WHAT’S SO BAD ABOUT CUSSING?

(Oct 31, 2014)

Recently, in a correspondence with an atheist nephew, the question came up about the use of profanity in our exchange. Then, a few days later, I watched a movie, “Chef” that was very well done, almost inspirational in its treatment of passion. But, the movie was filled with profanity. So, I have been thinking about the matter, and here is my take. What is the big deal about profanity?

So, what makes a word profane. If you think about it, most cuss words are one of three categories; sexual (acts or body parts), body wastes, and of or relating to God. In the olden days, (when I was a kid) cursing was usually used in a situation of anger, pain, or extreme emphasis. My dad was not one who cussed, but I remember one time in high school when a friend of mine was staying with us when his parents were out of town. We sneaked out of the house about 11:00 pm, and were gone for a couple of hours. Upon our return, we opened a door to a very angry and upset father who only used the one word “Damn…” for emphasis as to the severity in his mind of the wrong we committed. I never forgot it.

Sadly, today, profanity laced speech is considered normal. It no longer emphasizes a point, expresses extreme anger, or anything like it used to. It is generally used as any part of speech that it can be used, happy, sad, or neutral. Television reality shows, still bleep most of the words, but it is obvious that that will not continue for long, as the normal speech among the hip is laced with words that used to be considered crude and vulgar. The problem is, there are many who still consider them crude and vulgar.

So, is cussing really no big deal? Our culture has shifted away from one of respect, courtesy, honor. We now do what we want, when we want, because that is what we want. The problem goes way beyond what words we use to express ourselves. The problem begins in our heart. The words that pour from our mouths are only the overflow of a human, generally selfish, self-centered heart. I really cannot blame the natural ones for the way they express themselves; they have no choice. The evil that dwells in us all will come out one way or another.

But, I figure Jesus heard the coarse language of His day as well. When He heard the words, he saw the heart that needed what He was bringing.

Young men and women of today’s generation, if you really have His life in you, think about it when you lower your level of speech to the common, unregenerate level. You carry a treasure in you. When the treasure flows out, your Father is pleased, and when you feel His pleasure, you find Joy.

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Ping pong

(Written Oct. 24,2017)

NINETEEN SIXTY SOMETHING

Dad stood in the garage beside the newest member of our family.

I didn’t know how it got there, who had done it, but I could tell Dad was glad it was there.

We had a ping pong table!

Ping pong wasn’t new to me? (And we did not call it table tennis.) I had gone to enough church camps, and other events that had ping pong tables.

Mom and Dad had gifted us kids with good hand eye coordination, so we were always decent at reaction time, so we were decent at ping pong.

But that summer, we learned the game. Hours of that wonderful sound of ball hitting paddle, hitting table, hitting paddle, back and forth, back and forth. Overspins, backspins, curves and slams.

Sometimes Mom and Dad would play. They were both good. Dad probably learned it at a military base in WW2, but I don’t know how Mom got so good.

All us kids would take turns playing each other. David was better than me, Elaine and I were pretty close, and Jeff hadn’t started growing yet, so I would just barely put the ball over the net, where he couldn’t quite reach it.

But I liked playing my dad. He would not let me win. I would have to earn that victory, if it ever came.

I never lost the love of a good competitive ping pong match.

I won some, lost some, but, no matter who I played, I could give them good competition.

One time, I played a guy at his house, after I finished cleaning his windows. He beat me 21-19. I asked him what he did for a living.

“Hockey. The Dallas Stars.”

It was Mike Ribeiro.

EARLY JANUARY, 2001.

Dad had given me his pickup truck a few months earlier. He called me one night.

“Randy, I need you to take me to the sporting goods store in Dallas tomorrow. I’m going to get your mom a ping pong table for her 72nd birthday.”

So we set a time, I picked him up at his house in Canton, and we went to Dallas, got the table, brought it back, and unloaded it into his carport.

I ate dinner with them that night.

Mom seemed glad that I was there, but a little quiet, subdued.

A couple of days later, the phone rang at 4:30 am.

“Randy, I can’t wake your mom up. I think she is gone.”

It was her birthday. The ping pong table was still in the box in the carport.

OCTOBER, 2010

Dad was in an Alzheimer’s unit of a nursing home, and I went by to see him.

Most of the residents were sitting in a big circle in the main room, but Dad wasn’t there. I went down the hall toward his room and found him sitting alone in the quiet.

“Hey, Dad, let’s go up to the main room.”

His walk had changed to a shuffle, and it took a few minutes to get to the main room. We found a couple of chairs together and joined the circle.

Nobody was saying anything.

Now, if you know me, you know I don’t need a microphone.

“Hey!” I said in my best microphonic voice,”my name is Randy Epps, and this is my dad, Houston Epps.”

I noticed that everyone was looking our way now, puzzled smiles on their faces.

