Happy Days

Happy days are here again. Jack Yellen, 1929

“Happy are the people whose God is Lord.” King David, c. 1000 BC

Happy Days are upon us once again, in Happy, Texas. This weekend we will have rodeos, a parade, and a picnic in the park. Old friends and new will gather together to celebrate the existence of our Happy little town that came into being just over 100 years ago.

Its first slogan was, “The biggest little town in Texas” but now we are known as the “Town without a frown”. Like most towns in this part of the world, Happy was an agricultural hub for the many hardworking pioneers who settled in this area. The new town’s very existence was endangered when the railroad bypassed it, but that was no problem for the enterprising folks of that generation – they just picked the town up, buildings and all, and moved it to where the railroad was.

Happy has been through a lot in its short time, but it has always lived up to its name. And the reason, I am convinced, is not because of its convenient location between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, nor because of its close proximity to skiing, fishing, hunting and surfing.

No, Happy is happy for the same reason that Israel was happy over 3,000 years ago: It is because the Lord is our God!

What’s not to be happy about?

He who gives heed to the word will prosper, and happy is he who trusts inthe Lord. Proverbs 16:20

The Remarkable Kenneth Wood

Do everything in a quiet and calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.

Francis de Sales

I watched my neighbor Kenneth from my kitchen window with great interest. He lived across the alley from us and he was walking out to his pickup using his walker. He came down the steps, crossed the lawn, went out the gate and got into the truck. I wondered what Kenneth could possibly be up to, and then it happened: He started up his pickup truck!

"Big deal!" you might be thinking, and you would be right - it was a very big deal. You see, Kenneth Wood, my 80+ year old, neighbor was blind!

I have to admit that Kenneth, in addition to being a very good friend, was very good for me. He always seemed to be an island of calm in a tempestuous sea. I would go over for coffee every Monday and Thursday at 10:00 A.M. No matter how busy or stressed I was, it was always good to just go over and just visit. I would read the paper to him, or pay his bills, or just sit and talk. And the cares of the world would just seem to go away for a while.

There is something very calming about a blind man. Maybe it's because their lives are slow by necessity, maybe it's because they have learned to accept the things they cannot change. I don't know for sure, having never been blind or calm, but I do know this. Kenneth Wood, confined to a wheelchair, wearing a hearing aid, and living in a dark world, was probably the calmest man I have ever known. In fact, Kenneth Wood was simply a remarkable man. 

Kenneth has been gone for nearly a dozen years now. Yet to this day, whenever things get too hectic or out of control, I can think of Kenneth and enjoy an indescribable peace at the memory of his calming influence. Do you have any friends like that? 

Say to him, "Be careful, keep calm and do not be afraid. Isaiah 7:4, NIV

 

Moms and Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting

All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother. Abraham Lincoln

My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it. Mark Twain

It was on a Wednesday evening in October of 2011 that I received the news: My mother had been diagnosed with lung cancer. One of the sweetest women that you could ever hope to know - a woman who never smoked - had a cancer growing in her lungs.

About two hours later I was at Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting with the church. Two of our young mothers were there. One was wrestling with her one year old and the other was wrestling with her two year old. I didn't have to ask what they were thinking - it had to be the same thing that all young mothers have thought who have wrestled with their little ones throughout time: "Why do I even bother?"

And it brought to mind my own mother. While Dad always attended both Sunday services with the family, it was Mom who made sure that we were at Bible classes and the worship each Wednesday evening, without fail. She had three kids who were six years apart. That equates to about ten solid years of "Wednesday Night Wrestling". She had to have wondered (especially during my youth) "Why do I even bother?" But Mom knew... she knew that she was not merely passing time - she was raising servants of God!

And so on the night I received the news, as I watched these two champions of faith wrestling with their little ones, and as I thought about my own mother, I could only be struck by how truly blessed these two toddlers are. And as I think about my own mother, knowing what she has been through and now what she must surely be facing, I am comforted in the knowledge that she is prepared.

