TURN UP THE VOLUME, PLEASE
(November 12, 2016)
I went to Dallas with Wendy and Zoë, yesterday.
Their goal was to look for a bridal gown.
I just wanted to eat at Cheesecake Factory and read Hacksaw Ridge.
So, I’m sitting in the old man chairs at Terry Costa (gowns, galore), quietly reading, minding my own business.
A tall, tan, chiseled, lean man about 70, with a full head of graying hair walks out of the store, catches my eye, smiles and heads my way.
He sits down in the chair next to me.
“Had enough, I see,” I say.
“Heh,…..(Unintelligible words)…. my daughter. She is 15, stands eye to eye with me,…..(Unintelligible words)….so I walk right up to a rack, pick out a gown and say, ‘try this one.’ It’s the perfect one. She loves it.”
(We sat there for about 30 minutes. “Daughter” Never came out. Maybe she didn’t love it after all.)
“(Unintelligible words)….I used to do some acting, theater, screen….(Unintelligible words)….wardrobe….(Unintelligible words)….”
“Once I was attacked by 39 guys. I tried to tell them not to bother me. I was pretty bulked up then.” He stands to show me how his shirt used to be filled out with his muscles. “I walked out of there with all those guys laying on the ground. Heh.” I smiled. The “Heh” was a clue that something was funny.
“(Unintelligible words)….My dad was a boxer…(Unintelligible words)….He told me, ‘Try to hit me.’ I was about five. I said, ‘Where do you think I’m going to hit you?’ I hit him here.”
He stands and waves his hand over the area between his navel and his thigh.
“Heh…(Unintelligible words)….he was pretty mad…(Unintelligible words)….heh.”
He stands and shows me a ring finger that is obviously shorter than the one on the other hand.
“How’d that happen?” I know, I just couldn’t help myself.
“I had just beat this guy up. One punch. I was riding my bicycle, and his dad was chasing me in his car…(Unintelligible words)….he ran into me, trying to kill me. My finger got caught in the grill…(Unintelligible words)….the bone was hanging out, marrow dripping, but I was able to put the fingernail back on, heh. I was four and a half or five years old…(Unintelligible words)….I stood in front of that kid and told him if he ever said another word to me he would have to kill me…(Unintelligible words)….he skulked away.”
“I used to live in…(Unintelligible words)….it was nice. But, it started to change….(Unintelligible words)….started to move in…(Unintelligible words)….”
By now, I’m thinking, “Please stop talking, I just wanna read.”
“….(Unintelligible words)….my wife is taking control in there…(Unintelligible words)….”
“Randy, let’s go,” Wendy calls as she and Zoë walk out of the store.
So does tall guy.
I ask, “Is your name Randy?”
“Mine, too.” I shake his hand, and walk out, wondering if he would have left with them if I hadn’t.
Last weekend, Wendy and I met Zoë and Evan at a Scottish festival in Tyler. Evan was in some sword demonstrations, and he was pretty pooped when we got ready to leave. So we went to eat, he revived, and Zoë suggested bowling. We were happy to get the chance to spend some time with them doing something besides eating a meal, so we said yes.
We were to meet at the new bowling alley /movie theater complex in Tyler.
It was a Saturday afternoon.
It was really crowded.
I went in to see if there was a long wait.
Now, things are different in bowling alleys, than they used to be. The last time I bowled was 5 years ago in a bowling fundraiser for King’s Academy in Tyler. The year before, I lost to a nine year old. The next year, though, I won the trophy for best total score.
Today, the familiar sound of the subdued roar of the ball rolling down the alley ending with the clash of the ball striking the pins was somewhat masked by the sounds and bells and whistles of the myriad of electronic games now available to the less physically prone participants.
There was one lane available…family plan…48.00 for an hour…including shoe rental…3.00 apiece. They didn’t give me a scoresheet. I love keeping score. Seems that, now, the lanes keep score for you.
I paid, found our lane, found a ball. The color of the ball showed the weight, the hole size was labeled with S, M, L, or XL. I liked that. I found a 15 lb. ball with L holes. Fifteen pounds was always what I used back in the day.
By the time we got all our balls, all our shoes, figured out the electronic scoring system, and threw our first ball, about 20 minutes was gone.
I bowled first. Stand to the right. Aim for the second arrow. One/push. Two/down. Three/back. Four/release. Wow! Two throws. Seven. That ball seems really heavy! I took it back , found the 13 pound color with L holes. Now, that feels better. Maybe I was trying to prove something, back in the day.
