OLD DRIVE-IN MOVIES

Driving to campus and going to classes 

Then homework when I got home 

Then clocking in at my part time job

And getting back home after one

There wasn’t much time for winding down 

For this routine was done every day 

But once in a while on a Saturday night 

I’d have a date and enough cash to pay

Sometimes we’d go to the Tastee Freeze

For a burger and fries and a shake 

Then to the old drive-in theater 

For a movie my girl I would take

Pulling up to the ticket booth

One price covered all in the car

Then I’d find a spot just far enough back 

Not too close and not too far

Rusty old speakers on metal posts

Provided the movies’s sound

We’d simply hang one inside the car

On a window that was partially down

Sometimes we had to just sit for a while 

Until it was totally dark

But we didn’t mind as we snuggled up

And did what kids do when they park

If I had enough change in my pocket 

Or some dollars in my possession 

I’d go get some soda and popcorn 

At a shack where they sold the 

concessions 

Then settling in with my snacks and my girl

The projector finally shone 

On a giant screen at the edge of the trees

And the movie had finally begun 

It mattered little what movie we saw

Or how muffled the staticky sound 

For it was enough just to be hanging out 

With people like us all around 

Times have changed and these places are gone

I admit that it makes me quite sad

For those nights at the old drive-in movies

Were among the best I have had

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LOOK, DAD! I CAUGHT ONE!

LOOK, DAD! I CAUGHT ONE!

My stonewashed jacket and schoolboy eyeglasses tell you it’s the 1990s. That puts me in my mid to late 30s. The fish I caught seems to me in my limited fishing experience to be an average catch; not that amazing, but not too shabby, either. That I’m looking back reveals that I want a particular person to see it. That I’m grinning like the Cheshire Cat betrays how proud I am of my success.

My Dad had come to visit me in Central Pennsylvania where I pastored a church from 1996 to 2000. Knowing his love for fishing, I arranged for a friend to take us to a lake for a day on his boat. Personally, I do not like to fish and can’t remember if I’ve fished since that day. When we were kids Dad would often take us fishing, and every sibling, including my little sister, loved it. But I did not. I rarely felt smaller and more insecure than when baiting a hook or casting a line or trying to ascertain if I even had a “nibble.” I just couldn’t get the hang of it. But my aversion to fishing aside, I always had an incessant desire to please my Dad. To say, in essence, “Look, Dad, I caught one!”

On this chilly day on Raystown Lake as an adult coming up on my middle years, as a husband and father of two, as an accomplished minister, I still had that inexplicable and perpetual desire to please my father. Mind you, he was proud of me whether I caught a fish or not, but to see the smile on his face and that attaboy gleem in his eyes was priceless. Though but a fleeting blip on the screen of my increasingly long life, that second of seeing my Dad watch me succeed at what he loved is still one of the highlights of my life.

Dad, thanks for all the attaboys and pushing and molding and shaping. Thank you for being an example, a model. Thank you for looking at me the way you did on that lake when I proudly said, “Look, Dad! I caught one!”

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THE WASHTUB ON THE PORCH

Way back in sixty-seven
When I was just a lad
We lived with Granny by the road
And oh the fun we had

Rolling down the hillside
And running in the yard
Without shirts and without shoes
We’d play ’til it was dark

And when at last the sun sat
And ’twas time to go inside
Into the kitchen we would march
From Mom we couldn’t hide

Into water from the spring
That we carried up the path
She’d dip and wring a washrag
And give us a sponge bath

Dirty were our necks
And dirty were our heads
She’d scrub our arms and wash our feet
And send us off to bed

These baths were on the weeknights
And in morning, off to school
Where we’d learn with other kids
Who had taken sponge baths too

Then on weekends we’d play all day
Riding bikes and building forts
And when we climbed the back steps
We’d see the washtub on the porch

Water heated on the stove
Was poured into the tub
And two boys got in at a time
To be washed and to be scrubbed

It was a serious business
These baths that we did take
Two boys out and two more in
For Mom there was no break

For clean we were to be the night
Before we went to church
Though dirty water surely filled
That washtub on the porch


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WE GOT THERE AT THE SAME TIME

WE GOT THERE AT THE SAME TIME

This morning on the way to work I was driving on 29 South in the right lane, known to us southerners as “the slow lane,” going at the maximum speed my Christianity will allow. I go into the office fairly early, so it was still pretty dark outside.

Traffic grew heavier as I neared my exit (Stadium Road), and suddenly a late-model Suburban barrelled precariously near my rear bumper, jerked into the left lane (virtually touching the car in front of them), and then jerked back into the right lane, missing my car by what appeared to be inches. Not once did they use their turn signals.

I had to slam on my brakes, and confess that I laid on the horn, something I rarely do. For a moment I thought I might lose control. Fortunately I was okay, took a deep breath, and thanked God for His mercy.

Soon I was turning onto my exit, when I saw that the Suburban was right in front of me. Their insanity gave them no advantage on getting there faster. Pulling away from the stop sign, which the Suburban driver ignored, they proceeded to leave me in their dust. However, I pulled up right behind them at the next stop light.

