It seems like yesterday – but in actuality it was ….. groan ….. 30 years ago when my parents dropped me off at Reinhardt College back in 1983. I was reading about a pastor friend that was taking his daughter to what is now Reinhardt University (I still don’t quite accept that change) this fall as a Freshman and I told him if he looks around he’s likely to find my heart there. The memories just keep flooding back. I remember the first time I ever laid eyes on a young girl named Kim and was so heart struck that I knew at that moment that I would one day marry that girl. I remember wonderful friendships that are still very important to me even to this day.
But that was my story – the story that fills the Porter house these days is of my son Benjamin (or Ben as others call him) who will be off this Saturday, August 10 to South Georgia College in Douglas, Ga.
My hope for him is that he will make lasting friendships like I did. My desire is that he will grow into a man as he learns to make decisions and then to have to live with those decisions. My prayer is that he will find his place and faith in this world but never forget that home is forever in the places where his Mother and I reside.
Benjamin was always the one that had to do it himself. He went through one phase that frustrated his parents and teachers a like. When a teacher would encourage him in school he would go in the opposite direction. No matter how much anyone encouraged him that he could do it he seemingly fought to prove that he couldn’t do it – even though we knew he could. But that soon passed and he was soon proving to the world how strong and bright that he really was.
There is always something hard about raising your kids. On the one hand you are so proud of them and their accomplishments but on the other hand there is a part that grieves the fact that they are needing you less and less. That part comes across sometimes in frustration – perhaps even anger. But it’s always steeped in love and pride.
Benjamin heads to this next level of his life and I know that he’s going to be great in this next phase. He has found a young girl named Carly Anna that makes him happy and he seems set on living a life in law enforcement. He’s got it all laid out there in front of him and I can’t wait to watch him go and claim it.
As for me and his Mother – we enter that new phase called empty nest. We’ll learn to spend time with each other again and to enjoy our love and company with each other. But Benjamin and David a-like know that even though the nest is empty – there’s always room.
I try not to think about it too often because of the pain it causes. But from time to time I remember overt racism from my childhood. I don’t ever remember seeing a rule – but I remember there being an unspoken rule that whites and blacks did not share a swimming pool.
Fortunately, I am not old enough to have lived through the days of segregation – but I still remember things like the swimming pool and that blacks and whites did not sit together on the school bus. Whites sat on the back and blacks sat on the front. It seems silly now but the pain derives from well – “that’s just the way it was.” I remember early in my ministry I went into the Post Office in Plains, Ga and an older African American Gentleman held the door for me and called me, “Sir.” I was in my early 30’s and he was in at least in his 70’s. The wrong person was being called “Sir.” It felt like it was 1960 and the world of segregation was still alive and well. I grabbed the door as he went out and said, “Thank you Sir, and I hope you have a great day.” I remember that day because it was the day my eyes were opened that racism and class-ism are still alive and well.
Jesus taught us that there is a kingdom alive and working in this world and that it will one day result in all people living joyfully in that kingdom. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wasn’t the first person to have a dream – that dream began with Jesus. It’s why Jesus lived among us and died on a cross for us – so that we could be a part of that Kingdom of God.
I overheard a young person ask just a few weeks ago “Why God created Mexicans and black people.” Luckily I wasn’t in charge because I wouldn’t have acted so calmly. The answer given to that person was, a better question is, “Why did God create white people?” And that person was challenged to do a little research about where Jesus came from and what he really would have looked like.
I want to know why we are still asking these questions! I want to know why people would rather find differences in each other instead of commonalities.
I’m not going to change the world with a post on a blog that few people even look at. But who knows – maybe someone will see and have their heart warmed by the flow of God’s love. Who knows – maybe I will see things in me that still accept things because “that’s just the way it is.” Who knows – maybe the world can be changed – one person at a time! Blessings!
I am always amazed at how little it takes for many of us in today’s world to become inconvenienced. Right now we are having trouble with our DSL Internet connection. It’s actually been going on for about a year now where it will just go off. At times it’s a real inconvenience – oops there’s that word.
I remember a few years ago when televisions switched from analog to digital. You’d never know it nowadays – but back then that was a huge deal. People had 5 years of warning this was coming and when the time came it had to be extended again.
Don’t get me wrong – I love my television. I love that I can find something to watch at any time of the day. When I was a kid we had 3 or 4 channels. And that’s if the weather was good. And also – I was the remote control. I mean – when my father wanted to change the channel he told one of us boys to get up and go change it. Eventually the knob broke and we had to change the channel with a pair of pliers.
It all got me to thinking about whether or not we as a nation have become a spoiled nation. I remember a pastor friend I had several years ago that was forced by her church to carry around a beeper. They wanted to keep in contact with her no matter where she was. Of course, when a beep did come in she had to stop what she was doing and go find a phone or go to the person wanting to see her. Of course, now cell phones have all but eliminated beepers. Most families have a cell phone for every member of the family.