Now, I learned some time back that making people feel hurried or rushed did not bring good consequences. So, after one of us finished with his frame, I would gently say, “Zoë, it’s your turn,” or “Evan, you’re up,” or “Now, you, Wendy.” Seriously, I was being patient, but I watched those minutes tick away.
I saw Zoe and Evan swinging their arms across their bodies, and I reminded them to let their arms swing like a pendulum…push, down, back, release…one, two, three, slide.
Evan was really tired from his earlier exertions, but he thanked me for offering help.
We finished one game. One game. We were in the middle of the second game when time ran out.
I was getting the hang of it, and Evan even said, “Your release was smoother than anyone in the place.”
An old friend from Garland came to mind. His name was Mark Eichner, and I haven’t seen or thought of him for almost fifty years.
We were not the kind of friends that spent time at each other’s house, or double dated. But my memory is that Mark was more than just an acquaintance, but an actual friend.
I can’t remember where we met. It could have been Boy Scouts, or maybe Little League or Colt League Baseball.
But, that is not the reason he came to mind.
His parents owned Fiesta Lanes on Saturn Rd in Garland, Texas, under the shadow of the KRLD radio tower.
When I was in seventh grade, our P.E. Class had a bowling session. We watched an instructional film on the basics of bowling. I bet, that whole bowling thing happened because the Eichner’s thought, “We need to get this next generation interested in bowling. Let’s teach them the basics.”
We watched the film and we practiced. In the gym.
Feet together, eyes ahead, one, two, three, slide. (The steps to approach the bowling alley.) Over and over and over.
Then we added the arm movements as we took our steps. Both hands in front at your belt…push, down, back, release. Step one, push the ball straight out, step two, let the weight of your ball bring your arm down (though now we were doing the drills sans ball), step three, let your arm swing back, like a pendulum, step four, your arm swings forward as you bend at the waist, and you release the ball at the line, bringing your arm straight up in front of you. Follow-through, just like a pendulum. Over and over and over. To be honest, it all seemed a little bit silly.
Until, after school, we got to go to Fiesta Lanes to see how well we learned.
At the alley, they showed us the dots where we would begin our four steps. You could place yourself anywhere, depending on where you wanted the ball to go. Then they showed us the arrows on the lane. You tried to roll across a certain arrow, then you could adjust for the next throw depending on where your ball struck the pins, and where you wish it had. It was a learning process.
You know what? We were actually able to learn how to bowl.
56 years later, I still remember what I learned on that gym floor and at that bowling alley.
I love to bowl. If I had stuck to it, “I coulda been a contender.”
I could have looked down on my companions that didn’t know the fundamentals like I did on this recent Saturday bowling outing, but, I realized, that someone had taken the time to teach me the fundamentals, and they hadn’t had that opportunity.
I bowled 122. I know, that’s not that great, but the second game was gonna be a lot better. Except the time ran out.
Kanye West has recently expressed a new found faith in the same savior I have followed for 47 years. He is being mentored. He is making music proclaiming this change in his life and the Lordship of Jesus over his new life.
The world doesn’t know what to think, and that is to be expected.
But, we, as believers have forgotten that we once entered into this new life as untrained, ignorant babies, excited to be alive, full of this new stirring inside of us, wanting to think about and talk about this fantastic new friend who was beginning to change everything for us.
Some of the oldtimers didn’t grasp this joy and excitement that they were seeing in these young converts, and they sometimes tended to put a damper on the thrill of this new life, trying to put us in the box they had come to be comfortable in.
I cannot let myself forget the basics; that I began with joy in this “new game”, but I had to learn the basics before I could grow.
Growing, stumbling, being rescued, growing, stumbling, crossing the foul line, being forgiven, growing.
And learning of the love of the One who has taken me to his “bowling alley” to teach me the basics.
And He watches me “bowl” and smiles with every “strike, spare, split, and gutter ball” that I throw.
Because. He loves me!
Just like He loves Kanye!
I would, now, from my own little section of this increasingly dark world, like to welcome my new brother, Kanye West, to the only true life worth living.
A life of loving the One who made him, and prepared a place for him, and has a life planned out for him to live.
To find Joy.
To shine Light into the darkness.
Starting with the basics.
Push. Down. Back. Release.
