Thursday, September 23, 2010

Good Ol' Days with Granny and Papaw

A small tribute to my paternal grandparents, who celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary in August. 

Someday, when my children ask me to tell them about the good old days, I will smile and attempt to tell them of summers spent with Papaw and Granny.

I will inadequately describe just how itchy, hot, and sticky it is to work your way down rows of green beans, corn and peas. They will not be able to comprehend how long it takes to shuck, shell or snap through a season’s crop. Pity the poor things; they will probably never be able to truly appreciate the resulting satisfaction of a meal of homegrown vegetables or the taste of grape juice squeezed fresh from the vine.

I will fondly recall evenings spent chasing ‘lightning bugs’ with Granny and the unexpected thrill of catching baby bunnies. Granny was always patient and feigned excitement, no matter the size and shape of the creatures we dragged in. She would help us fix up a box for a temporary home and then gently convince us to release the sad, traumatized things at day’s end.

Unlike kids these days, we poor Chambers grandchildren only got to indulge ourselves properly in cable television on trips to Granny and Papaw’s. Whether it was rising unusually early to catch the morning cartoons or enjoying a bowl of ice cream with Papaw for a late-night western, we must have worn holes into the tan spinning armchair that saved our spot in front of the old Zenith television. References to icy pops and Oatmeal Crème Pies will probably be lost on my children, but I’ll tell them all the same how no trip to the local Food Valu was ever complete without such treats.
The best toys also resided at Granny’s house, where long-loved remnants of my father’s and uncles’ days were stored. Instead of boring old Ken, Barbie had wild romantic adventures with G.I. Joe and Johnny West. And though Granny kept the toy closet stocked with girlish favorites like Pretty, Pretty Princess, it was at her house we first learned to love Battleship and Lincoln Logs.

On particularly hot days when the garden wasn’t calling our names, Granny would set up her craft supplies and we’d do ceramics or any number of other crafts. To this day I have a collection of comical attempts recording our visits through the years, a product of each successful visit. But we all knew that Granny was happiest in her kitchen. She would toil away faithfully to put meals on the table and keep our tummies full of chocolate chip cookies, which we dutifully consumed. And while it was always a thrill to help, we’d often sneak away to peek in on Papaw.

Papaw was happiest tinkering away in the heat, whether in the field or his wood shop. I am saddened to think that my children may not be able to appreciate the wonders of a proper woodshop. That they will not know the slightly-burnt smell of freshly spliced pine as it comes out of the saw, new shavings splayed in piles about the floor. Later in life, Papaw has found a new love: tractors. We grandchildren have admiringly traced the details of these antique wonders and squealed in delight as we took them for a spin about their large front yard. Perhaps when the time comes, Papaw will show my children his newest creations and half-finished treasures hidden among the sheds and sawhorses.

Of one thing I am certain, my children will experience the common Chambers initiation which every child, in-law and near-enough family friend has undergone: skiing. Each child will be dutifully dunked in whatever river, lake or dam and coaxed, coached and cajoled as they are dragged through (and consume countless gallons of) the water until at last they rise victoriously, if only for a few shaky moments before collapsing. And they will know the satisfaction that comes from reaching this momentous milestone, with full support from each and every other excited (and relieved) boat passenger lucky enough to share in the occasion. It is my fervent prayer that at that time, whether 80 or 90, Papaw will still be able to hop out of the boat and show ‘em how it’s done, as he so ably did this summer.

I didn’t spend my summers witnessing spectacular romantic gestures, extraordinary acts of chivalry, or wild outpourings of admiration between Papaw and his “Sugie.” Life probably didn’t seem so glamorous and magical for them at the time, and I’m sure there were many instances of frustration, disappointment and anger that passed over my young head. I can even remember a few times that did not. But for me, life at Papaw and Granny’s was a magical and fantastic time during which I, like their children and many children to follow, reaped the benefits of a loving family and a home built steadily on Christian morals, hard work ethic, and Southern comfort. Those are the timeless principles I have been blessed to observe, and what truly made these good, old days.

They are the same principles that will make coming days worth living for me and my children. Thank you, Granny and Papaw for your example 50 years in the making.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

A Thousand and two

She hadn't considered it in a very long time,

Maybe never.

What was it that made man worth the trouble?

Better yet, worth a desire?

Now that she thought of it, she had to acknowledge,

It could not be wholly separate from divine revelation,

Divine intervention.

The drawing that drew her, or any woman for that matter.

But especially her, with her principles and standards

Her need for the Divine.

Those details she had once dismissed

As nonessential to the foreordained scheme.

Or at least assumed would fall neatly into line with.

The one surely would not err out of line,

As he would follow The One, act according to plan.

That would be her sign, her comfort, her peace.

God only knows it was peace above all else that she craved.

The things that drew her, what whet and warranted desire,

Those had gotten lost in the formula,

In the well-meaning spiritual speak.

All she knew was when the time came, they must be squelched

Until all else were tested, tried, true.

It wasn't until one reminded her,

Spoke to that part of her soul where desire lay dormant,

Hidden, ignored.

Not only of the desire itself,

But of the sources, the stimulants that possessed the drawing power.

