“Poppy, Can We do Something Fun?”

Brody:RalphI am on the campus of Harding University (Searcy, Arkansas) this week.  This is their annual Lectureship. Christians from across the country have gathered. There are a variety of classes, keynote presentations, etc. I spoke yesterday and tomorrow will gather with others at the Harding School of Theology luncheon.

Monday morning, Christine (our oldest daughter)and her two sons, Brody (four years old) and Lincoln (four months old) were walking across the campus.  At one point, Brody said to me “Poppy, can we do something fun?”

Just as he said this, four students walked by. They appeared to be on their way to the library. They smiled when they heard his words. I said to them, “That does sound like a good idea doesn’t it?” They were still smiling but said nothing. However I sensed they were thinking, “I too would love to something fun right now!”

Do You Have Time to Be Present?

BrodyTractor2Time is so strange.

How can you graduate from high school one year and then what seems like just a few years later be holding a grandchild?  Why do some days seem to last forever (especially when you are sick or a toddler is crying) and then entire years seem to breeze by?

The other day our grandson Brody was at our house.  He and I rode our riding lawnmower (without the blade) around and around our yard most every day.  He sat in my lap and “drove.”  Guess what?  I was in no hurry.

My phone was in the house.  My iPad was turned off.  My computer was in my briefcase.

The last thing I want Brody to remember is that I starred at a screen instead of being fully present with him.

Being fully present meant that I was with him and not thinking about a post, a tweet, a call or anyone else.

Being fully present meant that I wanted to be with him completely.  Yes, even at two and a half years old.

Being fully present meant that I wanted to live an unhurried life with him.

He is home now.  I look forward to seeing him again.  In the meantime, I want to remember that life is not about living in regret at what might have been.  Nor is life about constantly saying “If only.”

Life is about being fully present in the one life that I am living — to the honor of God.



What are your greatest challenges to being fully present with others?


Ministry Inside.99

mask_photography4But what will people think?

Years ago, Charlotte and I were walking across a parking lot of a large church building in Kansas City.  We had an appointment with a marriage therapist.  This was our first visit with him.

I was nervous.

I was nervous that someone who I knew might see me.   I was nervous they would find out that we were going to a counselor to talk about our marriage.

The truth is that I was more concerned about how we looked, than the reality of our our lives.

No, we were not in a crisis.  We were not dealing with any sort of trauma or disaster within our marriage.  But, we were dealing with an important issue.

We were stuck.

We knew we needed to make some real adjustments but we were unsure what to do.

Yet, I was not as concerned at that moment about addressing those realities as I was the appearance.  I was more concerned about the possibility of another’s perception than the reality of our relationship.

This is not a good place to be.  In fact, it is embarrassing to think about this now.  Yet, sometimes church leaders can find themselves worrying more about a possible perception instead of addressing the reality of their lives.

Unfortunately, this can get even worse.  Church leaders can attempt to control and shut down what their family members are actually experiencing.

Church leaders can communicate to their families that they need to act like everything is ok, even when it isn’t. There are some real consequences to this behavior. 

When the Encourager is Missing

At some point, by the grace of God, many of us have the opportunity to be influenced by an encourager. Very often, encouragers challenge us to imagine a future. They present possibilities. They inspire confidence.

I once heard the following story about my grandfather and have since thought about it many times.


My grandfather, John Martin, grew up in Oklahoma. His father had the reputation of being a very hard man. Meanwhile, his mother was a godly woman who was a part of a nearby church. They had two sons.

His mother had a reputation throughout the community for helping people when they were sick. She would often stay with a sick family and care for them until they got well. Her husband, however, could be cruel. He would often speak of his son Leonard, complimenting him for all that he could do to help around the farm. Yet, he rarely had a kind word to say regarding his other son, John (my grandfather).

John graduated first in his high school class. Then, with the encouragement of his mother, he enrolled at the University of Oklahoma. He wanted to become a medical doctor. He earned 110 hours of credit but then his senior year in school, his mother died. His father told the townspeople: “John doesn’t have enough sense to make a doctor.” His father cut off the tuition forcing his son to quit his studies.

