A Man I Love

It was late spring, 1998. I had been preaching for a few months and teaching a middle school youth class for over a year. That is when I met Mike Murphree.

Mike was the pastor of Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in east Knoxville, where my grandmother was a long-term member and one of the churches I had visited at times during my childhood. I had heard his name at this point, but had never met him.

He was 47 years old, short, and standing just outside of the house I lived in with my parents. I was 20, tall, and wondering why he wanted to talk to me. I figured it was to invite me to preach for a special youth service. This was happening quite frequently as I was one of the few young preachers around.

Instead, Mike talked to me about possibly becoming the youth pastor at his church.

I didn’t know him well then; I just knew what little my grandmother had told me and what little I could see. I knew he was well-learned with a Master’s of Divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. I knew my grandmother believed him to be a good pastor, which meant he was a good pastor (she had excellent discernment about such things). I knew he was from Alabama. And that was about it.

I know a lot more about him now.

I know he has a fantastic, somewhat mischievous sense of humor. I know he is unafraid of confrontation, but controls that side of himself until it becomes necessary. I know he loves God deeply and his family with great tenderness. I know he enjoys learning, thinking, and sharing his thoughts with others and wants others to do the same with him.

I also know what it’s like to watch him slowly die.

I know all of this because a little while after I became the youth pastor of his church, his younger daughter and I got married. I have been his son-in-law for almost 23 years and for the past few years he and my mother-in-law have lived with me and my family.

One of the reasons they moved in with us was because of his gradually declining health. The decline is close to nearing its end. He is not far from seeing his Savior.

Through the years, I’ve enjoyed stimulating conversations with him about serious Biblical topics and silly conversations about the taste of dog food and the possibility of time travel. I thought I was going to have to get in a fight with someone at a Salvation Army drop-off site after Mike pointed out to a couple of guys who were taking some of the donated items the sign that said they weren’t supposed to be doing so. He has offered sage advice to me about pastoring, fathering, marriage, and more. He’s been one of my best friends.

Recently, I’ve become adept at walking backwards down the hall because that’s how I’ve been helping him to the bathroom, living room and kitchen. With his hands in mine, I’ve done my best to make sure he feels steady and secure, step by step. I have helped him out of bed and back to bed, onto the toilet and off. I still try to engage him in conversations like we used to have, but it has become more difficult both for him to think and to communicate what he is thinking.

He was feeling particularly bad today and nothing was providing him any relief. Running out of suggestions, I finally asked him if he wanted me to read to him. He did and I ended up reading 5 chapters of a book I’m reading to this man who I care for so much.

I know he’s tired. I know he’s weak. I know he’s close to being Home. Until he goes There, I count it a privilege to be present with him for the journey here, to help him as much as I can.

Some might say that Mike isn’t the same man he the first day I met him. He looks different, gotten weaker, struggles to walk. But he’s still the same to me.

A man I truly love.

Stove Up Fingers

I have come to the conclusion that I broke several of my fingers several times when I was younger. My proof is anecdotal instead of medical.

My oldest daughter has had two broken fingers. Her fingers have been broken while doing normal things almost every other child has done. One broken finger occurred while playing basketball and the other one occurred when she fell down while running to the locker room to get ready to play basketball.

Before taking her to the ER to determine if her fingers were broken I did not think they were broken. I just thought they were “stove up.”

I have no idea what “stove up” means. It was just what I was told about my fingers whenever I hurt them as a kid. It was the terminology every adult I knew used.

Me: “My finger hurts!”

Them: “You’ll be alright; it’s just stove up.”

It wasn’t until I reached adult that I realized “stove up” is not a medical term. So, I’m pretty sure I broke a few of my fingers back in the day.

I never received any treatment for my “stove up”/broken fingers other than a little ice and, on certain occasions, over-the-counter pain relievers. As a result, my fingers are fine; I’ve never had any problems out of them at all. They still perform all of their functions as normal fingers should.

What healed my possibly broken fingers?

Time.

Time doesn’t heal all wounds, but it does heal some.

Whatever it is causing you pain may not heal quickly. However, if you have a “stove up” heart, time may be all you need to experience renewal.