I could see out of the corner of my eye that Dad was looking at me, too. He wasn’t sure who I was, but he was wondering what was coming next.

“ I was the second of four kids, but I knew I was the favorite.” Chuckles from the room.

“Something you may not know about my dad…he was great at ping pong.”

Murmurs in the room…”Oh, I didn’t know that”…”Really?”

Dad was leaning forward in his chair, eyes fixed on me.

“I remember the summer we got a ping pong table for our garage, and we played and played and played. Dad was sooo good….It took me forever to finally be able to beat him.”

I had been there about fifteen minutes at this time, and Dad had hardly said a word.

But, now he had something to say.

“YOU BEAT ME???”

Everybody laughed.

Dad smiled.

A few months later, my dad joined my mom in their forever home.

I liked to think that there is a ping pong table there.

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Jitterbug

(Written 10/21/16)

What I learned after attending my niece, Jenny’s wedding.

Mary Jane (my mother in law) was talking about how she always considered herself a pretty good dancer.

I said I never considered myself a very good dancer. Or a dancer, period.

Wendy said, “What did Phyllis say?”

(For background, see PHYLLIS CLOPTON’S SCHOOL OF DANCE post a few weeks ago.)

Well, I guess those basic steps I did okay.

Mary Jane said something about Blair (my 89 year old father-in-law) not being a dancer.

“I guess I never told you about the time I won two jitterbug contests. In one night.”

Never heard that one before.

When Blair was about 16, he and his friend Odum used to go to the Horseshoe Bar in Dallas.

They had made friends with the bouncer, and he let them in, telling them to take the table back in the back corner.

As long as they didn’t cause any trouble, he would let them stay.

He didn’t recommend them to bring dates, because, when boys and girls started drinking together, it usually led to trouble.

On Saturday nights, they would have dance contests.

The bartender told Blair and Odum about a couple of girls that had come alone, were nice girls, and wanted to dance.

So they did.

According to Blair, he had pretty quick feet, and won the contest.

Twice.

In one night.

The prize?

A case of beer.

Make that two cases. (Two wins.)

Mary Jane said, ” Now, that’s something I would have liked to see.”

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RAINY DAYS AND MONDAYS

RAINY DAYS AND MONDAYS (and Tuesdays and Wednesdays…,)

There had been a lot of rain. Especially for Texas.

For weeks now, rain in the forecast every day.

EVERY DAY!

My busiest time of the year.

On Monday, I worked all day in the rain.

I love my job, but I wasn’t loving this.

Tuesday, I was up early, heading to Longview. The rain was pouring.

It was starting to “get me down.” (See title. Get the reference? No? Ask some old person.)

So I was having my own little pity party of one.

“Wait a minute,” I said to myself, “I don’t have to feel down. I have life! I know Jesus! I am healthy, busy, and loved by my Maker.”

I stopped being sad. Just like that!

Wednesday. Rain.
Thursday. Rain.

Thursday morning I meet with a few friends before I hit the road.

There were seven of us this week.
We all pull up chairs to sit around a little folding table to hold our coffee cups and our Bibles.

This was our second week in our favorite part of the Bible; the book of John. We hadn’t gotten very far. About four verses.

We don’t have a teacher. Or really a leader.
We just show up, and we let the scripture du jour direct our conversations.

Three of us still have to leave at nine to go to work. The other four can carry on the conversation past nine.

We get animated, excited, passionate, heated, corrected.

We laugh, pray, share struggles, share insights.

Agree. Disagree.

Refill the coffee cups.

But, something really weird happens.

When I stand up to leave at nine, I have this supernatural energy, a supernatural joy, a sense that in this small gathering of Life Bearers, The Life Giver was present using each of us to give another taste of the Life we carry to our friends.

“We are gonna have to start meeting at 7:30…this is just too short.”

I prayed to close the session. I’m smiling as I pray.

It’s not Monday.
But it is a rainy day.
It doesn’t “always get me down.”
Not today.

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PHYLLIS CLOPTON’S SCHOOL OF DANCE

(Written 10/8/16)

Do you have any of those times in your past that your mom decided you just had to do something?

“One day, you will really be glad for this.”

You know what I’m talking about. We all have those lessons. Moms.

Ballroom dance lessons.

Why in the world does a sixth grade boy have to take ballroom dance lessons?

“One day you will be glad you did this.”

Fall of 1963, Monday nights for six weeks. The Garland,Tx community center old annex building.

Phyllis Clopton’s ballroom dance class.

Oh, man. Could I be any more uncomfortable?

I had to wear a coat and tie to the stupid class.

Phyllis knew enough about the age to make her own pairs.

My partner was not too bad looking.

Phyllis demonstrated a style, explained that at the end of the course we would have a real dance, where we would invite a dance partner to come and witness our amazing new grace on the dance floor.

Anita.