This one spoke truth in substance and in nature,

And glimpsing signs of life,

This one called her out.

This one spoke truth.

It was the truth that resonated.

That forced her to gaze in the reflection,

In the mirror of that soul's truth,

That reminded her of her own.

This one was not the first to do so, and perhaps he would not be the last.

She had known true devotion of the greatest self-sacrifice.

Unmoving, stable, steady

Strong arms to hold her when the world spun out of control.

That held her so tight they magnified the differing beats of their hearts,

Pressed tightly, clamoring against one another.

And when the world stopped spinning, those arms didn't let go.

Strong arms became shackles, and true devotion no longer bore the mark of truth.

She had known artists, wordsmiths, thinkers.

Each coming close, yet falling short of the mark.

Digging in vain to unearth desire, offering up their best.

Some bore false witness, others' efforts fell on fallow ground.

She could not be prompted.

A thousand had attempted and failed.

A thousand and one were not worth mentioning.

It was this kindred truth, and that spoken in her language,

Which drew out  desires she had long dismissed.

Demanded she be true to self; demanded she follow.

It astonished her to think perhaps she could follow.

She hadn't considered it in a very long time,

But perhaps The One had been winking at her considerations all along.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Great Expectations for Something Out of This World

I keep getting a whiff of something great.  It's just enough to keep me going, keep me searching, keep me hoping. 

It's the nights spent in sweet fellowship with girlfriends.  A stimulating conversation with a stranger.  The warmth and comfort of your loved one's arms.  A Sunday afternoon drive with a very young old soul. 

Let's be honest:  I'm chasing something I'm never going to find or fulfill- not completely.  And that is part of the tragic beauty of it all.  Yet, I refuse to believe God is a cruel, irony-laden tease.  It's just not so. 

We're made to seek out something more, and we're made to work passionately to improve the fascinating yet fallen world around us.  It's called pressing toward the mark. 

We won't be able to fully experience that high we're craving in a sustainable way this side of new heavens and a new Earth.  But I'm convinced that the more time we spend wth the Creator of all things good, the more we can taste and see here.  And it's well worth the investment.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Waltzing in Warm Rain

I had forgotten how nice a good rainshower can be. 

We were sitting at dinner last evening with a few friends when the bottom dropped out.  Torrential rain pounded down in sheets for what seemed like an hour.  Rivers flowed through the streets and the trees strained under the weight of water.

As others lamented forgotten umbrellas, a girlfriend piped up, "Oh, I love the rain!"   

Another friend, laughing, confirmed the fact, "Yes, just last week you went dancing out the door in a storm.  I've never seen you so happy." 

I was struck by the childish simplicity of her statement and all of a sudden the evening's shower didn't seem so bad.  And it hit me how often that is the case.  How a situation that might look dreadful, a shower that threatens to soak, might be just the refreshing cleanse that I need.  And how something as simple as the way you deal with a rainstorm reflects so much about how you deal with life. 

This evening, as the rain came down once more and I sat late at the office, I felt my spirits rise in anticipation and I rushed to finish my work that I might catch a few drops. 

Sure enough, I made it out in time for a waltz in warm summer rain.  And it was glorious. 

Like swimming in ditch rivers and taking mud baths with my sister.  Like front porch swinging, book in hand in the midst of a thunderstorm.  Like getting caught mid-hike in the woods with your first love.  Like shielding a bride in a golfcart as you dash across a courtyard.

I had forgotten how nice a good rainshower can be.  Thank you, Lindsey, for reminding me. 

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Love letters

I must credit this post to Tim Keller's The Prodigal God.  There are no original thoughts, simply original expressions. 

I lost myself down memory lane one recent evening and decided to make note of a few old flames. 

At one point in my life I was enamored with the sweet, funny guy with striking eyes and witty ways.  He knew how to catch and hold the attention of a crowd, and for a brief moment held mine as well.  Fluffy blonde hair you loved running your hands through and sea blue eyes that feigned innocence with dangerous ease. 

The athlete was cut, disciplined, gifted to be sure.  His talent was equal parts genetics and dedicated hours of practice.  Watching him perform, maneuvering through the court or on the track, was truly exhilirating.  The same resolve that made him a great player kept him by my side for years.

For a snippet in time there was the wildchild thrill-seeker.  Never still and never dull, he was always looking for a sidekick for his next adventure.  I admired and identified with his spirit.  Spending time with him gave me an opportunity to break out of my mold in the least daring way possible.  It was a slow trudging start on the long road to freedom.

The musician I entertained more for my own selfish pleasure, enjoying the adoration he showered upon me.  My appreciation of the songs he wrote in my name was more a testament to my overgrown ego rather than musical ability on his part.  He had a way with words, but the experience merely renewed my appreciation for a more emotionally balanced, self-respecting "manly" type. 

The former athlete turned politico took me back to younger, fonder times.  He shared my campaign-crazed mentality and obscene work hours which made our time together all the more convenient.  He possessed a savvy, an instinct, and a fearlessness that propelled him far past his contemporaries.  I admired the fact he was different in every way, yet we shared the same spirit.  He was a breath of fresh air I'd badly needed at the time.