Time.

Just time.

Have you every had “stove up” fingers?

Look at Me! Look at Me!

I’ve been looking at them their whole lives. It’s hard not to look at them. After all, they are begging me to do it.

“Look at me! Look at me!”

When any of my five kids say these words what follows is something they are proud of; a new skill mastered, a funny-ish trick, something they want to show off for approval. If it is something dangerous I will tell them to stop. Normally, though, it isn’t anything dangerous. So I’ll either laugh or say “That’s cool” or “Good job” and then normally go back to whatever it was I was doing before they gained my attention. I don’t mind these interruptions at all; I love my children and want them keep me in the loop whenever they learn how to do new, interesting things. Kids will be kids.

The “Look at me!” phenomenon isn’t a kids-only thing, though. At least it isn’t anymore.

There was once a time when a person could have an amazing meal without taking a picture of it for the sole purpose of letting everyone know how amazing it was. Looking at a friend’s or family member’s vacation pictures used to be done in person a few weeks afterward and you never saw the vacation pictures of a guy you knew in elementary school who you wouldn’t recognize if he walked right by you at the grocery store. Good (or bad)news about jobs, kids, church, or health was once something we shared with those closest to us. And we used to make actual verbal statements without feeling the need to check back every few minutes to see how many likes, comments, or retweets they received. (Full disclosure: This paragraph was written by a guy who is going to share this blog post on Facebook and Twitter–and who hopes others will do the same.)

Social media has caused us to revert back to the childhood habit of saying “Look at me! Look at me!”

Is there anything wrong with this new national pastime; this attention-seeking obsession?

John the Baptist would have a good answer for this question. You remember John the Baptist, don’t you? He’s the man Jesus said was the greatest ever to be born of woman. He pointed people in the direction of Jesus and preached so boldly that he lost his head.

John’s followers once pointed out to him Jesus had gotten into the baptizing business and that all men were coming to Him. It’s possible these informants thought John would jump up and start yelling “Look at me! Look at me!” in an attempt to regain his lost popularity. Instead, John gave them a lesson in who was most important and in doing so gave us a memorable statement we can use when we are tempted to exalt ourselves, our families, our churches, our…whatevers.

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”
John 3:30

The “He” is Jesus. The “I” is John the Baptist (and me and you).

A child saying “Look at me! Look at me!” is usually cute and endearing. An adult saying “Look at me! Look at me!” can sometimes be arrogant and idolatrous.

I’m not saying we should stop sharing pictures, thoughts, or good news. By all means–share away! What I am saying is those of us who follow Jesus must guard our hearts against the strange temptations offered to us by the technology we control.

This will require less “Look at me! Look at me!” and more “Look at Him! Look at Him!”

He must increase, but I must decrease.

 

 

 

 

If I Were a Garden Gnome

My kids all made me something for my birthday. They were all special and sweet.

This poem from my oldest daughter brought tears to my eyes.

Noelle's Poem

I’m glad your my dad,
I love you so much,
Sorry sometimes I’m bad,
but then you give a special touch.

I’m glad your my dad,
everything is gonna be ok,
even tho sometimes you seem mad,
you brighten up my day.

I’m so glad you adopted me,
And brought me into your home,
I love you so much
even if you were a garden gnome.

Because I have five kids, it  would be virtually impossible to keep everything they draw, write, or paint.

This one, though, is definitely a keeper–even if we might need to work on the difference between your and you’re.

After all, it’s not every day a person promises to love you even if you were a garden gnome.

What is a gift you have been given that you deeply cherish (other than salvation)?

Fun at the Dollar Movies

My family went to the “dollar movies” this past Friday night. Technically, it isn’t the dollar movies anymore since it now costs $2.50 per ticket. But old habits die-hard, so I still call it the dollar movies.

We saw Monsters University. I know–most people saw it during the Summer, but tickets weren’t $2.50 during the Summer. When you have 5 kids and like going to the movies, patience isn’t just a virtue–it is essential to keep you from going completely broke.