John had not only lost his encourager but his tuition as well.

John went back home and began working on the farm. He later drove a truck. Then, during World War II, John worked on an assembly line in a munitions plant in Oklahoma City. He loved math and would often work trigonometry and calculus problems on his break, just for the challenge. One day, while on the assembly line, he was calculating some mathematical problems, when a friend asked, ”John, why aren’t you up there (pointing to the manager’s office)?”  

He married a young schoolteacher by the name of Iris and they moved to Searcy, Arkansas, where he worked at the Harding Dry Cleaners (on the campus of Harding University) until retirement. At the laundry, he once again worked math problems during his lunch break. He worked at this laundry until he retired.

He had dreamed of becoming a medical doctor. However, he had long ago lost his encourager.

Many years later, when my grandfather was in his 90s and living in a nursing home, he reflected on this story. My dad asked him about his years at the university, the death of his mother, and his dream of becoming a doctor.

He finally said, “I know I could have done it. I know I could have.”

This chapter in my grandfather’s life is a significant part of my own story. Because of this story, I have learned to value the contribution that certain encouragers have made in my life. I have realized that were it not for some significant encouragers, I could easily have given up and taken the path of least resistance.


Is there a family story that has been significant in shaping your life? Do you think about this often?

When Baby and “Poppie” Came Without Clothes

I got back from Nashville this morning at 2:00 AM.

Charlotte and I were there for the birth of our first grandchild.

Brody was born on Thursday at 5:03 PM.

Of course he was born without clothes.

A nurse wrapped Brody in a swaddling blanket. For several days in the hospital, he was wrapped in an assortment of these baby blankets.

Now of course, the grandparents are supposed to have clothes. Only this grandparent didn’t.

Yep, I forgot to take my clothes to Tennessee.

Now that’s embarrassing to admit.

I’m not sure what happened. Early Wednesday morning, Charlotte and I were getting ready to leave our home in Central Texas and travel to Nashville. Charlotte had her suitcase packed. She also had clothes to hang up in our car. I packed another suitcase. I also brought pants and shirts to hang up in our car. There were enough clothes to wear for four days.

I put everything in the car. Well, almost everything.

That night we got to Nashville. We were unloading our car and bringing our clothes into the house. As I hung Charlotte’s clothes in the guest bedroom closet, I had a sick feeling.

I forgot my clothes.

No shirts.

No pants.

I only had shoes, underclothes and what I arrived wearing, a shirt and a pair of shorts.

I could not believe this.

So the next day, I bought a pair of pants and for four days borrowed Phillip’s (my son-in-law) shirts.

Somehow, in the middle of this wonderful birth, I forgot about the inconvenience of not bringing my own clothes. I was totally absorbed in the birth of this little boy and condition of my daughter. Sometime soon, I want to reflect on what it means for me to be a grandfather (thanks Monica T. for suggesting this in a comment on Facebook). I have so much to learn though I am excited about the opportunity.

(By the way “Poppie” is the name at this point at least until this child changes it.)


What did your grandparents do right? What would you like to duplicate when you have grandchildren?



Brody Martin Wood

Brody Martin Wood was born at 5:03 PM on Thursday in Nashville, Tennessee. Now this is a moment that our family has been waiting for!

Mother and baby (and father) are fine.Brody1.jpg

More later, but for now we are so grateful and excited about this first grandchild.

What Will This Child Call You?

Our first grandchild (a boy) is due on September 1.noname.jpg

This past weekend, Christine and Phillip were here for their first baby shower. Jamie was here as well and so we all had a very enjoyable weekend.

They asked me a question, however, that is very difficult. In fact, I don’t have an answer yet.

“What do you want this child to call you?”

“Jim?” (Ok, I wasn’t serious.).

I still have no idea.

What are the options? Grandpa, granddad, grandfather, pop, papa, pappy, big papa, big daddy, pop-pop, paw-paw, pa, pa-paw and poppy. Are there more?