The wordsmith was many things but each stemmed from his zest for life and people and new experiences.    His finesse with language could cut you to the core one moment and lull you into an admiring stupor the next.  And as maddening as I found other qualities of his, he just might be one of the most honest people you'd ever meet. 

For each of these man-children I developed a fondness (however fleeting) based not on their actions toward or for me; no desires and requests met;  certainly not their abilities to fulfill all my wildest dreams.  While the ways they showed affection, admiration, and pursuit all played a part I found myself endeared to each one simply for his own being.   For his essence, for all the qualities that made him; for his very nature. 

Why is it so easy for me to admire and communicate and engage with these, and yet a struggle to enter into fellowship with my God?  With the embodiment and originator of all noble, intriguing and praiseworthy qualities?  Who has very personally, intimately, patiently, persistently rescued me from my own silly self time and again.  From death and the grave, from very real and present perils.  Such a shame that my natural tendency is to approach this Jesus coldly, with the likes of a laundry list rather than a love letter. 

Why do I thank him for what He has done for me, but forget to marvel at all He simply is?  Yes, he has a track record, a resume of faithfulness, but do I love Him solely for what He has done for me?  Is He not worthy of my affection regardless of my state, regardless of outcomes or results?

Just as the gap between my sin nature and His perfection separates me from Him, so it is an appreciation of His very being that draws me into deeper relationship.  Into a more joyful and purposeful existence.

A purer motive and a truer heart of worship. 

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Lately my girlfriend and I have been talking about counterfeits and how to spot them when making major life decisions.  Sometimes things can look deceptively right, too good to be true.  And sometimes they are.  But I would be amiss to assume any good thing is not simply a good thing from above.  And I don't think that gives the proper due to our Savior.  So how to tell the difference?

Everything isn't always laid out clearly in black and white, this I know.  Yet we too often try to tiptoe through the minefields on our own and end up in a world of trouble.  The one thing I do know is the Lord likes to be consulted in the matter, and he does answer prayer.  I've watched it happen too many times to discount.

What brought this all upon us was the visit of my girlfriend's girlfriend a few weeks ago.   This darling girl was sharing with us a prayer she had prayed in her own life: 

Lord, I'm tired of doing things my way.  Please work out your will in my life and keep the counterfeits away.

Granted, in this case she had been praying specifically for the Lord to bring her her husband.  The fact that that same weekend she was also spending time with her soulmate and new fiancee made her approach all the more appealing. 

What is easy to overlook is the fact that God was faithful in every way he answered her prayer:  he certainly kept away the counterfeits for a time.  She recounted how for a while it seemed nothing worked out and there were more than a few heartaches along the way.  Times of loneliness, impatience, frustration.  I'm sure there were times she regretted praying that prayer. 

But still I'm praying it, in every area of life. 

Lord, open the doors you would have me go through and slam the others shut, definitively.  Help me to accept and let go of the things you do not have for me, as painful and unpleasant as that might be. 

And thank God for that testimony, and for the very present answer to a friend's friend's prayer.  Seeing them together, sharing a little in their excitement, while knowing with every fiber of my being that they truly are a match made in heaven, is the best hope and encouragement a girl could have.  It reminds me that God knows what He's doing, even when we don't.  And the best things in life:  career choices, education, friendships, relationships--- all are worth waiting for His best. 

Dear Lord, keep me in your way and keep away the counterfeits. 

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Walking the fine line

A strange feeling hit me the other day, and it still lingers. 

Its as if I've just woken up from a long sleep only to find I've realized a dream.  And I have. 

Four years ago, if you had told me I'd be where I am today, doing what I do each day, having these kinds of experiences and opportunities, meeting the people that I meet - I would have said you were crazy.  Or maybe I'd have gazed wistfully just before reconciling myself to the fact that it wouldn't happen, couldn't happen, didn't fit into the box I'd pegged myself into. 

A very idealistic me once promised myself that if I were to have the kinds of opportunities I now have, if I were to live and work in such a place and time as this, if I were to answer the highest calling I might imagine, that I would never, EVER take it for granted.  That I would always stay true to the cause and the course. 

You would laugh at idealistic me in the fall of 2006, and you would have good reason.  I have many times since.  But there's another side to my faded Pollyanna attitude that can't be overlooked.  And here is where the fine line is drawn. 

Just as absurd as the thought that this place, this job, this life is the end-all be-all is the thought that it's no big deal that I am here.  That it doesn't really matter.  That I should just enjoy myself and experience this city.  That I shouldn't still seek to serve a higher purpose and calling. 

On the one hand, a calling suggests an inflated sense of self.  On the other, a blase and uninspired approach denies the very real blessing, opportunity, and privilege I've been charged with.  To deny would be to squander.  And to squander would be the kiss of death to the part of my soul from whence the Pollyanna still escapes, wizened though she may be.  And it's just plain irresponsible.

I owe it to myself and to my Maker who placed me here to walk the fine line.  To acknowledge the opportunities and bear the responsibilities; all the while realizing it's not about me and it's not about the stone and marble and egos.  I began to err on the side of pessimism, but I've been reminded of the bigger picture, and I'm seeing things anew.