As late as the early 1980’s we had a rotary phone in our home. For those of you too young to know what a rotary phone is – that’s where every phone had a dial on it and you had to turn the dial around for each number. And if you started with one number and your finger slipped before you got that dial all the way around – then you had to hang up and start over. And if someone was on the phone – then that was just too bad – the only other option was a pay phone down at the 7-11. If someone was on the phone then you had to do something that most people today don’t even understand the word to anymore – you had to ………………wait!
There’s another thing that today’s generation will never understand. I have become addicted lately to Facebook. Some even call it Crackbook because it’s so addictive. I now regularly talk to or read about people that I haven’t seen in over 30 years. There are some people who I have actually had to pull out the old yearbooks to see who someone is. Then I’ll see the picture and think – “oh yeah – he/she was great.” But today’s generation really has no excuse for losing track of people for such extended times. Facebook – and other pages like it – will forever keep us linked to each other. In many ways – that’s not a horrible thing – but will generations to come really know what it means when someone says, “absence makes the heart grow fonder?”
I don’t know – I’m not saying we are spoiled – I’m just posing the question. I remember a pastor in Plains who was talking about “The good ole days.” He said once that he had lived in the “good ole days” and he preferred paved roads, running water and indoor toilets. The world is different and in some cases it’s great – and in others – well not so much. But the question remains – how will future generations look back on us. Will they be so spoiled that they think we are humble – or will we be a people who learns to appreciate every day we have as a gift from God. Will we learn to never take things for granted? Will we learn that living is not a right – but a privilege?
I was looking through some of my old sermons the other day. The pages were already turning yellow as I looked over them. I was left with one interesting thought which was, “bless the hearts of those poor people that had to listen to those sermons.” I mean, I read them and just wondered what it was that I was thinking. I may be exaggerating a tad here on this point – but they were different to say the least. And it got me to thinking about Sanctification.
Look at it this way. What would the church look like if people accepted the Lord at whatever age in their life and just spent the rest of their days basking in the glow of God’s grace? What if the church decided to stop growing, studying and learning? Well the pessimist in me – you know – that little devil that sits on all of our shoulders – whispered that things wouldn’t look much different than they do already. I tend to believe the optimist on my other shoulder that things aren’t that bad but it does bear thinking about. Many of us were raised on the old saying that still rings true today that God and the Bible are the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. But I wonder if some of us have taken that too much to heart. Perhaps some of us have subconsciously decided that if it was good enough for God then its good enough for us????
Of course where that falls apart is when we forget that we are not God. The goal of the Christian is not to be the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. We are meant to grow, to learn, to go forth in service. So what happens to those of us that never take the time to build a relationship with God? Well, my guess is that we would always look like those old sermons of mine. Not too deep and a bit on the boring side. I mean, think of the ramifications of this. If we have, consciously or unconsciously, decided that the relationship we had when we accepted Christ was good enough then and is also good enough now – then we are losing out on the grace of sanctification. It’s not enough to just be justified – set right with God. We need also to be sanctified – set on the path of drawing closer to God. Or as John Wesley put it – we need to be going on to perfection. We can’t be sanctified, we can’t be going on to perfection if we never left the altar that glorious day that we gave our lives to Christ.
It’s time to leave the altar. The pianist has played way too many verses of the closing hymn waiting on us to get up and get going. Get up! Read your Bible! Get involved in a small group! Go out into the world and put what you’ve learned into action. Do as John Wesley said – “OFFER THEM CHRIST!”
There is just too much as stake to do anything else!
It’s funny! There are days when I can’t even remember where I laid my keys down 5 minutes ago. Once I lost a set of church keys and found them about 6 months later IN the coke machine. But even with these failments (I created a new word) I am still amazed at the human brain. For instance, I graduated from LaGrange College in 1987. I left LaGrange, GA to enter the full time ministry in 1989. But if you were to take your phone right now and type in the area code for LaGrange, Ga and then add the digits 883-6010, the person on the other end would answer the phone, “Domino’s Pizza.” The first email account I ever had – the password was 4775682. I have never used that sequence of numbers since that first email account but for some reason that number just won’t go away.
It’s amazing to me how numbers and lyrics of songs can get stuck in our heads and it’s almost like it becomes a part of us. Every time I see a Domino’s advertisement I immediately think of dorm days at LaGrange College and that telephone number flashes in my head.
I was thinking about this and wondered if we were losing these types of memories in the church. I know that I can recite John 3:16 in the King James language (amazing since I haven’t used King James since I was a kid) without hardly even thinking about it. Other texts and creeds and hymns just fly around in my head. I told my minister of music once, “Make me open my hymnal.” So many of the hymns I can sing without even opening the book and I challenged him to sing songs that made me “open my hymnal.”