When the light turned green they burned rubber and took off like a bat from the un-heavenly regions, literally speeding around and jerking in front of a school bus! Again, they seemed to have an aversion to signal lights.

At the next stop light I pulled up beside them, as they had gained no time or distance in spite of their aggressive driving. They literally ended up in the same place at the same time.

Now, I realize the driver may have been in the midst of a crisis or emergency. Maybe they were told if they are late for work one more time they’ll lose their job. I get it. Life has us stressed out.

But in the end we rarely benefit from recklessly trying to control everything. We even risk hurting others in the process.

The Suburban driver arrived no sooner and with a lot more stress and frustration than if they’d driven in a reasonable and courteous way. It’s one of life’s ironies.

Take a deep breath. Feel God’s presence. Let go of the stress. Oh, and use your turn signals.

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THEY STILL SEE EACH OTHER THAT WAY

They met in nineteen-fifty-six
and married in fifty-seven
And since then they have built a life
That’s nothing short of heaven

And from the start each saw the other
As for whom they’d hoped and prayed
And even now, after many years
They still see each other that way

They’ve had ups, and they’ve had downs
Though the ups do far outweigh
Any struggles and trials that they’ve been through
Since they said “I do” that day

Four boys they raised, and Angel, too
Who watched them every day
Look, with love, at each other
And they still see each other that way

As their tender young faces aged with time
Their love that much more grew
And this growing love over sixty-five years
Has always seen them through

In a wheelchair he sees an angel
And she sees his love grow each day
They recall the young gaze of love
And they still see each other that way!

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HAVE A SEAT, REVEREND

Sometime around 1980 our family made a move from the church where I was baptized, grew up, and called to preach to Grace Baptist Church in Madison Heights. It turned out not to be a permanent move, but it did have permanent consequences.

As a young college student joining my Dad in teaching a high school Sunday School Class, I couldn’t have known that one of our shy, raven-haired female students would be my wife in a few short years.

My soon-to-be life-partner’s father was an intimidating figure. He was perpetually serious, immensely frugal, and was happiest doing some sort of physical labor, whether at work or at home. Though it took me a while to win him over, he eventually came to like me and even love me like a son.

For many years, especially after I became a pastor, Lois Price Tyree and I would have most of our Sunday dinners at her parents’ house. While Mr. Price, who I eventually called Thomas, was a workaholic, he very much believed in resting on the Lord’s Day. As a matter of fact, he took the Sabbath seriously and used it for a nap in his recliner.

But somewhere along the line he began insisting that I have his recliner for our after-dinner siestas. He’d say, “Have a seat, Reverend,” which was his term of endearment for me. He was very proud that I was a preacher, and he, a devoted churchman, which even then was becoming a dying breed, seemed to intuitively understand more than others how much a burden a minister carries.

At first I resisted these sincere invitations to take his recliner. After all, a man’s favorite chair is like his throne, and few among us are quick to relinquish it to another. But eventually I realized that taking his chair was actually honoring him, and I basked in its comfort, even as I watched him fall asleep in a too-small, too-short, and not too comfortable chair across the room.

I cherish these memories and miss him so much. No one since his departure from this old terrestrial ball has quite shown me the kind of respect he rendered to me. Today marks exactly twelve years since he left us. Living in the home he literally built with his own hands keeps his presence perpetually before us, yet I still look forward to seeing him again in Glory when, after a hug and a toothy grin he’ll say, “Have a seat, Reverend.”

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THE LITTLE CHURCH UP ON THE HILL

I remember the first time I saw
The first church I would pastor
With faded paint, frayed carpeting
And the peeling plaster
Dark wooden pews and dingy halls
And cobwebs in every room
Broken windows and old hanging lights
That couldn’t dispel the gloom

And the people who sat in the pews
Numbered only seventeen
But I looked out from the pulpit
And saw the best crowd I’d ever seen
I saw Papa and Mama Cash
The Fuquas, Lucy and John
Mary and Emmitt, David and Joel
And the little list rolled on

I preached for what seemed an hour
But later learned it was minutes
But felt God’s awesome power
And the Spirit was really in it
And though I was paid very little
By a church that few people knew
I felt like I was king of the world
And was treated that way, too

The church soon grew and many more
Were added to its roll
And we rejoiced for each new face
For each person was a soul
So many saved and so many grew
In the nurture of our Lord
And we improved the building, too
The best we could afford

I stayed at that church for seven years
Me and my faithful wife
And it was there we had our kids
And the best years of our life
We moved on to other towns
God’s calling to fulfill
But no other church can take the place
Of that church up on the hill

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DR BOB

Read at Dr. Bob Davis’s Funeral
December 23, 2021
(Note: This is the last picture I took with him in October 2021)

I met you on a softball field
After our churches had played
Little did I know how much
My life you’d change that day
Your voice was deep, and you were tall
As you spoke and shook my hand
And even then I somehow knew
You were a godly man