What did you call your grandfather?

Building Important Moments Through Family Vacations

One of my daughters told me the other day that our vacations are some of her happiest memories.smoky-mountains.jpg

Our family vacations are very happy memories for me as well. These were good times that we spent together. These good memories did not happen because we spent a lot of money on our vacations. Nor, did these good memories come about because everything went as planned. Yet, there are some things we did which were very meaningful and helped to build some of these memories.

I recently wrote a short piece entitled, “6 Reflections on Family Vacation” for the Western Hills Church (Temple, Texas) youth website. You can find these reflections here.


Do you have good memories of family vacations? What made these vacations such good memories for you?


Now This is Different — Poem 1

Now this is different.

At the bottom of this post is Poem 1. My first poem. I have wanted to try this for quite sometime. What better time to start since April is National Poetry Month.

I wrote this with the patient encouragement of L. L. Barkat (Author of Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places and a book of poems entitled, Inside Out.) For me, beginning was the most difficult part of writing this piece. I did not know how to just suddenly begin. She suggested focusing on a memory. That was very helpful.


I began thinking about one of the most pleasurable memories of my childhood. Each Christmas, our family would travel from Dallas to Arkansas where both sets of grandparents lived. My maternal grandparents lived just outside of the city limits of Monticello, Arkansas on a two lane highway, Arkansas Highway 4. I loved going to their house. Behind their house was a barn, a chicken coop, a garden, and plenty of tall majestic pine trees. Both the people and the setting created wonderful memories.

So this poem is a reflection of those moments.

(Now I need to tell you that I post Poem 1 with some hesitation. It sort of feels like the thought of posting my first sermon. Now that would not be pretty!)

A simple white frame house

Sweet gum trees in the front

Log trucks passing by

The place where grandparents stay

Wonderful smells in the kitchen

A white cart full of desserts

Soon it will be the Christmas meal

Grandchildren coming

Snow on the ground

Warm-very warm inside

A once a year moment

Where families become one family

Stories are told

Presents are opened

Grandchildren play outside

While uncles doze by a gas heater

Soon the sun begins to set

One last meal of left-overs

Going home.  Good-byes.

Another Christmas

Most leave the white frame house

Two stay

One last reminder of Christmases to come

Arkansas Pines and Family Roots

We drove across the southeastern part of Arkansas last week on Highway 278. Our guardians were the pine trees on both sides of the road, standing tall and majestic.

My uncle died and my mom and I were traveling to Monticello, Arkansas for the funeral. I love this part of Arkansas. It is a beautiful place and holds good memories of my childhood. Some of these memories were first formed when our family would take the twice yearly trips from Dallas to Monticello. One trip was at Christmas and the other was during the summer. This area around Monticello, Arkansas is where my grandparents lived as well as aunts, uncles, and cousins.

My grandparents died a number of years ago. However, several aunts and numerous cousins remain in the area. For a number of years, I did very little to invest in or maintain the relationships. This was my loss. My six cousins are great people and I like their families as well. On this trip, I came away particularly impressed with my cousins’ children and grandchildren.

Traveling to this part of Arkansas and having conversations with my aunts, cousins, and their families was a reminder to me of how important these people are to my story. Now that I have long moved out of those years, I have grown to really appreciate such an important part of my past.
Yes, being in Monticello has a way of stirring up old memories. I remember, as a little boy, following my grandpa through the snowy woods around Christmas time (he had worked in the logging industry for many years). He showed me the tracks of a deer. Was I ever impressed!

I remember well going inside that white frame house of my grandparents and hearing that screen door slam behind me. I can still smell purple hull peas on the stove. In the oven was turkey and dressing. Those smells and sights are alive in my memory.

Maybe the memories that mean the most are those which in some way form and shape your own story. I suspect that is why I remember and treasure some of the things I do.


Do you relate to this? Do you ever go “home” or to a significant place in your childhood and feel as if a part of you has reconnected?