I worry many in our society do not have these texts and bible stories and hymns that reside so deep in the human soul that they can be brought up at will.
Tell your family, friends and anyone else that will listen your life stories. Share the stories of life and Bible and singing that have created who you are. If I want a pizza and I’m in LaGrange, GA then I can dial 883-6010 without even having to look it up. But how much more important is it for me to have the Word of God and Songs of faith “marinated” in my soul!
Is your Soul marinated in memories of faith? Are you doing all you can to help those in your midst to also share these memories?
In 1939 two major movies were made. They were The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind. The Wizard of Oz achieved two Academy Awards – one of which wasn’t even for the movie but for the song Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Gone with the Wind won 10 academy awards including best picture. Any movie of any generation no matter how good could have gone up against Gone with the Wind and still met with the same fate as The Wizard of Oz.
I believe there is a lesson to be learned here in life. I have a friend that has been my friend from 17 years old. His name is R Allen Stewart. Allen was always the Gone with the Wind to my Wizard of Oz. He won all the awards, traveled to other countries and became the President of everything he ever wanted. But I remember a night at Reinhardt College in 1984 where Allen went all around the student center at a Valentine’s Banquet and told everyone not to vote for him and Tracey Young Stewart for the King and Queen of the Banquet. He told them to vote for me and Kim Weller Porter. And we did win – the picture is in the Reinhardt College yearbook to prove it.
This stuck in my mind the other day while watching a snippet of The Wizard of Oz. Allen has always been a Gone with the Wind and he could have totally ignored me and taken all his accolades and been so happy – but he didn’t – he always included me and viewed me as equals. Even today we talk 30 years later and that bond is still there.
Now – this is not just a sentimental story – there is a point. Truth be told – most of us in life are The Wizard of Oz. We’re a great movie and we have stood the test of time. But the Gone With the Winds have changed the face of everything for ever. There are few Gone with the Winds in life. The bottom line is what we do with who we are. For those of us Wizard of Oz’s – we can either spend our life giving thanks for what we have or we can live it in regrets for might have been if only Gone with the Wind had come out in 1938 or 1940. For those few that have been blessed to be Gone with the Winds you can either live your life helping others to be all that they can be or you can live a life patting yourself on the back for how life has been so good.
The choice is ours. We can either use what God has blessed us with to help others or we can horde it and live life for ourselves.
I think it should also be added that in different relationships that we are all a Gone with the Wind to someone’s Wizard of Oz. It’s the ultimate Golden Rule – treating other’s like you would like to be treated.
I’ve often laughed at a story I tell about myself from time to time. It’s a story I like to call, “The Day I found out I wasn’t gifted.” The story goes something like this.
I was in the 6th grade at the Glenwood Elementary School. I had always been a pretty good student. When I was in the 4th grade I even competed in the spelling bee and came an “icicle” short of competing in the state spelling bee in Statesboro, GA, which in 1974 seemed to be another country. I competed in a literary writing event when I was in the 5th grade. I don’t remember what I wrote on but I got to go 5 miles across the bridge to Mount Vernon. It was a big day! I didn’t win but I got a ribbon for third place I think.
But this story is about the 6th grade and the day we were all to be given a big test. It was some new fangled thing that was going on – the teachers had been talking about it for weeks. They told us that it was a test that we really couldn’t study for but that it was really important. They called it “The Gifted Test.” This test would show how smart we were.
It was an exciting day. I was in the classroom at the top of the stairs to the right of the old Glenwood Elementary School. We were ushered in and given the test and told that we had so many minutes to complete the test.
I looked at the first question and would you believe it – I knew the answer. I marked it and went on. What was amazing to me was how easy this test was. I was breezing through it. It was the easiest thing that I had ever seen. I got to the bottom of the page and looked back over the test and thought how smart I was. An amazing thing was happening though. As I finished I began to look around the room and noticed how hard the other students were still working. I thought to myself, I must be the smartest person in this room. Why do these kids have to work so hard at this test? So I just sat back in the glow of my brilliance. About 15 minutes later the teacher called time and asked us all to bring our papers to the front of the class as we all filed out of the room.
I remember this day like it was yesterday. Do you ever have those moments that are just etched into your memory? It’s not a huge thing like the Kennedy assassination or the Space Shuttle explosion. It’s just one of those memories that were only huge in your life. You don’t know why you remember – you just do.
As I took my turn placing my paper on the teacher’s desk – I looked the teacher in the eye and said, “This was the easiest test I’ve ever taken; I am going to enjoy being a student in your gifted class.” To which the teacher bristled and said, “You forgot to answer the questions on the back.”
And that was the day I learned I wasn’t gifted