“I know about your little church,”
You said as we stood there
“I think that you should have me come
The gospel I will share”
Who was I to tell you no
For you seemed so confident
And I’m so glad I told you yes
And a revival God did send

Meetings we had many
And many meals we shared
And for me and my ministry
You proved how much you cared
You prayed with me and for me
You called me on the phone
And because you were my constant friend
I never was alone

But you became more than a friend
A mentor you would be
You taught me all your wisdom
How a man of God should be
And to every church I pastored
No matter how far away
You came to preach and share God’s word
And folks listened to what you’d say

Whether on the golf course
Where you always beat my score
Or in a diner or ice cream shop
Or even a Christian book store
You never failed to tell each one
Of the strangers that we’d greet
Of Jesus Christ your Savior
Who they could also meet

You were such a Baptist
But spelled it with a little “b”
For you were most of all a Christian
Spelled with a capital “C”
A first rate husband and father
A churchman of a dying breed
But God knows that men of God like you
This sinful world does need

When my darkest hour came
When all to me seemed gone
You were there to pray with me
That I would carry on
And when my marriage faced a trial
When love was put to the test
Your spirit wrestled in effectual prayer
For our souls you did not rest

You prayed for my daughter
Until her faith was regained
And you prayed for my son
That his faith would remain
And of my aging parents
You’d lovingly inquire
Your sincere love for my family
My heart did so inspire

And as I sit here pondering
Our many years together
It breaks my heart to realize
That you are gone forever
No more cups of coffee
No more books to share
No more conversations
No more times of prayer

But I know that you’re with Jesus
On that Celestial Shore
And one day soon in heaven
I’ll see your face once more
So until that day in glory
When our Savior’s face I’ll see
I’ll try to be to others
The friend you were to me

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I’LL MISS YOU DR. BOB

This picture with “Dr. Bob” was taken in August at Famous Anthony’s where the servers knew exactly how to fix his grits and when to freshen his coffee. We had lunch a couple of more times after that, most recently at Cracker Barrel.

Fortunately I got to see him Friday, tell him personally how much he meant to me, and kissed him on the forehead as I told him I loved him. Then I prayed for him before I left, knowing that it could well be the last time I saw him.

Today while spending some much-needed time with my wife I reached out to his daughter to see if it was okay to visit him. She said it was.

When I arrived at Room N247 I was surprised to find no one there. But upon entering the room I saw Dr. Bob lying perfectly still and knew he was already in heaven. When I went to the nurse’s station to confirm his home-going, a couple of nurses had come to remove him from the room. Seeing the sadness in my eyes, one asked, “Are you family?” I replied, “He was my mentor.”

They allowed me to spend some time with him with the door closed. I sat in the chair beside him and reminisced about the past 30-plus years I’ve known him. Revival meetings, SBCV conferences, golfing, countless lunches, deep conversations, and both solicited and unsolicited advice; all these thousands of moments flooded my memory like water from a broken dam, mimicking the tears flowing from my eyes.

A true giant of God has left this world, and a warrior for Christ has laid down his sword to rest in the arms of his Savior. Earth’s loss and heaven’s gain: I feel them both today.

I’ll see you soon, Rev. Dr. Bob Davis.

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LOOK AT THAT HAT!

I have an aging neighbor who loves to talk. It’s difficult to have a just-say-hi moment or a mere wave. He can insinuate himself into your space and time and in a matter of minutes you’re engaged in a conversation. I’m okay with that.

But recently I was in a hurry. It was one of those “drop by the house to get something and leave right away” kind of things. To my shame, I averted my eyes away from the direction of my neighbor and prayed I could get in and out unscathed by a verbal interaction that would press my time.

“Greg! Greg!” His words reverberated, accentuated by waving hands. I was caught in his sights, dead to rights. Taking a deep breath, I made my way across the road where my octogenarian friend wanted to have a verbal parlay right in the street. After safely nudging him into his yard where we could converse without being run over by crazy drivers that traverse our road, I noticed his hat.

I thought complimenting his head attire might be a good starting point for a brief discussion. And it was.

“Why, this was my Daddy’s hat,” he said proudly. Now my neighbor is up in age so I wondered just how old that hat could be. I didn’t have to wait long because he continued, “And if my Daddy was still alive he’d be about 125 years old.” His eyes simultaneously beamed with pride and watered from reminiscing.

As I studied that old hat, it indeed looked a hundred years old. It could have been worn by Dick Tracy or Al Capone or any number of cool cats in the 1920s or 30s. I told him how awesome it was and that it was about the neatest hat I’d ever seen.

His stooped shoulders straightened just a bit as he glowed with appreciation. And in that moment I knew that this wasn’t some random conversation or chance encounter. It was a God-thing, for taking a few moments to listen to my neighbor and go back in time if but briefly was as much a holy act as distributing the bread and juice of communion or delivering a Sunday morning sermon. But if truth be told, I wasn’t ministering to my neighbor; he was ministering to me.

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