You see, my mother has been preparing all of her life. She is prepared now, by the grace of God, because she has been faithful. She is receiving, and will continue to receive, strength from her Heavenly Father who loves her more than words can describe. And, to a smaller degree, she has been toughened through years of wrestling with one rambunctious little boy. A little boy who has grown up, finally, to be a man who appreciates just a bit more the woman who sacrificed so much to make him a servant of our Lord. This, dear friends, is why moms bother.

My Mom's name is Linda. After two rounds of chemo and countless rounds of prayers - many by some of you who are reading this right now - and by the grace of God... my dear mother appears to be cancer free. What can we say except thank you and we love you. 

Isn't God good!

Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her. Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all. Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

Proverbs 31:28-30, NIV 

 

Dignity in Defeat

It's not whether you win or lose but how you play the game. Old Proverb

Our family has had the privilege of several enjoyable trips to the Texas High School State basketball tournament. Over the years, we have seen great athletes, great coaches and great games, but we have also witnessed something that is not so great - a few very poor losers.

Apparently the modern way of showing your grief after a big loss is to pull your jersey over your head and fall to the ground. We saw this a number of times in a distressingly high percentage of the games played. Now, to be fair to these players, one can understand the disappointment of losing a state championship game. Winning a state championship is probably the main goal and ultimate dream of every high school athlete, so coming so close and losing when the goal is so close at hand can be devastating. However, since there are over 1,200 public high schools in Texas, but only 6 divisions that can have a state champion, it seems prudent for coaches and parents to teach these young adults how to conduct themselves with dignity in defeat.

I witnessed such a lesson at one tournament in particular. It happened in one of the small school divisions when, oddly enough, one team won and the other team lost. The winners had no problem what-so-ever - it's easy to hold your head up when you win. But one young man on the losing team just could not contain his emotions. At the final buzzer, he immediately pulled his jersey over his head and went into full "loser" mode.

The entire crowd had witnessed this behavior from a number of "losers" already, so we were all used to this conduct. The young man's coach, however, was not. He went over when he saw what his player was doing, bent down, and said something. I suppose only the two of them will know exactly what was said, but the coach's comments had an instant effect. The player put his jersey back where it belonged and promptly walked to the other team and began shaking each one of their hands.

And, having learned the most valuable lesson of how to possess dignity in defeat, this young man walked off the court a winner.

For the Lord gives wisdom, and from His mouth comes knowledge and understanding. He holds victory in store for the upright. Proverbs 2:6-7, NIV

 

A Tribute to the School Mom

Her children rise up and call her blessed. ( a proverb by King Lemuel's mother)

The junior high and high school in Happy is a bit less happy today, having lost their school secretary this week. But Mev was much more than a mere secretary. She was the one the kids first saw when they walked into the principal's office in the morning. It was Mev who listened to their clever excuses as to why they were late, it was Mev who prepared those who had erred in their ways and were about to meet the man who would introduce them to "the paddle". It was Mev who listened to the kids who just needed a shoulder to cry on, Mev who rejoiced with them when they achieved some minor accomplishment that was anything but minor in their eyes.

It was Mev who acted as the school principal whenever the principal had to be out of the office. It was Mev who drove a bus, because the school was short of bus drivers (on one occasion, into a small herd of black Angus cows, who had picked the middle of the county road to bed down on one dark morning) It was Mev who worked overtime in the summer months, because it was needed, and Mev who worked overtime in the winter months, because it was needed.

Mev served under two superintendents, three principals and with dozens of teachers. More importantly, Mev positively impacted literally hundreds of young men and women who were in desperate need of such positive influence. Mev always had a smile for everyone, when they came to her office - even when she didn't feel like smiling. In fact, last night was the first time in my memory that I walked into her office without seeing a smile. You see, she and her husband were packing up her things to leave that office for the last time. To tell the truth, it's the first time that I walked into Mev's office that I didn't feel like smiling.

Mev is going to be missed on a lot of different levels for a lot of different reasons, but the main reason is this: Happy is not losing someone who was "just a secretary". Happy is losing it's School Mom... and it just won't be the same without her.

A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gates. Proverbs 31:30-31, NIV