Last week Clare and I took an afternoon to cruise the blue line highways of the Upstate. We made a special effort to find good homegrown tomatoes. We stopped at several roadside stands and found delicious heirloom tomatoes at several of our favorite places. We also found a few figs, an abundance of late summer peaches, and early fall apples. At every stand we saw watermelons galore.
My mother was allergic to watermelon. Even a small spill of the sticky pink juice on her kitchen counter caused her to break out in hives, so we never had watermelons in our home. You no doubt have heard the wise old saying, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” In our family that was the gospel truth.
As far as I know it is next to impossible to eat watermelon without the juice running down your chin and off your elbows. If we had watermelon at all it was in the backyard where everything contaminated by watermelon drippings could be washed away with the garden hose.
My brothers and sisters and I were, of course, exposed to watermelon in other circumstances. Most of our cousins enjoyed the summertime fruit and looked forward to a big wedge of watermelon with the same anticipation as a cone of homemade peach ice cream.
Elaine was one of my classmates at Cooperative Elementary School. Her birthday was right after the beginning of the new school year. She invited every student in Mrs. Pearl Fairbetter’s fourth-grade class to her party.
Even though I was scared of girls, Mama said I had to go to Elaine’s party. She was our neighbor. Not going to her party would be rude. Reluctantly, I went. There were thirteen girls there. I was the only boy who attended.
I guess Elaine’s daddy felt sorry for me. He told me I could help him cut the watermelon. That was just fine with me. I liked watermelon, and I didn’t like girls. Turns out the girls were too prissy to eat watermelon. Elaine’s daddy said I would have to eat the whole thing by myself. I ate as much as I could. I got as sick as a dog. I have never liked watermelon since that day. Read more…
This far into summer I notice that when I take a few minutes to sit quietly, I invariably become aware of a faint humming sound. It might be emanating from my car. The source may be my computer. The sound could come from a home appliance. Humming sounds can be natural occurrences. Whales and dolphins beneath the ocean, many varieties of insects, and even the pulsating of heavenly bodies can produce distinctive hums. Some people hear a constant hum caused by the flow of their own blood in the small vessels of their inner ear.
We might well ask, “What is that humming sound?” This time of year it could be a hummingbird.
The first week of August brought a few days of blessed relief from the oppressive heat and humidity of our dog day afternoons. On Monday of last week I enjoyed a second cup of coffee with Clare on our screened back porch overlooking the flower garden. Hummingbirds provided the entertainment while we read the newspaper. The tiny, feathered creatures put on quite an aerial display as they competed for the sweet nectar of the flowers and the sugar water in our feeders.
At the end of the day, as the sun was setting, Clare and I again sat on our own back porch. We were treated to an amazing air show. As we enjoyed our supper, we witnessed an incredible display of aerobatics. Agile flying machines were buzzing our yard, staging mid-air combat maneuvers that would impress even Air Force top guns. Late summer is the prime season for hummingbirds.
Hummingbirds are always interesting to watch. Their activity increases as the summer days grow shorter. Their excited pace and almost perpetual motion are at once fascinating and wearying to the observer. Read more…
Last week we took our vacation at one of our favorite places, Pawleys Island, South Carolina. Not all of our family was with us, and we missed those who could not be there. But eight adults and six grandchildren made a full house.
As is usually the case, I started the week leading worship and preaching at Pawleys Island Chapel. We had a joyous time of worship with many local folks and beach visitors.
The week together with our family is a time to build lasting memories – singing and storytelling in the shade; gathering around a long trestle table to feast on cold boiled shrimp, dripping popsicles licked to the stick on the back porch; and children lining up for baths, brushing teeth and hair, pajama time. The settling down to bedtime stories and prayers brings a strange quietness to the house. Then the adults might enjoy a movie or pleasant conversation. A week at the beach is a close encounter with people we love and hold dear. Read more…
In the State of the Union Address, delivered to the 77th United States Congress on January 6, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt enumerated four fundamental freedoms that should be the rights of human beings everywhere in the world:
- Freedom of speech and expression
- Freedom for every person to worship in his or her own way
- Freedom from want
- Freedom from fear
“The Four Freedoms” speech inspired a set of four paintings by Norman Rockwell. They were printed in The Saturday Evening Post in 1943, accompanied by essays on the Four Freedoms.
Every freedom carries with it certain responsibilities. Perhaps the Bill of Rights should include a companion Bill of Responsibility.
During the month of July, this column will feature the Four Freedoms and the responsibilities that accompany them. This is the fourth in the series:
Freedom from Fear
On the very day of Bill Drake’s funeral, while hundreds of friends and family were gathered at Memorial Auditorium to pay respects to Bill and to support his family, Bill’s radio studio was broken into and vandalized. It was an ordinary crime made more heinous by the occasion. Read more…
I was ordained on April 1, 1970. That’s right! I was ordained on April Fools Day.
Perhaps you can imagine the jokes and the teasing that simple fact has prompted.
Clare and I were members of Crescent Hill Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. I was two months away from graduation from Seminary. Dr. John Claypool was our pastor. He was also my professor of preaching at Southern Seminary. It was appropriate that John would chaire my ordination council and preach my ordination sermon. In the homily, he used a poem entitled “The Desiderata.” The Latin word meaning desired things.
At the ordination service, the church presented a Bible to me. John had placed an abbreviated copy of the poem inside the Bible as a bookmark.
That copy indicates that the poem was written in 1692 at Old St. Paul’s Church, in Baltimore, Maryland. Read more…