Since first grade, the apple of my eye.

Around the fourth grade, she had gone to the country school outside of Garland, Rose Hill School, and I no longer could watch her dreamily across the room.

In the summer after fifth grade, Rose Hill burned down. Garland had built a new elementary school, Southgate Elementary, and had ripped some of us Caldwell students and all the Rose Hill students away and put them together in Southgate.

And there, sitting across the room of my sixth grade class was Anita.

I had gotten a five year diary for Christmas in the fifth grade, and most entries were, “Not much happened today.”

But one entry stood out.

“Anita looked at me today.”

So, I figured, after I master this ballroom dance thing, me and Anita were going to finally be together. Forever.

So for six weeks I endured. I actually kinda liked it.

My dance partner was quiet. Soft. Calm. Shy.

No unnecessary uncomfortable conversation.

Just a shared enduring of the task at hand.

Box step. Foxtrot. Waltz. (No samba, rhumba, cha-cha, tango, paso doble. Just the simple stuff. Sixth graders, remember?)

I remember my partner’s smile. A quiet, nice smile, teeth not perfectly straight, but pleasant.

I don’t remember her name.

Phyllis walked around the dance floor, correcting postures, fixing holds.

“Don’t rock, don’t sway. Smooth movements. To the music.”

Six weeks. Next week was the big day.

Days of rapid nervous heartbeat. Sweaty palms. Trying to summon the courage.

Do it.

In those days, most houses had one phone; in a special cubby, built especially for the telephone in the hallway.

For privacy, you stretched the phone into the bathroom, shut the door and hoped that no one could hear this conversation.

“Hello. Is Anita there?”

“Uh, Anita, this is Randy Epps. Would you go to this dance with me next Monday night? Oh, okay, no that’s okay, no, I understand. Goodbye.”

I wonder how much this crippled my future relationships, this first rejection.

The next Monday came, my dance partner came alone, we paired up, shared refreshments, and had a really nice time.

Years later, Wendy and I were married, had just moved back to Garland, and, like most young couples, we were really struggling to get our bills paid.

One day, the phone rang.

“Randy Epps?”

“Yes, this is he.” (Grammar)

“This is J.C. Penny’s collection department. You are behind on your credit card payments. We need to get a payment.”

“Oh, yeah. I will mail it this week.”

“Okay, thank you. We will be watching for it……..Did you go to Southgate Elementary School?….This is Anita_______……Do you remember me?”

Soon after this, we got rid of all our credit cards.

By the way, that dance thing, never really took hold.

Thanks, Phyllis, at least you tried.

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BLESSINGS

Two Years Ago 10/4/16

BLESSINGS

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

This morning in our men’s Bible study, we were discussing Solomon’s apparent frustration level as he neared the end of his life. (Ecclesiastes 2). One man remarked that it was kinda weird that he would feel this way after being so obviously blessed by God in every area of his life; riches, possessions, territory, inventions, women, fame.

I wonder of those really were blessings.

It’s easy to think that way, especially growing up in the United States, where success has become the accepted measure of a man or woman.

Funny thing, though, Solomon had everything you or I might desire to obtain, and he found it to feel kind of empty. He would die, and he would be forgotten. What was the point?

Maybe, the real “blessings” that God sends our way are not the good happy times that we have previously thought.

Maybe, those moments of deep pain and loss, the times when we come to the end of our means, the end of our strength, the end of our human understanding, maybe those are the blessings that God sends.

I have found in the later years of my life, that, feeling God’s pleasure is a greater satisfaction than any human accomplishment I have ever had.

And when did I feel His pleasure?

Those times when I could no longer see a possible way out, or through, without putting ALL of the burden on Him.

The times when I saw no possible way to pay the huge bill.

No possible way to fix the trauma in personal relationships.

The time on the side of the highway, standing outside of our wrecked car, knowing my only child had just this moment preceded me to eternity, her young daughter turning blue from internal injuries.

The moment when everything you had planned is changed forever.

When you change your plans

For his plans.

When you KNOW…

HE IS HERE!

That would be the blessing….

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METAMORPHOSIS

(Written 10/4/16)

I hope I haven’t ever given you the impression that, one day, I decided to give this Christian thing a try.

It wasn’t like that, at all.

I wasn’t really even looking for it.

In fact, if you had asked me, I probably would have told you, “Oh yeah, I’m a Christian.”

But really, I only had a couple of questions.

Why am I so depressed?

What does it mean to be born again?

Really, I figured I was a pretty good guy.

But, that was good enough, right?

Well, I wasn’t looking, I wasn’t that good, but I was grabbed, lifted, and changed. In a moment. Just like that.

Not depressed.

Born again.

I can take absolutely no credit.

But God is good.

So is this life.

I wish you could taste it, too.

Journal • Tuesday, Oct 4, 2016, 7:

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