Tag Archives: children

Home Run

25010686_659397667781726_6878480645274730496_nWe crossed the Mississippi River bridge in Memphis in the rental car, ironically a Malibu, and remembered what the Arkansas Delta looks like in early winter. Many of the trees had long ago shed their leaves leaving cold bare branches that reach toward the sky, and those still holding leaves that had only recently been brilliant reds, yellows, and oranges had faded to the color of rust and stood clustered together for warmth next to the brown dirt of the silent farmland. The winter sun was setting, and it looked as if someone had plastic-wrapped the entire pastel sky. It isn’t your typical picture of natural beauty, but I now find it strangely wonderful.

It was good to spend time in my hometown. Seeing family and old friends was special as expected, but there was something special about just being there, too. I don’t miss temperatures in the upper twenties even a little bit, but it was even refreshing to remember what home felt like on my skin once upon a time. I went for a seven-mile run one morning that gave me a good long time to remember.

My wife and I went for a drive one afternoon to remember more. We drove by her first workplace and the places we lived together and even Joel and Alicia’s apartment where we spent many an evening in the early days of our relationship sitting on the couch and talking and falling in love.

And then we drove to the grave sites of my sweet parents. I used to make a point to do this alone on each visit home to talk to them; first, my dad, who died so long ago, and then more recently to both of them, sort of like I would go to their bedroom seeking comfort following a childhood nightmare in the middle of the night—comforting even when I couldn’t see their faces. But this time I went with my beautiful wife. We walked across the crunchy leaves under a cold sun and stood there as a couple — as my parents were a couple once upon a memory. There was nothing really to do other than stare at the flowers and the name plates and silently wonder where the years go and what to think about it. It was good to stand there together, like my parents who also made the choice in life to stand together. And who now Rest In Peace together.

I developed a strong sense that someone has pressed pretty hard on life’s accelerator and that the years are really starting to fly by now. It may sound a little spooky to say such a thing, but strangely enough I find it to be a most peaceful feeling. Life is quite the ride, and fear now seems like such a waste of precious time.

I think my parents are telling me this as I still stand by their bedside in the darkness.

Kids Club

DCF 1.0

“The soul is healed by being with children.” — Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The idea for “kids club” emerged a very short thirteen years ago when my youngest daughter was in the second grade. The two of us were driving somewhere when she innocently asked if I might study the Bible with her sometime, which was crazy embarrassing since I was, in fact, a preacher. Yes, sweetie, that could be arranged. 

But before we even made it to wherever we were driving the innocent question had transformed into a fully-developed plan for a weekly kids club for elementary school children at our church where we not only studied the Bible but also went on adventures and hosted interesting guests. We went to the Ruskin Oak (pictured above). We wandered around an old cemetery. We went to the fire station where everyone got to blast the fire hose, and we hosted a police officer where everyone got cuffed and stuffed. We listened to sweet Ms. Josephine tell sobering stories of growing up black in Jim Crow Mississippi. It was inspiring and sweet and good.

Well, I’m a preacher again and am giving kids club another whirl. We recently launched Kids Club 2.0 with a short Bible study and a visit from amazing art students from Pepperdine, and the next week we hosted a brilliant plant physiological ecologist (look it up) who took us on a nature walk. It has been awesome. I am nearly overwhelmed by the indescribable wealth of potential guests at my disposal here in the heart of a university campus.

But possibly the biggest change from 1.0 to 2.0 is that we typically had 6-8 kids attend in Mississippi while we had triple that number at our first get-together in Malibu! That just triples the fun! (But thankfully I have a fantastic assistant/photographer this time around.)  

Dr. Seuss reminded us that a person is a person no matter how small, but those of us not directly responsible for such little persons may forget the great benefits that come from investing time in kids.  I know that I did.  But I’m sure glad to be back in the fun again.

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” — Frederick Douglass


PC: Annie Little

Believe in Love

[I beg your pardon for one more trip down Nostalgia Lane. This is more fun than inspirational, written in February 2003.]

“Know you what it is to be a child? . . . It is to believe in love, to believe in loveliness, to believe in belief; it is to be so little that the elves can reach to whisper in your ear; it is to turn pumpkins into coaches, and mice into horses, lowness into liftiness, and nothing into everything, for each child has its fairy godmother in its soul.” – Francis Thompson Shelley (1859-1927)

Yesterday was one of those days when being a dad is tough.

It started on the way home after I had picked up both girls from school. Thankfully, there were no problems with my teenager. There was a disciplinary issue with my five-year-old, though. When we got home, we had a rare session where I had to be tough, and she had to be in trouble. She cried a lot. I sentenced her to thirty minutes in her bed with no toys, no television—no nothing. When I checked on her at the end of her prison stay, she was asleep. Overall, I thought things went well.

Then, it happened.

My teenage daughter informed me that the goldfish appeared to be dead. She was right. My little girl’s first pet, lovingly named Goldia, received for her fifth birthday, had gone on to that great aquarium in the sky.

Hillary begged for a pet long before Goldia. We are not pet people. We barely take care of ourselves, much less animals. However, we succumbed to the sweet little pleas and settled on a goldfish. Hillary learned to be content with that. And now, Goldia had passed on.

When Hillary woke up from an emotional afternoon of getting in trouble, her tear ducts prepared to let loose once more. I told her the bad news, and it did not take long for her emotions to get the best of her again.

In the midst of her shivering sobs and huge tears, she let out sweet words like, “I think I might cry all night long.” And, “I miss her so much.” And, “She was the best fish I ever had.”

She was the only fish Hillary ever had, but that in no way lessened the sincerity of her remarks.

She requested a call to my mom, ripping her heart to pieces, too.

I, of course, had the job of finding the words of comfort. I have sat with lots of people given my profession, finding those types of words. My experience helped little, but I tried nonetheless. As I tried, I found myself using words that I could not believe I heard myself saying.

“Goldia was a very good fish.” In fact, Goldia spent all of her time begging for food and then dirtying the water. She obviously took after me, but a good fish? Oh well, I was trying.

I even ventured into the, “Do goldfish go to Heaven?” waters (no pun intended). Hey, when you are desperate, you will say pretty much anything. Besides, God let down a sheet full of animals for Peter to see. Who knows what he has up there?

My best statement of the afternoon, though, was, “Goldia sure was a lucky fish.” A good friend and I had a discussion on the word “luck” recently. Bear with me, it would have sounded even worse to say she was a “blessed” fish. You see, Goldia swam constantly in a little tank with nothing in it, begging for food. She was a lucky fish? What was I saying?

I explained the bliss of Goldia’s life this way: She was lucky to have an owner like you who loved her so much.

You know, in the midst of my desperation, I think I said something right. She was lucky after all.

I explained that of all the fish in the world, Goldia was one of the few that had someone special that cared for her very much. That is worth something, isn’t it? When I attend a funeral and see many tears, I don’t know how to phrase it properly to the family, but I consider it such a compliment to see such sadness at someone’s passing. What better thing could we have than that—someone who loves us that much?

I did the proper thing. No swirling funeral for Goldia. We said a prayer. I took her outside and gave her a proper burial. I have to buy flowers this afternoon.

Hillary got over it fairly quickly last night. At bedtime, I discovered that Goldia had not gone far from her mind. She said a sweet prayer for Goldia, thanking God for the good times, declaring her sadness that she was gone, and requesting happiness for her up in Heaven. This morning, on the way to school, Hillary declared that she wanted four fish this time—just as her kindergarten teacher did after her fish died.

I thought—now I get to do this four more times.

Instead, I should think: Four more lucky fish.