us in the soul, but take heart dear friends. In the throneroom of Heaven, as seen in Revelation Ch. 5, the Lamb has opened the scroll, and the Lamb hears our prayers. Momentary light afflictions will never take away the truth of the Gospel. His love and smile rests upon his Children and we can go to him with prayer and supplication. He may not give us what we want, but He has already given us more than we will ever need. Toast your friends, tell them you love them, pray for them often, and wait with blessed hope for Eternity.
   

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Southern Gospel from a Southern Grandma


“A Yankee can become an honorary Southerner, but a Southerner cannot become a Yankee, assuming any Southerner would want to.”

"you have fed me, you have saved me, Billy Graham and Martha White" - Brad Paisley
               
  I was born into one of those wild families. The ones that are the subjects of Toby Keith songs, the ones that love America, guns, wrestling, and sweet tea. The kind that has a reputation and rap sheet as long as the dusty roads that wind through the Southwest Virginia Mountains. They were the Clines of Hogback Road. And boy they are a proud bunch. A family of practical jokers. 8 kids raised on hard work and Martha White flour. Going to maw-maw’s was a Sunday tradition. When I was “knee high to a grasshopper” we’d go out to the ole farm where we’d chase geese and memories. The ladies were inside, yapping about what was goin’ on in the holler. Me and my bro were outside. Because that’s where the men were. The air was thick with the smell of cows and tobacco smoke. Between smokes we’d play football. Long enough for the boys to fight and the men to get tired, then it was back to Levi-Garrett for them and Mountain Dew for us. We knew no other way. Commanding it all was Dorothy Jean Cline. She was a small older lady with a voice as soft and smooth as the creek that ran through the backside of the property.  Every now and again, when the humidity was as thick as her sawmill gravy; we’d load up in dad’s truck, and drive through a creek to a little swimming hole. At my uncle Teddy’s wedding, 2 other uncles threw me in…. It was here that I learned to swim, cuss, and whittle. Every now and then we’d wet our lines, hoping to rope in a huge fish, but typically I just skipped rocks and tried to hit beavers building dams on the other side. As I sit in this busy coffee shop, avoiding eye contact with a pretty redhead a few tables over, I begin to realize just how lucky I was to grow up where I did, and how my heart longs to return there. As my friend Bradford says, “Nostalgia is a dangerous thing.”
                What I remember the most about my Grandma is that she loved the Lord. You could see it all over her weathered face. On Saturday nights, all the men would head off to the dirt track to suck down Bud Lights and reminisce about the wild high school days. When we were too young to go, we’d stay with Maw Maw, and she would watch the Gaithers. Confession: I still have a soft spot in my heart for the Gaither Vocal Band. Their music is goofy and silly, about as theologically deep as a tissue box. But boy she loved them. She’d sing “The Old Rugged Cross” or “I wanna stroll over Heaven with you” or my personal favorite “The Baptism of Jesse Taylor”. I never knew it at the time, but she was planting gospel truths in the hearts of her grandkids, watering them with every off pitch Gospel soundtrack and Sunday dinner. You didn’t cuss in Dorothy’s kitchen. And everyone knew it. I remember being at our trailer when I heard our Grandpa had died. Mom was in the laundry room with Venita my aunt, it was the first time I’d ever see either of them cry.
                Maw Maw moved to town after this. 613 Goolsby Ave now became a place where sinners in screen print t-shirts would gather for Sunday dinner. Mom and the kids went to church. Dad and my uncles always just met us over there. Church wasn’t their thing unless it was Christmas or Easter. Some things never change.  That tiny white house could barely contain the huge family. The floors were soft and about to fall through. Trooper, the boxer dog, was tied up outside. My uncle was usually asleep in the back room. The soundtrack stayed the same, though Paw Paw was gone. Mark Lowry was playing on the radio, singing “Mary did you know” or telling a goofy joke. While the arrest records now extended to some of the grandkids, Maw Maw never treated us like outcasts. She’d still talk about Jesus, and tell us to straighten up.
                She got sick and had to move in with my Aunt Misty and Uncle James. Life and burned bridges separated most of us from one another. My parents divorced, I moved to Tennessee, my bro to Texas, and left Virginia in the rear view. It was about a year ago when I got a call that things had gotten pretty bad. I hadn’t seen her in 6 years, but found out that she was only living about 35 minutes from where I lived in Charlotte. A rush of emotions came over me as I drove to the hospital. Would I recognize her? Would she recognize me? What do you say to someone whose about to die? Will the other family members be there?
                I walked into the hospital and called my sister. She told me where to go and when I walked into the room, it was as if I were a clumsy little boy walking into the kitchen for more turkey and Mac and cheese. The whole family was standing around, and everyone was laughing. The stories flowed like the budget rate coffee being poured into Styrofoam cups. I walked in and hugged her. She was lying down, and she still had that beautiful silver hair and bright smile I’d always remembered. My mom came in with her own grandson. This was the first time Maw Maw had seen her great grandson. There aren’t words in the English language that could capture the joy on her face when she held that little one. The moment was sweeter than pumpkin pie, the kind of thing Norman Rockwell would have painted. As I looked around the room, at this saintly woman who was heading home to be with her Lord, I couldn’t help but thank the Lord for his covenant of grace that envelopes all his children.
                Things went from bad to worse fairly quickly. Her breathing was labored and we knew it wouldn’t be long. She began to utter some words that could barely be understood. When asked if she was sad, her reply rang deeper than any Gaither hymn ever could. “I’m ready to be with Jesus, and I sure do miss y’alls daddy”. She knew that when she crossed Jordan’s banks that she would be with her Lord. The lover of her soul. As life left her body, we all just kind of looked around. We began making the phone calls and funeral arrangements. Her final rest had been achieved.
                The funeral was a joyful occasion. A Heavy set, sweaty preacher talked of the most saintly woman any of us had known. He sang a few of those Gaither hymns. My brother, a cowboy, who was as mean as a rattlesnake had tears in his eyes. My uncles, the rough and tumble men, with crooked smiles and crooked fingers, whom life had taken a pretty hefty toll on stood crying. The earth lost a pretty special woman, and heaven gained a faithful servant. 

Baptism of Jesse Taylor: