Saturday, August 23, 2008


Today as Wife and I were cleaning up in the garage and basement -- which inevitably leads to finding forgotten relics of our 24 years of marriage and even before -- I kept thinking about how life really is a circle and after just a little while, things start to repeat themselves.

We cried buckets of tears just a few years ago when Older Son graduated from high school and went to college. Now he lives with us again and a lot of his stuff is filling the garage and basement. He will leave again at some point and we will see him and his stuff leave again (and, if God is merciful, the stuff won't come back).

He and his younger sister and brother will probably marry someday and make Wife and me grandparents. And they -- and we, God willing -- will start anew a process that will be just one more part of a bigger circle.

And all of these thoughts made me think of my favorite song by the incomparable Harry Chapin, probably best known for his song, "The Cat's In the Cradle." The song I thought of today, though, was one of his lesser known titled, simply, "Circles." Here are the words:

(CHORUS): All my life's a circle, Sunrise and sundown. Moon rolls thru the nighttime till the daybreak comes around. All my life's a circle, but I can't tell you why. Seasons spinning round again, the years keep rollin' by.

It seems like I've been here before, I can't remember when. But I have this funny feeling that we'll all be together again.
No straight lines make up my life and all my roads have bends. There's no clear-cut beginnings and so far no dead-ends.


I found you a thousand times, I guess you done the same. But then we lose each other, it's like a children's game.
As I find you here again, a thought runs through my mind. Our love is like a circle, let's go 'round one more time.


I would not begin to try to anazlyze what all this means but I love the line that says, "No clear lines make up my life, all my roads have bends." This just has to mean that, even though we might have a clear plan for what we think might happen in life, the unexpected is no doubt going to come along and throw us the inevitable curve. It has happened thousands of times to me already and will no doubt happen again and again.

And how we deal with the unexpected, I suppose, says a lot about who we are and the kind of stuff of which we are made. There may not be a great deal of depth in the words of this song, but I think a philosophy of "Let's go 'round one more time" would serve us all well as we move toward completion of the circle.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Happy Anniversary! What's for Dinner?

It was a really foolish thing to say, the first in a long line of foolish things that have come out of my mouth – and for which I have been repeatedly forgiven – over 24 years.

It was the first day back at work for each of us after our Hawaiian honeymoon. I got home first and when she arrived, my wife of ten days found me sitting comfortably in a chair reading the newspaper. I think I was wearing my house shoes. That’s when I said it.

“What’s for dinner?”

If looks could kill, oh my, it would have been a short marriage.

And wouldn’t you know I would do it again some years later when, she being the stay-at-home-with-the-little-ones spouse, I dared to ask, “What did you do all day?”

She hit the bull’s eye that time too.

Somehow we made it through those (and many other) little missteps on my part and today we are celebrating our 24th anniversary. Bless her heart for hanging in with me that long.

We could not have envisioned what life would be like these two dozen years later. She was scared to death she would not be able to have children and had warned me that, due to some little “imbalances” or something or other, if it happened at all, it would take a long time.

Not to get too personal, but suffice it to say that whatever might not have been in balance, it was not her ability to bear children. She was pregnant with our first before our first anniversary.

Just minutes after Number 3 was born via Caesarean section, her obstetrician, a guy with a great sense of humor, allowed as to how she was in great shape to keep going. I looked at her and smiled.

And there it was, that look again, the same one I had gotten when I asked that fateful question when she arrived home from work that day. (If you are a man and you are reading this, don’t act like you don’t know what I am talking about. Guys throughout history have been getting “the look” for myriad reasons and if you are honest you will admit that it scares the poop out of you).

“Tell him to do it NOW,” she said to me as she lay flat on her back, her abdomen open and her eyes ablaze. “And tell him to take care of you too, if that’s what it takes!”

(As if this had been all my fault . . . . but I digress).

“She’s a little delirious from the meds,” I told the Doc with a nervous laugh as I discretely tried to pry her fingernails from my forearm. But I knew she was as sane and as serious as she had ever been. We were now outnumbered – three of them and two of us – and it was time to call the quiver full.


I gave her a card on our first anniversary that said, “The fun has just begun.” That was my fervent wish – that our years together would be, if nothing else, fun.

I am pleased to report that we have had it in abundance. We have made laughter a staple of our life together. Our children laugh at us laughing at each other!

To be sure, there have been hurdles to jump. It took us a few years to learn not to get so excited about the little things that are so unimportant and, every once in a while, I still need a refresher course in that lesson.

Those early years sometimes felt like a competition, like, if her parents were coming over for dinner, I needed to call mine and invite them over. Didn’t matter that they lived two hours away and inviting them meant they would be there a day or so.

It took us a long time to learn how to have a really good, productive argument. I was just a year out of law school when we got married and I was especially impressed with how I had been trained to think critically. How could that concept not be readily transferable into a relationship, especially a marriage?

Here’s how: when she is talking, especially about something about which she feels passionately (for example, why the dog should not frequently pee on the carpet), she prefers to have the other party attentively listening, not thinking about what he is going to say in response and, more likely than not, how he will refute what she is saying.

As I said, that lesson was a long time coming. She dragged me to some class at church one time where this supposedly ideal couple told us how they would hold these little cards – one marked “Talk” and one marked “Listen”-- to indicate who should be talking when. I found that a little over-the-top and more than a little juvenile.

She threatens me with the cards every so often, a good reminder that maybe I am reverting to that critical thinking stuff again. But I am doing much better.

Like everyone, we have had our share of ups and downs -- jobs that did not work out, investments that did not produce, extended family that had to be shown boundaries. Eleven years ago I convinced her we should move from Arkansas to Tennessee (speaking of jobs that did not work out). As she puts it, I brought her kicking and screaming but she now is the first to admit it was one of the best things that ever happened to our family.

There are still “miles to go before we sleep,” with one just out of college (please join me in singing the Doxology), one still there (keep praying) and that last one I mentioned earlier still right here with us (give me strength, Lord, and thanks for such a wonderful gift). Even so, we have reached a place where I believe we are a little more relaxed and a little more able to take life as it comes. I like that.

When you go to a wedding, the pastor will often mention the “mystery” of marriage. Twenty-four years into this gig, I think I am only beginning to understand what that means – how two people really do, in a very real sense, become one. They start to anticipate what the other will say, finish each other’s sentences and sometimes communicate without even speaking. It’s a wild ride, really – a mystery indeed.

And if you are blessed, as I am, that mystery ride with your very best friend is also a whole, whole lot of fun.

Happy Anniversary, Honey! What’s for dinner?!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Just Sit Right Back . . .

OK, folks, let's talk about something a little less heavy -- a lot less heavy -- today.

I guess every generation of parents bemoans the fact that their children are not having some of the wonderful experiences that they had. I have tried very hard not to give the standard "I walked a mile to school uphill" genre of speeches but sometimes just can't help it.

Here is something, however, that I am confident my children are less enriched because of their lack of: TV Theme Songs!

Any of you reading this, if you are anywhere near middle age, all I have to say is "Beverly Hillbillies" and you will immediately start humming, at least in your mind, "Come and listen to my story about a man named Jed, a poor mountaineer barely kept his family fed . . . " Don't try to deny it; you know every word and you can see Granny waving at the end when they're singing "Y'all come back now, ya hear?"

And how about "Come ride the little train that is rolling down the tracks the the junction?" Loved it and loved those pretty girls swimming in the water tower in a pre-Global Warming world where I didn't worry about contamination of Hooterville's water supply. And business never seemed too good at the Shady Rest but somehow Kate and Uncle Joe made ends meet with proceeds from the occasional customer who got off the Cannonball.

Speaking of Hooterville, things were never the same after Oliver and Lisa Douglas hit town and bought the Haney place ("Green Acres is the place to be; Farm living is the life for me . . . "). I still can't believe Lisa had the patience to climb up that telephone poll to answer it every time it rang.

Did you know there are words to the Andy Griffith theme song? Bet you just thought it was whistling but I have actually seen sheet music. You are whistling that tune right now, aren't you, as you picture Andy and barefooted Opey walking up to Myers Lake to fish? Warms your heart.

Even the instrumental songs were catchy like the "Da-da-da-da-da-da-da" from the Dick Van Dyke Show right before he tripped over the ottoman. Later versions had Laura and friends carefully helping him divert it. It's etched in my memory, a part of my childhood. And can't you just here that orchestra playing as you see Ben, Hoss, Little Joe and Adam riding through that burning map of Nevada on the opening of "Bonanza?"

Here is what always concerned me, though. When the strains of "Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip that started from this tropic port aboard this tiny ship" started, my mind reeled with questions. If it was just a three-hour tour, why in the world did Lovie and Thurston pack all those clothes? Did they have a premonition that something bad was about to befall them? And how, pray tell, did they make those beautifully perfect coconut cream pies when they were on a deserted island? And Ginger the Movie Start had enough cosmetics to last a lifetime!

Oh well, these are answers I won't have in this lifetime. But I'm a better person for knowing these songs and if ever there is a test . . . .

Let me know, fellow bloggers, of any of your favorite I might have left out.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Politics -- Inevitably

I am going to try and write as little as possible here about politics but today will just have to be one of those days.

I have had an interest in politics since I was a young child. The first presidential election I remember is 1964 when Lyndon Johnson ran against Barry Goldwater.

My leanings have always been toward the Republicans and conservatives. When I was younger I could and would get pretty worked up over it all. In fact, when Clinton was elected the first time in 1992 and I still lived in Arkansas, I was so upset that I went to bed early on election night and refused to acknowledge the history of the event right in my home state.

I also, unfortunately, equated my Christian beliefs with my conservative political tendencies. Was God not the God of absolute truth, I reasoned. Was there really any room for gray?

A few years ago I began to change. I actually took a look at both sides and realized that, just as I learned in law school, "reasonable minds can differ." A Christian -- or any religious person for that matter -- looks at matters of faith through the lens of his or her life experiences. Although one person of faith might feel passionately pro-life and consider abortion a deal breaker when it comes to his or her vote, another might consider the way Republicans have in recent years supported tax breaks that largely benefit the wealthy to be unconscionable and an affront to what Jesus taught. Both have valid points, borne of their own walk of faith.

I am in the middle of reading an intriguing book by Jim Wallis titled God's Politics: Why the Religious Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It. Although I do not agree with all of his views, his underlying message is that neither political party has the corner on being right in God's eyes. I could not agree more.

Wallis points out that, while the so-called Religious Right has tried to paint itself as the representative of Christianity and has in so many ways damaged the cause of Christ, the traditional Left has tried to keep faith and God out of the picture at all. Somewhere in there, Wallis says, both sides lost sight of what they should really be about.

This book was written more than two years ago, well before Barack Obama came into the national limelight, professing a deep faith in Christ, but having political leanings that are more to the left of center. Wallis has a new book that deals with the "Post Religious Right" era which, I feel certain, addresses these newer developments since God's Politics was written.

One's faith is always a work in progress. While I could no more separate my faith from my political views than I could separate it from any other part of my life, I also know that my Christian brother or sister can vote for a different candidate or hold a different view than I, and I have an obligation to respect that. I did not always hold this view and that is not to my credit.

The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians that, while for now we "see in a mirror dimly," one day we will see things much more clearly (my paraphrase). In the meantime, it is my duty as a person of faith to live at peace with all, as far as it is possible. I hope this shows a small bit of growth on my part.