(Written by Wendy Gayle Wright Epps, the more talented writer in my house. For those who long to see the Invisible One)
Many of you know about my mom, (Mary Jane Guernsey Wright) needing fervent prayer for what could be serious health issues, and possibly a recurrence of breast cancer. (She is a 12-year breast cancer survivor).
Many of you prayed for her as she underwent testing Wednesday and Thursday. I just wanted to update all of you, and let you see how great our God is by recounting the many awesome ways God spoke to this situation.
Here is a (only partial) “list” of God’s care, provision, and boundless love for my mom in the last 2 days.
Wednesday, a crucial but dreaded, claustrophobia-inducing test for lung issues was administered by an earthly “angel” of a man who exhibited infinite patience with an extremely fearful patient. He continued with the way-over-time testing despite the fact that he was scheduled to leave at a specific time, and even given 2 opportunities to do so. He chose to remain with my mom, realizing a change in technicians at that point would be very detrimental to her ability to get through the testing process. He was able to coach her through the testing despite her crippling fear. Truly God-sent.
We saw the doctor about the test results almost immediately.
My mom’s fear of a diagnosis of lung cancer was decimated by a diagnosis of only mild, treatable asthma.
Thursday was definitely the most worrisome day of testing because cancer-positve results would likely mean surgery, more radiation, and possibly chemo. The fear of returning breast cancer was debilitating and unbearable.
After an extremely painful mammogram, then an ultrasound, the doctor did an additional exam and more ultrasound.
The final diagnosis?
NO CANCER. Only scar tissue.
And even the health concerns for my dad were relieved. As a 12-year prostate cancer survivor, (yes, Mom and Dad actually went through radiation treatments together),
and at 92, his numbers were very nearly zero, and the other health concern turned out to be medication-related and not problematic at all.
There were also the “little” moments when we felt (and heard) God’s peace and comfort during those days.
As we were heading to the doctor on Thursday, listening to the radio, an older, but favorite, song played,
“I Get On My Knees”, by Jacqui Valasques.
Mom mentioned that she hadn’t heard that song in a long time, and that it reminded her so much of Chelsey, (our daughter in Heaven). We talked about how God seemed to be sending love and comfort and peace through that song at that time, and she remarked that if she happened to hear
“I Can Only Imagine”, she would KNOW God was doing that for her.
(A very personal song to our family, also associated with our daughter, Chelsey, and sung at her funeral).
After the incredible, wonderful news on Thursday, we decided to celebrate by enjoying breakfast at a new restaurant. We sat down, began looking at the menu, and the server came by. Mom mentioned her relief that she had just received a very welcome diagnosis of no cancer, and the server sat down beside her and kind of gave her a little hug and congratulations.
All through breakfast, we talked about all that God was doing for Mom (and Dad), and how the prayers of so many were being heard and answered.
How a Facebook post turned into an opportunity to ask for prayers, and how that gave hope and encouragement at a time of great fear.
And how we should always be watching and listening for God’s messages as proof of His presence in every aspect of our lives, and wondering just how many of those moments we miss.
As we got in the car to head toward a little “retail therapy”,(which, for Mom, happened to be a new pair of blue suede boots!), we heard the unmistakable first strains of that beloved song, “I Can Only Imagine”.
It was as if God reached out His hand and gave yet another unexpected gift to His precious and beloved child. Because that is EXACTLY what He did.
There are (I’m certain) many other God-moments we missed, (the dreary, rainy day on the way to the appointment was transformed into a perfectly beautiful, “bright, sunshiny day” when we left there!), and there will be many more times that we so desperately need them. Others are in situations that, to them, are more painful, or traumatic, or worrisome than these, and God can give them exactly what they need to feel His presence in those moments as well.
He is with us.
He never leaves us.
He is faithful to complete His work in us.
He cherishes us.
His love is unfailing, everlasting, unshakable, boundless…
He tells us so, over and over, in His love letter to us:
“The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.””
“In my distress I called upon the LORD, And cried to my God for help; He heard my voice out of His temple, And my cry for help before Him came into His ears.”
“I sought the LORD, and He answered me, And delivered me from all my fears.”
“I have set the LORD continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”
“’Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’”
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
“The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?”
“In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?”
WHAT DO I HAVE TO GIVE UP?
Rich young ruler.
One time, a man who was highly favored in the community came to Jesus to learn about this “eternal life.”
“What must I do?” he asked.
Jesus pointed out some commandments that he knew the guy had kept.