Getting there about 15 minutes early, we had to find ways to entertain ourselves. We talked about their day at school, but my kids soon became bored with that. We answered some of the trivia on the screen, but that didn’t entertain them long. Thankfully, the movie was getting close to starting.

That’s when my oldest daughter did this –

Okay–so this is a reenactment of what happened. At any rate, I ended up laughing about this the rest of the night.

I love that my kids love me. I love that they are growing and learning and becoming the people God created them to me.

And I love their silliness and how it can make me laugh and laugh.

Of all the blessings God has given me since salvation, my wife and kids are at the top of the list.

I am indeed a blessed man.

What have your kids (or grandkids or whoever) done recently to make you laugh?

I’m Suprised Teachers Don’t…

Last night was “Open House” at the elementary school four of my children attend. We were there for an hour and a half. In that time I came to a few conclusions. Here they are:

I’m surprised teachers don’t…

1. Quit. Every single day.

2. Slap someone. Every single day.

3. Go into the fetal position and cry for hours. Every single day.

4. Develop new twitches. Every single day.

5. Dream about having a less stressful job. Every single day.

Why am I surprised by all of this? Because of the noise.

To be honest, I think about this every time we eat lunch with one of our kids. The noise is deafening and the number of children all behaving in various shades of awful is jarring.

I’m not sure how much teachers get paid these days. Whatever it is, I don’t think it’s enough.

So, if you are a teacher who loves kids and does your best to teach and lead them….

THANK YOU!

What are you surprised that teachers don’t do? Who was your favorite teacher?

Ninety-Eight Socks

I love all the people in my family, but I’m not particularly fond of their feet. Let me explain.

There are seven people in my immediate family; me, my wife, and our five kids. I love all of them tremendously even on those days when they drive me slightly crazy.

However, having seven people in your family means there are fourteen feet. Don’t get me wrong–I’m glad everyone in my family has two feet. It is really our socks that cause the problem.

Having fourteen feet in my family means that we wear fourteen socks every day. Multiply that by the seven days in a week and you have….

98 SOCKS!!!

EVERY WEEK!!!

Guess who has two thumbs and hates washing that many socks and matching them every week? Anyone with two thumbs.

Which is why they rarely get matched. That’s right–we don’t normally match our socks.

So, what do we do instead? We put them in a basket. What’s this basket called? The sock basket.

Isn’t it aggravating to always have to get socks out of the sock basket? No more aggravating than it would be to match all of them.

Maybe you think this is weird and are silently judging me in your head. And if so, that is fine. Because no matter who you are, you do some weird stuff, too.

We’re all different to some degree.

Yet, we are all the same in some important ways.

We are all created in the image of God. We have all sinned and fallen short of His glory. We all need Jesus.

No matter how weird we are or whether we have sock baskets or even if you bite your toenails.

It’s a good thing Jesus loves weirdos–because that describes us all.

What do you do that is a little weird?

Why September 11, 2001 Was a Good Day

September 11, 2001 is remembered as one of the worst days in U.S. History. Thinking about the lives lost and lives dramatically altered on that day brings a great deal of sadness to my heart.

I remember where I was when I first heard about a plane flying into one of the World Trade Center Towers; sitting at my desk where I worked at the time trying to keep the team I managed on task. After a second plane did the same thing, I gave up on this goal and began praying as we started hearing the reports about who was behind the attacks.

There are thousands of reasons why I believe September 11, 2001 was a bad day.

But I there is one reason I believe it was a good day…

My wife and I received final approval to be foster parents that day.

After determining we would probably never have biological children, we decided a few months prior to become foster parents. We filled out plenty of paperwork, attended numerous classes, and had our backgrounds checked.

And on the evening of September 11, 2001, a case worker inspected our home and approved us to be foster parents for the state of Tennessee.

It was a surreal moment. That day we had been bombarded by scenes of death and destruction. And that evening a door was opened up to us to be entrusted with little lives.

Being foster parents eventually led to us becoming adoptive parents. We have now have five children, four adopted and one biological.

And the adoption of our four children was made possible because of what happened on September 11, 2001.

It was, in part, a good day.

Where were you when you first heard of the tragic events on that day? Do you remember anything good about that day?