The young man was already feeling pretty good about himself. People had probably told him that he ought to go see Jesus, that he would really be someone that Jesus could use. That he was such a good guy.
With Jesus’ first list, he checked them off, one by one. He thought, “I’ve got this. I have earned this.”
Jesus looked at Him with a deep, deep love.
Jesus saw the one thing in his life that would always interfere with his devotion to the One who carried the LIFE.
The one thing that would constantly interrupt the communication that would come to him if he were following the One.
The one part of his life that would always pull him away.
Away from that meaningful conversation.
Away from that time of understanding.
Away from that trust in the only way to Life, the only way to Joy.
That one need that he had that could override any “command” from the Giver of LIFE.
“If you love me, you will obey me.”
He couldn’t give up this one thing, because it was his everything.
It was who he was.
It was the one thing that he didn’t think he could live without.
He was important.
Who would he be without it?
He couldn’t give it up.
The trust was not there.
What about you?
What are you hanging onto that you just can’t live without?
The one thing that keeps pulling you away from the One that will fill you with Joy, with Life that has no bounds.
The one thing that you just can’t believe that you can live without?
TIME OR ETERNITY (Part 1)
WARNING: IF YOU ARE NOT A BELIEVER IN THE GOD OF THE BIBLE, DON’T READ THIS! IT WILL EITHER ANGER YOU ( and isn’t there enough already to make you angry?), CONFUSE YOU, OR SEEM RIDICULOUS TO YOU.
My friend, Joni Sunderland, was sharing with me last week some insights on the “water into wine” episode in the book of John. (More on that, later.)
My thoughts returned to the days, before I was changed, when I was working my way through that very book. I think I will begin that journey again.
What Joni had shared, was that this time thing, time, that we base everything on was also part of the creation.
We, as beings of flesh and blood, are bound by time, controlled by time, limited by time, at the mercy of time.
Waiting for a meal.
Trying to pay off a loan.
Making a living.
Waiting for Christmas.
Everything has a reference point. Time.
It doesn’t stop. No matter how much you want it to, it just will not stop.
“I need more time!”
So, we are trapped in this progression of seconds, minutes, hours, days, years, decades, centuries….
Things wear out. Time.
We get older, we get old. We wear out. Time.
But, in the beginning, before time,
with God, was the Word,
the Maker of all things,
the carrier of life,
the life that would become the light for all mankind,
a light that would shine in a darkness,
one that would not be overpowered by the darkness.
He was not limited by time, because He was outside of time.
We couldn’t see him, because we were enclosed in that envelope he had created.
The only way we could see Him,
He had to open the envelope.
John 1: 1-5
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
Through Him, all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.
In Him was Life, and that Life was the light of all mankind.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Two Years Ago
NINETEEN SIXTY SOMETHING
September 4, 2015
I really do like Facebook. Over the years, I have made connections, as well as friends, and I really do love my friends. I really do.
Some of them are spiritual brothers and sisters, some are friends who do not share my love for Jesus. I love all of them.
What I notice lately is that some of the friends post articles that are pretty blunt about the ways Christians offend them, the ways Christians care more about “pushing their religion” than caring for the person they are “beating up.”
I love a good argument, or heated discussion. But, of late, I have been feeling discouraged at my inability to express the love of my life that compels me. I get caught up in the exchange of different philosophies, but end up with a deep sorrow that I may be losing a friend in the process.
I read the articles that you guys post, nearly all of them. Pro Christ, and against. Black lives matter, blue lives matter, all lives matter. I read ’em all.
The other day, I remembered a verse of scripture. It just popped into my thoughts so I wrote it down to look up later. “In your light, we see light.”
I had to search for it, and I found it in the book of Psalms, chapter 36.
“How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.” (NIV)
Another version says it like this:
“How precious is your unfailing love, O God!
All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings.
You feed them from the abundance of your own house, letting them drink from your river of delights.
For you are the fountain of life, the light by which we see.”
Everyone benefits from God’s goodness on this earth. Everyone. He lets all drink from his river of delights. All.
When I think of him being my fountain of life, I realize that He even sends light to me from those that don’t love him. A couple of my friends tell me that I should try to understand better those who disagree with me. That I should be better able to hear them.
In your light, I see light.
Perhaps, if I see the light He shines my way from all around, others may catch a glimpse of His light, shining through my many cracks.
Keith Green used to sing a song that had the line, “I really, really, only want to see you there!”
When it all ends here, I really want all my friends to be there, too.